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SVHEC hosts forum

On Sept. 23, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center hosted its inaugural Workforce Forward 2011 Forum with 115 leaders from across southern Virginia gathering for regional dialogue focused on education, employment and economic development.

The forum began with a welcome from SVHEC Board Chairman William E. Coleman. Dr. Betty H. Adams, SVHEC executive director provided an overview of the conference, remarking that the Workforce Forum would be a regular platform for regional dialogue.

Nettie Simon-Owens, SVHEC director of Assessment & Advancement, provided an overview of workforce initiatives at the SVHEC highlighting several key comprehensive offerings operated by the SVHEC including the USA TopSolid Training Institute and the Advanced Technology Lab.

She also spoke about the variety of other workforce services available including specialized/customized training, facilitation services, and project management.

“When working with employers we are able to help identify workplace and worker skill training needs, communicate and coordinate these needs with the appropriate providers, or develop training to meet the identified needs,” Simon-Owens said.

Next, Patricia Thomas, Halifax Regional Health System’s Chief Nursing Officer and SVHEC Board of Trustees’ member, delivered a presentation on the SVHEC’s Center of Nursing Excellence (CNE). The CNE is a workforce initiative under the directorship of Simon-Owens. Thomas began by sharing the following US Bureau of Labor Statistics data about the healthcare industry:

The healthcare industry has added 613,000 jobs since the recession began in December 2007;

There will be 233,000 additional jobs for Registered Nurses each year through 2016;

Between 2008-2018, nursing aides, orderlies, attendants, and home health aides are among the occupations adding the most new jobs in the health care industry.

The concept for the Center of Nursing Excellence (CNE) was developed because the data showed an overwhelming demand in the region, state and nation for qualified health care professionals.

Opened in September 2008, the Center of Nursing Excellence, with educational partners, provides programs for nurse aides through candidates for the Doctorate of Nursing Practice.

In addition, the CNE provides continuing education facilities and curriculum for the professional development of current healthcare practitioners. To date, the CNE has been used to provide healthcare related training and educational opportunities to 470 individuals.

Ben Capozzi, curriculum coordinator for the Business of Art & Design initiative at the SVHEC, gave forum attendees a dynamic look at the SVHEC’s signature program and the award-winning work being created by Halifax County students.

Capozzi said that the Business of Art & Design is two academic programs, Digital Art & Design and Product Design & Development developed by the SVHEC in partnership with Danville Community College.

Students in both academic programs share a common semester of art, design and business basics, with a continued focus on collaboration, creativity, innovation, and real world experiences.

“As an academic program we don’t expect every student to be a graphic designer, but our programs allow students to follow career paths that best align with their enthusiasms and their abilities,” Capozzi said. 

One of the highlights of the Workforce Forward Forum was Dr. Christine Chmura.

Dr. Chmura, president and chief economist of Chmura Economics & Analytics in Richmond, presented an in-depth report with data and a data analysis specific to Southern Virginia.

Dr. Chmura shared data concerning regional job loss and job creation, and the sectors of the economy worth regional investment. She spoke of the positive impact education has on the economy, stating that high levels of educational attainment throughout the commonwealth has kept Virginia’s overall unemployment rate lower than the nation’s.

Dr. Chmura presented data about the top 20 occupations in demand in southern Virginia, and provided insight into sectors of the economy that southern Virginia could develop and grow across the region.

At the end of the day, Dr. Adams provided a summary of the roundtable discussions and attendees were given the opportunity to take a guided tour of the Innovation Center.

In summarizing the event Nettie Simon-Owens, SVHEC Director of Workforce Assessment & Advancement, said, “The Workforce Forward Forum is an example of the SVHEC’s commitment to focus on critical issues affecting businesses and individuals in our communities. Through events like the forum, Workforce at SVHEC will continue to work with various workforce stakeholders to identify and deliver solutions to the ever-growing needs of this region. We plan for today’s forum to become a regular platform for continued dialogue about education, employment, and economic development.”