Since earning the 10,000th workforce credential from the Virginia Community College System’s (VCCS) FastForward job training program, life just keeps getting better and better for Winchester resident Ed Breeden.
He had spent more than 20 years working at Zuckerman Co. when he learned the metal recycling company would soon be shutting down.
His stepson Rodney urged him to return to school and get his GED.
“Rodney is really the one who influenced me to go to Lord Fairfax in the first place,” says Breeden, who left James Wood High School in 10th grade to go to work. “I didn’t have a GED or the means to get a decent job.”
Turning to Laurel Ridge’s Adult Education program was life-changing for Breeden.
“I was about halfway done with my GED instruction when [adult education instructor] Katie Branson told me about this PluggedIn program,” Breeden said.
PluggedInVA (PIVA) is an education and career training program of the Adult Education program offered at Laurel Ridge. It helps students attain the skills they need to move forward with their careers, and offers a variety of training, including in digital literacy, workplace readiness, interview skills, industrial trades and allied health.
Breeden registered for the digital literacy and career readiness certificate programs, as well as the Manufacturing Training (MT1) trade program (reprogrammed in 2021 as Mechatronics).
“I got my GED, I got my digital literacy, got the career readiness certificate, got the manufacturing technician credential, got everything,” he says. “I’m all certified in everything now.”
He quickly secured employment with Ashworth.
“The hiring manager looked at my portfolio and my resume, and wanted to hire me right on the spot,” Breeden, a crimp operator, 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.”
Not only does he now have benefits, but his salary at his new job is significantly higher than what he had been paid at his old one.
Breeden was recognized by Virginia’s Community Colleges as receiving the 10,000th workforce credential from the VCCS’s FastForward job-training program.
“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.
Breeden and his wife enjoy antiquing and visiting flea markets on weekends. He is enjoying it even more now that he has more disposable income.
“I’ve got a little more income now and can afford to splurge a little bit,” he says. “I’m doing more work to my house, and bought my wife a brand-new car and myself a pickup.”
Before earning his GED, Breeden didn’t own a computer. Now, he uses one for email and other applications.
“Going back to school has changed my life,” he says. “It really has. I was stuck before and thought I would be at my old job until I retired. Now I can talk about moving up a little bit, I can request a better position here if I want. Everyone here is so helpful, and I’m learning more every day.”
And, Breeden might not be done with his formal education. He is considering taking business classes at Laurel Ridge.
“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 Laurel Ridge 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.
Breeden encourages others to follow his example and see how Laurel Ridge can help their careers, too.
“If they want to better themselves, do all you can,” he says. “Never give up. It’s changed my whole outlook.”
To learn more about the adult education program at Laurel Ridge, call (540) 869-0748, or visit https://laurelridge.edu/areas-of-study/need-my-ged/adult-education-program/.