VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Aug. 19, 2019 – Kenny Magee always wanted to get his college degree. But sometimes life throws you a curve and your personal aspirations are put on hold while you take care of the things that are most important, such as family and career.
Magee, recently named manager of Community Affairs at Virginia Natural Gas, has been in the workforce for more than 36 years, starting right after high school at 17 years old because that was what he was supposed to do. Coming from a large family, the expectations were that you graduated high school and went to work.
Married life followed. With a family to support, including two children, higher education was going to have to wait.
“That was just the culture back then,” said Magee. “But in the back of my mind, I always thought one day I would go back to school.”
Having been with the company for 23 years serving in a variety of roles, he decided it was time to finish what he started years ago.
This month, Magee will become the first graduate from the company’s Experiential Learning Program at Tidewater Community College. He will receive an associate degree in Technical Studies with a specialization in Technical Supervision.
“It’s been a long journey to get to this point,” said Magee. “I am so thankful that a company like Virginia Natural Gas has put so much time and effort partnering with Tidewater Community College and Thomas Nelson Community College to ensure company employees have the opportunity to pursue their educational goals.”
As the energy industry continues to grow and advance technologically, companies such as Virginia Natural Gas need to have a well-educated workforce that is current on industry trends and therefore must invest in its employees to sharpen their skills and elevate their careers. Highly-skilled employees often have the technical skills and abilities to advance in the workforce but lack the formal education required to reach the next level in their career progression.
The company partnered with Tidewater Community College and Thomas Nelson Community College to offer VNG employees a program specifically tailored to help them advance their careers through a formal education program,bridging the gap between what is learned on the job and a college degree.
The Experiential Learning Program is designed to meet the needs of the business and industry by providing a degree program that recognizes workers’ significant occupational experience and offers a degree without duplicating the technical content they have already mastered in the workplace.
“We partnered with both schools because we saw the need for our employees and worked together to develop a program that would award credit for technical knowledge and work experience,” said George Faatz, director of growth & strategic planning at VNG. “The schools heard us, acted on it and created programs that fit our needs and the needs of many in the Hampton Roads workforce.”
Students enrolled in the program have an opportunity to earn up to 23 academic credits by building a portfolio based on their prior work experience; allowing students to complete the associate degree in as few as three semesters.
Graduates of the program receive an Associate of Applied Science degree in Technical Supervision that corresponds to students’ technical knowledge and experience with an academic foundation required to advance to an entry-or midlevel management position.
Magee went into the program with 26 academic credit hours and was able to complete the program in one year instead of the one to three years he thought it might take. With a supportive family, he was able to concentrate on his studies. He set a goal and developed a plan to try to complete it as soon as possible, including taking 90% of classes online.
“I missed a lot of family events, but my wife and children were very supportive,” added Magee. “My 25-year old son is also a graduate from TCC and when he would see me doing homework, he would just give me the space and quiet to get it done. And I couldn’t have done it without the love and support of my wife. She saw the dedication I had to complete the program and was proud to see that I stuck with it.”
Both community colleges have partnered with Old Dominion University to allow graduates with the associate degree to seamlessly transfer into a bachelor’s degree program in Industrial Technology at the university. And that is the path Magee intends to take.
“I’m going to keep going and work toward that bachelor’s degree. Who knows how far I’ll go; maybe even a master’s degree someday,” said Magee.
Magee also offers that it is never too late to start, no matter where you are in life.
“I never abandoned my hopes of getting my degree, even at my age,” Magee said. “When a company like VNG makes it possible to go to school and complete a degree, you take advantage of it. This has given me the opportunity to accomplish my personal and professional goals and make me a better employee for the company.”
About Virginia Natural Gas
Virginia Natural Gas is one of four natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Virginia Natural Gas provides natural gas service to nearly 300,000 customers in southeast Virginia. Virginia Natural Gas has been recognized as one of the safest, most reliable and customer-focused natural gas service providers and is consistently ranked in the top quartile for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates. In 2018, Virginia Natural Gas was named Local Distribution Company of the Year by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Virginia Oil and Gas Association for the third consecutive year. For more information, visit virginianaturalgas.com and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About Southern Company Gas
Southern Company Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), America’s premier energy company. Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.2 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in four states and approximately 700,000 retail customers through its companies that market natural gas. Other nonutility businesses include investments in interstate pipelines, asset management for natural gas wholesale customers and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit southerncompanygas.com.
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