Every Monday, when Governor Glenn Youngkin sits down with members of his cabinet to discuss issues that cut across each other’s responsibilities, one item is always on the agenda: workforce development.
“It extends to all areas” and will be a focus of his demands to the General Assembly when it meets in January, Youngkin told a panel of business and civic leaders at Newport News last month.
He told them he was working on a plan to bring together the many agencies with their several hundred programs aimed at making sure Virginians have the skills they need to work and businesses can find workers with the knowledge. and the skills they need.
It’s the same approach the governor has pursued for the Partnership for St. Petersburg’s new community development push, bringing together government, schools, businesses and nonprofits to focus on new ways of working. together to boost local economies.
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One early example, he said, is based in Virginia Beach DroneUp’s partnership with Richard Bland College to launch a drone operator training center and a new degree that should help students in their job search.
Restructuring Virginia’s workforce development efforts is an important task due to stark differences in the state’s regional labor markets.
Developing skills and listening to business needs is very different in Southwest Virginia, with a workforce participation rate of just 45%, than in Northern Virginia’s high-tech corridors or the shipyard-driven economy on the Peninsula, where Newport News Shipbuilding is in an intensive campaign to hire 5,000 people this year and 21,000 over the next five years.
The shipyard needs dozens of welders, electricians, pipe fitters and even more highly skilled workers in areas ranging from non-destructive testing to computer-aided drafting to choreographing the movement of tens of thousands of parts, of sub-assemblies and equipment over the many years required to build an aircraft. carrier or submarine.
Virginia’s Workforce Development Councils are playing a major role in a multi-pronged effort – one that sees volunteer shipbuilders tutoring colleges and bringing a message there about exciting and good futures. paid, as well as an innovative accelerated training program for people who may never have considered working in the skilled trades.
In and around Richmond, the Capital Region Workforce Partnership helped 13,000 people looking for work and directly helped 275 employers hire, said Brian K. Davis, CEO.
And, as Rachel Patton, director of business services at the Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board, said the work doesn’t stop when someone is hired.
She helps companies find ways to retain their employees and how to help them develop new skills and access more demanding and better paying jobs.
At the Capital Region Partnership, a similar push over the past year included 19 companies that received funding to train current workers in new skills, Davis said.
Sixteen additional employers hired 50 employees through existing worker training funds to retrain current workers, and 16 employers hired 50 employees under on-the-job training contracts, a record for the region. of the capital.
The Capital Region Partnership and the Southwest Virginia Group are part of a network of 14 regional workforce development councils statewide. They aim to be business-led and focus on the particular needs of businesses in their communities.
Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, but communities are also stepping in — in Southwest Virginia, a $1.5 million grant of the Appalachian Regional Commission helped launch its unique ROPES program – Recovery Opportunities and Pathways to Employment Success – for people recovering from addiction.
“People talk about addiction, being on the ropes and bouncing off the ropes, so the name seemed to fit,” said Tiffanie Goff, director of programming at the Southwest Virginia board.
The program combines advice for job seekers with education for employers, rooted in the idea that an important path to recovery is finding a regular daily routine – knowing where you need to be and when to do what – what is exactly what a job entails, she said.
With employers, the conversations are about what they can do to help a new worker adjust to what is often a new way of life; for example, talking about recognizing triggers that can set off a relapse and thinking about how to keep them out of the workplace.
A grant from the Thompson Charitable Foundation, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, funds a monthly stipend to cover living expenses for coal miners who have lost their jobs so they can enroll in training programs for a new profession.
“They will work two, three part-time jobs just to keep food on the table; that means they may drop one or two so they can go to school,” said Aleta Spicer, the council’s executive director.
Statewide, councils work closely with the Virginia Employment Commission, Department for Aging and Rehabilitation Services, adult education programs, local social services, and community colleges.
They can help with job searches, preparing resumes, running workshops on what to do in a job interview, and learning basic computer skills. They can refer people to apprenticeship programs as well as internships for real on-the-job training and experience.
There are funds to help job seekers pay for training programs, as well as for those who need help simply getting to a job because transportation options are limited – a challenge that many job seekers face. jobs are facing, whether in far southwest Virginia or the east coast — or even cities like Richmond and Petersburg.
There is also financial assistance for job seekers who need childcare, adapted clothing or tools for the job.
The Bay Consortium Workforce Development Board will host a series of job fairs across its vast region, which includes 15 rural counties on the western and eastern shores of the Chesapeake Bay as well as Fredericksburg, said Jackie Davis, executive director.
In July, the first phase of its “career adventure program” for young adults included a week of lessons focused on skills for work in information technology – everything from assembly equipment to programming to cutting-edge areas of non-fungible tokens and cybersecurity, said executive director Jackie Davis.
The council aims to be a one-stop-shop for job seekers and makes job search tools available at its three centres, including computers with Internet access, fax and photocopying services, videoconferencing for job interviews and even job applications from local businesses.
The Hampton Roads Workforce Council is using a $1 million grant for its HR Strong pilot program to train 200 ALICE members from this region (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and low-income populations in the skilled trades – a push that led to an $11 million grant from the Good Jobs Challenge to expand this effort.
Helping the “ALICE” population has been a particular focus of the Virginia Peninsula Community Foundation and Chamber of Commerce, while Hampton Roads’ large military numbers have led the council to open employment centers for veterans. fighters in Norfolk and Newport News.
These have seen 2,167 visits over the past year, as veterans, service members preparing to leave the military and spouses linked to education and training opportunities, helping to find employment and other forms of support.
A ‘Let’s Get to Work’ campaign launched in March aims to encourage people to re-enter the workforce, highlighting jobs in sectors in particularly high demand, including hotels, information technology, construction, manufacturing and ship repair. Its NextGen program aims to equip young people aged 14 to 24 for the job market, with financial literacy training, employment readiness and career exploration. Its Campus757 is a one-stop-shop for connecting employers with young professionals.
Its six main Virginia Career Works centers received more than 10,000 visits over the past year, as residents used their services to develop resumes, search for jobs, find training opportunities and get career advice. Some 586 people signed up for training and 286 got jobs at an average wage of $21.97 an hour.
“We don’t have a lot of people here,” Spicer said of southwest Virginia. “We can’t afford to leave a job vacant.”