At a time when college enrollment is down nationwide, there is good news at Rappahannock Community College (RCC). Spring 2022 enrollment is up overall by 2% compared to 2021, and summer enrollment is trending upward as well.

“Although credit enrollment remains lower than in 2019, the year prior to the pandemic, the data for spring 2022 looks positive,” said Dr. Shannon Kennedy, RCC president. “This past academic year we initiated a case management style of advising. We received an incredibly generous donation that allows us to fund a navigator for each high school in our service region, as well as adding to the staff of navigators at the College.”

“Our navigators, faculty, and staff at RCC work with the community and our students to identify and overcome barriers to their success,” Kennedy added. “We are committed to connecting more students to the services they need to help them succeed, from financial support to transportation solutions; food assistance to free mental health services.”

RCC is also focused on shortages in the workforce, especially the lack of skilled workers. Enrollment in RCC’s FastForward credentialing classes has risen dramatically with a 76% increase over last at this time. FastForward, a state-funded initiative, helps students gain the skills needed to quickly and affordably enter the workforce. Training programs are focused on industry-recognized certifications and licenses for a wide variety of in-demand careers.

“We are listening to employers and partnering with instructors and organizations to help train a skilled workforce,” said Kennedy. “The lockdowns during COVID kept students from receiving the hands-on training needed for many jobs. We looked at enrollment figures for the last pre-pandemic year and are seeing a 20% enrollment increase from March 2019 to present. This is a positive trend that I think is here to stay for some time.”

RCC recently received a grant from the Claude Moore Foundation to help launch new educational opportunities in area high schools that will support students pursuing health science careers. The College is also exploring other health-related programs with its partnering healthcare providers to meet the growing demands and the workforce shortages.

Another workforce initiative at RCC for high-demand, skilled workers, is a fast-track solar technician training course. A partnership with SHINE (Solar Hands-On Instructional Network of Excellence) teaches students basic construction skills, basic photovoltaic circuitry concepts, how to install mounting hardware, and install ground-mount solar panel to become certified in just one full weekend, without a certification exam.

Welders are in demand and RCC has several locations for training. A GoVirginia grant is helping to fund a state-of-the-art welding facility through the renovation of the former New Kent High School cafeteria. This site will become RCC’s third welding training lab, joining facilities serving the Middle Peninsula at the Glenns campus and the Northern Neck at the Montross facility.

RCC purchased its own tractor trailer to train CDL drivers and expects to expand the program by hiring instructors and purchasing another truck to accommodate the growing waiting list of interested students.

“I believe RCC is moving in a positive direction. We are focused on enrolling students, helping them overcome barriers, and offering pathways and training to employability,” said Kennedy.