A Fresh Take on Workforce Development

Source: “Positioning the Commonwealth for Healthy Economic Growth”

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.”

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16 responses to “A Fresh Take on Workforce Development

  1. Most American students nowadays are simply not prepared in soft skills or the mentality to be able to deal with a regular workplace. There’s more to it than surfing on your cell phone.

  2. Agree with V N but also this:

    ” …. 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. ”

    what good is “best educated” if ” Virginia ranked 36th in job, growth, 42nd in Gross Domestic Product growth, and 46th in median-income growth.” ?

    I’m not nearly so sanguine about our supposed high standing in education if the fruits of that are not evident and other states and countries do better.

    We should not mince words about our “education” – we STILL rank 25th compared to most other industrialized countries and states like New Jersey and Massachusetts top us also.

    We have folks going for basic, easier degrees on the premise that “all” they need is the degree to get a good job – with benefits. This and easy loans are drawing folks to get degrees that are woefully unprepared for anything other than the minimum necessary to get “a degree” and that is WHY we DO have the “crushing shortage of certain categories of technology workers” as well as 36th in job, growth, 42nd in Gross Domestic Product growth, and 46th in median-income growth and out migration.

    Credit VDOE with trying to up the game by dumping some of the numerous SOLs for non-technical areas and requiring computer skills.

    A Map of Virginia showing where there is a skilled technical workforce or not would be very revealing. Basically NoVa is a region with a highly skilled workforce with some isolated enclaves like Richmond, Charlottesville and Blacksburg and RoVA looks more like WVA and Kentucky than NoVa.

    We hear on the pages here OFTEN about the inner-city “poor” problems and the cycle of poverty and the fact that many barely graduate high school and are no more ready to join a technical workforce than the man in the moon. Often NOT discussed here is that much of the rest of rural Virginia is just as bad… and also headed into a similar generational cycle of poverty – and both will require “help” and entitlements JUST to maintain.

    THIS IS – where you have that horrendous MedicAid problem!!!!

    Moret is totally correct… it’s NOT College Degrees per se – it’s a competent technical/technology-based education that our K-12 schools with those notable exceptions are not getting obtained in much of Virginia. Not because it’s not available at many of our Community colleges but instead because our RoVa K-12 schools are miserably mired in 20t century reading, writing and arithmetic … in a 21st century world.

    A kid in Wise or Norton has no more chance to escape than the kid in inner city Richmond in this regard…because neither are getting the education they need to join the workforce that Mr. Moret says we need if Virginia is going to improve it’s economy.

    There is NO free lunch on education in the 21st century economy and too many parents and RoVa K12 are just out of touch with that reality.

  3. “While Virginia has one of the best educated workforces in the country, it can always improve.”

    “The biggest driver of growth is human capital development,” Moret said.

    “Last year Virginia ranked 36th in job, growth, 42nd in Gross Domestic Product growth, and 46th in median-income growth.”

    Am I the only reader of this blog who can see the logical inconsistency in these statements?

    Let me help Mr Moret. The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond, led by the Republicans, has pursued its anti-urban philosophy for decades. This has included barring annexation of county land by cities, keeping cities outside of counties, freezing the gas tax in cents per gallon for 24 years, sluicing money away from the economically productive urban areas to attempt an impossible renaissance of declining rural areas, providing uncounted tax breaks (that last forever) without any justification, etc. The net result is that the State of Virginia despite having one of the best workforces in America has become an economic basket case. The Thundering Herd of Corruption in Richmond has created urban places where nobody wants to live, nobody wants to found new businesses and from which many well educated people want to flee.

    Congratulations General Assembly – you monopolized political power in the state and then used that power monopoly to drive the state right into the economic ditch.

  4. Hardly a fresh take. Once upon a time Virginia and the VEDP were seen as national leaders in this very area, helping an existing or new employer find of develop people with the right skills. Buried in his screaming fit, Rippert has a point that legislative actions did curtail that and in general the Assembly has not been very generous in that arena.

    There are degrees and degrees, credentials and credentials. The stuff that gives you a great economic leg up is – in a word – HARD. Math, science, medicine, engineering – these are hard topics and if a young person is interested, they’d better do well in HS to lay the ground work and be ready to work. My son at the E School at UVA was always griping about the easy life enjoyed by the kids in the “College of Arts and Crafts.” The other message that needs to be sent to young people is a number of actions taken in their youth can absolutely disqualify them from any job that requires a clean background check, especially if security clearance is part of the job. A great degree means nothing if you pee in the bottle and fail or have a felony on your record.

    • Yes it was a hard knock life getting that engineering degree. But our American society is divisive, unless you take a green STEM job that is rated politically correct by the left, you would be considered pond scum…so why bother? Actually I wrote an essay about that 40-yrs ago as an undergrad. Seems like USA-born students trends towards liberal arts, with enormous immigrant populations feeding our science jobs and colleges. What would we do without them?

      • “Seems like USA-born students trends towards liberal arts, with enormous immigrant populations feeding our science jobs and colleges. What would we do without them?”

        Companies would have to take smart US citizens with liberal arts degrees and train them in technology so they could be put to work where the demand existed.

        EDS, GE and Arthur Andersen / Andersen Consulting were, once upon a time, famous for this. Now those companies find it easier to bring in people on temporary work visas rather than train US citizens.

        Any company that does not have a meaningful training program should be prohibited from enforcing non-compete agreements against any of its employees. Any company wanting to repatriate offshore funds at lower tax rates should commit to using a portion of those funds for the training of US citizens.

        • djrippert says:

          “Companies (once upon a time) would have to take smart US citizens with liberal arts degrees and train them in technology so they could be put to work where the demand existed. EDS, GE and Arthur Andersen / Andersen Consulting were, once upon a time, famous for this. Now those companies find it easier to bring in people on temporary work visas rather than train US citizens.”

          BINGO – HOW RIGHT YOU ARE!

          So the logical next question is why is there not a sufficient supply of such USA born kids who excelled in the liberal arts available today?

          And how do we fix that problem we have now, but that we never had before now?

          Because if we fix that problem, we will have fixed a great hole in the strength, vitality, and competence of our society, our economy, and our country going forward.

    • I have not yet begun to scream. I haven’t even started.

  5. re: ” .. Buried in his screaming fit, Rippert has a point ”

    LORD.. I thought Steve only used that verbiage with respect to me!!

    I’m dumbfounded but unfortunately for Steve (and others) NOT speechless!

    You can put SOME of the blame on the GA but the culture in Va with respect to education – both inner city and rural.. in a word.. sucks – and that’s not the GA’s fault. It’s endemic in our school systems outside of NOVA and some city/town enclaves like Charlottesville; venture further out into the hinterlands.. and we’re still mired in 20th century thinking about what education is …

    re: pee in the bottle… yes.. and what V N says – employers want not only people competent in knowledge and skills.. they want reliable employees who have a work ethic.. AND can and will collaborate with others to team-approach problem solving.

    If you go to a random school in ROVA or inner city and interview a 15-year old , chances are they have NO IDEA that is what they should be shooting for… Y es.. you can blame parents.. do that… then what do you want to do next?

  6. “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.”

    So why this statement: “Of all the jobs created since the Great Recession, 99% of them went to individuals with more than a high school diploma,” said SCHEV Director Peter Blake. See https://baconsrebellion.com/41674-2/

  7. But if Virginia has one of the most educated populations of any state in America then why are you dwelling on education?

    In this study, Virginia’s public education system (K-12) is ranked #8 and given a grade of A-. Yet as Jimbo points out, “Last year Virginia ranked 36th in job, growth, 42nd in Gross Domestic Product growth, and 46th in median-income growth.”

    https://smartasset.com/student-loans/states-best-schools-2017

    More education (and usually more money for education) is the siren song of economic development officials. But … Virginia doesn’t have a broad-based education problem. Yet we do have a broad based economic development problem.

    Your points about rural and inner-city education are true, they just don’t answer the economic development question.

  8. Education isn’t the point. Virginia already has one of the most educated populations of any state and a public school (K-12) system that is in the top 20% of US states.

    Bringing broadband to rural areas will improve the internet porn viewing experience in those areas and nothing more.

    Virginia’s traditional approach to economic development has been simple – the Federal government poured money into NoVa and Tidewater. NoVa and Tidewater largely funded the state government which, in turn, brought money to Richmond. Money was taken from NoVa, Tidewater and Richmond and disbursed to rural and small town Virginia.

    So long as the Feds kept increasing the flow of dollars to Virginia the system worked. The General Assembly could underfund urban infrastructure so as to have more money to squander in rural and small town Virginia. The tobacco settlement funds (those funds that weren’t stolen anyway) were squandered on rural and small town Virginia. Tax breaks were handed out with no expiration date and their effectiveness was never reviewed.

    It didn’t matter as long as the Feds kept pumping money at ever growing rates.

    Did the brain trust in Richmond ever consider what might happen if the Federal money pump slowed? If so, what did they do?

    Well, the money pump slowed and the Virginia economy is sinking.

    So, why don’t all these educated people start businesses in lieu of the business generated by the Federal government? Because those educated people hate living here. The quality of life has been ruined by the Clown Show in Richmond.

    I work at a big technology company. I have the need to hold meetings of people from all around the world. Meetings of 10 – 70 people for 2 to 5 days. I can’t hold these meeting in Virginia. You can’t get to Richmond or Tidewater. You can get to NoVa but then you languish in some of the worst traffic in America. So, I don’t schedule those meetings in Virginia. We go to Atlanta or Chicago or New York City or Raleigh. They are all better venues than any urban area in Virginia. Guess what? The people who live here see that too. When the Federal money flow slows and the jobs start to dry up they leave.

    What to do?

    1. We have to create real cities in Virginia. Right now, there are none. We need a couple of 500,000+ cities with an average population density of 5,000+ per square mile to attract the kind of workers and businesses we need. Political lines need to be redrawn. A combine Alexandria / Arlington could be a start. Cities need to be inside counties like everywhere else in the United States. Cities need autonomy in government, the ability to annex county land and the Clown Show in Richmond has to stop siphoning off so much of the tax money raised in those cities.

    2. There needs to be funds available. The $12.5B per year in unaccounted and unaccountable tax breaks needs to be thoroughly reviewed with an eye to reducing that number by $2B per year. Those monies need to be used to fund the modernization of Virginia cities.

    3. City charters need to be rewritten in order to give the cities much more autonomy.

    4. Urban area public universities need to be over-funded while rural and small town universities need to be under-funded. If UVA doesn’t like that they can buy their independence from the state and become the private school they have always wanted to become. The funds released can be used to additionally fund the urban universities.

    That would be a start.

    • Why would someone want to live in a city and a county at the same time? Taxes will be higher. There will be replication of services and, more significant, administration. We already have considerable replication of services. Fairfax County has both a Police Department and a Sheriffs Office. Loudoun County only has a Sheriffs Office. Residents of Fairfax County town, Herndon, Vienna and Clifton already pay higher taxes for county and village functions. Where is the value of duplicative government?

      The County and the Schools have separate HR, PR and IT departments. The County has two pension plans for non-police, non-uniformed services. The Schools have two pension plans for covered teachers and employees. Pension coverage greatly exceeds what is provided by the federal government, nearby localities and many private businesses. Against this background, why would anyone assume efficient operation of layered government. If I wanted to live with basket case local government, I would have moved to the District. If I wanted to pay higher income taxes, I would have moved to Maryland.

      Much of the real estate tax exempt property in Fairfax County was created by the Board of Supervisors.

      I think with the exception of real estate developers, why would a person want to be annexed into a city at the behest of the City? If people want to join a city that’s something different. But a city should not have the authority to make people who elected not to live in a city be annexed against their will.

      Having a city council member and a county supervisor weakens accountability. Right now, if I have a problem with local government, I can go to John Foust and raise hell. The buck stops there. With two layers of government, the ability to finger point opens up.

      I don’t see doubling local government would put more income in my pocket. And frankly, I’m not losing sleep over other people’s income any more than they lose sleep over mine.

      • I’ll put aside the fact that the other 49 states do this the right way. But, no doubt, the Clown Show in Richmond is so far ahead of the rest of the United States it’s just a matter of time until the rest of the dopes in the other 49 states see the genius of Richmond and come over to our side. But, wait …

        “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.”

        Cities are where wealth is created in America. Take Atlanta out of Georgia and you get Mississippi, as the saying goes.

        Virginia’s uniquely stupid approach to cities and counties has inhibited the growth of modern cities in Virginia. This has inhibited the growth of wealth that modern cities bring. Of course, the Federal government’s flood of cash through Virginia covered up the sins of Richmond. Until it didn’t.

        As for paying higher taxes in Maryland, true. Or, you could pay lower taxes in Florida or Texas. All three have cities inside counties. Remember, all the states have cities inside counties other than Virginia. Since Virginia is a mid tax state (trending to a high tax state) it’s very hard to see the evidence of cities separated from counties lowering taxes. It just isn’t true.

        I’ve been calling the economic meltdown of Virginia since 2013.

        https://baconsrebellion.com/has-virginias-economy-officially-tanked-2/

        I asked whether the economy was tanking in 2013. I declared it had tanked in 2017. Now, in 2018 it seems that what should have been obvious is finally obvious.

        As for paying lower taxes … wait until there is pressure on the school transfer payments from NoVa to RoVa due to the sagging economy and lowering property values. Do you really think the masterminds in Richmond will say, “Well, the algorithms are the algorithms. I guess RoVa will just have to make do with less.” You’ve got to be kidding! They’ll soak you whether regardless of the algorithms. Last time it happened McDonnell didn’t find the pension plans to keep the amount of money flowing to RoVa intact.

        If you end up in a tar paper shack you’ll still be sending money to RoVa because that’s how the half-wits in Richmond see things.

        Your real hope is to get Virginia out of the 50s (the 1850s that is) and into the modern world where cities create the wealth (without a geyser of money coming from the Federal government).

  9. I’m still not clear why cities/towns need to be in counties and under the control of counties rather than independent.

    educate me… seriously …

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