NC3’s School on the Rise: June 2021
June 29, 2021
NC3 Staff Spotlight: Hannah Peltier
July 29, 2021

Patrick Henry Community College, Virginia

Please join us in congratulating Patrick Henry Community College as NC3’s July 2021 School on the Rise! Patrick Henry Community College, located in Martinsville, Virginia, is paving the way for Career & Technical Education in their region and has been an NC3 Leadership School since 2018! Offering a staggering 18 Festo Certifications, Patrick Henry Community College ensures its students are well equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to enter thriving careers in the technical trades.

As the first Festo Center of Excellence, Patrick Henry Community College has been leading the charge for education in advanced manufacturing in their region. With manufacturing being the largest industry in the southeast, it’s no wonder they’ve dedicated an incredible amount of resources into building such a monumental program, with student success being a constant influence in their decision making. 

Rhonda Hodges, Vice President of Workforce Economic and Community Development, remarked on their decision to incorporate NC3 Certifications into their already prospering program. She states,

We had taken a really strong industrial Electronics Technology program and listened to our employers which is always the key first step. They wanted to see the program expanded into pneumatics, hydraulics, and mechanical so we took that suggestion and built a new mechatronics program. In 2018, NC3 announced they were going to launch a Festo program and our employers loved how modular the certifications were.

Building strong relationships with local employers is an important driving force in the development of any successful community college program. The positive feedback Patrick Henry Community College has received from their local partners is a testament to why offering industry-recognized credentials to their students is paramount to their success. Rhonda recalled a comment made by a local employer and shared, 

One of our employers recently said ‘We prefer students that have obtained industry-recognized certifications as all school and college programs vary in some degree. Industry-recognized certifications give me a detailed description of what knowledge is known and a level of confidence in the employee’s abilities.’ I think that is what is so critical about these industry-recognized certifications.

She continued, “Employers may not understand what Patrick Henry Community College’s associate degree involves but with these credentials, the employers have that confidence and everything is laid out for them.”

With industry being such a large influence in the economic development of their community, Patrick Henry Community College is determined to ensure that their graduates are provided with the training they need to enter the workforce with a strong head start. Rhonda states, “Patrick Henry is rather unique in that about 48% of our students are in a Career and Technical Education pathway, which is fairly high. I think that speaks to our industry and our ability to not only meet them where they are but also to take them where they want to be.” She continued by explaining the importance of providing their students with attainable pathways. She said, 

Stackable credentials are critical to making a pathway for students so we have not only embedded NC3 Certifications into our programs but we also offer them as Fast Forward programs, which provides funding to assist with short-term workforce training that leads to an industry credential. They can either go right to work if they need to or if they want to go further into the academic program, they get credit for having that certification. It’s been invaluable to our students and it gives the employer that sense of confidence in our graduates.

Community College is a great option for students who are hoping to build an academic portfolio but may not know quite where to start, and Patrick Henry Community College welcomes them with open arms! Rhonda shared,

We have a lot of first-time college students within our community and sometimes they never saw college as an option. These short-term programs are a way for them to come in and dip their toes in the water. A lot of them realize that they can do this, and some may go on to get an associate degree or higher. Students come to our school with different interests and different needs and that’s one thing that I love about community college. If someone needs to get a short-term industry-recognized credential and go straight to work, they can do that here and they can get a better job than they would have without it. We want them to be able to obtain a living wage that sustains them.

With an ever growing CTE Department, Patrick Henry Community College recognizes what a significant advantage is gained by their instructors attending NC3 Train-the-Trainer events. Rhonda commented by saying, 

I think the Train-the-Trainer process has been hugely successful for us. We have several instructors who have attended and even moved up to being Master Instructors. Daniel Edwards, Instructor of Industrial Electronics Technology, has been an NC3 Festo Master Instructor for several years. One of our instructors recently went through the mikeroweWORKS Work Ethics training and another is currently participating in the Swift App Development training. They are all extremely positive about the process and could not have done it had NC3 not transitioned to Virtual Training so quickly.

Amongst all of the community colleges in their region, Rhonda knows exactly what makes Patrick Henry Community college stand out. She shared, “We say that we are a family, ‘P-H-amily’. Our Athletic Director coined that term but we all love it and have taken it on as well. I certainly think you see that at Patrick Henry and I think it also goes well with how integrated we are into our community. We really focus on the success of our students. I think something that makes us stand out is that we are really involved in economic development, perhaps more so than some of the other community colleges I’ve spoken with. We’re really involved with the development of training programs and I think the key, as with anything, is developing relationships. Relationships you build with your students, with your community, with employers, and with economic development. That’s what I think sets us apart.”

As a multi-award winning institution, Patrick Henry Community College has an impressive repertoire of achievements to celebrate! Rhonda pointed out some of their proudest accomplishments by saying, “We’re proud to be named as an NC3 School on the Rise! We recently received the Post-Secondary CTE Program Award from the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Community College System, and we received the Workforce Development Award from the Community Colleges of Appalachia for our Industry 4.0 Program. We’ve also been recognized for our student success work. I think all of those things come around to make a holistic approach to community college.”

So, what’s next for Patrick Henry Community College? During our interview, Rhonda revealed some of their upcoming goals and ongoing efforts, “We’re looking into implementing Industry 5.0! We have to continue innovating and we have to be willing to look ahead and around the curve. We can’t just be training for right now, we have to prepare students and help them make that curve. I think we will continue to do that and look at what’s around the corner. Our vision is student success and student success is Patrick Henry. To us, student success is what the student needs. We have steps all along the way and we make sure they have all the opportunities they need to be successful.”

Congratulations again to Patrick Henry Community College for becoming NC3’s July School on the Rise! We’re proud to have you amongst our ranks and we look forward to being a part of your continued success.


Stay tuned for our next School on the Rise recipient in August 2021!

Questions about NC3’s School on the Rise? Please contact Erika Staackmann, Customer Success Coordinator, 847.533.6985, Erika.Staackmann@nc3.net

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