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Success Stories

Teaching Safety to Welding Students[1]

Nick Johnson was one of my first clients as a Career Advisor. Although Nick came from a struggling family of 10 with no one working, he was determined to go to college and learn how to weld. Nick completed a two-year diploma program in Welding at Southwest Virginia Community College, and I helped to place him in an internship at Platnick Steel in Bluefield, VA, where he went on to work for 13 years with an ending wage of $18/hour. In January 2015, the PlugGED In VA program began a welding cohort at SWCC, and the welding instructor is Nick Johnson. I can’t begin to explain how proud I am of this young man’s accomplishments. For anyone out there who has a dream, we are the opportunity to see your dreams come true if you’re willing to put forth the effort.” – Elaine Hurley, WIOA Program Director


Brian Carty was laid off from Jewell Smokeless in December 2014. Brian was a certified welder, but felt there were more lucrative opportunities for him with some additional training, so he contacted WIOA and asked for assistance with Commercial Diving Certification so he could do underwater welding. Brian had researched every aspect of this certification from the cost of training to potential employers and earnings. He came to the WIOA office with a file folder over an inch thick, full of the information he had obtained.

The closest training facility was in Florida and was approved by the Workforce Board in their area. Brian had relatives in the area and would be living with them while training. He had already applied for financial aid and student loans. The cost of the training was substantial, but the return was more than enough to be able to repay the loans. When Brian applied for assistance from WIOA, he felt that any amount of help was better than nothing!

Since this occupation isn’t exactly in demand in Southwest Virginia, the WDB was contacted to get further guidance. Permission was granted to use the training facility and furnish funding to help pay tuition costs and supplies needed for training. Brian left for Florida in February 2015.

The training lasted 5 months, during which Brian obtained his International Entry Level Tender/Diver Certification; Surface Supplied Diver Certification and Commercial Diver’s License; certified as an Air/Mixed Gas Commercial Diver; also certified as NDT Specialist SNT-TC-1A-Underwater Visual Level 1; Underwater Ultrasonic Thickness Level 1 & 2; Underwater Magnetic Particle Level 1 & 2; Offshore Survival; Fundamentals of Rigging; Topside Welding; and Underwater Welding Specialist.

Brian went to work for C&W Diving Services, under a Navy contract, and is now making $1565.48/week as an underwater welder.


Brandon and Michael Ashby are brothers who had been working in the coal mines for some time. They were both laid off and decided to use this opportunity to further their education. They went to the Workforce Center in Grundy, VA. in April 2012 to see Debi Matney about planning for their future.

Both were married, with children, and needed to find an occupation that would lead them away from the mining industry into something more stable. Knowing it would be a struggle financially to complete training and support their families while doing so, they chose HVAC, with future plans to go into business for themselves.

During the summer of 2014, the brothers completed an internship with Starnes Inc. in Lebanon. Upon completion of the internship, both were hired on full time with benefits. While it doesn’t pay wages comparable to coal mining, they know they are gaining valuable experience that they can take with them in the future.

In December 2014, they completed their Associates Degree in HVAC, along with several certifications.


Alicia is a 35 year old mother of two and recently divorced. She returned to college 2 years ago, with a dream of obtaining her teaching degree and a job within the school system. She turned to WIA for assistance with the cost of attendance.

She started her journey at Mountain Empire Community College and UVA @ Wise, concurrently. WIA assisted with the cost of tuition and books that weren’t covered by financial aid.

Alicia graduated from MECC Summa Cum Laude, with a 4.0 GPA and was featured on 3 billboards for a MECC enrollment drive. She also graduated from UVA Wise with a 4.0 GPA and received the highest score in recent UVA Wise history on her Reading for Virginia Educates Exam.  She received a Recognition of Excellence Award for her high test scores on Praxis II: Elementary Content Knowledge Exam and for the Praxis II: Mathematics Content Exam.

Alicia received several recognitions for her hard work. She was inducted into several honor societies during her time in college: Phi Theta Kappa, Delta Epsilon and the Darden Society. She also received the 2015 Outstanding Virginia Woman Scholar Award. Alicia accomplished all this while working a full time job.

With the help of WIA, Alicia is now licensed to teach any subject grades Pre-K through 6, Special Education grades K-12, Middle School Math, Algebra 1, and High School Math.

Alicia was hired by Wise County Schools during her student teaching, but is now employed by Dickenson County Schools, where she will be teaching high school math at the new Ridgeview High School this fall. Her entry level wage is $34,500/yr. plus benefits.


Linda Danzak worked at the Lee Regional Hospital as a Patient Service Representative from 2002-2013. In September 2013, the hospital closed its doors and Linda was out of work. She was nervous and worried about finding another job because of her age. She didn’t have very good computer skills and was very concerned about her future employment possibilities.

Linda worked with the Workforce Development Specialist in Duffield, Margaret McDavid. Margaret helped Linda with computer skills, working through the Microsoft Digital Literacy credential and building Linda’s confidence in her abilities – telling Linda she could do anything she put her mind to. Together, they worked on Linda’s resume, job search, and interviewing skills. She earned her Microsoft Digital Literacy credential and a Bronze CRC.

In September 2014, Linda obtained employment at Lee County Redevelopment in Jonesville as an Office Clerk. She entered the job at $10/hour, has received a pay increase and is still employed.


Coleman Nottingham lives in Lee County with his wife and was laid off from his job as a coal miner with Alpha Mining in October 2013. He enrolled in the WIA DW program in May 2013. He wanted to obtain a CDL and go over the road. He felt this was the only way he would be able to make a salary comparable to what he was making in the mines.

After completing his CDL training, he began working for Circle V Transport. He was able to obtain employment with Harris Trucking in August 2013.

Today, Coleman is earning more than the average worker at Harris Trucking. He runs from 2600-4000 miles per week and is driving one of the company’s brand new 26 Pro-Star trucks.

WIA assisted with training and lodging while he attended classes. He obtained his CDL and a Silver level CRC while enrolled in WIA.


“My name is Eva Musick and I became unemployed at the age of 57. I cannot express in words how scared I felt when I lost my job at my age. I began a job search and realized that I needed some training in order to re-enter the job market. Val Wimmer  helped me sign up for services through the WIA Program and helped me set goals that were attainable. She gave me continued support and encouragement that I had the ability to reach the goals that we had initially set together. I appreciate everything that WIA has done for me. The program made it possible for me to attend college and receive a degree in Human Services and Counseling. To Val Wimmer and her staff at WIA: thank-you for caring.”- Eva Musick


“I want to take this opportunity to commend Val Wimmer and the rest of the WIA staff in Tazewell County. Without their assistance, I would still most likely be unemployed. In December 2011, I lost my job as an Operations Manager in the Transportation Industry. I immediately signed up for Unemployment Benefits and Job Service Benefits through the VEC. After about 4 months of unemployment, I decided that I wanted to pursue some training and contacted the VEC to see if there were any funding programs available. They referred me to the WIA program with Val Wimmer being the point of contact.

I had already decided that I wanted to pursue the opportunity to obtain my CDL and hopefully further my employment potential in the Transportation Industry. From the initial appointment to my last appointment, I found the entire staff to be professional and dedicated in helping people. Upon successfully completing the class and obtaining my CDL in August 2012, I stayed in contact with Val on my progress of obtaining employment.

After a couple of false starts with a couple of trucking companies, Val and I decided to do a little more exploring of potential jobs and for me to complete some additional training through some assessment programs. In the process of completing these assessment programs, I had an opportunity to present itself to me for employment with Pounding Mill Quarry Corporation. And on November 4, 2012, I began employment with PMQC as a driver. This opportunity would have never presented itself had it not been for the help of Val and the WIA program. The job that I have now is a good paying job with good benefits and I am very thankful to Val and the WIA program for it.”- Darrell Thompson