Once a national leader in economic growth and surveys of best states to do business, Virginia has lagged most other states in economic performance in recent years, Stephen Moret, president of the Virginia Department of Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) told the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) at its monthly board meeting today. Last year Virginia ranked 36th in five-year job growth, 42nd in Gross Domestic Product five-year growth, and 46th in median-income five-year growth. Moreover, the state continued to lose population through out-migration for the fifth consecutive year.
Moret would like to restore the state to the ranks of the five to ten fastest-growing states in the country — and tweaking workforce development is a centerpiece of his strategy.
While Virginia has many economic-development assets, Moret said, the state and its many regions have considerable work to do. His proposals cover a broad spectrum — developing more project-ready industrial sites, deploying more broadband in rural areas, restarting the state’s marketing program to build brand awareness among business executives and site-selection consultants. but the No. 1 priority in restoring Virginia’s economic competitiveness is strengthening the state’s human-capital development engine.
“The biggest driver of growth is human capital development,” Moret said.
While the VEDP president has addressed workforce development issues at SCHEV before, after a year on the job he has visited every corner of the state and he is far advanced in developing a strategic plan for Virginia’s economic development. His report to the Council detailed numerous numerous recommendations for fine-tuning the human-capital growth engine.
The most concrete proposal is to create a turnkey workforce program aimed at giving employers get a fast start in finding, recruiting, screening, hiring and training workers for new projects. Moret had developed a highly regarded turnkey program for the state of Louisiana, and he was hired for the VEDP job partly on the strength of that accomplishment.
But Moret, who also serves on the SCHEV board, proffered several suggestions how colleges and universities can improve employment outcomes and drive economic growth:
- Ensure that college graduates consistently attain college-level skills — critical thinking, writing — during their undergraduate studies.
- Invest in career services to help undergraduates secure professional work experiences such as internships prior to graduation.
- Continue to support the University-Based Economic Development (UBED) group, which provides businesses a point of contact to access public college/university resources.
- Survey alumni to better understand what is driving out-migration of Virginia’s college graduates.
- Build a stronger a stronger understanding of the underemployment problem among Virginia’s college graduates.
- Integrate computer and data sciences across the undergraduate curriculum.
Moret highlighted a seeming paradox in Virginia’s workforce: There is a crushing shortage of certain categories of technology workers, yet thousands of Virginia college graduates are mal-employed, that is, working at jobs that don’t require college degrees.
While Virginia has one of the best educated workforces in the country, it can always improve. “We envision a Virginia that’s not just one of the premier states [for economic development,” he said, “but one that’s number one.”There are currently no comments highlighted.