Changes to the American workplace are forcing citizens to adapt to a new business world and schools to rethink the skills they need to teach.

Earlier this year, the Virginia Board of Workforce Development approved a strategic plan to offer insight into the state’s workforce system as it is now and what it needs to be.

“We must align the Commonwealth’s workforce system with economic development strategies at the state and regional level,” wrote board Chairman Nathaniel Marshall in the plan. “Training programs should be demand-driven, and informed by employers to provide Virginians with educational pathways that lead to economic independence and prosperity,”

The board found that unemployment in Virginia is not evenly distributed among occupational groups. The plan notes that the unemployment rate for people in construction, for example, may be 8.1 percent while health care practitioners and technical occupations have an estimated unemployment rate of 1.2 percent.

While demand for middle-skill jobs is strong, Virginia has a shortage of people with necessary training for those jobs – 45 percent of job openings will be for middle skills jobs but only 39 percent of the state’s workforce are trained at that level.

A Pew Research Center national study found:

  • In 2015, 83 million people worked in jobs that require an average or above average level of preparation. That’s up from 49 million in 1980.
  • Employment from 1980 to 2015 grew 50 percent but was higher, 83 percent, among jobs requiring an average or above average interpersonal, management and communication skills. Employment grew 77 percent during that time in jobs with higher analytical skills, such as critical thinking and computer skills. Employment, however, in jobs depending more on manual labor or machine operation grew only 18 percent.
  • High demand areas of immediate need include transportation, manufacturing, and health care.

Lord Fairfax Community College is working to help people and businesses connect in that new workforce. One way to meet that need, the college – through Northern Shenandoah Valley Adult Education – will offer some free classes to the community.

Free adult education classes serve people interested in obtaining the standard GED, as well as helping those who already have a diploma but are looking to improve their academic skills for a job, said Joy Cary, coordinator of PluggedIn VA, an education and career training program.

The college provides free English for Speakers of Other Languages classes and helps people prepare to enter a credential program through LFCC Workforce Solutions, Cary said. Funding is sometimes available to help offset that cost.  Students in the program are encouraged to continue their education by pursuing degrees or credentials through several programs. One of those programs is PIVA. It helps students attain academic, computer and work readiness skills, alongside their other training – mostly in a trade or health-related field.

Amy Judd, regional Adult Education Program manager, noted: “We walk alongside them (students) to make sure they are successful.”

More Information