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Your step-by-step guide to earning a workforce credential at one of Virginia’s 23 community colleges

Avid FastForward followers might recognize the famous phrase, “talk with a career coach to get started today.” And while that is an important first step in earning a workforce credential, it’s also helpful to know what the full journey of earning a credential entails. To help you map out your journey to a higher-paying career—which most likely moves you up a rung or two on your career ladder—we are breaking down each step of the process and what to expect throughout the entire workforce credential experience.

Step 1: Meet your coach to find the right fit

Just like a coach works with you to find your right position on your sports team, hopefully utilizing your strengths as an athlete, a FastForward coach helps you decide what skills you want to grow and what potential careers align with your talent. You can think of a career coach as the owner of your roadmap. They’ll give you the end results (i.e. job offers and insight on local employers hiring people with your credentials) and the stops you’ll need to make along the way, such as enrolling in specific courses at your local community college.

And just like all winning coaches, our coaches cheer you on throughout your entire journey and are there to answer your questions at each stage.

Step 2: Find funding

Paying big bucks for higher education is painful. And you don’t need to drain your pocket when it comes to earning a FastForward credential. On average, the out-of-cost for students earning a credential is less than $750, and oftentimes it can a $0 investment.

Don’t worry about navigating financial aid on your own, that’s what career coaches are there for. They’ll help you access the right funding for your financial situation.

Step 3 & 4: Register and get started

Now it comes time to choose your training. If this step of the journey gives you anxiety, maybe from being a parent, working a full-time job, or just not knowing how to fit this additional responsibility into your schedule, don’t worry! FastForward courses are offered at a variety of different times and modalities (online or in-person) and cater specifically to people with a full plate. Case in point, over 56% of FastForward students have dependents, and the average age of a FastForward student is 34.

The length of each course varies from 6-12 weeks and includes a combination of readings, lectures and hands-on learning. For example, if you’re in a welding course, you might start by learning the fundamentals of metals and computer programs in the classroom and then spend the next portion of the course in the welding shop at the local community college.

Step 5: Pass your credential certification

Once you’ve mastered the coursework and developed your new skillset, it then comes time for you to put your skills to the test. Most credentials require you to take an industry exam to officially earn your credential. This could include a written test and/or a skills demonstration, but your instructors will give you plenty of practice, so this won’t be anything new!

After you receive your passing score, it’s finally time to apply for a job and get started working in your new career. Just like the first step, the final step is circling back with your career coach to connect with local employers and get that first paycheck. Good luck, and happy workdays ahead!

Eager to begin your journey and complete all five steps? Talk with a career coach by visiting our website here. Looking for more information and student testimonies? Our credentials page has plenty of program spotlights to dive deeper.