Virginia Ready Adds Three Innovative Leaders to the Board of Directors

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All three bring with them vast experience in business, corporate recruiting and workforce development that will be instrumental in furthering VA Ready’s mission

“We are so honored to have these three incredible business leaders join Virginia Ready’s board of directors." - Caren Merrick, CEO of Virginia Ready

The Virginia Ready Initiative (VA Ready), a 501(c)(3) public-private partnership dedicated to reskilling Virginians and helping them secure in-demand positions, is gaining the support of three new board members: Michelle O’Hara, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at SAIC; Cynthia Lawrence, director of the Office of Workforce Development at Carilion Clinic; and Becky Sawyer, executive vice president and chief people officer for Sentara Healthcare.

“We are so honored to have these three incredible business leaders join Virginia Ready’s board of directors,” said Caren Merrick, CEO of Virginia Ready. “Michelle, Cynthia, and Becky are powerful role models for women in the workforce and their guidance will be invaluable as we expand the impact of VA Ready to prepare Virginians for in demand jobs and help Virginia businesses find the talent they need.”

O’Hara brings with her decades of experience in human resources. As chief human resources officer of SAIC, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Virginia, O’Hara leads the design and implementation of strategic people-related initiatives, including organizational development, cultural transformation, talent acquisition, retention, and employee experience. She is responsible for fostering top talent to enable SAIC’s growth and market leadership. Prior to her joining the company in 2009, Michelle served as head of global talent acquisition at Bearingpoint, and prior to that, leadership roles at Perot Systems Corporation and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Lawrence leads workforce development at Carilion Clinic. Previously she founded and led two companies from 1986-2015, at which time they were acquired. Committed to the importance of women’s education as a critical component of a healthy, economically vibrant community, Cynthia founded an organization of women business leaders, The Commonwealth Council, focused on mentoring emerging women leaders and funding undergraduate scholarships for adult working women in need. Lawrence is on the Western Virginia Workforce Development Board, a member of the Virginia Chamber’s Workforce and Education Committee, and is a founding member of the Blue Ridge Partnership for Health Science.

Sawyer leads HR strategy and execution for 28,000 employees, including over 1,600 leaders across a fully integrated healthcare system with multi-state operations in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio. Sawyer supports a strategic human resources management program to maintain a positive, diverse, multigenerational workplace where team members develop their full potential and contribute to the Sentara mission to improve health every day. Under her leadership, Sentara Healthcare became a Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality in 2020 and was named to the Forbes 2018 America's Best Employers list in the Best Large Employers category.

For more information about partnering with Virginia Ready or applying to be a Virginia Ready Scholar, visit

About the Virginia Ready Initiative (VA Ready)
VA Ready is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that launched in June 2020 with a mission to help thousands of Virginians access the short-term training needed to find jobs in today’s most in-demand industries. With its Public-Private-Partnership design, VA Ready brings together the Virginia Community College System's (VCCS) 23 colleges, the Commonwealth's FastForward program, and more than 20 business partners who employ millions of Virginians. VA Ready Scholars have access to 34 healthcare, technology and other skilled training programs; learn the skills needed to secure one of today's most in-demand positions; receive $1,000 upon credential completion; and are connected to VA Ready's business partners for employment opportunities. Learn more at

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Nicole Tidei
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