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Proactive approach in workforce story

Southern Virginia is the first region in the country to commit to earning the designation, “Certified Work Ready Community,” according to Laurie Moran, president of the Danville-Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Dan River Region Collaborative (DRRC), a group of business leaders and workforce and economic developers from across the region who have come together to help solve the region’s workforce challenges.

Speaking Friday at a formal announcement at Memorial Hospital in Martinsville with more than 50 people in attendance, Moran said when she went to work for the chamber in 2002, the chamber identified workforce development as its number one priority. In 2013, she said, the chamber’s number one priority is still workforce development.

One of the challenges has been for the region to overcome the fact that its workforce does not have the level of education attainment as other parts of the commonwealth and across the country, putting the region’s industrial recruitment efforts at a disadvantage, said Leigh Cockram, executive director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, which represents Danville and Martinsville and the counties of Halifax, Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania, which is the same footprint as DRRC.

“It is unfair, because we do have a great qualified workforce,” but prospects cannot tell if they look only at levels of educational attainment, she said.

“Our region is taking a proactive approach to tell our own workforce story,” by measuring skills attainment instead, Cockram said.

Skill attainment is measured with the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) “with the intent to link, align and match our workforce to the needs of industry in a sustainable infrastructure,” said Julie Brown, DRRC project director, adding DRRC will be providing funding and strategic leadership to support this initiative.

Within two years, to earn the designation as a Certified Work Ready Community, the entire region has agreed to have more than 2,311 individuals in the workforce with a NCRC credential and 287 employers who will support the region’s effort to achieve this status, according to Brown.

“At Friday’s launch, employers, elected and appointed officials, educators and other communities stakeholders signed on in support of our region’s effort to become a Certified Work Ready Community,” said Brown.

Brown said anyone can monitor the region’s progression by going to 

DRRC receives financial support from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, U. S. Department of Labor’s Social Innovation Fund, The Boeing Foundation, The Hitachi Foundation, Community Foundation of the Dan River Region, Danville Regional Foundation, The Harvest Foundation, J. T. Minnie Maude Charitable Trust, Mary J. Babcock Foundation and the Tobacco Commission.