NCI meets with Youngkin

Gov. Glenn Youngkin visited New College Institute Friday to discuss NCI’s business plan.

Youngkin, Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera, Deputy Secretary of Education Nicholas Kent and Deputy Secretary of Finance Jason Powell and others toured NCI for an hour, then met with key NCI staff and board members for their discussion.

There was no public notice that the meeting was set to be held.

This visit took place in the wake of Youngkin’s proposed budget, released in December, that allocated NCI $4.69 million for the 2024-25 fiscal year but nothing for the 2025-26 fiscal year.

Along with his proposed budget, Youngkin also required NCI to present to the state a business plan by October. But that plan was already in the making with its final version expected to be completed and presented within the month, a press release from NCI states.

People are also reading…

Following the release of Youngkin’s proposed budget, NCI Board Chair Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, met with the governor and invited him for a tour of NCI’s programs and partners.

The business plan was discussed with the governor and his staff during Friday’s meeting, said Stanley. Stanley, NCI Board Vice Chair Richard Hall, NCI Executive Director Joe Sumner, NCI Deputy Director Christina Reed and NCI Director of Institutional Advancement Olivia Garrett were at the meeting and Martinsville Mayor L.C. Jones, Vice Mayor Aaron Rawls, Henry County Public Schools Superintendent Amy Blake-Lewis, Martinsville City Public Schools Superintendent Zeb Talley and more were not at the meeting, but in attendance to greet Youngkin.

Meanwhile, legislation is moving through the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates in support of NCI’s continued operations and evolution, the release states.

Senate Bill 62, introduced by Stanley, would require NCI to work with the state departments of education and labor and industry, the Virginia Community College System, the State Council for Higher Education, the Virginia Board of Workforce Development and other agencies on workforce development programs that support the governor’s workforce initiatives.

The Senate Education and Health committee approved the bill 14-1 on Jan. 18 and it now sits with Finance and Appropriations committee.

House Bill 1445 is the same — it was introduced in the House by Del. Eric Phillips, R-Henry, and is pending.

“The purpose of the bill is to streamline our ability to track what we deliver in our workforce development programs,” Stanley said.

The NCI Code, created in 2006, includes six pillars: work with other agencies and institutions to diversify the region’s economy; use resources to support economic diversity; develop a trained workforce; provide access to degree programs; focus degree programs on areas of critical shortage; and serve as a resource and referral center.

“A lot of things have changed in education” since 2006, Phillips said. Including that a lot of traditional 4-year education, “is being done online now. The bill is for more money and development for workforce training while still having and offering a 4-year degree education.”

Stanley, Del. Betsy Carr, D-Richmond, and Phillips introduced budget amendments (SB30 Item 234 #1s, HB30 items 234 #1h and #2h) to reinstate NCI’s second year (FY26) funding of $4,686,850.

According to Hall, Youngkin “arrived prepared and ready to help” and “offered his guidance and expertise on how we can better fit within the workforce development and educational systems within the Commonwealth while functioning as an impactful community resource to Martinsville and Henry County.”

“It was a very constructive meeting,” Hall added.

“They talked about how NCI’s plan is to supplement the Commonwealth’s workforce offerings without duplication of existing programs,” Sumner said about the meeting.

“Developing relationships with different organizations at the state level will enhance NCI’s efforts statewide and continuing to build and improve on existing partnerships was encouraged,” Sumner added.

That includes, the release said, working with programs that cultivate extracurricular learning in K-12 to cultivate a student base primed to continue education on higher levels.

Between the talk about increased workforce training “and offering all the community things they [NCI] do, there’s a whole lots of dots there,” Phillips said. “With the governor’s guidance, NCI can connect those dots together and make sense out of it, and that way there’s a clear direction.”

“Words cannot adequately express how grateful I am that Gov. Youngkin would take time out of his busy schedule to visit with New College, our dedicated staff, our community leaders and education programming partners who are committed to the future success of our region,” said Stanley. “He was clearly impressed with what we are doing here at NCI, and he provided us with great insight and new ideas on how we can be better every day for the people that we serve.”

“In the end, this may be the best thing that ever happened to NCI,” Phillips said.

During the Governor’s visit, he was able to talk with many of NCI’s partners including: Robert “Rob” Spilman Jr., a Dominion Energy lead director; Instructor Lee Renfroe of the GoFar fiber optic training school; and Eastman Performance Films Human Resources Director Chris Coyne; Dr. Pam Randall and Dr. Stephanie Watts, Longwood University; Piedmont Regional Criminal Justice Training Academy staff and cadets; Helen Howell, National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Junior Chapter; Warrick Scott, President and CEO of the Wendell Scott Foundation; students from the STAGS Team 1262 Robotics and Magna Vista High School’s MagnaFlux Robotics; Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services; Mark Heath, executive director of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation; City of Martinsville Fire & EMS; Joanie Petty, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge; Just Call Granny; local officials; and representatives from both local school systems.

Gov. Youngkin’s spokesman Christian Martinez said, “Governor Youngkin toured the New College Institute facility and received an update on the higher education center’s draft business plan. As with any utilization of state resources, it’s critical to understand where NCI is spending its resources to ensure it is effectively and efficiently fulfilling its mission. The administration will continue to work with NCI to finalize a viable business strategy, bolster workforce training initiatives, and ensure the center is meeting key performance measures.”