Both federal and Virginia governments have recently passed legislation to more closely align today’s workforce with the needs of employers. In July Congress passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that will aid in connecting employers with workers with necessary skills through the authorization of key employment and training programs. In August, Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe, signed “The New Virginia Economy” Workforce Initiative. The multi-action plan promotes post-secondary, but not necessarily bachelor’s degree, education in the STEM-H areas, which aligns with the growing needs of Virginia’s industries. In addition, the initiative works to increase the number of veterans hired in the state. Both these pieces of legislation demonstrate the vital link between education and employment in today’s economy.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
In July 2014 Congress passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the first legislative reform of the public workforce system in more than 15 years, by a wide partisan majority. This act will help job seekers and workers access everything from employment, education, training to support services. Ultimately the WIOA will help to improve success in the labor market as well as match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. The WIOA also supports the American Job Center and in doing so brings together and enhances several key employment, education, and training programs. The Act will take effect on July 1, 2015.
Some highlights of the WIOA reforms to the public workforce system include:
- Aligning Federal Investments to Support Job Seekers and Employers
- Strengthening the Governing Bodies that Establish State, Regional and Local Workforce Investment Priorities
- Helping Employers Find Workers with the Necessary Skill Sets
- Aligning Goals and Increasing Accountability and Information for Both Job Seekers and the Public
- Fostering Regional Collaboration to Meet the Needs of Regional Economies
- Targeting Workforce Services to Better Serve Job Seekers
- Improving Services to Individuals with Disabilities
- Supporting Access to Services
“The New Virginia Economy” Workforce Initiative
Governor McAuliffe has signed a major workforce development initiative that aims to more closely align the skills and training of employees with the demands of employers. It is estimated that over the next eight years, 500,000 new jobs will be created and 930,000 vacancies will need to be filled due to a retiring population. Many of these jobs require scientific, technical, or healthcare related knowledge. These positions require a postsecondary education or workforce credentials, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. “Talent development is the most important ingredient for economic growth of the Commonwealth,” said Maurice Jones, Secretary of Commerce and Trade, who is taking the lead on this initiative.
“Pathway to 50k” is an action plan that sets a target of 50,000 STEM-H credentials, licenses, apprenticeships, and associates degrees attained by the end of Governor McAuliffe’s term. The result will be a large number of employees who can immediately meet employer needs in Virginia’s growing industries. In addition to educating the workforce, the initiative sets goals to encourage innovation, entrepreneurship, and a more robust private sector in particular industries. In Virginia more than 30% of the economy is tied to the federal government, either directly or through contracts. By supporting existing businesses as well as encouraging development of entrepreneurial ideas and patent production, the aim is to encourage growth in areas that are not reliant upon the federal government.
Virginia has recently seen a huge growth in its veteran population, especially those under the age of twenty-five. Therefore, an additional part of the initiative will serve to get veterans back in the workplace. “Our Patriot Pledge” is part of the legislation that will ask 10,000 businesses to sign pledges of commitment to hire veterans. Governor McAuliffe would like to see the already existing Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program double the number of veterans hired through the program.
All of these goals will be facilitated through a final action item, which is to develop a Commonwealth Consortium for Advanced Research and Statistics (CCARS). This group will provide data regarding human capital, regional skills gaps, local and state wages, university research and talent, as well as availability of local and state workforce programs. Relevant and recent data will better allow new initiatives to be created that will result in a workforce more aligned with Virginia’s available jobs.
The act took effect upon signing on August 13, 2014.
Director of Economic Development Marjette Upshur recently attended the White House Forum on Economic Development and “Workforce Through the Lens of Economic Development” at Gallup in Washington, DC.