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Southwest Virginia Community College gets grant to retrain displaced coal miners

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Southwest Virginia Community College will receive a $1.4 million federal grant to provide fast-track re-employment services to displaced coal miners.

Money from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission is being awarded through the Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grant program.

An additional $1.9 million in funding was awarded to projects that will benefit communities in Virginia and other states.

The $1.4 million grant will fund the Retraining Energy Displaced Individuals (REDI) Center for Dislocated Coal Miners program at the community college.

The goal of the REDI program is to equip displaced coal miners with the skills to find work in a high-demand field, earning wages comparable to their previous employment.

Through an intensive, accelerated program of coursework, workers can obtain skill credentials in a new field  in as few as four months.

Training will focus on three sectors with local employment opportunities, including advanced manufacturing, construction and health technology. 

The program will certify 165 new trainees over the life of the grant. The program also will be supported by funding from the Thompson Charitable Fund and the Virginia Tobacco Commission.

In addition to the REDI program, Virginia is also part of two other successful grants, including Appalachian Sustainable Development’s Central Appalachian Food Enterprise Corridor and the Cool and Connected Initiative led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Appalachian Sustainable Development is a five-state, 43-county project that will develop a coordinated local foods distribution network throughout Central Appalachia and connect producers in Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky to wholesale distribution markets.

The Cool and Connected Initiative will assist 10 Appalachian coal-impacted communities in getting broadband service to revitalize small town main streets and promote economic development.

Participating communities will receive technical assistance for strategic planning, as well as initial implementation support for the first steps of their plans. Communities participating are located in Virginia, Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The Appalachian Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration awarded nearly $38.8 million in POWER grants for 29 large-scale projects to help Appalachian communities negatively affected by changes in the coal economy, including mining, coal-fired power plants, and related transportation, logistics, and manufacturing supply chains, to strengthen their economies and workforces.

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