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Virginia Board of Workforce Development Meeting and $5 Million Community College Career Pathways Announcement

The Virginia Board of Workforce Development held its last meeting of 2018 on November 28 at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. The Board is a business led group that acts as an advisor to the Governor and the General Assembly to provide direction and oversight to the workforce development system. These responsibilities are enabled by Virginia Code and the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WOIA). The Board met to hear/approve several reports and presentations of note listed below and will not reconvene until March 2019.

Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy discussed the recent announcement made by Governor Ralph Northam allocating $5 million of federal workforce discretionary funds to redesign career pathways offered through the Virginia Community College System. Colleges will compete for funds, receiving a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $500,000. This is part of the Governor’s “G3 plan” (get skilled, get a job, give back). The goal is to prioritize workforce credentialing over course credits, with success defined by students obtaining a job. Innovations will likely include accelerated courses to reduce the burden on students and free up classroom space for more students. The focus will also likely be on industries most in need of workers with an emphasis on careers that provide a living wage. Dr. Healy is also coordinating with the Department of Social Services to ensure that the 23 Community Colleges can successfully process the estimated 60,000 individuals who might enroll as a result of the Medicaid expansion work requirements.

The Board heard a presentation from Qian Cai, Director, Demographics Research Group at UVA Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service on the number, demographics, and regional differences of unemployed Virginians using data from 2012-2016 American Community Survey of the U.S. Census. This was done in response to legislation HB 1552 (James) from last session. According to the presentation, even though Virginia’s unemployment rate is at an 11-year low of 2.9 percent, approximately 168,000 Virginians are unemployed. An additional 482,000 Virginians are not in the labor force but are otherwise able to work, and are not students, stay-at-home parents with sufficient income, or recipients of retirement or disability benefits, for a combined total of approximately 650,000 out-of-work individuals. Of note, individuals ages 25-34 are overrepresented in the out-of-work population, as are African-Americans and Hispanics, and individuals with an education level of High School/GED Education or less.

Much attention was given to the “disconnected youth” population of 16-24 year olds, who are neither in school nor working. Sixty-one percent of these individuals are living in poverty, compared to just 12 percent of the general population. This obviously places a strain on state and local resources. Seventy-three percent of these individuals have an education level of High School/GED or less. Only 38 percent are actively searching for a job.

The Board also received a report from Jeff Brown, Director of the Workforce Services Division at Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), on the implementation of a statewide Workforce Dashboard. This initiative was started in response to legislation HB 1600 (Byron) from last year that mandated implementation of a Workforce System to foster workforce development and training and better align education and workforce programs to meet current and projected skills requirements of an increasingly technological, global workforce. Furthermore, this dashboard must provide tools that will inform policy makers and the public on issues such as state and regional labor market conditions, the relationship between the supply and demand for workers, workforce program outcomes, and projected employment growth or decline (and other Labor Market Information (LMI). VEC joined a group of several other states known as the Montana LMI Consortium that provided existing models for Virginia to use. According to Brown, phase 1 of the process – translating existing LMI data into a user-friendly format – is already complete.

Albemarle County Supervisor and VACo Board of Directors Member Ann Mallek is a member of the Virginia Board of Workforce Development. A list of the Board’s full membership can be found here.

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

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