Virginia Capitol Connections Winter 2023

Op-Ed: We can transform the workforce By GEORGE “BRYAN” SLATER Since March 2020, over 120,000 Virginians have left the workforce and did not come back, reducing labor participation to a stunningly low 63%. Today, half of

Virginians and provide a single sign-on to access critical benefits as well as innovative and responsive workforce development programs focused on the customer. Standardized measures of success, focused on job placement and retention, will be used for all programs within the Workforce Development Ecosystem. Accurate analysis of program effectiveness will ensure limited resources are only used on programs that successfully place qualified talent in open positions acrossVirginia. By increasing accountability, streamlining services, and providing one single workforce development hub for all job seekers, employers, and service providers, we will reimagine and redefine the delivery of critical skill-building and workforce preparedness services. If approved by the legislature, our revampedworkforce development ecosystem will not only help advance a highly-skilled workforce, it will attract new industries to the Commonwealth and elevate the experience of becoming and remaining employed. We have the capability to increase the earning power of Virginia employees, enable employers to recruit people with the skills they need, and provide improved employment opportunities for marginalized communities. This will result in a transformed and transformational workforce development system that works for all Virginians. The Honorable George “Bryan” Slater is Virginia’s Secretary of Labor.

Virginia small businesses are struggling to find workers. According to the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, states finding qualified employees is the number one issue raised by the Chamber’s members.While on the campaign trail, Governor Glenn Youngkin routinely pointed out more people were moving away fromVirginia than were moving to Virginia from the other 49 states. Whether you’re looking for a job, trying to fill a critical position, or simply want a strong Virginia economy, you need the Commonwealth’s workforce development system to work. While there are successful workforce development programs currently helping Virginians, the fragmented nature of the system is not working for everyone. The existingVirginia workforce development system is fragmented, spanning 12 agencies and six Secretariats. It relies on a decentralized approach to decision-making, preventing the Commonwealth from efficiently and effectively administering its workforce development programs. This puts Virginia’s economy at risk – preventing timely and effective responses to economic emergencies. There is also a lack of connection between industry demand and talent capabilities across our diverse sectors and regions. While Virginians are able to access over 40 workforce development-related websites, the multiple entry points result in inconsistent experiences for users, leaving unfilled jobs – and unsatisfied job-seekers and employers. However, with critical investment in organization and infrastructure, we have the opportunity to upgrade the Commonwealth’s workforce


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services into an ecosystem that is agile and responsive to the changing needs of Virginians. We can provide best-in-class customer service that prioritizes gettingVirginians off the sidelines by helping them find careers that align with their skills. We can provide education and training to reskill and upskill those reentering the workforce, relocating to the Commonwealth, or looking to start a new career. We can help businesses grow and attract new industry investments by filling in-demand jobs. This is the opportunity to build a healthy, thriving Virginia economy that works for everyone. To accomplish this, we will propose to the General Assembly a plan to consolidate and transform key elements of today’s scattered workforce development system into an aligned ecosystem with a shared core mission. One agency, a centralized hub if you will, under the direction and oversight of the Secretary of Labor, will drive and direct all workforce development program services, policy direction, grants management, and data analytics. Imagine a single, dynamic, nation-leading workforce ecosystem hub that proactively connects job-seeking Virginians with industry demand. The centralized website, or hub, will be easily accessible for all To live in this historic place from page 5

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“I’m living politics 100 percent for my husband,” she said. One of her greatest contributions is her desire to “shine a light on the good and the great that already exists in Virginia.” To that end, she gives the “Spirit ofVirginia” Award to six deserving winners every year.

Candidates, which can be individuals or nonprofits, are nominated by cabinet secretaries and department secretaries. Bonnie Atwood is an editor for Virginia Capitol Connections Magazine.


V irginia C apitol C onnections , W inter 2023


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