HJR 622

Joint Subcommittee to Study Noncredit Education for Workforce Training in Virginia

November 10, 1997, Herndon

CIT Recommendations

Offering a "Blueprint for Technology-Based Economic Growth in Virginia," the director of the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) cited the work of a 1997 technology summit sponsored by CIT, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and the Virginia Technology Council that combined six regions, seven technology sectors, and 600 business leaders. Described as the "driving force" of Virginia's economy, the technology sector in the Commonwealth—encompassing aerospace, biotechnology, electronics, high-performance manufacturing, information technology and telecommunications, and energy and environmental industries—is reflected in 2,450 companies, employing 290,000 workers and generating $13.8 billion in wages in 1996. Growing at a rate tripling that of the overall economy, the technology sector in Virginia is expected to expand to an estimated 4,000 companies, 330,000 workers, and $22 billion in wages in 2002. Sixty-three percent of the growth in Virginia's gross state product in the last five years can be linked to high-technology industries and technology workers. The information technology industry now reports 190,000 job vacancies, a number that is expected to double over the next five years. Northern Virginia alone reports 19,000 technology job vacancies, representing over $850 million in lost wages.

Citing a significant mismatch between workplace requirements and skills of the available workforce, the CIT director noted that superior systems of higher education and public schools are "vital" to the future of the technology industry in Virginia. Among the recommendations offered to meet the demand for technology workers:

  • That 15 High Skills Workforce Development Centers, called for by the Virginia Technology Summit's Blueprint for Technology-Based Economic Growth in Virginia, be established in the next 10 years to coordinate specific high-skill training needs of particular regions and industries, that oversight for these centers be vested in 11-member regional advisory boards appointed by the Governor, and that a statewide Workforce Training Advisory Board, consisting of the chairs of the regional boards, be established to coordinate the activities of the centers. Included among the centers' work would be arranging for local skills assessments and job counseling for workers seeking retraining; coordinating an annual survey of regional high-skills training needs; soliciting proposals from community colleges, four-year institutions, and proprietary schools to meet identified needs and determining and "certifying" which respondents offered adequate training; awarding "certificates of completion" to participants in these programs; and apprising local business of these services. Individual centers could be designated as a "Center for Excellence" for particular specialized training; Net.Work.Virginia, the ATM broadband communications system serving the Commonwealth, would assist in transmitting these classes to other sites.

  • That each community college serving as a regional High Skills Workforce Development Center be appropriated $325,000 each year to support center operations, supplemented by $150,000 in cash or in-kind contributions from local governments or businesses in the region served, and that an additional $500,000 be appropriated in the second year of the biennium to the center designated as the first Center for Excellence.

  • That the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) be designated as the state agency with primary responsibility for the Commonwealth's high skills workforce training and development, act as the administrative arm of the High Skills Workforce Development Centers, and provide staff support to Regional Advisory Boards.

  • That the Commonwealth appropriate $5.4 million in the next biennium ($1.8 million in the first year and $3.6 million in the second year) to fund overhead costs for certified training programs offered by a community college.

  • That any entity, public or private, within the Commonwealth be eligible to provide worker assessment and training.

  • That a tuition guarantee loan program for workforce training be established.

    Also noted was the goal of tripling the number of graduates in engineering and computer science and training all students in technology over the next five years.

    VCCS Proposals

    VCCS proposals for workforce training initiatives included the following recommendations:

  • That the VCCS establish a statewide advisory council comprised of business and industry representatives from all regions of the Commonwealth to advise the State Board for Community Colleges regarding short-term, five-year, and ten-year plans for statewide workforce development. The plans would identify current and future workforce needs as well as potential "markets" for increasing the number of workers available to business and industry.

  • That Virginia's community colleges be equipped to deliver quality core workforce services and programs throughout the Commonwealth through workforce development centers and the implementation of rapid response teams and local advisory councils at each community college. The local advisory councils would certify to a statewide council those programs and courses for which state funding has been provided or requested pursuant to guidelines established by the State Board for Community Colleges/Statewide Advisory Council.

  • That the Commonwealth provide funding for lead Institutes of Excellence where needed at Virginia's community colleges to provide selected specialized services to meet particular regional needs or to meet statewide training or curriculum development needs through distance learning, and that these institutes address major business sectors, such as information technologies, semi-conductors, and high performance manufacturing.

  • That the Virginia Community College System be recognized in statute and funding policy as the state agency with the lead role within the workforce development continuum for training and retraining the workforce.

  • That the Commonwealth provide funding for workforce development administrators at each community college campus, based upon enrollment as well as business and industry needs.

  • That the Commonwealth provide community colleges funds equivalent to 30 percent of the prior year's non-general fund revenue collections for non-credit workforce instruction.

  • That the current funding practice for the Commonwealth's community colleges be amended to include non-credit FTEs in the calculation of community college space and instructional equipment needs.

    Virginia Economic Development Partnership

    The deputy director of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership recommended that a retraining program meeting the needs of Virginia's basic employers be created within and administered by the Department of Business Assistance to offer training modules supported by a team of representatives of Virginia business, VCCS, and the Workforce Services Program within the department and that this program be supported by $10 million in general funds.

    This initiative would focus on needs common to multiple industries or companies. An equivalent funding match would be required by each company participating in the training; trainee wages would not be included in the match. The training would likely take place at community college campuses, although company training facilities might be used as well. Acceptance into the training program would be contingent upon a company training needs assessment and job analysis, as appropriate, conducted through the community college system. Funding for this initiative would support instructional costs, community college fees, training materials, and consultants. The $10 million appropriation would support skills upgrade training for about 12,000 to 15,000 Virginians a year.

    Discussion focused on leveraging the Commonwealth's existing resources to provide a comprehensive approach to workforce training, the expansion of Net.Work.Virginia, and the assessment of future needs as well as upgrading the skills of current workers.

    The joint subcommittee expects to consider these proposals and their potential coordination to develop final recommendations for the 1998 Session of the General Assembly.

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