Youngkin, chair of the Virginia Ready Initiative, talks about easing unemployment and strengthening Virginia’s economy by connecting people with training, financial support, and job opportunities.
About 80 percent of the newly unemployed folks do not have a college degree. They work in sectors that are the most economically exposed. And they are disproportionately racial and ethnic minorities. We have a vibrant group of workers in Virginia who actually want jobs, and yet jobs in those exposed sectors aren’t there for them. Suzanne [Youngkin] and I felt there was a chance to study and act quickly on the idea of retraining people. We also discovered in our research that there are sectors with supply–demand gaps for employees. Those sectors are looking to hire people, and yet we have record levels of unemployment.
So it was a simple connection: there are businesses that want to hire people and a massive amount of folks who are unemployed. How could we connect those two? That’s how we began to think about VA Ready: How do we put together a coalition of businesses and community colleges and funding to retrain people for jobs that are in demand in sectors that are growing? If you can do that, then a large part of our workforce that’s exposed economically can have careers in sectors that are much more economically resilient.
We began to put together the pieces. Let’s get businesses to think about whether they can hire folks. Let’s work with the community colleges and see what training programs already exist so we don’t have to create anything new. Virginia has a program already up and running that partially funds the tuition for these short-term training programs. That combination of elements enabled us to move very quickly, not to create a bunch of new things, but instead to bring together existing pieces that work.
We felt compelled to move as quickly as we could toward launch. Most of the training programs run about ten to 12 weeks. If folks start in August and come out with their credentials 12 weeks later, that will be around when many of the employers had suggested that they will feel more certain of how many people they can hire. What we did with digital tools in a remote-working environment—design a website and stand it up in almost no time, have videoconferences with senior executives where we cover a lot of ground, and so on—was stunning. The program actually launched about ten weeks from the day we started building it.
Our goal is to retrain between 10,000 and 15,000 people over the next 24 months. We had 20 of the leading businesses across the commonwealth, in manufacturing, healthcare, and technology, partner with us. We partnered with the Virginia Community Colleges system, which has 23 community colleges across the state. We worked with 35 companies and mapped their demand for particular occupations, which led to a supply–demand equation for around 19 occupations, with about 30 types of credentials, to focus on. Then we made sure that those credentialing programs were being run and could handle an increase in demand across the community-college system.
We also will put together the HR executives from our business partners and the academic leads from the community-college system so that we can dynamically evolve curriculum along the way. We’ve found a real appetite from businesses to say, “You know, if you had a little more of this and a little less of that, then the nursing assistant would be more applicable to what I’m doing.” Or, “the AWS-cloud-practitioner credential would be more applicable to what I’m doing.” The community colleges are so receptive to that, and—particularly in these training programs, which are nondegree programs—they can evolve the curriculum very quickly. They just need input.
Then we studied the support program FastForward that the Virginia state government was running. We recognized that it had been well designed; it just didn’t have any business partners in it. It pays two-thirds of the tuition for these credentialing programs. The programs average about $2,500, so roughly $1,600 is paid for by the state, and the student is responsible for paying $800 or $900. VA Ready will award each person who completes their credential a $1,000 credential-achievement award, so if they’ve had to go out of pocket, then it’s covered. Most of the students will be able to find grants and foundation support for that last third of the education cost, so this $1,000 incentive is like a signing bonus when somebody gets a new job.
The applicant’s journey
Two weeks in, we’ve had 10,000 people come to the website and more than 1,000 people start the process. The process is pretty straightforward. There’s only one requirement: you’re unemployed. You pick your focus area and go to your local community college and enroll. And they have workforce counselors at both the FastForward program and the community colleges. Again, we didn’t have to create anything new; we just drive people to existing resources.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Reskilling for a changing economy: A discussion with Glenn Youngkin | McKinsey