Fast Forward Picture

FastForward helps put the Community in Community College 

Matt McGraw, chief workforce officer at Mountain Gateway Community College, emphasized that there’s nothing else in the world like American community colleges. In Virginia, community colleges work diligently to stay connected to local industries and employers.  

FastForward’s short-term credential training program fosters this local connection by providing students with quick, quality workforce training that aligns with local hiring needs. 

“We are here to provide those workers and keep that stream flowing,” McGraw said.  

Meeting demands 

Employers are currently facing a lack of skilled workers, and students need jobs. FastForward works to connect these two demands.  

McGraw is regularly asked questions from employers such as, “How quickly can we train a student?” and “How quickly can we move a student through a quality program?”  

What makes FastForward special is its ability to move students from the classroom to the job site quickly, often within a few months.  

“It’s about industry-recognized credentials,” McGraw said. “When we have a program completer with those credentials, hiring managers know what that means. They know what that skillset is. They know what they’re getting as an employee. That complements our reputation as a community college.” 

FastForward helps students earn industry credentials recognized by Virginia employers. The program focuses on employability, providing its students with hands-on skills, whether job-related like learning how to install an AC unit or soft skills like interview practice, both of which are immediately applicable.  

“Many of our students have a job offer before they graduate, and they’re in the workforce days after completion of a program,” McGraw said. 

A place for and by the community 

Community colleges are an integral part of the community and are constantly evolving to provide training that meets employers’ needs. McGraw notes that local employers and students hold community colleges accountable and influence programs and curriculum.  

“As a community college, our students hold us accountable, our employers hold us accountable, and ultimately our success is measured only by their success, only by the success of our students,” McGraw said.  

When students get jobs, local businesses grow, and the entire community benefits from additional economic investment. It’s a ‘win, win, win’ that McGraw enjoys seeing come to fruition. 

FastForward works to continue to meet the needs of local businesses by asking them, “What do you need in a training program? What do you need in graduates? How many?”  

The answers to those questions and conversations are resolved by staying invested in the community. It’s about seeing how FastForward can help, what it can provide, how quickly it can be provided, and what gaps it needs to fill.  

After students complete their programs, McGraw enjoys seeing them out in the community making a difference. Two nurses trained by FastForward at Mountain Gateway Community were even in the room when McGraw’s daughter was born. 

“When our vehicles are fixed, when we’ve broken down the road, when you go to the hospital, it’s our students that you see,” McGraw said. “It’s that connection to the community and to those industries in a small town; that’s what I enjoy the most.”