Norfolk offers free vocational training to help residents increase job opportunities

College students in a computer lab
Posted at 4:00 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 19:31:24-04

NORFOLK, Va.— Job openings aren't hard to find right now, but finding the right fit can be a challenge, which is why Norfolk is working to give people a second chance at finding a fulfilling career at no cost.

“We're trying to help people with barriers. There's a lot of people that want to get back to work, and they can't,” said family services worker Melissa Ross.

Norfolk wants to help people get back into the workforce with the help of additional skills and training so candidates can rise to the top of the application pool.

“There's a lot of people that are getting out of the [criminal justice] system and have nowhere to go, and are homeless, and they want to work and they just don't have the means to get the training,” Ross said.

Eligible Norfolk residents can apply until June 25 to join Gateway Academy. Some certificates are offered year-round for those who miss the current application deadline.

Some Norfolk residents receiving SNAP benefits qualify, including those with criminal backgrounds, as well as low to moderate-income residents affected by COVID-19.

The program partners with schools like Tidewater Community College to offer certificates in areas like medical billing and coding.

Participants first complete a 4-6 week training that includes workshops and weekly meetings with case managers. Then, they’re eligible to start vocational training to become pharmacy technicians, certified nursing assistants, certified professional food managers and more.

"It's really helping keep people from maybe repeating the same mistakes and giving them a little more hope to walk the straight line," Ross said.

The entire program is free of charge to participants.

Application and program details can be found on the Gateway Academy website.

Those who are interested in enrolling should email Melissa Ross at or call 757-793-1450.