Martinsville, VA – January 26, 2024 – A visit Friday to New College Institute by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and two pieces of legislation are addressing NCI’s path forward.
The governor, Va. Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera, Deputy Secretary of Education Nicholas Kent and Deputy Secretary of Finance Jason Powell and others toured NCI for an hour, then met with key NCI staff and board members to discuss NCI’s business plan.
Youngkin’s proposed budget, released in December, would allocate NCI $4.69 million for the 2025 fiscal year but nothing in for the 2026 fiscal year. Language accompanying the proposed budget also requires NCI to present to the state a business plan by October, but that plan already has been in process, with its final version expected to be completed and presented within the month.
Following the release of Youngkin’s proposed budget, board chair Sen. Bill Stanley (R-District 7) met with the governor and invited him for a tour of NCI’s programs and partners. The business plan was discussed with the governor and his staff during Friday’s meeting, said Stanley, board member Richard Hall and NCI Executive Director Joe Sumner.
Meanwhile, legislation is moving through the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates in support of NCI’s continued operations and evolution.
SB 62, introduced by Stanley, would require NCI to work with the Va. Department of Education, Va. Department of Labor and Industry, the Va. Community College System, the State Council for Higher Education, the Va. Board of Workforce Development and other agencies on workforce development programs which support workforce initiatives of the Office of the Governor. As of Jan. 18, after passing the Senate Education and Health committee with a vote of 14-1, the bill sits with Finance and Appropriations.
HB 1445 is the same; it was introduced in the House by Del. Eric Phillips (R-District 48). It is with the Committee on Education, referred on Jan. 18.
“The purpose of the bill is to streamline our ability to track what we deliver in our workforce development programs,” Stanley said on Saturday.
The NCI Code, created in 2006, is comprised of six pillars: work with other agencies and institutions to diversify the region’s economy; use resources to support economic diversity; develop a trained workforce; provide access to degree programs; focus degree programs on areas of critical shortage; and serve as a resource and referral center.
“A lot of things have changed in education” since 2006, Phillips said, including that a lot of traditional 4-year education “is being done online now. The bill is for more money and development for workforce training while still having and offering a 4-year degree education.”
The governor “arrived prepared and ready to help. He offered his guidance and expertise on how we can better fit within the workforce development and educational systems within the Commonwealth while functioning as an impactful community resource to Martinsville and Henry County,” Hall said after the meeting. “It was a very constructive meeting.”
Under their attention was the development of workforce development training programs that can be completed in “a very short time, so workers can get certification and get a job very quickly,” Hall said. “We hired Joe Sumner in the winter of 2023 to better align NCI’s workforce development efforts to local and statewide employment needs. Workforce training that is strategically aligned with the rest of the Commonwealth’s initiatives in a cost-effective manner is at the core of NCI’s renaissance.”
“They talked about how NCI’s plan is to supplement the Commonwealth’s workforce offerings without duplication of existing programs,” Sumner said after the meeting.
“Developing relationships with different organizations at the state level will enhance NCI’s efforts statewide,” said Sumner, “and continuing to build and improve on existing partnerships was encouraged.”
That includes working with programs that cultivate extracurricular learning in K-12 to cultivate a student base primed to continue education on higher levels. “There’s a significant role we play in the community that’s sometimes hard to quantify,” Sumner said.
Between the talk about increased workforce training “and offering all the community things they [NCI] do, there’s a whole lots of dots there,” Phillips said. “With the governor’s guidance, NCI can connect those dots together and make sense out of it, and that way there’s a clear direction.”
“Words cannot adequately express how grateful I am that Gov. Youngkin would take time out of his busy schedule to visit with New College, our dedicated staff, our community leaders and education programming partners who are committed to the future success of our region,” said Stanley. “He was clearly impressed with what we are doing here at NCI, and he provided us with great insight and new ideas on how we can be better every day for the people that we serve.”
“In the end, this may be the best thing that ever happened to NCI,” Phillips said.
The governor’s tour
At NCI, the governor talked with many of the institute’s partners that are regularly in the Baldwin Building and visited programs:
Dominion Energy/Wind Energy Program: Robert “Rob” Spilman Jr., a Dominion lead director (and president and CEO of Bassett Furniture) told the governor about a partnership Dominion is developing with NCI to support Dominion’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.
“This is going to be the largest offshore wind installation in America, with 176 turbines, and it’s going to take quite a few people to operate and maintain all that, so we certainly need trained workers,” Spilman said. The way NCI has “architected the curriculum and various facets of it, including safety and sea survival training at a quarry in Thomasville [N.C.], they’ve done some clever things, and I was proud of those guys for coming up with all that. This is such a high profile project in the Commonwealth and Richmond, a $9.8 billion project, and he asked me a few questions about it. … NCI is offering as comprehensive a program as any one that’s available today.” NCI’s wind energy program is the only one in the state to offer full certification and one of few facilities to replicate the actual outdoor conditions.
Fiber Broadband Academy. Instructor Lee Renfroe of the GoFar fiber optic training school showed the governor the training equipment and a fiber line which had been spliced. On Friday, Renfroe was giving demonstrations with the mobile fiber instruction training unit to students from GW High School in Danville. The basic fiber optics training lasts a week and is offered one week each month; the class Feb. 12-16 is fully booked. The program can be taught at NCI or other locations upon request.
Eastman Performance Films, a partner along with Patrick & Henry Community College for NCI’s Advance Manufacturing program. In the High Bay area, surrounded by technical equipment, Eastman HR Director Chris Coyne and Hall described the training for producing plastics, coatings, adhesives, safety documents and brands.
Longwood University, which offers bachelor’s degrees in elementary education and early childhood education. Dr. Pam Randall and Dr. Stephanie Watts described the program. “I stressed how many students have graduated from this program and the high rate of retention in education and that need has not dwindled. If anything, it has gotten more dire,” Randall said. She told him the national teacher shortage hits heavy in Southside and the area needs “his support to be sure legislation incentivizes finishing those degrees.”
Piedmont Regional Criminal Justice Training Academy, which serves 13 criminal justice agencies, totaling about 850 personnel. PRCJTA staff and cadets demonstrated the Situational Response Training Simulator that is housed at NCI and described the program.
National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Junior Chapter. NSBE, headed by Helen Howell, is headquartered at NCI. The governor’s visit “was wonderful,” Howell said. “He got down there on the floor with the kids and he strictly talked with the students about their projects and their competition going to Atlanta in March,” rather than ask the adults what the children were doing, and he told them about “Legos and a big [Lego] factory opening up in Virginia.”
Getting children exposed to and accustomed to STEM learning when they are young is crucial to preparing them for higher education, Howell said: In the world today there are “more and more things technology-wise, and if we want to keep up, we’re going to have to do these kinds of things and our kids need to be introduced to these things much, much earlier.”
Wendell Scott Foundation, established to commemorate the memory of NASCAR’s first Black Grand National champion. The Foundation provides services and programs to at-risk youth. WSF president and CEO Warrick Scott was presenting a program to students from five high schools and a community college when the governor arrived. The governor addressed the students, and afterward, he autographed the Wendell Scott mural.
STAGS Team 1262 Robotics and Magna Vista High School’s MagnaFlux Robotics. The students of both teams demonstrated the robots they had created.
The governor “seemed to appreciate everything he saw with K-12 programming” at NCI, Sumner said.
Other program partners at NCI, many of which had representatives to meet the governor, include:
Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services, which with NCI helps cultivate employment opportunities for differently able people.
Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, which aims to create new job opportunities, support and develop local industry and market the area, with Executive Director Mark Heath.
City of Martinsville Fire & EMS, which uses NCI classrooms for meetings.
Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge, which is headquartered at NCI; its executive director, Joanie Petty, talked about the program with the governor.
Just Call Granny, in which trained volunteers assist grandparents raising children with resources and support.
Also meeting with the governor during his visit at NCI were Martinsville Mayor LC Jones and Vice Mayor Aaron Rawls, Henry County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Amy Blake-Lewis, Martinsville City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Zeb Talley, NCI Deputy Director Christina Reed, NCI Director of Institutional Advancement Olivia Garrett, and more.
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Director of Institutional Advancement