Northern Virginia Community College has received a $240,000 innovation grant in the initial phase of Strada Education Network’s $10 million Beyond Completion Challenge, one of 15 institutions of higher education to receive the funding.
The challenge is aimed at helping higher-education institutions identify new and expand existing solutions that will improve career and life opportunities for more students of color, first-generation students, those who struggle to afford education, working students and non-traditional adult learners.
The grant will support the community college’s efforts to build on its existing career services through a personalized program called “Career Up,” which is designed specifically to address the unique needs of first-generation students.
“Many of our first-generation students see NOVA as their initial step towards a meaningful and exciting career,” said college president Anne Kress. “Our new Career Up program will provide first-generation students with the skills and networks to connect to rewarding, good-paying jobs in high-demand career pathways – strengthening their futures and our region’s economy.”
Career Up is a 15-week intensive program that helps first-generation students gain knowledge and skills that are crucial for career exploration, planning, job preparation and more. As part of the program, students will be matched with professional mentors and participate in corporate internships.
The initial pilot will be conducted in the summer and fall of 2022.
To complement the Career Up curriculum for students, the college will also develop a webinar-based “Career Awareness Toolkit” for faculty and staff.
The toolkit training series will focus on the college’s career ladders/pathways in areas such as healthcare, information technology, business and finance, public administration and safety and entertainment, skilled trades and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).
Select faculty and staff will be trained in career counseling and planning to ensure that there is sufficient support for students through the Career Up program and beyond.
Strada is partnering with the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity for the Beyond Completion Challenge to reimagine higher education to better serve students’ needs. Each participating institution will develop an initiative on their campus or in collaboration with other organizations, including industry partners, to foster a more effective higher-education experience.
In addition to Northern Virginia Community College, grants of up to $250,000 were awarded to:
• Arizona State University
• City University of New York
• Georgia State University
• Georgia Institute of Technology
• New York University
• North Carolina A&T State University
• Southern New Hampshire University
• University of Arizona
• University of Minnesota Rochester
• University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
• University of Oregon
• University of Pittsburgh
• University of Texas System
• Virginia Tech
Strada will provide more than $6 million in additional support later this year to expand upon these grants, and will engage in a year-long collaboration with grant recipients to improve outcomes.
“As we recover from a worldwide pandemic, we understand that our economy and our education system are changing dramatically,” said Strada’s Ruth Watkins. “We must shift our focus beyond completion of credentials and degrees. The Beyond Completion Challenge was designed not just to come up with new ideas for how to achieve that goal, but to put resources behind them so that more students can benefit.”