Joint Subcommittee to Study Noncredit Education for Workforce Training in Virginia
July 8, 1997, Chester
At its second meeting, the HJR 622 Joint Subcommittee received testimony from business and state agency representatives regarding workforce training needs and programs.
According to its vice president of human resources, Virginia Power currently spends between $14 million and $15 million annually on its training facilities. Although none of its training programs is offered through collaborations with community colleges, Virginia Power occasionally uses programs offered through the University of Virginia or the University of Richmond in its workforce training efforts. Two-thirds of Virginia Power employees have a high school diploma; the remaining one-third possess advanced degrees. Included within the company's skills training in commercial operations are programs for the overhead and underground lineman, automotive mechanic, substation electrician, electrical equipment specialist, and control operations technician. Nuclear training is also provided. Other initiatives include leadership training and student programs such as minority scholarships, the electric Vehicle Grand Prix, and cooperative education programs, the result of partnership with colleges and universities. A tuition refund program is available, as are payroll deductions for participation in the Commonwealth's prepaid tuition program and interest-free loans for employee computer purchases.
The Timmons Co., an engineering firm employing over 190 individuals with five offices in the Richmond area, looks to community colleges to provide training in management, technical skills, and computer technology. The availability, flexibility, and timely response of the community college is essential in meeting workforce training needs. In cooperation with John Tyler Community College, Timmons has invested over $100,000 in funding and time to establish a computer aided design and drafting (CADD) lab at the community college. The lab was created specifically to provide noncredit training for current and prospective employees of design firms and industries using CADD. Timmons' president urged finding new ways of funding these training efforts and stated that the commitment of the legislature to support noncredit training through community colleges would encourage businesses to work with the community colleges in meeting training needs.
Business Assistance Services
Two representatives of the Department of Business Assistance Services cited the department's mission to "strengthen the Commonwealth's economy by providing to Virginia businesses value-added services, such as workforce training, financing, and small business development; and by serving as state government's principal point of contact and communications with business and industry through an industry visitation program." In addition to the creation of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and its duties in the recruitment of new industry, the department also develops existing industry and workforce services. Outreach efforts to existing businesses include site visits, which have increased from 732 in 1995 to 1,830 in 1997, and responding to requests for assistance, which have grown from 1,036 in 1995 to 2,436 in 1997. The department also assists with business incentives, financing, worker training, OSHA compliance, and technology.
Within the department, the Division of Workforce Services assists new and expanding businesses in developing and implementing the highest quality recruiting and training programs for new job creation. The division assists in Virginia's economic development marketing efforts and also designs and implements tailored recruiting and training programs; 43 percent of these training programs are offered through community colleges. While the division makes no distinction between new and existing businesses in granting assistance, eligible businesses must employ 25 new employees or make at least $1 million in new investments within a one-year period. In the last five years (1992-1996), the division has addressed over 1,200 assistance projects (639 projects for new businesses, 499 for expanding business, and 62 retraining projects). In fiscal year 1997, the division has supported 315 such assistance projects, of which 150 addressed new businesses, 146 targeted expanding businesses, and 19 supported retraining. About 20 to 30 percent of project fundsor about $3 millionwill support community college workforce training. The funds may be paid to the eligible businesses as a reimbursement for training services at community colleges. State funding for noncredit instruction at community colleges could increase the Common-wealth's competitiveness with border states and enhance Virginia's economic development "image" and business climate.
The director of the Business, Industry, and Government Center at John Tyler Community College cited the need for flexible workers with basic skills in areas such as applied math and technology, reading for content, computer literacy, listening, and team-building. Anticipated areas of job demand included machinists as well as HVAC, biotechnology, electronics, metal, and health care workers. He cited the need for two positions per community college to address business and industry needs. In addition, investment in new community college facilities or in the renovation of existing facilities for workforce training is needed. Other areas cited were support for student and full apprenticeship programs and additional efforts in quality control programs. Also noted was the need for incentives for business to work with community colleges, including tax credits for business and direct funding for community colleges.
Representatives of private career schools briefly noted their specific training initiatives. HB 2367, which passed in 1997, provides employers a tax credit in an amount equal to 30 percent of the expenditures made by the taxpayer for noncredit courses that promote worker retraining at Virginia community colleges or worker retraining programs registered with Virginia Apprenticeship Council. If the taxpayer uses a private school for such courses, the credit is equal to the cost of the course per student but may not exceed $100 per student annually. The credit applies to taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 1999. The tax commissioner is to promulgate regulations providing for the allocation of credits among employers requesting credits in the event that the credits requested exceed the available amount of credits in any year ($2,500,000).
The next meeting of the joint subcommittee is scheduled for August 19 in Danville.
The Honorable Alan A. Diamonstein, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Kathleen G. Harris