Business Engagement Success Profiles

August, 2018 - Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) and Southern States Tour (excerpt from the August 17th Commissioner Report)

 On Tuesday, August 14, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) and Southern States toured Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center (WWRC).  The tour was arranged by Wes Seaton, DARS Central District Business Development Manager, in conjunction with James Hall, WWRC Career and Workforce Development Division Director, and William Sutton, DARS Placement Counselor.  The VEDP is a state agency whose sole mission is to bring businesses (stateside and international) to Virginia in the following key industries:  corporate services, food and beverage processing, information technology, life sciences, manufacturing, supply chain management, and unmanned systems.  The goal of the tour was to show employers that WWRC is a modern workforce center in addition to being a Virginia Department of Education state operated program educational facility that meets the needs of businesses using its workforce driven curriculum.  Many facets of the Center were shared such as the wraparound Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy supports, Behavioral supports, Educational and Assistive Technology accommodations, and the obtainment of hundreds of WIOA industry recognized credentials.  Many tour participants left amazed at the level of support, passion, and professionalism of the services WWRC consumers receive to enter the modern workforce. For case in point, Jackie Hudson of the VEDP stated, "This is the second WWRC tour I have had in three weeks, and it was the exact same, or even better, than the first one."


VEDP and SS tour.jpg


July, 2018 - DARS BDMs and Placement Managers Bring Businesses to WWRC (excerpt from the July 25th Centerline)

The goal of this tour, coordinated by Nate Mahanes, DARS Blue Ridge District Business Development Manager (BDM), was to show employers that WWRC is a modern workforce center in addition to being a Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) state-operated program educational facility that meets the needs of businesses using its workforce-driven curriculum. Many facets of the Center were shared, such as the wrap-around Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy supports, educational and Assistive Technology accommodations, and the attainment of hundreds of WIOA industry-recognized credentials. Many tour participants left amazed at the level of support, passion, and professionalism of the services WWRC consumers receive to enter the modern workforce.












Business Manager - Workforce Development Division

VA Economic Development Partnership








R2K Workforce Center



Sr. Talent Acquisition Manager

Omni Homestead Resort


Omni Homestead Resort


Omni Homestead Resort


Omni Homestead Resort



Placement Counselor




Manufacturing Director




Talent Acquisition Specialist

Enterprise Holdings



HR Generalist




Training Manager 3- Apprentice School

Newport News Shipbuilding



Talent Acquisition Manager 2 (Hourly/Trades)

Newport News Shipbuilding







HR Manager

Walmart Distribution Center - Sutherland VA







Executive Director

Piedmont Workforce Network



Branch Manager

Labor Max Staffing



Labor Max Staffing



Account Executive

Harrisonburg Radio Group



Director of Education & Workforce Development

Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association



Marketing Specialist




District HR Manager - Lynchburg




Business Sales Support Representative




Business Sales Support Representative




Account Executive

Piedmont Communications Inc.



Workforce Development Specialist


 Employers tour Nate Mahanes.jpg

May, 2018 - Internship/Training Pilot Program with VDOT (excerpt from the May 30th Centerline)

In February, Nate Mahanes, DARS Business Development Manager, met with WWRC Vocational Training staff to identify any potential students interested in an internship/training opportunity with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Staunton District.  Two students, Donmanic Hines (General Office/Administrative Assistant Training Program) and Lucas Dongweck (Materials Handling Training Program) were interviewed and offered six week internships in their respective fields, starting April 18th.  Both earned valuable work references as a result of the experience which will assist them as they return home and seek employment.   A BIG SHOUT OUT to Nate Mahanes for his initiative in orchestrating this successful partnership! 


March, 2018 - Business Engagement Forum - WWRC Upcoming Graduates Launch Into Employment  

                                                         Employer's Forum.jpg

On Friday, March 9th, Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) hosted a Business Engagement Forum for upcoming graduates with the theme, "WWRC Upcoming Graduates Launch into Employment".  Potential employers spoke to our upcoming graduates, representing the various career pathways offered through Vocational Training within the Career and Workforce Development Division at WWRC. Two sessions were offered, based upon occupational families, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The focus of each employer’s presentation included specific information about their career pathway and a description of "What My Gold Medal Employee Looks Like." In addition, DARS Unit Supervisor, John Jackson, and Pre-Employment Transition Services Counselor, Bret Hart, also spoke to the participants about the "next steps" of the DARS employment process as these WWRC graduates enter the workforce. This event aligned with the WWRC Blueprint Priority Statements #1 and #2, in addition to meeting the WIOA measure of business engagement. Participating employers and businesses included:

    • Karen Van Curan and Morgan Kate- HR Representatives, The Hershey Chocolate Company
    • Jeff Conner-Manager, Food Lion Stuarts Draft
    • Kori Searles-Talent Acquisition, Newport News Shipbuilding
    • Phillip Love – Chief Financial Officer, Valley Community Services Board
    • Jennifer Taylor Lilly – Owner, Willow Tree Academy
    • Rodney Martin – Owner/Manager Stuarts Draft Retirement Community
    • Paul Baker – District Manager, Country Cookin’
    • Casey McCracken – Meter and IT Manager, Augusta County Service Authority
    • Doug Ramsey – Construction Project Manager, Augusta County School Board
    • Dick Myers – Owner/General Manager, Dick Myers Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Fiat Dealership
    • Dr. Spencer Nice – Owner/Veterinarian, Commonwealth Veterinary Clinic


March, 2018 - USA Today Article

Congratulations to Kaylee Merrick, WWRC graduate, who was featured in a recent article published by USA Today as part of their social media outreach regarding use of mock stores and the nation's comprehensive centers.    Kaylee, who trained at WWRC in the CVS Mock Store, is now employed by CVS Health in Stafford, Virginia.   Check out the article and short video at this link  While the story didn't get into the role of VR in Kaylee's experience, it was nice seeing one of our graduates featured in such a positive way. 

Kaylee-Merrick-(USAToday).jpg  CVS employee Kaylee Merrick, 24, changes the price on some of the items for sale on the shelves at her CVS in Stafford, Va. (Photo: Jack Gruber, USA TODAY)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  KMerrick(USAToday).jpgPhoto: Jack Gruber, USA TODAY


Excerpt from the February 21st WWRC Centerline Director's Message (2018)

 As we implement the 2018 Blueprint, WIOA, and Vision 2020, and begin working with Kathy Hayfield, our new Commissioner, a key to our success is how we engage business.  The first principal of CSAVR's Vision 2020 is to be mission-driven and dual customer-focused and you'll see this language throughout the Blueprint.  These principles are being embraced all across the country, and particularly here in Virginia, through Commissioner Hayfield's leadership.  As Vision 2020 suggests, we are focusing on the needs of our clients (mission-driven) and the needs of business and industry, as well (dual focus).  That is why I'm so excited to announce another job fair with the Omni Homestead Resort.  Through out Agency's Workforce Development Unit and Business Development Managers, and with the support of our local Job Placement Counselor, Penni Wetherell, we have scheduled the Omni for an on-site visit here at WWRC on March 27th in the Dining Hall.  This month's podcast interview is with two graduates from WWRC's Materials Handling Program who now work full-time with benefits at the Omni.  Click HERE to listen to their story.  We were also extremely fortunate to talk with Omni's Talent Acquisition Manager, Jennifer Lorenzo, who will be here for the job fair.    If you'd like to here Jenny's take on Disability Employment or more information on what it's like to work at Omni, check out Jenny's interview and feel free to share these links with students who might be interested in working at Omni.  Rick Sizemore, WWRC Director.


 Omni Job Fair.png

 February, 2018:  Employer Tour


The first week of February, Nate Mahanes, Blue Ridge District Business Development Manager for the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), and the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) Foundation sponsored an employer tour of WWRC.  Thirty guests toured the facility and were oriented to WWRC's programs and familiarized with the Center's alignment with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and the focus on measurable skills gains and workforce credentials.  James Hall, WWRC's Career and Workforce Development Director and Dr. Sharon Mullen, Education Principal and Workforce Credential Specialist, described the workforce driven nature of the programming and overviewed the career pathway approach, as well as WWRC's status as a Local Educational Agency of the Virginia Department of Education.  Employers from Lowes, Capps Shoe Manufacturing, Thermo Fisher, and numerous others were especially appreciative of learning that students from their areas are referred to WWRC for training, and then tracked back to the home community where placement staff can assist in connecting them with local businesses and industry.  Capps Shoe Manufacturing's Human Resources Manager was particularly interested in the Manufacturing Technology Training (MTT) program for its plant in Gretna, Virginia, and requested a second tour for the plant manager and owner.  Capps produces footwear for military, law enforcement, and first responders.  Also attending the tour were various DARS placement counselors, a DARS unit supervisor, and DARS Business Development Services team members.  The goal of the tour was to show employers that WWRC is a modern workforce center in addition to being a Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) state operated program educational facility that meets the needs of businesses using its workforce driven curriculum.  Many facets of the Center were shared such as the Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physical Therapy (PT) wraparound supports, educational and Assistive Technology (AT) accommodations, and the obtainment of hundreds of WIOA industry recognized credentials.  Many tour participants left amazed at the level of support and services WWRC consumers receive to enter the modern workforce, and offered to be a part of WWRC's Vocational Training Advisory Committees and employer forums.  Anne Hudlow, WWRC Foundation Director, stated that the Foundation board members cover much of the state and provide information that she channels back to Business Development Managers for future contacts and referrals.  The Foundation frequently sponsors the transportation costs for tours of this nature, and publishes a monthly podcast to help augment awareness of the Center's WIOA alignment and workforce driven programming of success stories.  The Foundation sponsored lunch and discussed the various ways the companies can get involved in assisting WWRC.

BR Distict Employer Tour (Feb2018).png


October, 2017:  Disability Awareness Month and Business Engagement Impact

On October 12th, the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Blue Ridge District Business Development Manager, Nate Mahanes, held the District Champions Event at WWRC as part of the nationally recognized Disability Awareness Month.   The Champions Event's purpose is to recognize companies and employers who have made a significant impact on the lives of consumers in Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) for the year prior.  This was the first time the event was held on the WWRC campus and it was a major success.  Nate presented awards to the following companies:  CVS Health (Duane Rohr), Provides US (Tom Coplai), A Bowl of Good (Katrina Didot), RoadTek Traffic Solutions (Robey Minton), Dulles Glass and Mirror (Brice Biggins), AmeriCare Plus (Jackie Hostetter), and the WWRC Foundation (Anne Hudlow).   In addition to the awards presentation, Emmett Toms, Virginia Dominion Energy, gave remarks on the positive impact of VR to his company and Vanessa Rastberger, Director of Workforce Solutions for the Virginia Manufacturers Association, gave the keynote address. 


Champions Event (October 2017).png






The 2017-2018 Investing in America Report, sponsored by the Council of State Administrators of VR (CSAVR), features 2 success stories that highlight WWRC's Business Engagement Vision in Action:


    • The Austin McQuade Story
    • Business Partnerships:  The Hershey Company


August 2017 DARS EO46 Report to the Governor

From the WWRC Director's Office:  "I'm extremely gratified to share this report with all of our team here at WWRC.  Commissioner Rothrock has been working with  Sara J. Dunnigan,  Executive Director, Virginia Board of Workforce Development/Chief Workforce Policy Advisor to the Governor, to provide a report on how DARS, and in our case WWRC, has contributed to the implementation of Executive Order 46.  Shortly after receiving the report this afternoon, Sara offered the reply below to our Commissioner:


Thanks! This captures so many amazing accomplishments. I will be sure to share with the Governor's staff and Secretary Haymore. I think you are doing some of the most exciting and impactful work out there. Please send my thanks to entire team.       





Evolving Employer Network Partnerships

  •  DARS/DRS Blue Ridge District Business Representatives


On Wednesday, May 3, 2017, a group of 16 participants from the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Blue Ridge District came for a tour of WWRC.  Some of the roles of the participants were Branch Managers, Workforce Center Manager, Web Developer, Dean of Instruction, Human Resource Manager, and the Director of the Botetourt County Chamber of Commerce.  Examples of companies represented were F & M Bank, ComSonics, Inc., George's Chicken, Lumos Networks, Tessi Plastics, and Virginia Technical Institute. This tour was beneficial, not only for the participants, but also for WWRC. 


Many ideas and shared common interests were exchanged related to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Industry recognized credentials, and On the Job Training (OJT).  Comments from the tour were, "WWRC already has in place a great infrastructure for people to obtain credentials," "This place does so much more than we can image," and "Can we bring more colleagues to tour WWRC." 


Nate Mahanes, DARS Blue Ridge District District Manager, arranged a similar tour of WWRC on August 3rd with fifteen individuals representing six regional businesses, James Madison University, and DARS Workforce Development staff.  During the Q&A session, tour attendees commented that they were amazed and impressed by the scope of the training that WWRC consumers recieve. 

On Monday, March 5, 2017, Tish Blackwell, Marketing and Communications Director for the Shenandoah Valley Partnership (SVP), toured WWRC and left very impressed.  She stated the following:


I truly was wowed and impressed this morning and could have stayed all day.  Your facility is a true model and success story for rehabilitative services that promote growth, confidence and successful men and women to enter or re-enter the workforce.  You are definitely the best kept secret in Augusta County!  I welcome all opportunities to not keep you a secret and share your story to our partners and investors – and beyond.

Americare Plus

In June, 2017, administrative staff from AmeriCare Plus (Bill Hurt, Vice President, Kim Hurt, Director of Operations, and Jaclyn Hostetter, Staffing Director) met with Business Development Manager, Nate Mahanes, and Health Occupations Instructor, Pam Moore, among other WWRC staff to discuss how AmeriCare can connect with exiting graduates in their localities for employment.  AmeriCare operates facilities and coordinates in-home care all across the state.  In addition, both Bill and Kim sit on numerous advisory bodies in the healthcare industry, and Bill is the President of the Virginia Association of Personal Care Providers.  A focal point of the visit was a meeting with the Health Occupations Instructors who facilitated a meeting with AmeriCare staff and WWRC Health Occupations consumers. 


During the meeting, it occurred to the AmeriCare Staffing Director that while not all twenty Health Occupations consumers in attendance had their Certified Nursing Assistant license yet, approximately half of them currently held the prerequisite Personal Care Aide (PCA) Certification, which more than qualified those consumers to work for AmeriCare in numerous "hard-to-fill" positions.  This story continues with remarkable results as the AmeriCare Staffing Director worked with the Health Occupations class instructor to process several applications for consumers who expressed an interest in working for AmeriCare.  Following a criminal background check and application review, AmeriCare hired five WWRC consumers from the Health Occupations classroom.  Numerous shifts were scheduled by AmeriCare as soon as the consumers were hired.  


AmeriCare was contacted by one of their customers who had been cared for by one of the WWRC consumers hired by AmeriCare to provide in-home care.  The customer relayed that he didn't know where AmeriCare had found such a wonderful employee, but he had no complaints and hoped she would provide services in the future.  These consumers are gaining valuable experience and earning a small income while they continue gaining skills and credentials through vocational rehabilitation.  Skills gains and credentials, as well as the business engagement with AmeriCare, are all key measures of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act.


AmeriCare assignments are typically in local Assisted Living Centers or In-home Care applications.  AmeriCare has indicated that they would like to not only keep an ongoing relationship with WWRC's CNA trainees who have PCA Certification for part-time work, but also maintain an active relationship with Nate Mahanes and other relevant Business Development Managers to build a pipeline relationship for their workforce.


See also Promotional and Marketing Materials/Photo Gallery for details about AmeriCare's award to one of WWRC's CNA Training Program participants who is currently working weekends at Americare while completing her training.  A success story with a twist!   See also  Promotional and Marketing Materials/Podcast Gallery for Odessa's heart-warming and courageous vocational rehabilitation story -- in it, you will hear how she overcame her fears, gained skills and credentials, and now moves into the talent pipeline with AmeriCare.  Also meet AmeriCare's Jacklyn Hostetter who discusses the amazing partnership with WWRC in the August, 2017 podcast feature! 


Vanguard Furniture

The teamwork between WWRC's programs, our Business Development Managers, and the Foundation has never been better; because of this we are seeing increased tours and interest in the Center. In May, 2017, Dwight Foster, Production & Assembly Instructor, and WWRC's Director, Rick Sizemore, made a trip to Vanguard Furniture in Hillsville, Virginia. Vanguard is rapidly expanding its production of high-quality furniture. Peggy Hurley, BDM for that area, arranged a tour with the Human Resources Manager, Susan Roberts.


The tour and the discussion on their job requirements, as well as the merits of WWRC's programs, and the potential for our consumers to become registered apprentices, is one of the best examples of how our Agency and the Center is meeting one of the key measures of WIOA in "Business Engagement." Peggy is leading efforts to target high schools in the Grayson, Wythe, and Carroll County areas, and to facilitate referrals to WWRC. Both our Production and Assembly and MTT programs seem particularly suited to this operation. Vanguard's owner's mantra is that he wants every employee to be able to retire with a salary very close to the salary they had while fulfilling their careers at Vanguard. Many of the positions pay $28 an hour.


The Homestead

Executive representatives from the Homestead Resort in Bath County, Virginia (HR Director from each department, the Employment Manager, and the Executive Sous Chef) joined Nate Mahanes, DARS Business Development Manager, and Penni Wetherell, DARS Rehabilitation Counselor, for a targeted WWRC tour in May, 2017.  The Homestead Resort has been a huge supporter of DARS, and they hire consumers from all over the state.  One of the stated goals for the tour was to have the Homestead Human Resources Hiring Manager return for a preliminary visit to a particular training program to speak to WWRC consumers directly about opportunities at the Homestead.  This would give WWRC consumers an option to consider while they complete their training program.  Nearer to graduation, the Homestead Human Resources Manager will once again return to WWRC, and to the training program that pertains to their department, for an on-site job interview and possible hiring decision.  One of the unique aspects about the Homestead is they have on-site affordable housing in addition to hiring over 1,000 employees during each summer season. 


 On Wednesday, August 2, Nate Mahanes and Penni Wetherell held a “mini” job fair for WWRC consumers featuring the Homestead Resort. Representatives from the Homestead met with WWRC consumers over a four (4) hour period to discuss a variety of open positions, such as customer service associate, groundskeeper, culinary skills, computer support, housekeeping, and security officer.  Representatives from the Homestead were able to answer general employment questions, offer application support, and explain some of the benefits of working at the Homestead, such as living on site for a reduced rate.    As a follow-up, on Monday, September 11, 2017, Penni Wetherell hosted an application day for the Homestead Resort where interested WWRC consumers filled out job applications for Omni Resorts (Homestead Resort, VA) with assistance from Dr. Sharon Mullen and James Hall.  The goal was to expose the consumers to the variety of employment opportunities, not only at the Homestead Resort, but throughout the United States at the Omni Resorts.  Some of the positions applied for were busser/server, valet service, and pastry chef.  Additionally, Penni was able to answer general employment questions, offer application support, and explain some of the benefits of working at the Homestead, such as living on site for a reduced rate.  The next step in the process is to make an on-site visit to the Homestead Resort in October and conduct actual job interviews.  These events are perfect examples of the business engagement model that both WWRC and DARS promote in action.  


In an earlier visit this year, John Ferguson, one of the Homestead employees attending the "mini" job fair, had lunch in Woody’s Cafe, operated by the WWRC Culinary Skills/Food Service Training Program. Little did Brody Stotler, Culinary Skills/Food Service student, know that John is a world-renowned Chef with experience, not only at the Homestead, but as a Sous Chef with the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Hear John critique the meal and Brody’s comments about not getting chopped in this short special episode podcast titled: VR Short Story in the Kitchen with Brody.


March, 2018 Update:  On Tuesday, March 27, Nate Mahanes, Business Development Manager for the Blue Ridge District, in conjunction with Penni Wetherell, placement counselor in the Fishersville DARS office, held a "mini" job fair for WWRC consumers. Mr. Mahanes arranged for the Homestead Resort (Bath County, VA) to come to WWRC from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  to meet with potentially eligible consumers interested in a variety of open positions, such as customer service associate, groundskeeper, culinary skills, computer support, housekeeping, and security officer. Representatives from the Homestead, Jennifer Lorenzo, were able to answer general employment questions, offer application support, and explain some of the benefits of working at the Homestead, such as living on site for a reduced rate. This event was a perfect example of the business engagement model in action that both WWRC and DARS promote to meet WIOA core performance measures.


G4S Secure Solutions

Coordinated by Peggy Hurley (BDM), DARS/DRS Staff from the DARS/DRS Southwest Virginia District visited WWRC with a Supervisor from G4S Secure Solutions in late April, 2017.   G4S Secure Solutions is a global, integrated security company specializing in the delivery of security and related services across a wide range of industries and commercial and government customers.   Visitors were impressed with the evolution of WWRC in its jobs-driven training programs from the 100% pass rate in the Certified Nurse Aide program to the solar-powered water purification plant in MTT.   Comments included: "I loved the enthusiasm of the staff" and "I love the professional look of the consumers".


Fanuc CNC Electronics, Inc

Fanuc CNC Electronics, Inc., located in Charlottesville, Virginia, specializes in Fanuc parts exchange and repair for the machine tools industry.    In April, 2017, Mark Brownhill visited WWRC's MTT lab and taught students how to program new CNC machines that were purchased under recommendation from the MTT Program Advisory Committee using State Operated Education (SOP) grant funds awarded to WWRC, in combination with the generosity of additional sponsorship through the WWRC-Foundation.   Mark also offered suggestions for the integration of CNC training within the MTT program curriculum and information that could be used for staff development, expressing an interest in Fanuc representation on the MTT Advisory Committee.


Commonwealth Senior Living

Mary Beth Showalter, Regional Director of Human Resources for Commonwealth Senior Living, toured WWRC in early March, 2017.  Her company currently has 23 Centers across the state and is expanding. She was very interested in our Personal Care Aide (PCA) and Certified Nursing Aide (CNA) programs and was impressed with our 100% pass rate.  She stated, "The core values of the Commonwealth, caring about people, doing the right thing, and adding value, align very well with the mission of WWRC.  I look forward to our future partnership."  Additionally, she put her words into action by becoming a member of the Health Occupations Advisory Board.  This tour was arranged by Wes Seaton, Business Development Manager from the Capital Region.


US Foods Distribution Center

On Wednesday, February 15, 2017, the US Foods Distribution Center in Manassas, Virginia, conducted a tour for participating DARS/DRS staff, as well as WWRC's Forklift Training Instructor, Joey Rodriguez, and five current WWRC consumers.  All five consumers are current or future participants in the WWRC Forklift training program, and three of the consumers will soon be graduating from the Materials Handling training program as warehouse workers.  Of these three consumers, one lives in Orange County and is very interested in applying for employment at this US Foods Distribution Center.


During the tour, job descriptions were outlined, and function and use of powered equipment demonstrated, including stand-up reach trucks (type of forklift), riding pallet jacks, and order pickers.  Tour participants were impressed and appreciative of the information given regarding potential employment, as well as the opportunity to see operations of a functioning distribution center.


 Follow-up comments submitted via e-mail to US Foods staff included this statement by Mr. Rodriguez, "We were all impressed and appreciative of the time you took out of your day, as well as the knowledge you shared with us about your facility."  The DARS Business Development Manager who coordinated DARS field staff and WWRC participants attending this tour was LaPearl Smith.  Her follow-up comment regarding this visit was, "Thank you so very much for a wonderful tour of U.S. Foods yesterday. It was fascinating, informative and very helpful to our staff and job seekers to see firsthand the incredible work you do there. Even though I have toured at least a couple of times previously, I still learn new things about the warehouse operation. We appreciate so much your taking time from your schedule to meet with us and provide an enjoyable learning experience. We are grateful for our partnership with you and look forward to referring qualified candidates to U.S. Foods for employment consideration."


 Winchester Metals and Ashworth

WWRC Director, Rick Sizemore, and Production and Assembly Training Program Instructor, Dwight Foster, visited two Northwest Virginia companies, Winchester Metals and Ashcroft, as part of a planned tour with the Winchester DRS Team.  Both companies have a workforce of around 75 employees and were eager to consider working with individuals with disabilities.  Company representatives readily affirmed that the curriculum WWRC shared with them would be an ideal first step in preparing workers for jobs in their plants. Winchester Metals has two operations on-site that involve industrial metal distribution and fabrication and Ashworth produces conveyor belts for companies throughout the world.


 Gatorade, a Division of Pepsico

WWRC Director, Rick Sizemore, attended an October, 2016 meeting of the DARS/DRS Employer Network Team in Southwest, Virginia.  One of the business partners in attendance, Gatorade of Wytheville, employing 350 and producing millions of cases of Gatorade, was particularly interested in WWRC's Materials Handling and Forklift training programs, and requested to visit WWRC.   Gatorade representatives suggested that they would be willing to discuss a partnership to house "high-tech" forklifts and warehouse rack systems at WWRC. The WWRC Foundation received a $5,000 donation toward the purchase of a "reach truck," which is a forklift that moves products with retractable arms deep within storage racks. Advisory committees have indicated that WWRC needs to add this to its current program. WWRC is involved in a renovation of its training facilities and has a targeted need for a rack system. If this could be provided by Gatorade, it would be extremely beneficial to WWRC and our consumers. Plans are underway for Center staff to visit Gatorade with Peggy Hurley, DARS/DRS Business Development Manager. A reciprocal visit from Gatorade is planned immediately afterwards. Gatorade, a Division of Pepsico, has very inclusive hiring practices, and at the event indicated an interest in partnering with DARS and WWRC to employ individuals with disabilities.


Southern States

Agency Business Development Managers are constantly scanning the state for business and industry contacts that want to hire individuals with disabilities.  Staff from Southern States toured WWRC in September, 2016 and were excited and amazed not only by our programs, but our consumers. One of the representatives from their Human Resources Department said that she saw numerous consumers who appeared to be ideal candidates for Southern States' positions.  They agreed to follow up with William Sutton and Aaron Mitchell, DARS Placement Counselors, and provide store locations that can be cross-referenced with WWRC's pipeline report which lists each client who is graduating, their home counselor and the area in which the client will be looking for employment.  The Business Development Manager is able to contact the home counselor, and together they can help the client look for the best opportunity for employment.


F.R. Drake Company

Thanks to the WWRC Foundation who connected F.R. Drake Company with WWRC and invited their President, Tom Ivy, Vice President, George Reed, and Drake’s Human Resources Manager to the Center for a tour. F. R. Drake is the world’s leading manufacturer of equipment that sorts, organizes and packages cylindrical food items such as sausage, cheese and hotdogs. Located in Waynesboro, Virginia, F. R. Drake employs almost 100 workers in many different roles and is constantly looking for ways to sustain its talent pool, especially with manufacturing and production workers. During the tour, WWRC staff reviewed the workforce driven curriculum and how its programs are built from labor market information and feedback from business and industry. Tom Ivy emphasized Drake's need for workers and interest in partnering with DRS and WWRC. Following the tour, Nate Mahanes and Dee Dee Batten were advised, and plans were set in motion for a site visit to Drake to further explore a working relationship between DRS/WWRC and Drake.


T.J. Maxx

The Harrisonburg T.J. Maxx store Assistant Store Manager for Operations, Jessica Halterman, and Assistant Store Manager for Merchandising, Delores Johnson, visited WWRC in April, 2016 to observe the Center's various training programs with a particular interest in Materials Handling and Business and Information Technology. The visit was in response to a visit to T.J. Maxx by Sharon Mullen, Steve McGuffin and Rick Sizemore on March 9, 2016. Sharon Mullen led the tour, along with Steve McGuffin. Future plans are being made for Kaitlyn Treadwell, DragDragMaterials Handling staff member, to spend some time in the store at DragHarrisonburg to get a better understanding of the skills needed to be successful in a position at T.J. Maxx, and how we might be able to duplicate training in those skills. Everyone appeared to be impressed with what they saw at WWRC, and we are looking forward to a successful partnership with T. J. Maxx in the future. T. J. Maxx is a major clothing retailer with more than 1,000 stores throughout the United States.


Microsoft Imagine Academy

Dr. Joe Ashley, Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), and Rick Sizemore, Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center (WWRC), met with Kathy West-Evans of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) and staff from disABLEDperson, Inc., a 501-C3 Non-Profit Organization that is allowed to provide access to the Microsoft Imagine Academy to organizations serving individuals with disabilities. The Imagine Academy is an online platform for Information Technology training on Microsoft Products and is used consistently to offer the Microsoft curriculum in educational settings. WWRC has reached an agreement with disABLEDperson, Inc. that enables access to the Imagine Academy. The potential is extraordinary to use this online learning platform for training, skills gains and certifications for consumers. CSAVR is spearheading conversations among the National Consortium of State Operated Comprehensive Centers for use of the Imagine Academy consistently across the states that have comprehensive training centers like WWRC, and promoting the use of the Talent Acquisition Pool and the National Employment Team to connect employers with those who have completed the Imagine Academy. This conversation also reinforced the important connection between DARS, the Agency Workforce Development and the NET, and the TAP at CSAVR. This focused partnership is also tracking the multi-state relationship with CVS Health as all eight comprehensive centers have now signed Memorandum of Understanding Agreements with CVS for the implementation of mock stores, which were first tested and proven effective at WWRC. One of the first graduates of the CVS program, Kaylee Merrick, just passed the one year mark in her employment with CVS.


American Hardware Industries

On Friday, September 1, 2017, Dan Cumbo, General Manager for American Hardwood Industries, came to the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) for a tour.  American Hardwood Industries is headquartered in Waynesboro, Virginia, and they have 14 plants across four states with four plants in Virginia alone.  They are one of the leading hardwood platforms in the American Hardwood industry, with fine lumber, logs, and countertops.  The focus of the tour was specifically Forklift Training, Production and Assembly, Business, and Manufacturing Technology Training.  Mr. Cumbo's enthusiasm for WWRC's mission was contagious and he accepted an offer to join our Production and Assembly Advisory Board.  Some of his comments were, "WWRC fits our needs better than the local technical center and community college," "The knowledge of your instructors is amazing," and "This is the best tour ever."


On Tuesday, April 3, 2018,  instructors and students from WWRC Production and Assembly, Materials Handling, and Manufacturing Technology training programs toured American Hardwood Industries (AHI) in Waynesboro, Virginia. Nate Mahanes, Business Development Manager for the Blue Ridge District, set up this tour to create a talent pipeline from WWRC to AHI.  After the tour, Mr. Cumbo, AHI General Manager, opened up a dialogue with his floor managers and WWRC students to allow interviews for interested students. American Hardwood Industries typically offers only full-time employment; however, they have expressed a willingness to explore part-time opportunities for DARS/WWRC consumers (especially those who seek to eventually move into full-time positions).  In addition to meeting the WIOA measure of business engagement and serving employers, this industry site visit ensures training curricula are workforce driven. Mr. Cumbo will continue his role as an Advisory Board member for the Production and Assembly program at WWRC.


Virginia Department of Transportation


On Monday, November 20, 2017, the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) hosted Mrs. Cheryl Collins, Talent Programs Manager, for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).  Mrs. Collins' goal was to see how WWRC programs could fit the many open positions at VDOT ranging from business/administrative support, grounds keeping, forklift, computer support, flagger, to engineering.  Furthermore, another goal of Mrs. Collins was to increase workplace diversity through appropriate hiring practices of individuals with disabilities.  She will take her newly learned WWRC vocational training programs information to the VDOT District Managers across the state to hopefully create a talent pipeline from the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services to VDOT.  Mrs. Collins constantly stressed the need for businesses to engage each other and to form partnerships to meet Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) requirements and to allow individuals with disabilities to obtain independence through employment.


Newport News Shipbuilding

Newport News Shipbuilding is the sole designer, builder and refueler of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and one of two providers of U.S. Navy submarines.  With approximately $4 billion in revenues and more than 20,000 employees, they are the largest industrial employer in Virginia and the largest shipbuilding company in the United States.   In Fall, 2017, Rick Sizemore, Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) Director, participated in a call with staff from the Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA) and Newport News Shipbuilding to connect graduates from WWRC's Manufacturing Technology Training (MTT) program to available jobs.  During the call, the group explored how WWRC might support the startup of an MTT type program at Thomas Nelson Community College.  Newport News Shipbuilding Logistics are currently in need of 20 workers capable of operating forklifts with skills in Materials Handling.  The group also explored how current graduates of the WWRC Materials Handling Training Program might apply for current openings.  Newport News Shipbuilding is a federal contractor and currently has a need to respond to the Department of Labor's 503 regulations, which further supports an immediate initiative for connecting work-ready candidates with available jobs.  They anticipate hiring upwards of 1,000 individuals within the next couple of years.  An offer for a tour of WWRC was extended to Newport News Shipbuilding for early 2018. 


Northrop Grumman Employee Resource Group

On January 30, 2018, Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) Director, Rick Sizemore, gave a presentation to Northrop Grumman's (NG) Employee Resource Group (ERG) in Charlottesville, Virginia, which included an overview of WWRC with a focus on the Manufacturing Technology Training program.  The Charlottesville operation employs just over 500 staff that manufacture precision nautical equipment.  Following the presentation, the group discussed mutually beneficial ways they could further connect through participation in WWRC's Advisory Committees, tours of WWRC for NG staff, and possible internships and employment opportunities in the manufacturing division at the plant.  Each ERG at NG requires an executive sponsor.  This particular ERG is sponsored by Mike Berrang who lives in the community near WWRC.  The group focuses on disability employment and hopes to become involved with WWRC's programs and the Foundation.  Nate Mahanes, Blue Ridge District Business Development Manager for the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), was a co-presenter and gave the wider agency view to NG staff and described the various supports and assistance that can be provided by DARS to employers.


Klann Plastics

On Friday, February 16, 2018, members of WWRC's Vocational Training Department within the Career and Workforce Development Division toured Klann Plastics in Waynesboro, Virginia.  Klann Plastics is a recognized molder and a contract manufacturer of medical devices that are FDA approved.  In addition, they have been actively engage in plastic injection molding and tooling for more than 60 years as a family-owned business.  The focus of the tour was to enhance WWRC's workforce-driven curricula currently utilized in both Manufacturing Technology Training and Production and Assembly.  Some of the planned curricula enhancements are simulated assembly and plastic injection activities.   



On Tuesday, March 20th, Nate Mahanes, DARS Blue Ridge District Business Development Manager, and James Hall, WWRC Director of the Career and Workforce Development Division, welcomed ComSonics for a tour.  ComSonics is an employee-owned company specializing in the design, manufacture, sales, and repair of electronics and fiber optics with locations in Weyers Cave, VA and Harrisonburg, VA.  The focus of the tour was to highlight the Vocational Evaluation one-day soldering assessment to assist DARS field counselors in potentially placing consumers in entry level positions at ComSonics.  Additionally, a goal of the tour was to identify potential candidates for positions at ComSonics in the following Vocational Training programs:  Manufacturing Technology Training, Computer Support Services, Business Support Services, and Production and Assembly Worker.   This WWRC tour was followed by a tour of ComSonics by various DARS and WWRC Vocational Training staff members, as well as the Manufacturing Technology Training Instructor from the Valley Career and Technical Center, on April 18th.  


Phoenix Packaging

On Friday, May 18th, the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Christiansburg’s field office Job Placement Counselor, Jason Treadway, and staff members from Phoenix Packaging in Pulaski County, VA, toured WWRC. Phoenix Packing is a subsidiary of Grupo Phoenix, which is a world leader in plastic injection molding, with offices in North and South America that provide packaging solutions to customers. Their core values of Entrepreneurship, Accountability, Respect, Innovation, and Humility allow them to access the untapped talent pool of DARS consumers. A goal of the tour was to identify potential candidates for positions at Phoenix from the following vocational training programs: Manufacturing Technology Training, Forklift, Computer Support Services, Business Support Services, and Production and Assembly Worker. Some of the comments from the tour guests were, “I knew the trip would be worth our time and inspiring,” and “There should be more WWRCs throughout the state.”



One of WWRC's manufacturing graduates was recently hired by Intercon in Forest, Virginia, in a Manufacturing Tech position processing cable assemblies.  Intercon is a veteran-owned business and is new to hiring individuals with disabilities.  In an August, 2018 VR Workforce Studio podcast episode, Nate Mahanes, and the Intercon Human Resources’ Manager, David Brandt, talk about how VR is helping Intercon build its workforce with qualified graduates from WWRC.  Phillip, WWRC's graduate, also describes his VR program and how the supports and skills training from Wilson were transformational in his career pathway.  You can also check out a very nice YouTube video about Intercon and Philip produced by Amber Gulla.