As more and more baby-boomers take early retirement during the pandemic and the opioid crisis contributes to national skills gap problems, a Virginia community college is coming up with innovative ways to speed up the training of badly needed workers.
An hour south of the nation’s capital, Germanna Community College (GCC) is tackling two of America’s most critical workforce challenges in the acute shortage of healthcare professionals and the ever-increasing demand for skilled cybersecurity workers.
Scaling Up Training
Germanna, one of Virginia’s most respected educators of healthcare professionals, has set a goal of doubling its nurse training capacity in three years. The college, which was designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security in 2019, has also committed itself to ramping up training professionals in that field.
A partnership with GCubed, a Stafford, Va., an information technology and cybersecurity government contracting agency, is helping Germanna scale up its training in both areas of expertise. This spring, Germanna and GCubed teamed up on virtual reality training for nursing students, said to be the first of its kind in the nation. Vernon Green, president of GCubed, has created a “fully immersive experience” that will help Germanna train students in real-world situations. GCubed is working with AccessVR, a firm that tailors the technology fit to the needs of colleges and businesses. Green says the XR (extended reality) training that blends virtual and physical reality can easily be adapted for learning in any career field, such as law enforcement training.
Germanna Community College (GCC) is tackling two of America’s most critical workforce challenges in the acute shortage of healthcare professionals and the ever-increasing demand for skilled cybersecurity workers.
The Germanna and GCubed partnership has produced a new Innovation Campus supporting IT education and career opportunities for students. “I'm excited to work with Germanna on this,” Green says. “This relationship between industry and academia will foster a workforce development program that includes lab development, real-world challenges, internships, and ultimately employment in an industry that requires new talent immediately.”
Green continues, "Our vision includes Germanna students involved with the Innovation Campus, developing coding and IT skills, potential sponsorship for a security clearance for those students showing the greatest potential, and eventually hiring them or matching them with career opportunities. This is a combination of higher education and on-the-job training that we feel can produce a ready workforce. This is a great opportunity for the region.”
Germanna President Janet Gullickson adds, “Partnering with GCubed and G3 Community Services represents the best possible industry-higher education enterprise. Germanna students and faculty will experience cutting-edge, real-life learning and equipment, and GCubed will have a better-educated, advanced pool of talented students from which to hire. This relationship includes internships, research, and lab use, opportunities not readily available to community college students.”
XR (extended reality) training that blends virtual and physical reality can easily be adapted for learning in any career field, such as law enforcement training.
In July, Virginia Business magazine recognized Gullickson as one of Virginia’s top female leaders for her innovation and impact on education in the state. The honor came upon the fifth anniversary of her arrival as Germanna’s first woman president. Gullickson has been involved in developing work-based learning programs for students to gain hands-on experience through paid internships in every field that’s part of Germanna’s academic course offerings and workforce training offerings.
Germanna has bucked downward national college enrollment trends over the past four years, seeing a whopping 15.6 percent increase due in part to Gullickson’s decisiveness at the onset of the pandemic. She made an early decision to take all Germanna classes online at the height of the pandemic. GCC discovered that students like the convenience of being able to take classes at home on their own schedule. Out of that grew Germanna’s “College Everywhere,” an innovative online program that has been a major success. By taking just two highly accelerated courses at a time, students can focus tightly and graduate with a two-year associate’s degree in just one year.
Germanna President Janet Gullickson made an early decision to take all Germanna classes online at the height of the pandemic.
College Everywhere has increased enrollment by males, particularly Black students — a student demographic that has seen declining enrollment across the nation in recent years. Student retention and success are also higher. Germanna College Everywhere architect Tina Lance notes that students in the first cohort earned a higher GPA than other students, and more minority students took part in the program.
Germanna Vice President of Academic Affairs and Workforce Development Shashuna Gray says Germanna student success coaches in the College Everywhere program contact students who are unable to complete an assignment, turn in assignments late, or have other problems. “Having that relationship is key to students being successful, whether it’s a two-year or a four-year college,” Gray says.
Finally, in July, Germanna and the University of Mary Washington partnered on an all-online, accelerated business program that allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in only two and a half years.