Gov. Ralph Northam’s visit to Tidewater Community College on Sept. 17 marked another stop on his workforce development listening tour. The hour-session provided an opportunity for community members, business leaders and educators to collaborate on how to best strengthen Virginia’s talent pipeline and address emerging employment challenges.
Northam addressed the group, which included Glenn Dubois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, at TCC’s Norfolk Campus Student Center.
“People ask me all the time what is my top priority as governor,” Gov. Northam said. “It’s really very simple. It’s about jobs and making sure all Virginians have jobs that they can support themselves and their families with.”
The listening sessions coincide with National Workforce Development Month, which is September
“It is really appropriate for community colleges to be central in discussions on workforce development,” said TCC President Greg DeCinque. “We’re here to listen and respond by developing programs that will put people to work in Virginia.”
Northam last stopped at TCC when the college’s Skilled Trades Center opened in December. The 20,000-square-foot facility in Portsmouth prepares students for careers in everything from welding to pipefitting, marine coating and pipe laying. Graduates of these short-term training programs transition into high-paying jobs that don’t require bachelor’s or even associate degrees.
Hampton Roads anticipates 68 percent more job openings in skilled trades over the next five years than workers trained to fill them.
“How do we as parents, legislators, educators and counselors get past the stigma that if our children don’t go to a four-year school, they won’t be successful?” Northam asked. “In today’s job market, there are plenty of good paying jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.”
Chancellor Dubois noted that community colleges started 50 years ago to meet workforce needs and continue that mission today.
Also joining the conversation with the governor: Atif Qarni, Virginia Secretary of Education; Dan Lufkin, president of Paul D. Camp Community College; and John Dever, president of Thomas Nelson Community College. Megan Healy, Chief Workforce Development Officer, moderated the session.
Additional ideas that emerged from the listening session regarding community colleges include:
*Stress the benefits of community college with parents, especially regarding career technical training.
*Educate guidance counselors on community college offerings and 21st century jobs requiring less than a four-year degree.
*Create educational opportunities that line up with new business needs, such as gamification, cybersecurity, unmanned aerial systems and biotechnology, as well as jobs in science, technology, engineering and math.
*Offer internships to provide workers with needed experience.
*Continue to be military-friendly and provide education for veterans and their families.
“We are blessed in Virginia to have great colleges and universities, and we need to make sure they are affordable for all Virginians,” Northam said. “We also have 23 great community colleges, and we are putting a lot of emphasis on high school level vocational training.”