For many people, learning that their workplace of 23 years is closing would be devastating. But, for Winchester resident Ed Breeden it was the chance to reinvent himself and to earn a much better living.
A general laborer at a metal recycling plant, Breeden reached out to Laurel Ridge when his boss told employees the business would be shutting down. Breeden had left James Wood High School in the 10th grade to go to work.
“I decided I wanted to get my GED, so I signed up for classes at LFCC,” he says. “I was about halfway done with my GED instruction when [adult education instructor] Katie Branson told me about this PluggedIn program.”
PluggedInVA (PIVA) is an education and career training program offered through Laurel Ridge Adult Education. It helps students attain academic, computer, and work readiness skills, alongside their training in a trade or health-related fields.
Through PIVA, Breeden enrolled in digital literacy and career readiness certificate programs, as well as the Manufacturing Training (MT1) (reprogrammed in 2021 as Mechatronics) trade program. The MT1 course is offered by Laurel Ridge Workforce Solutions.
“I figured since I’m going to lose my job here pretty soon, I need something to fall back on,” he says. “I was doing all of them at the same time there for a while. It was a long day sometimes. But, the adult education and Workforce Solutions staff helped me through everything.
“I got my GED, I got my digital literacy, got the career readiness certificate, got the manufacturing technician credential, got everything. I’m all certified in everything now.”
In fact, Breeden has been recognized by Virginia’s Community Colleges as receiving the 10,000th workforce credential from the VCCS’s FastForward job-training program. He was recognized during the State Board for Community Colleges July 19 board meeting in Fredericksburg.
Laurel Ridge Workforce Solutions offer FastForward credential programs for those looking to earn an in-demand credential in a short period of time. While funding lasts, eligible students pay just one-third of the cost of the program, and in some cases less.
“FastForward is doing exactly what we intended: improving the lives of Virginians by helping them start, or re-start their careers to meet the challenges of the ever-changing economy,” says Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “We were grateful Ed allowed us to share his story.”
Thanks to Breeden’s hard work and the training he received at LFCC, the grandfather of four has an advanced manufacturing job at a Winchester business when he wraps up his work at the scrapyard.
“The hiring manager looked at my portfolio and my resume, and wanted to hire me right on the spot,” Breeden says. “My wife works in manufacturing, too. I thought it would be a good career for me. It’s something a little different and it’s something I can learn a little more about. I enjoy working with my hands and doing mechanical work, so I figured being a technician would be a great new career for me.”
And, all that training and education have really paid off for Breeden – he says his new salary is 40 percent higher than his old one. Plus, he’ll be getting benefits.
“That will really help out me and my family,” Breeden says. “It will really give me an opportunity to do more.”
He says his wife and three children, as well as his current employer, were very supportive of his going back to school.
Now that he’s had a taste of higher education, Breeden is considering coming back for more.
“I’m thinking of taking some business classes,” he says. “All the teachers and staff at Laurel Ridge are just so helpful with whatever you need, asking, ‘How can I help you more?’ It was just awesome the way they handled everything.”
Likewise, Breeden left a positive impression on his instructors at LFCC.
“Ed is the very definition of a PIVA success story, and has received more than 10 months of instruction and training from our program,” says Adult Education Director Amy Judd. “We’re so proud of him!”
As he was taking his GED classes, his adult education instructors encouraged him to take advantage of PIVA because not only would it help him in finishing his GED, but it would also help him attain professional certification in a high-demand profession.
“It prepares students like Ed for the academic rigor of college credit or workforce credentialing classes, helps them achieve numerous certifications, coaches them on workplace readiness skills, and assists them with their coursework once they begin technical training, such as the MT1 course in his case,” Judd says.
To learn more about the adult education program at LFCC, call (540) 869-0748, or visit https://laurelridge.edu/areas-of-study/need-my-ged/adult-education-program/. For more on FastForward programs, visithttps://laurelridgeworkforce.com/funding-options/fastforward/, or call (540) 868-7021.