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Tips on balancing life and a FastForward education

FastForward programs are designed to be flexible so that students can work and take courses at the same time while balancing family and personal life. 

2020 survey found that FastForward graduates not only saw an average increase of $8,000 in wages, but also reported having a better overall work-life balance. 

We recently conducted our own survey where we asked career coaches at some of Virginia’s Community Colleges what they were observing as far as students juggling competing priorities. Here are some of the key takeaways and tips they shared. 

Time is precious 

“FastForward’s short term structure is what saves many students, as time is their enemy,” said Barbara Rang, career coach at Eastern Shore Community College. “Many of these folks survive by one day at a time. I have worked with many who are hanging by a thread and the sooner we can get them through the class and credentialed the better.” 

Most FastForward programs take just 6-12 weeks to complete. Students can finish and be ready to work before they even know it.  

Be prepared 

Showing up is the first step. FastForward has a 90% graduation rate, so the students who stick with the program, finish the program. 

“The advice I always share with my students is to have a plan B regarding transportation, child-care, and emergencies,” Rang said. “I ask them if they can identify a ‘go-to’ in case of an emergency. Life happens and the better you plan for the unexpected, the better the chance it will not interfere with your schooling. And, attendance is critical. It is probably the biggest factor among those students who do not complete the class.” 

Don’t be afraid to use all of your tools 

Some community colleges such as Reynolds and John Tyler (becoming Brightpoint Community College) have formed partnerships, like the Community College Workforce Alliance, in order to better serve their students and regions. 

“We assist students by using resources such as Single Stop and Network2Work,” said a career coach from the Community College Workforce Alliance. “Also, we connect them to other community partners if they need help that coaching cannot provide. Through coaching we work with students on a plan to achieve their goals (training/career) while balancing life.” 

Single Stop is a program with the goal of lifting people out of poverty by connecting them to the right resources. Network2Work is a service that matches skilled job-seekers with jobs that will help set the stage for the rest of their career. Both of these valuable resources align with FastForward’s mission. 

FastForward success stories come in all shapes and sizes 

“There was an interesting young man who completed one year at Tidewater,” said Emily  

Richardson, FastForward career coach at Tidewater Community College. “He then applied to Newport News Shipbuilding in the pre-hire program, took welding with [FastForward], and is now at the shipyard in the Apprentice School.”  

Interested in finding a good work-life balance? Contact your local career coach. 

Editor’s Note: At the time of publishing, Brightpoint Community College was named John Tyler Community College.