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University spearheads $3.8 million jobs-creation effort


BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 20, 2010 – A Virginia Tech-led team of almost 20 partners has won $3.8 million in federal stimulus money to train workers for new, green jobs in the construction industry.

The grant is expected to train some 400 workers over two years.

“Faculty from the Virginia Tech College of Engineering and College of Architecture and Urban Studies will work with three community colleges to help develop a green curriculum in communities hard hit by job losses,” said John Provo, associate director of the Office of Economic Development in Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International Affairs. “This will lead to jobs. We’re talking to industry partners who already create innovative products and processes in sustainable ways but need people. Everything from people installing solar panels on homes to building windmill turbines – it’s a host of things. We’re really on the edge of an emerging field.”

Community Housing Partners in Christiansburg – a nonprofit with three decades’ experience in administering federal monies – is managing the U.S. Department of Labor grant, which will include a $474,000 outlay to Virginia Tech as well as almost $2 million to the community colleges.

“It is thrilling for us at Virginia Tech to have had a hand in bringing together several nonprofits as well as private-sector employers, community colleges, workforce investment boards and a union local in a project that will raise incomes in regions that are dramatically suffering,” said John E. Dooley, vice president for Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. “The impact of this grant will be to create lasting systems that will help our region prepare not only to survive but also flourish in the 21st century economy.”

Types of workers targeted for training include electricians, mechanical engineers, building inspectors, and weatherization technicians. Students will receive free tuition for the training, which will take place at New River Community College, Wytheville Community College, and Virginia Western Community College. Some training will also take place at Community Housing Partners’ Christiansburg training center, called the New River Center for Energy Research and Training.

Three Virginia Tech faculty members most intimately involved in curriculum development are Georg Reichard, assistant professor of building construction in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction; John Randolph, professor of urban affairs and planning in the School of Public and International Affairs; and Sean McGinnis, senior research scientist and chair of the Green Engineering Program.

Major shares of the grant money also go to NewVA Corridor Technology Council (more than $100,000), which is a nonprofit association of businesses and organizations covering eight counties, and Virginia’s workforce boards (more than $500,000) for recruitment and placement of students.

The project is called CREATES – Construction, Retrofitting, and Energy-Efficiency Assessment Training and Employment Systems. CREATES will serve almost two dozen counties in Western Virginia.

The grant comes through the U.S. Department of Labor through the Energy Training Partnership program.

Announcing the grant earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Abingdon, said, “A need exists for construction professionals who are able to cut home and business energy costs through energy efficient building techniques, and the new CREATES program will help meet this need. I am pleased that the Department of Labor has provided federal funding to help establish this worthwhile program.”