Achieve Career Excellence (ACE)

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) — Goal 1 Initiative Achieve Career Excellence (ACE)

Achieve Career Excellence (ACE) is designed to make professional credentials accessible to students while they remain in school.

The demand for industry-recognized professional certifications has greatly increased over the past decade. To meet this need, ACE is providing high-demand industry credentialing opportunities to qualified students. The initiative will subsidize the test fees and exam review costs for select students, allowing them to become professionally certified before they enter the job market.

Though professional certifications are in high demand, the cost of sitting exams required for the certification can be prohibitive to students. By lifting that cost barrier, NOVA is committed to supporting all students begin fulfilling and degree-appropriate careers as they graduate and enter the workforce.

During ACE's pilot program, 1,900 students on the Information and Engineering Technologies pathways at NOVA will have access to free test review and exam fees for qualifying credentials. Throughout the initiative's rollout, NOVA aims to provide over 9,000 professional IT credentials to students free of charge, including recent alumni. NOVA has committed over $1 million dollars per year to launch this initiative and support students in their career readiness.

This career advancement program will be a true game-changer. The Achieve Career Excellence (ACE) program connects students to real opportunity in the tech sector by subsidizing the costs of the exams and certifications that are recognized, respected, and required within the industry. At the same time, it strengthens and diversifies the workforce pipeline as Northern Virginia’s tech sector continues to grow and need an increasing number of high-skilled employees. The ACE program demonstrates why the road to recovery for individuals, communities, and the economy runs through the nation’s community colleges.

Anne Kress, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA)

Initiative Differentiators

Though NOVA courses have long prepared students to sit for credentialing exams, ACE will provide access to these exams free-of-charge and remove the financial barriers of test preparation.

Key Interventions and Milestones

The initiative will begin a pilot program in January 2021, opening the credentialing opportunity to students within the Information and Engineering Technologies pathway. Qualifying students will be offered the opportunity to attend test preparation courses beginning in January, and after successful completion of the course, will be given a test voucher to take the industry-certified exam. Over the duration of the 24- to 36-month pilot, NOVA will examine the percentage of students taking the exam, the exam pass rates, and the demographics of students passing the exam to determine the success of the initiative.

Expected Impact

With the ACE initiative, NOVA aims to open career opportunities to students who could not otherwise afford credentialing exams and test preparation. ACE represents an investment in both NOVA students and the surrounding community, with an expectation that many students will enter the regional workforce after graduation with industry-recognized qualifications. The goal is to improve job-readiness and the employment pipeline for students in non-technical majors, and to be open to all who apply with a focus on diversity, inclusion, equity and excellence.