HJR 622

Joint Subcommittee to Study Noncredit Education for Workforce Training in Virginia

August 19, 1997, Danville

At its third meeting, the HJR 622 Joint Subcommittee received testimony from business, education, and government representatives regarding workforce training needs and programs.

VCCS Statistics

According to the chancellor of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), in 1995-96, VCCS noncredit course registrations totaled 97,526, while the noncredit headcount stood at 67,406. Credit course registrations and headcount were 763,102 and 207,198, respectively. Primary among the businesses served by VCCS are service industries, such as hotel, automotive, amusement, health, legal, and other services (38 percent) and public administration, including local, state, and federal governments (28 percent). According to a VCCS survey, 21 of 49 states (46 states responding) provide some level of state support for noncredit instruction. This support may range from partial funding of selected courses to full funding of all noncredit instruction addressing job preparation. Of the states supporting noncredit instruction, nine are rated in the top 10 in business expansion and relocations; Kentucky was the only state in this top 10 that does not fund noncredit instruction (see Table).

Top 10 States in New Facilities and Expansions, 1994-96
             Rank   State         New Facilities 
                                  or Expansions

              1     Ohio*              2,612
              2     Texas*             1,986
              3     North Carolina*    1,933
              4     Illinois*          1,147
              5     Florida*           1,087
              6     California*          916
              7     New York*            807
              8     Michigan*            778
              9     Georgia*             769
             10     Kentucky             667

             13     Virginia             545

         *state provides funding for noncredit courses
         Source: Conway Data.

Virginia Programs

Workforce preparation is one of the top three factors in business location decisions, according to the deputy director of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. In addition, Virginia needs a focused approach for addressing ongoing training needs of the existing workforce.

Currently in the Commonwealth, the Department of Business Assistance Services supports training programs for new and expanding industries, training often delivered by community colleges with general fund dollars. For existing industries, community colleges are the "trainers of choice," followed by four-year institutions of higher education. Private business pays for this training, including overhead costs, as there is no state support for specific equipment and faculty, and state policies regarding facilities use are unclear. No statewide strategy ensures a match between workforce resources and the employment needs of businesses identified as "high priority sectors."

The lack of state funding for community college noncredit training efforts, the VCCS chancellor contended, limits the ability of community colleges to respond to training needs, and the consequent higher costs restrict individual access to these initiatives. In addition, the Commonwealth's business recruitment efforts are hampered, and existing industries suffer a loss of "competitive edge" due to the expense of continuous retraining of their workers. The creation of incentives for students to enter high-demand, high-wage jobs in which there are insufficient numbers of trained workers was cited.

Suggested Improvements

Suggested alternatives to the current practice were providing general funds for all students in noncredit programs targeting job preparation; supporting noncredit courses and programs in high-demand, high-wage occupations only; or allocating a standard amount for each community college for outreach and noncredit instructional costs. Also suggested was continuing and expanding the Virginia Works "Funds for Innovation" initiative to promote new initiatives supporting business and industry, including noncredit course equipment needs through the Higher Education Equipment Trust Fund, and including space needs in noncredit enrollments.

At the request of the joint subcommittee, VCCS will (i) provide additional information regarding noncredit courses potentially "qualifying" for funding; (ii) prepare policy language addressing noncredit positions, facility use, space justification, and equipment; (iii) develop a proposed funding model converting noncredit efforts into a comparable FTE format, including cost estimates and priorities for any proposals; and (iv) identify solutions for enhancing labor force availability for industries targeted for development.

Comparison with North Carolina

In comparing workforce training opportunities available through the North Carolina and Virginia community college systems, the president of Danville Community College noted that tuition for North Carolina's noncredit occupational extension and focused industrial training is $35 per class; the occupational extension classes receive state funding at a rate equal to 75 percent of that for credit courses. In contrast to programs available through the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, North Carolina's training initiatives for new and expanding industry are offered at no cost to participating companies and are supported by an annual state appropriation of $9 million. In the Commonwealth, similar state-supported training is available only to those expanding industries meeting certain size and investment thresholds. In addition, each of North Carolina's community colleges has a small-business development center, offering resource libraries and computer assistance labs at no cost to small businesses. North Carolina's community colleges are also encouraged to work with local economic development organizations to create business incubators.

Special state funding supports three full-time equivalent faculty positions (FTEF) in each North Carolina community college; institutions use part-time positions and may have as many as 20 business extension agents to address training and technical assistance needs. In Virginia, business extension positions are included within continuing education staff, with "modest funding."

The president of Piedmont Community College, in Roxboro, North Carolina, noted that the statutes creating the North Carolina community college system specify that the major purpose of the community college is the "offering of vocational and technical education and training, and of basic, high school level, academic education." Consistent with this statutory purpose, the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges adopted a mission statement that proclaims, in part, that the system is to provide education, training and retraining for the workforce and to support economic development through services to business and industry.

Business Viewpoint

The corporate development manager for BGF Industries, an international textile company employing approximately 1,000 people in four Virginia facilities, stated that the "system of corporate and personal taxes supporting the public system of current and future workforce development is not showing a good return on investment." Contending that private and public employers are the primary customers of the educational process, he noted that these employers have not clearly identified "what employability is in light of current and future technology."

BGF offers three levels of workforce development training. The essential skills development system incorporates a work profiling system that identifies gaps between abilities and required skills; the creation of this system of skills development was supported by funds from the Departments of Education and Business Assistance Services and BGF. The job skills system reflects the company's ISO 9001 registration, while the high-performance/team system focuses on interpersonal skills, team process, and process improvement training. BGF's workforce training efforts represent an investment of 5.8 percent of payroll.

The BGF official recommended a statewide assessment of employability and state Standards of Learning, supported by state funds and conducted by the Chamber of Commerce; increased collaboration among the community college system, the Department of Adult Education, and the Department of Business Assistance Services in providing funding and training for the current workforce; affordable rates for community college workforce training for smaller businesses; community college workforce training addressing essential skills and attributes, leadership development, regulatory issues, teamwork, technology changes, and other issues; and increased support for local and regional efforts to create "one-stop workforce development centers."

The Honorable Alan A. Diamonstein, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Kathleen G. Harris