Brandon St. Clair was laid off from EXCEL Well Service in June 2021. After 13 years with the company, he was unsure of his next steps. He was torn between going back to work to provide for his family but knew that he needed to upgrade his skills to find sustainable employment. That August, Brandon took a leap of faith and enrolled full-time in the HVAC program at Southwest Community College, still unsure how he’d make ends meet.
Brandon then learned about the “Living Expenses while Training Stipend” (LETS Train) Initiative. With the help of this program, Brandon and his family receive support in the form of a $1,200 stipend to help with utilities, rent, and other bills. He is on track to graduate this year. After graduation, Brandon plans to intern with a local HVAC company and eventually open his own business.
The LETS Train Initiative, funded by the Thompson Charitable Foundation, is in its fourth-year funding cycle. The initiative provides a cash stipend to laid-off coal industry workers, like Brandon, who are residents of Tazewell and Buchanan Counties and are training for in-demand occupations.
LETS Train met a critical need in 2019 and 2020, during which time over 1,000 coal and methane gas well employees in Southwest Virginia lost their jobs due to layoffs.