A plaza with bricks that spell out \"VCU\" on a black circle.
New funding for two projects marks the second time VCU has been awarded federal earmarks since Congress reestablished them after a 10-year hiatus as part of a new program for high-need community projects.(Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

VCU receives $2.1M in federal funding for higher education access, health care workforce development

Earmarks in the latest spending package will support high-need community projects.

Share this story

Included in the fiscal year 2023 federal spending package signed by President Joe Biden on Dec. 29 is funding for two community projects proposed by Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health — one focused on improving access to and success in higher education, and one that will support workforce development for careers most affected by the health workforce shortage.

The projects were supported by the late U.S. Representative A. Donald McEachin and U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. They mark the second time VCU has been awarded federal earmarks since Congress reestablished them after a 10-year hiatus as part of a new program for high-need community projects.

“These federal appropriations speak to two of our highest priorities right now – supporting greater access to education and workplace learning for students, and training more of the health care workers that our hospitals and communities need to take care of our patients,” said Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU and VCU Health. “I’m grateful to Senators Warner and Kaine, and especially to the late Rep. McEachin, who was so instrumental in supporting these important requests to the federal government.”

Kaine said the funding for the two VCU projects will make a difference for students and the community.

“It’s important that we’re preparing Virginia’s students to succeed in good-paying jobs,” Kaine said. “That’s why I was proud Senator Warner and I secured over $2 million in federal dollars to train students for high-need STEM and health care careers. I look forward to seeing how these two programs harness these resources to benefit students and boost our economy.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney added: “I’m grateful to Virginia Commonwealth University for answering my call to action to Richmond’s institutions of higher education to offer more scholarships for our deserving Richmond Public Schools students. Meaningful, equitable expansion of postsecondary educational opportunities is one of the best investments we can make, collectively, for the future of our city.

“I commend VCU for rising to the challenge, and I’m thankful for the efforts of Sens. Warner and Kaine, and especially the late Rep. A. Donald McEachin, for helping to secure funding that will enable a brighter future for Richmond’s children,” Stoney said.

Richmond Talent Pathway

One project, the Richmond Talent Pathway, will receive $1.1 million and facilitate a partnership between VCU, the city of Richmond, Richmond Public Schools and the Central Virginia business community to recruit, support, train and retain diverse student populations in high-need career fields, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), health care, education and public service in Central Virginia.

It will provide support, including scholarships, to students in five Richmond high schools, preparing them for college and facilitating real-world experiences such as internships. Students who hit academic and experiential milestones in high school would be preferred candidates for admission and financial support to enroll in VCU immediately following high school graduation.

“We have every expectation that RTP will contribute to increasing educational attainment in Central Virginia, yielding positive effects on the economy and providing powerful positive social benefits for society and the individuals served,” said Tomikia P. LeGrande, Ed.D., vice president for strategy, enrollment management and student success at VCU.

The program is an example of a “promise program,” which have been shown nationally to improve high school grade point averages, increase attendance, generate greater enrollment in college and increase the chances that students will attain a postsecondary credential.

“VCU is already a significant contributor of talent as two-thirds of alumni live and work here after graduation,” according to the nomination. “The [Richmond Talent Pathway] will identify where underutilized talent exists in Central Virginia and develop a responsive and equitable workforce/talent pipeline. This will positively contribute long term to the success of individuals and the creation of good-paying jobs, positioning Virginia, Central Virginia and Richmond to become a premier provider of diverse talent.”

Training for needed health careers

The second project, which received $1 million, will support the development of a comprehensive workforce development model that will expand existing pilot programs to reach new populations and train students in health careers most affected by the health workforce shortage.

“I hope this program will enhance access to employment and career opportunities across all VCU Health System facilities for individuals who live in in communities with historically high unemployment rates,” said Sheryl L. Garland, chief of health impact, VCU Health System, and executive director, VCU Office of Health Equity.

It will leverage existing partnerships with Virginia’s community colleges, including their workforce development divisions such as the Community College Workforce Alliance, as well as high schools and their regional career and technical education centers.

“This program will provide an opportunity for VCU Health to strengthen workforce development partnerships with high schools, community colleges and community-based organizations that will assist in achieving our recruitment and retention goals,” Garland said. “This program represents an important strategy for our organization as health systems across the country work to develop models to address workforce shortages and high turnover rates.”

Specifically, it will partner with regional high schools and the CCWA to identify and train students for VCU Health entry-level positions that require a high school diploma or GED, including support service staff, schedulers and patient transporters. It will also partner with regional technical centers, Virginia’s community colleges and the CCWA to identify and train students for VCUHS positions that require professional certificates or credentials, such as certified medical assistants, certified nursing assistants and phlebotomists. And it will partner with Virginia’s community colleges to identify and train students for VCU Health positions that require an associate degree, such as registered nurses, respiratory therapy technicians and medical laboratory technicians.

“This request will benefit Virginia because it addresses two major public policy issues: the health care workforce shortage and persistent unemployment and poverty in both Virginia’s urban and rural regions,” according to the project’s nomination.