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Pioneering Community College Enlists Education Design Lab to Grow Virginia’s Health Care Talent Pipeline

Virginia Western Community College and national non-profit co-design pathway to region’s fast-growing healthcare careers

ROANOKE, VIRGINIA (May 30, 2019) — Education Design Lab, a national nonprofit that designs, tests, and implements education programs aligned with the demands of a fast-changing economy, today announced an ambitious new partnership with Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) to rapidly design employer-driven pathways that will produce qualified healthcare professionals for the region.

Backed by a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, the partnership draws on VWCC’s reach as the state’s third-largest community college to meet growing demand from the region’s fast-growing medical centers. Rooted in the Education Design Lab’s learner-centric design process, the program will align short-term training programs with skills required for in-demand positions, such as registered nurses, medical assistants, and administrators.

Data from labor market analytics company Emsi shows that, across the Roanoke region, demand for certified medical assistants will grow by 28 percent by 2028, with healthcare information management vacancies up 33 percent and demand for registered nurses up 25 percent.

“In hiring markets around the country, community colleges are becoming the catalyst to help regional employers co-create models that address the critical skills-gap,” said Kathleen deLaski, president and founder of Education Design Lab. “Together, we’re working to design flexible higher education pathways that can increase economic mobility for underserved learners and supply talent for southwestern Virginia.”

Beginning this spring, VWCC will kick off a six-month design challenge facilitated by Education Design Lab. As part of the process, faculty, staff, students, and employers will collaborate to redesign the student experience.

The partnership comes at a time when the Commonwealth of Virginia is investing significant new resources in local workforce development, including a $5 million investment in new state funding to restructure state workforce training programs. After completing the initial design project with Education Design Lab, VWCC plans to replicate the process to create short-term credentials for other high-growth industries, including manufacturing, IT/computer science, and early childhood education.”

“The Education Design Lab brings new vision to workforce development in an era where we must take bold steps to accelerate wage growth and close skills gaps in our health care system,” said Robert Sandel, president of Virginia Western Community College. “Stackable credentials will enable us to align our community college courses with the skills and competencies that aspiring healthcare professionals need, while meeting the needs of employersand community healthalike.”




About Education Design Lab: Education Design Lab is a national nonprofit that designs, tests, and implements unique higher education models and credentials that address the rapidly changing economy and emerging technology opportunities. The Lab demonstrates where technology, rigor, and design can improve opportunity for historically underserved learners to maximize their potential in the higher education system.


About Virginia Western Community College: Virginia Western Community College is a forward-thinking community college inspiring individual, community, and economic transformation. It provides quality educational opportunities that empower students for success and strengthen communities. The college provides credit academic programs and non-credit workforce training along with distance learning online and dual-enrollment courses in area high schools. Current programs in the health professions include nursing, dental hygiene, radiography, radiation oncology, medical laboratory technician, and phlebotomy. To learn more, visit