The non-profit Virginia Ready Initiative calls it “the paper ceiling” – employers that routinely overlook qualified candidates because they did not have a college degree. VA Ready executive director Natalie Foster wants Virginians to know their program – founded to address employment shortages at the height of the pandemic – can help by offering a $1000 “achievement awards” after students finish one of more than 30 credentialed programs. Of the almost 2500 VA Ready “scholars” to date since 2020, 130 have come from southwest Virginia. Foster says the program has relationships with companies looking for qualified employees.