Access to Laurel Ridge heavy equipment operator program to increase thanks to economic investment

For Immediate Release:
September 18, 2018

Primary Media Contact:
Sally Voth
Public Relations Specialist
[email protected]
Phone: 540-868-7134

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A little more than a year after becoming the first community college in Virginia to offer statewide industry credential programs for heavy equipment operators (HEO), Laurel Ridge is partnering with two other community colleges to provide greater access to the in-demand training.

Virginia’s Community Colleges on Monday announced the 23-college system is investing $4 million over the next two years to support curriculum development and FastForward workforce training in the rapidly growing fields of heavy construction and utility-scale solar energy. Select community colleges will develop programs that can be expanded across the commonwealth as the demand grows for skilled workers in these fields.

Laurel Ridge is teaming up with Piedmont Virginia Community College and Germanna Community College to develop an HEO curriculum and statewide training capabilities for courses that support Virginia’s development sector.

In partnership with the Heavy Construction Contractors Association (HCCA) and the Virginia Asphalt Association (VAA), the colleges will establish online access to training programs in the principles and practices of road building and other major infrastructure projects. 

“The expanded initiative provides an opportunity to truly create a pipeline of current and future employees who will reap the rewards of a well-paid and rewarding career pathway,” said Ken Garrison, executive director of the Heavy Construction Contractors Association. “We have worked collaboratively with Laurel Ridge to build the pilot program and our firms benefited from hiring the graduates.”

Eligible students can have two-thirds of their program costs covered by FastForward Credential Funding. There is financial assistance available for those who qualify to pay for most of the final third of the price.

Additionally, the HCCA has generously funded a scholarship covering 75 percent of the program’s cost.

“We look forward to working in partnership with our sister colleges to scale and expand the program in order to serve more employers and give access to more job seekers to obtain these high demand industry credentials,” said Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser.

The average starting salary in Virginia for heavy equipment operators is $43,000 a year.

Thirty-two students graduated from Laurel Ridge’s HEO program this past spring. All were guaranteed interviews with HCCA members.

According to an HCCA survey, there are 3,000 more operators needed in the northern part of Virginia, and 10,000 statewide. With numerous large infrastructure projects underway and an aging workforce, the gap is only expected to grow.

To find out more about Laurel Ridge’s HEO program, call (540) 868-7021, or visit

The VCCS also announced Monday that Southside Virginia Community College will receive funds to work with businesses in the energy industry to develop and deploy the Virginia Solar Workforce Initiative, a first-in-the-state curriculum and training program for the utility-scale solar industry. The need for utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, who earn an average starting salary of $42,000-50,000, is emerging in Virginia, and the U.S. Department of Energy reports the solar energy sector is poised for robust growth.

Since July of 2016, Virginians who trained in FastForward programs at community colleges have earned more than 11,000 valuable industry-recognized workforce credentials. FastForward training programs are specifically geared toward the needs of local businesses and offer students affordable access to new careers in weeks or months instead of semesters and years.

Find out more about FastForward at



Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With four locations — Middletown, Warrenton, Luray-Page County and most recently, Vint Hill— the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.

Laurel Ridge Community College (Laurel Ridge) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College. Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment.

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.