Virginia’s Community Colleges are Your Pipeline for Qualified Talent: How Employers can Find Their Answers Through the FastForward Program by Dr. David Doré, Chancellor, VCCS
October 10th, 2023

Virginia’s workforce system is at an important zenith: we stand tall at a convergence of business and education, where both help to shape and transform the other. In our current ecosystem, we have a symbiotic relationship that, when nurtured through intentionality and collaboration, open the door for scalable, economic wins for all involved.

For many sectors in Virginia, employers are looking for individuals with specialized skills validated through a certification, opposed to a degree. The unfortunate reality in today’s workforce is there is a skills gap between what graduates are leaving with and what employers with open jobs so desperately need.

It’s this situation that drove the creation of FastForward at Virginia’s Community Colleges.

What is FastForward?

FastForward is a career training approach that incentivizes learners to complete training in high-demand sectors, and successfully earn their credential – otherwise, they’re ineligible for grant funding to cover costs and they become responsible for their balance.

But who decides what programs fall under this pay-for-performance model?

Virginia’s Board of Workforce Development maintains a list of high-demand programs, which typically fall in one of seven industry sectors:

  • Welding and Manufacturing
  • Logistics and Transportation
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Information Technology
  • Skilled Trades
  • Business and Customer Service

As local needs evolve, our colleges adapt and intentionally realign with the changing needs of their communities. Our chief workforce officers and their teams work to get approval for new training programs to be included within FastForward’s funding model. From there, the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges approves those programs to be eligible moving forward.

From the learner’s seat, they have the educational supports of a college setting – from financial assistance, wraparound services, and student support. They attend class to learn the curriculum objectives and they practice the skills components that are part of written and hands-on certification examinations. Instructors hold the very certifications they’re teaching, which often means they come with a wealth of knowledge and insight on the local workforce network to help students learn, get a credential, and move into a career.

While all of this is a strong foundation for our students, the program relies on strong partnerships, collaboration, and alignment with industry and businesses in every locality across Virginia.

How Industry Can Make FastForward Better

Our colleges are incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished with FastForward. The program has heralded 20% annual year-over-year growth, but we have room to improve.

We need industry at the table in a bigger way to help us nurture and deliver a 21st century workforce, trained with 21st century innovations and solutions.  Virginia’s Community Colleges are here to serve as your community partner. We want to know what your needs are – from the training and certifications you require to the kind of candidate you’re looking for.

Our job is to attract talent to enroll in workforce training programs aimed at earning industry-recognized certifications that satisfy the requirements for your jobs.

FastForward training is offered at all 23 of our community colleges, and each college approaches its offerings with regional nuance to ensure what it offers learners has a direct correlation to that community. Conversations are just a starting point. Others ways to engage include:

  • Establishing guarantee interview programs
  • Customized training for your incoming and existing workforce
  • Building registered apprenticeships with Virginia’s Community Colleges as your training provider
  • Serving on curriculum advisory committees
  • Engaging your philanthropic arms to support scholarships or facility modernization

You have the jobs. We have the talent. Let us help you fill your talent pipeline with the right workers, with the right skills – right now.

If you haven’t already, contact your local community college and build a relationship with the chief workforce officer who can help your business find the right candidates for your jobs. If our training has room for improvement, if there are pieces of equipment we need to consider for our labs and training facilities, let us know. We’re stronger when we work together, and with this collaboration, we can better serve our neighbors and Virginia as a whole.

To get started contact us directly at