Community Builders: Helping students thrive during a pandemic

NapaLearns launches six online courses

Napa Valley Register, Staff
Published on October 18, 2020

NapaLearns launches Virtual Career Academy

On March 20, when Napa County schools announced the COVID-19 shutdown, NapaLearns had to come up with a new strategy for supporting students in the five districts within the county lines. 

With the Napa County unemployment rate exceeding 16% in April, it was clear that the pandemic was impacting many young adults entering the job market, as well as workers who had been laid off or furloughed. It was a major setback for both groups.

 Peg Maddocks, executive director of NapaLearn said, “In five months, we created the NapaLearns Virtual Career Academy to offer industry-recognized certification courses. Together with technology partners Adobe, Autodesk, Cisco, Coursera and Google, and educational partners from the Bay Area Consortium of Community Colleges and Napa Valley College, we were able to launch courses in cybersecurity, digital marketing, graphic and 3-D design, information technology and programming. And, on August 31st, we had more than 90 students enrolled in courses that are 100% online, instructor-supported, and free.”

Who is attending and why

The NapaLearns Virtual Career Academy is garnering wide-ranging appeal: People as young as 13 years old and as old as 72 are enrolled in the courses. 

The number one reason that students enrolled is that they want to receive an industry-recognized certification. The second reason students enrolled is that it’s free, with no cost for the courseware, software or labs. Students are committing their time to complete the course and accelerate or reinvigorate their careers.

More details

The courses range from four to 10 months and then the students can prepare for their certification exams. NapaLearns will fund the costs associated with exam prep as well as the cost of the exam itself. In addition, the organization is enriching the courses by inviting virtual guest speakers and practitioners in the fields offered to share their experiences with the participants.

The Travis Credit Union Foundation provided $20,000 in a challenge grant, which was applied towards this program. It costs $1,000 per student to attend. Individuals or businesses interested in sponsoring students and candidates interested in applying can sign-up for more information by contacting NapaLearns at

This article originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register on October 18, 2020.