Every April, thousands of local leaders honor AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers by participating in recognition events, issuing official proclamations and taking to social media in a nationwide show of appreciation.  

To honor service in the Southern Virginia region and the Dan River Year AmeriCorps Program, program coordinators and volunteers planted a Flowering Dogwood tree at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research and at the Pittsylvania County School Board office.  

These trees will act as reminders of the hard work and dedication of AmeriCorps’ service members and volunteers to the community.

AmeriCorps program coordinators were also able to have official proclamations signed by the City of Danville, Pittsylvania County, City of Martinsville, and Halifax County stating that April 3rd be dedicated as National Service Recognition Day.

Additional photos can be found by clicking here.

AmeriCorps Program Coordinator Jessica Beebe and Director of Advanced Learning Julie Brown from the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research honor the work of the AmeriCorps volunteers with a tree planting ceremony as local leaders declared April 3rd National Service Recognition Day.

RICHMOND – Governor Northam today announced that the City of Danville has been designated as a Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC) by American College Testing (ACT). This nationally recognized certification helps growing businesses and site selection firms identify highly skilled populations and optimal areas for expansion.

“As a Certified Work Ready Community, Danville has demonstrated a sustained, city-wide commitment to workforce development,"  said Governor Ralph Northam. "By emphasizing the skills employers need from day one, they have built a labor force that’s ready for the 21st century."

More than 75 regional employers, educational institutions, and workforce development organizations supported Danville City’s efforts to achieve this important national certification. At the core of the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative is the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC). This nationally recognized, portable credential includes three essential workplace skill categories: applied math, reading for information, and locating information. The NCRC credential is administered by Danville Community College (DCC) with multiple agencies providing referrals.

“Today’s achievement by Danville City demonstrates to our existing companies, as well as prospective employers, that we have a trainable workforce with the foundational skills to compete,” said Dr. Julie Brown, Program Director, Dan River Region Collaborative (DRCC). “We have a significant number of localities in southern Virginia that are certified as Work Ready Communities with several more planning to launch their efforts. When we work together as a region, great things are possible.”

“I’m delighted to learn the City of Danville has reached its goal as a Certified Work Ready Community,” said Telly Tucker, Danville City’s Director of Economic Development.  “Increasingly, business and industry are emphasizing the importance of a highly skilled workforce.  I believe our continued regional effort and investment in education and workforce development make us considerably more attractive for job growth.”

To become certified, a county must achieve benchmarks in three areas of performance: high school graduation rate, number of National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) credentials attained in the county, and number of employers recognizing NCRC. Employers report that knowing a job candidate has foundational, verifiable workplace skills expedites the hiring process.

“The NCRC has had an extremely positive impact on our hiring process,” stated Laura Tyree, Human Resources Manager with Essel Propack, a global specialty laminate tubing company located in Danville.  “When we receive certification results for the candidates who took the NCRC, we know we’re getting a quality candidate.  The training time for our new employees is twelve weeks, and we know that it is not an easy job to learn. Knowing that these new employees have received a Gold or Platinum certification reassures us that they will be able to not only learn how to operate our tubing lines, but they will excel at it.”

In addition to Danville City, Henry County, Halifax County, Pittsylvania County and Martinsville City have been certified as Work Ready Communities. Patrick County, Greensville County and the City of Emporia have launched their WRC initiatives, and six additional localities in Go Virginia’s Region 3 will begin issuing NCRCs this spring.

“Today’s announcement is a major achievement for both the City of Danville and Virginia as a whole,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “With our fifth Certified Work Ready Community, we have cemented the Commonwealth’s status as a national leader in workforce development.”  

The prevalence of National Career Readiness Certificates is among the criteria used by Site Selection Magazine to annually determine the Top Ten Competitive States. This year, Virginia ranked as the top state in the Atlantic region, scoring ahead of highly competitive states such as Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware.

US Senator Mark Warner visited Ferrum College for an innovative demonstration on how drone technology can serve the agricultural industry of Southern Virginia.

“I was asked to try to think of Virginia’s economy and look ahead to some of the areas for growth, and if I was going to start all over again, the area I would go into would be unmanned systems,” explained Sen.  Warner, who originally rose as a leader in the field of cellular communications at Nextel.  

IALR Laboratory and Research Assistant Samantha Smith-Herndon champions the development of drone technology to support regional agriculture.  By developing farm specific reports using AgBot, a drone with thermal and multispectral cameras, her program aims to help farmers maximize profits by increasing overall crop health and yields, while minimizing costly inputs.  

John Ayers, a Patrick County grape farmer, has allowed Smith-Herndon to map and monitor poorly growing grape vines in a five-acre field on his vineyard.  The drone sensors are so sophisticated that it could inspect each leaf upon individual vines from the air, and they were eventually determined to be suffering from a virus.  Ayers says the drone was able to single out about 500 vines that were showing signs of stress beyond repair.  

“With their sophisticated analysis, they can also take it to the field and really benefit the agricultural producer,” Ayers said, referring to the merger of technologies like image-mapping from the drone relaying problem areas directly to fertilizer dispensers as they work around the field.

Technology will play a key role in the future of agriculture, and Samantha Smith-Herndon is ensuring the agricultural community in Southern Virginia will be at the forefront of these innovations.  Field demonstrations provide federal  legislators a perspective on how this technology can immediately impact the economic vitality of Virginia farms.  

Additional photos can be found by clicking here.

“The Future of Farming event was a great success. Ferrum College and IALR are doing impressive work in the field of precision agriculture.” - Senator Mark Warner

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