Due to changes from technology and innovation, an aging workforce and globalization, several industries are in dire need of skilled workers in Virginia and across the nation. Nationwide, industries such as healthcare, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing are but a few of these industries. Regional industries, also seek skilled workers.
That’s why Virginia employers are rejoicing after two worker training grants totaling $2.7 million have been awarded to local programs. The Community Job Training Grants will create or promote programs to train workers for positions that employers have open now or in the near future.
The grants will focus on training workers for the fastest growing industries.
The U.S. Department of Labor recently presented awards to outstanding worker training programs throughout the country in five key areas. These categories include:
Helping young people who are out of school
Collaborating with industry to create a workforce investment program
Leveraging partnerships between employers, educators and economic development agencies
Creating a highly-trained 21st century workforce
Training workers with special needs
This year’s big winners include groups from Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia and Wisconsin. Runners-up for the awards include agencies and companies from Michigan, Texas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon, Washington, New York, Louisiana and Minnesota.
The Recognition of Excellence awards go to the top talent development programs nationwide. This week, Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily Stover DeRocco presented the awards during the Workforce Innovations Conference. Stover DeRocco heads the department’s division of Employment and Training. This is the fourth consecutive year the awards have been used to recognize outstanding training programs in state and local government, private business, education and economic development programs. Each award represents a collaboration between two or more of those key players.
“Our honorees have shown that they are innovative leaders in providing workers with the opportunities and tools to help them compete in today’s global economy,” said DeRocco. “Their outstanding work serves as a model for others to learn from and apply to their own regional economic and talent development strategies.”
The first category is “Educating America’s 21st Century Workforce”, recognizing the top program for providing innovative and effective strategies to prepare workers for jobs requiring better skills. The winner is the Alpena Community College of Alpena, Michigan. Honorable Mentions in this category include the Junior College District of Kansas City, Missouri and the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Beaverton, Oregon.
The award for “Building an Industry/Business-Driven Workforce Investment System” goes to the program that best responds to an industry need while preparing workers for continued job growth. This award goes to Capital Workforce Partners, of Hartford Connecticut. Honorable mentions in this category include the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth’s Bureau of Workforce Programs statewide. An Honorable Mention also went to the Gulf Coast Workforce Board: the WorkSource in the Gulf Coast Region of Texas.
The third category recognizes the value of collaborations between employers, educators and economic development leaders. The e3 Partnership award goes to Eastern Kentucky C.E. P. Inc. of Hazard, Kentucky. The runner up in this category is the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Gulfport, Mississippi.
The fourth category is “Recognizing the Demographics of the Workforce”. This award highlights agencies or organizations that target workers with special needs. Winners in this category provide services to workers with limited English skills, to migrant farm workers, and those who are homeless as well as others. The top award in this category goes to Experience Works, Inc. of Arlington Virginia. Honorable mentions go to the Shoreline Community College in Shoreline Washington and the Center for Employment Opportunities in New York, N.Y.
The final category is “Serving Out-of-School Youth”. Winners in this category demonstrate innovative techniques in collaborating with educators, businesses, industry and other essential partners to train, educate and hire young people who are out of school. The award goes to Workforce Connections, Inc. of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Other notable programs in this category include the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the River Paris WIA Program in Convent, Louisiana.
All of the awards were presented at a gala ceremony during the Workforce Innovations Conference, an annual event that provides an opportunity for networking on workforce issues between stakeholders in the public and private sectors.
“Community colleges are closely tied to the areas they serve, and they have proven themselves adept at responding to the regional workforce demands of numerous industries.” Those are the words of Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, Emily Stover DeRocco. The Assistant Secretary was announcing a prestigious grant to a local community college for training in the fast growing energy field. That grant is a result of the President’s Community-Based Job Training Initiative that has awarded 72 community colleges with grants.
A Virginia employment grant was awarded to the Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville. Competition for the grants was not easy. More than 400 schools were vying for the funding to help train the future employees of the country. The Virginia grant totaled $1,249,527 and will be used for energy education programs. The other schools provide training for energy and other vital professions like advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and construction. The demand for these types of jobs is on the rise, and the more people that are trained, the better.
Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has said, “Community colleges are vital partners in educating and preparing workers for good jobs in their local area…The $125 million these 72 community college partnerships will receive under the President’s Community-Based Job Training Initiative is going to help workers succeed in careers in health care, advanced manufacturing and other growing industries.”
The Virginia grant will be used to help increase the local worker skills, particularly in high-demand professions. Over 104 awards have been issued to that affect since 2005, when the program was initiated. Community colleges are a crucial part of the success as a whole. As a result of their training, workers will be able to enter the industries with skills and add to the success of the economy.
With the job market changing, and technology improving, it seems the best way to go is to get the training for a career that will be there in the future.
Another round of WIRED grants is now available nationwide, and regions with slow growth and high jobless rates would benefit.
It’s the third generation of the extremely competitive U.S. Labor Department grants. Not only are they highly competitive, they’re designed to reward economic development plans that are innovative and non-traditional.
A Virginia unemployment grant could help regions of the state caught in economic stagnation. Some of the other regions nationwide that have benefited include northern Alabama, the Delaware Valley, northern Indiana, northern California, and the Mississippi/Arkansas Delta.
WIRED stands for Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development. In the past, the Labor Department has distributed $260 million in funding. Some 26 regions around the U.S. have benefited.
Competition is stiff. After Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao sends out letters to U.S. governors announcing the latest round of grants, those governors may only submit two grant proposals each. All grant proposals must be for a maximum of $5 million. Every region competing must reveal other sources of funding, whether regional, private, or state, so the Labor Department can integrate its funds with the overall funding scheme.
According to Emily Stover DeRocco, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, “The Third Generation of WIRED is designed to position local Workforce Investment Boards as leaders of a strategic regional partnership.”
And Secretary Chao said, during announcement of the earlier, second round of grants, “Investing in area workforces through this collaborative approach will boost entire regions’ economic vitality.” She noted as well that “This regional economic development strategy transcends political boundaries to better leverage a region’s assets to help workers succeed in the 21st century worldwide economy.”
The purpose of the grants is to keep job skills up to date in an ever-more competitive global economy.
Assistant Secretary DeRocco pointed out that “Through talent development strategies and integration with regional economic development, this partnership can drive economic transformation in regions across the country and improve employment and advancement opportunities for workers.”
In every economy, some specific industries spearhead growth and development. In the United States, the industries showing highest growth include advanced manufacturing, construction, energy and healthcare. As these industries grow, their demand for a skilled workforce increases as well. But presently, the educational institutions are not meeting those requirements. Thus, it becomes difficult for these industries to achieve the optimum level of growth that they aspire to.
President George W. Bush announced a Community-base Job Training Initiative in his State of the Union Address in 2004. $125 million is to be distributed among 72 colleges across 34 states under this initiative. The program started in 2005, and to date 105 awards of grants to community colleges have been made. This grant is meant to prepare a highly skilled workforce for high growth industries. The growth of these industries creates the need for a skilled workforce which is currently not up to the required standards with regard to the numbers and the level of skills, both.
Recently, the Central Virginia Community College received $1,249,527 under a Virginia employment grant. The Central Virginia Community College is located in Lynchburg. The city is better known for it’s production of a premium sippin’ whiskey than for training the wage earners of tomorrow, but that’s about to change. The school was chosen after a competition between 429 schools. This grant is meant to be spent on their healthcare education programs, so that the state of Virginia can produce better-trained human resource to join the country’s healthcare industry which is growing at an impressive rate.
The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, Emily Stover DeRocco was reported saying “Today’s awards recall the imperative that businesses and the workforce system team up with their region’s community colleges to ensure that workers are armed with the right skills to thrive in the 21st century economy. Community colleges are closely tied to the areas they serve, and they have proven themselves adept at responding to the regional workforce demands of numerous industries.”