Giving Young Virginians the Skills Employers Need
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Virginia’s future success requires the business community to be engaged in directing a demand-driven talent pipeline. That engagement has to begin before Kindergarten and it doesn’t end with a high school or college diploma.
The most important skills that employers want, in fact, are often developed in the workplace itself. And that’s a big problem for young people in Virginia who aren’t able to find their first job to begin developing the skills that will make them a more valuable employee or an effective leader of their own business.
Young people entering the job market today encounter double digit unemployment. Those unable to find work are not contributing to payroll taxes and our economy as a whole, and at the same time missing out on the development of critical skills that they’ll need for future success. There is no more urgent issue to address for Virginia’s future success than aligning workforce training opportunities for young people with the job market.
As I meet with employers of all sizes across Virginia, they tell me that they are able to fill low skill job openings, and they have the resources and the available talent pool to recruit qualified candidates for high skill positions. But where they see a gap, and sometimes a significant one, is in filling middle-skills positions that require more than a high school education, but often experience or certifications other than a 4-year higher education degree.
A National Skills Coalition analysis confirmed what we have heard from our membership, which exceeds 22,000 businesses in Virginia. Middle skill jobs will represent nearly 50 percent of future job openings, while we have just 40 percent of our workforce equipped with the right training to step into those jobs.
Every successful model for workforce training across the country includes an active leadership role from the business community. We are glad to be a part of the U.S. Chamber’s Youth Employment Network, a business-led effort to address youth unemployment and align the skills of the workforce with the needs of employers.
The Virginia Chamber of Commerce identified improvements to education and workforce training as the top priority in Blueprint Virginia, our long-term business plan for the Commonwealth developed in 2013 with the input of more than 7,000 business and community leaders. The Youth Employment Network is working to meet this challenge by applying new ideas to create the workforce pipelines for our employment needs, from upper management and professionals to the middle-skill workforce.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barry DuVal is President and CEO of The Virginia Chamber of Commerce.