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‘Middle Skills’ support sought

The Dan River Region Collaborative recently participated in the 2013 Skills Summit in Washington, D.C. where participants asked members of Congress to support policies and investments in skill development, enabling more businesses to find the skilled workers they need to compete globally, and so all workers can share in and contribute to the country’s economic prosperity.

Dr. Julie J. Brown, project director for the collaborative, Laurie S. Moran, CCE, president of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce, and Dr. Nettie L. Simon-Owens, director of workforce services for the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, were invited to participate in the summit on behalf of Southern Virginia.  

Valerie Palamountain, dean of workforce services for Piedmont Virginia Community College, also represented Virginia at the summit.

“Our region’s competitive position in the global economy depends upon the skills of its workforce,” said Brown.  “To stay ahead, we need broader and more effective investments that enable our workforce to continually increase its skills and adapt to global economic shifts.”

“Even with high unemployment, our employers face difficulties finding qualified workers in the middle – jobs that require more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree,” Brown explained.  “We shared this message with members of Congress to help them recognize that federally-funded workforce development programs that engage employers, lead to industry-recognized credentials and directly link training with jobs are part of the solution to the skills gap and full economic recovery.”

While in D.C., the Virginia delegation met with Congressman Robert Hurt and the staffs of Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Representatives Morgan Griffith, Eric Cantor, Bobby Scott and Jim Moran.

“We were able to share our concerns about workforce related issues during our visits on Capitol Hill. The unified message that we shared with each office that we visited was the need for reauthorization of workforce legislation and a balanced approach to the deficit reduction. We appreciate each of our congressional representatives and staff taking the time to meet with us and talk with us about our workforce concerns and challenges,” said Simon-Owens.

The Skills Summit was sponsored by the National Skills Coalition which organizes broad-based coalitions seeking to raise the skills of America’s workers across a range of industries.

The Dan River Region Collaborative is a regional funding collaborative driven by employer partnerships in four strategic areas:  advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare and information technology. Through these employer-driven partnerships, the collaborative works to identify training, policy, and capacity issues that impact the development of the region’s workforce.  The ultimate goal is to create opportunities that move low-skill, low-wage individuals into high-skill, high-wage positions.

The collaborative’s key funding partners, to date include The Community Foundation of the Dan River Region, The Danville Regional Foundation, The Harvest Foundation, J.T.-Minnie Maude Charitable Trust, the Virginia Tobacco Commission, the Boeing Foundation and the National Fund for Workforce Solutions.