Presidents endorse proposal

Published 8:51 am Monday, December 28, 2015

Citizens in the south-central part of Virginia stand to benefit greatly from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposed budget, which promises a $25 million infusion into Virginia’s workforce development training programs at community colleges, according to Southern Virginia Works, a consortium created by the heads of three of Virginia’s community colleges to address the need of more credentialed workers.

Presidents Dr. Angeline Godwin (Patrick Henry), Dr. Bruce Scism (Danville) and Dr. Al Roberts (Southside Virginia) have announced endorsement for the governor’s biennium budget as it relates to workforce development, claiming it could result in an increase of thousands of certified workers in middle skill jobs in the state.

Without this infusion of money and support, Virginia stands to lose jobs and contracts to sister states that have committed many more resources, they say.

“This is a game-changer for our area,” said Godwin. ” Today, Virginia’s current funding model for higher education excludes short-term workforce training. Yet, we know that at least 175,000 jobs are open today that require an associate’s degree or industry-recognized credential.”

Last year Virginia invested $6 million in short-term workforce development programs. By contrast, North Carolina spent $91 million.

According to information released by the VCCS, for every $1 million invested, the Commonwealth would reap at least 420 credentials leading to high- and in-demand occupations.

Experts predict that of the 1.5 million job vacancies in the Virginia over the next 10 years, up to 65 percent will require less than a bachelor’s degree but more than a high school diploma.

“These middle skill jobs account for almost half of Virginia’s labor market,” said Scism. “Many Virginians are not qualified for these jobs but can’t afford to pay for the training that would help them become qualified. These funds in the state budget will help pay for people to get the training.”

State coffers will also benefit by investing in more credentialed workers, the presidents say.

People with industry-recognized certifications earn substantially more money than those without proof of competency. A higher wage or salary results in more taxes paid to the state. With 61 percent of Virginia’s revenue coming from income taxes, higher salaried workers means the Commonwealth remains economically competitive.

The kinds of jobs termed “middle skill” include commercial truck driver, cyber security, welder, industrial mechanic, pharmacy technician and network support specialist.

Credentialed employees can command salaries ranging from $36,000 to $95,000, according to recent research conducted by the Virginia Community College System (VCCS).

Roberts said, “In the next 10 years, Virginia will need to fill 1.5 million jobs. The majority of these jobs will require a postsecondary credential — an associate’s degree or the certifications and licensures that can be provided through Governor McAuliffe’s workforce initiative.”