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Short-term workforce program gave career-switcher a fresh start

With two children at home, Courtney Aristy didn’t want to work weekends anymore. She wasn’t about to go back to retail. She had limited experience in medical billing but no certification.

Today she holds a management position at Optima Health and she spends Saturdays and Sundays with the kids. Aristy credits a three-month workforce training program at Tidewater Community College for advancing her career. Thanks to a FastForward credential grant, costs were minimal.

In addition to receiving a certificate of completion from TCC, Artisty earned certification as a medical billing and coding specialist after acing the national exam.

 “Some people don’t think certificates will get you anywhere; everybody talks about getting a four-year degree or a master’s,” said the Virginia Beach resident and former manager of city’s convention center. “The certifications are so helpful and great for your resume. If you come into a company with these certifications, you will make money.”

Here’s how FastForward works. Domiciled Virginia residents can earn an industry credential at one-third the cost of tuition for short-term training programs. Income eligible students can qualify for additional financial assistance that pays up to 90% of the cost of training in high-demand programs in fields that include IT, health care and the skilled trades!

“It was so easy,” Artisty said. “I had to have a bank statement and filled out an applications. You need all the stuff that in the scope of applying for financial aid. Everybody was super friendly.”

She attended evening classes from 5:30-9 p.m. three days per week for three months, an accelerated pace she was grateful for. The material tested her analytical and critical thinking skills. Having something of a medical background helped her, but she saw peers without also succeeding by putting in a little extra time.

Aristy began a job as a claims processor shortly after completing the program. “My credentials helped me get my foot in the door at Optima,” she said.

Job applicants with credentials are twice as likely to be hired than applicants without credentials, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

After five months, Aristy transitioned into a leadership role. Today she’s a team coordinator for Optima’s Business Systems operation.

During the pandemic, Aristy has worked remotely and is grateful for an understanding employer offering flexibility. Through Optima, she is working on an advanced degree in health care management.

“I would say at that time in my life, the TCC program was a saving grace for me,” Aristy said. “If anyone has an opportunity to do any of the workforce programs, it’s completely worth it.”

Interested in kickstarting your career with one of TCC’s workforce programs and a FastForward grant? Reach out to career coach Alejandra Diaz-Rangel at or 757-822-1559. Or contact TCC at 757-822-1111.