Workforce Initiatives Get a Major Boost in Virginia and Michigan

Two more states have launched major workforce development initiatives to grow their talent, including increasing training and opportunities for construction jobs.

Last week, “Build Virginia” was launched to connect workers with job openings, as well as training programs across the state. The intent is to better prepare individuals for careers that are increasingly in demand, so that “every person has the opportunity to build a healthy, productive life,” said Governor Ralph Northam in a press release announcing the new initiative.

“To stay competitive in the 21st-century economy, we must build a highly skilled workforce with the training that employers require,” Northam said. “Build Virginia will serve as an essential resource, helping to bridge these gaps so that our workers can get the skills they need to advance their careers and businesses can find employees with the right skills.”

Already on the Build Virginia website are links to help individuals get training and actual jobs in construction, and the site will also provide links to registered apprenticeships and other relevant workforce development resources.

The site has a page, “Get the job,” with links to jobs available in electrical contracting, listed on online job listing websites such as Indeed. There is also a page on the Build Virginia site, “Get the skills,” with links to programs throughout the state, including an “electrical wiring fundamentals” program at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge, Va.

Build Virginia is a “welcome recognition” of the value of technical and vocational education, The Charlottesville Daily Progress write in an editorial.

“Society as a whole is coming to recognize the necessity of having skilled technicians—in every field from homebuilding to shipbuilding—to keep the economy humming,” the newspaper’s editors write. “This is a healthy adjustment. It’s not that college education is more important than technical education, or vice versa. It’s that we need both, in balance. Our economy will be stronger and our residents happier when that balance is optimized.”

Also last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law the framework of the Marshall Plan for Talent, encouraging apprenticeships and mentorships across the state.

“So many areas of the state are changing their approach to education, and the Marshall Plan for Talent brings everyone together on the best approaches to match educational skills with available well-paying jobs,” Gov. Rick Snyder said when announcing the initiative.

The two pieces of legislation he signed into law will set aside $100 million “to prepare students for the 21st century economy,” including $10.5 million for career navigators, supported by additional tools such as a web-based career exploration platform that connects students to internships, job shadowing opportunities, and other such options in their local area.

The new laws will also enable the following:

  • Let schools change the way they educate students, using a competency-based approach that results in high-demand skills and credentials.
  • Allow funding to be used for equipment, additional staff, new curriculum, professional development, industry mentors, testing fees, and other tools schools need to deliver these experiences to students.
  • Create Marshall Plan Talent Consortiums—groups of educators and employers that partner to change the way students are prepared for careers. This will truly connect educators and employers to ensure that students experience a seamless transition from school to employment to lifelong learning.
  • Fund $20 million in scholarships and stipends for high school students and low-income residents to get high-demand credentials.
  • Establish the Innovative Educator Corps, a group of highly-skilled, proven, innovative educators that are nominated by their local schools to be honored for their excellence. These educators will receive stipends from the state and travel around Michigan to share their innovations with others.
  • Create an awareness campaign for attracting businesses and talent to Michigan.

“Michigan wins when we all work together to remove barriers and address challenges head-on,” said Roger Curtis, director of the state’s Talent and Economic Development Department. “That’s what the Marshall Plan for Talent is about. Michiganders have a strong work ethic—second to none. And by bringing business and education together to develop the world’s best education and training system, we will become global leaders in talent development and ensure Michiganders have the skills needed to capitalize on their get-it-done attitude."

About the Author

Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert has more than three decades of experience writing about the construction industry, and her articles have been featured in the Associated General Contractor’s Constructor magazine, the American Fence Association’s Fencepost , the...

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