McAuliffe talks up Shenandoah workforce development efforts

HARRISONBURG – Gov. Terry McAuliffe sat down with educators and business executives Friday to talk about the importance of workforce development to a prosperous state economy.

The closed door meeting, organized by the non-profit Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board, gave McAuliffe a chance to talk about topics such as apprenticeship programs, on the job training and efforts to equip job seekers with licenses and certifications needed to work in certain occupations.

During a brief question and answer session with reporters after the meeting, McAuliffe said he regretted that Virginia has historically lagged in workforce development efforts. But he also touted initiatives he has launched in the last year to equip more people with the kinds of skills sought by employers, many of whom are having trouble filling thousands of jobs with good pay, benefits and working conditions.

McAuliffe cited as an example a bill he signed Thursday that aims to improve high school education for those students who want to enter the workforce directly after graduation.

“Our high schools were built during the industrial revolution,” McAuliffe said. “They don’t work any more, so we’re redesigning them to build workforce credentials, apprenticeships, to make sure when our students get out of school they have a skill set to be able to go right into the economy.”

McAuliffe said the state has “lots of jobs open” that remain unfilled while employers try to find applicants with the right skills. He said there are 30,000 vacancies in Virginia technology jobs, 17,000 of which are in the field of cyber security where the starting pay is $88,000 a year.

Employers and job seekers both suffer when the workforce doesn’t have enough skilled workers. McAuliffe said employers last year had 175,000 “middle skill” jobs that took an average of 26 or 27 days to fill, which translated into a loss of about a billion dollars in lost wages.

McAuliffe, a Democrat, said he was pleased that bills boosting workforce development have attracted bipartisan support in the General Assembly.

“There’s no Democratic or Republican job,” McAuliffe said. “It’s a Virginia job is the way I look at it.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or