Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney announced the establishment of the Virginia Education Center for Asphalt Technology (VECAT) during a press conference Monday, Oct. 5 at the Jefferson Hotel at 101 W Franklin St, in Richmond.
The statewide effort involves a partnership of The Virginia Asphalt Association (VAA), the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), led by Germanna Community College.
“Whether you’re in Abingdon or Arlington, students will now have the ability to further their careers in one of Virginia’s key industries,” Stoney said. “The efforts of this partnership will send a signal to all our competitors that we know what it takes to continue building the new Virginia economy.
VDOT, the VAA and Germanna are partnering on changes to the asphalt-related materials certification classes, the initiation of an asphalt technologist apprenticeship program and eventually an asphalt technologist associate’s degree.
Germanna will offer training at its Joseph R. Daniel Technology Center in Culpeper beginning in 2017. Much of the training will be available via online classes, but students will be required to take part in labs on site. Several other VCCS schools will be involved in offering labs in order to make the training more accessible. The other VCCS sites have not been set yet.
The asphalt business is a key industry in Virginia.
- Virginia has the third largest state maintained highway system in the United States
- The Commonwealth spends billions of dollars each year on its highways
- Virginia’s asphalt industry has 50 different companies with more than 130 plants, employing over 10,000 people throughout the Commonwealth
- The industry contributes nearly $2 billion to the Virginia economy each year
This partnership will support business growth and jobs creation, increased competitiveness for Virginia’s asphalt industry, continuing education for changing materials and practices and create a supply chain to replace retiring workers. This will be accomplished through entry level to advanced training, stackable credentials, an apprenticeship program and the development of a pathway to an associate degree.
Virginia Department of Transportation Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick said: “each year VDOT invests over $500 million in asphalt paving through new construction and maintenance. With this large investment, it is imperative the individuals involved with the design, production, placement and acceptance of asphalt materials are effectively trained to perform the monumental task of constructing and maintaining Virginia’s roads.”
“New technologies, innovations in construction practices and changing materials usage are leading to increased sustainability and cost savings,” Richard Schreck, Executive Vice President of the Virginia Asphalt Association said. “But putting these innovations into practice requires the sort of focused training and education that VECAT will provide, deploying research, innovation and best practices to the benefit of taxpayers and the driving public.”
Amy Martin, National Director for the Asphalt Pavement Alliance, recognizes the pressing need for skilled labor in the road construction industry, both today and in the future: “With over 100,000 lane miles in the Commonwealth, having quality labor to support construction, maintenance and inspection of the roadway system is of vital importance. We hope this sets a precedent other states will follow.”
Joining the VAA and VDOT and leading this effort for the Virginia Community College System is Germanna Community College. “Germanna is pleased to partner with the Virginia Asphalt Association in developing these vital certifications and apprenticeships,” Germanna President David A. Sam said. “The Commonwealth needs people with the skills to pave, inspect and repair our roadways. And citizens of Virginia need well-paid jobs that make a difference. Our work together in developing these programs helps to close that skills gap and make for a better Virginia.”
Training will be available for:
- Asphalt production facilities occupations: plant operators, plant technicians, laboratory technicians and asphalt mix designers
- Asphalt placement site occupations: asphalt paving foreman, asphalt paving crew, asphalt paving superintendent, and density technician
- Transportation agencies occupations: project manager, project engineer, project inspector, plant inspector, asphalt lab technician, asphalt mix designer/certifier
- Consulting industry occupations: project engineer, project inspector, asphalt lab technician, and asphalt mix designer/certifier
New certification courses will be developed and current certifications will be revised to align with asphalt occupations using subject matter experts in those fields following business and industry skill standards.
The Executive Steering Committee for the 2015 -2017 Term:
Representing Virginia Asphalt Association: Mark Schiller, Virginia Paving Company; Ed Dalrymple, Chemung Contracting Corp.; Ron White, Superior Paving Corp; Trenton Clark, Virginia Asphalt Association.
Representing Virginia Community College System/Germanna: Dr. David Sam, Dr. Jeanne Wesley, Ben Sherman.
Representing Virginia Department of Transportation: Quintin Elliott, Garrett Moore, Kevin Gregg, Andy Babish.