HD58 - Feasibility of Establishing Workforce Training and Education Technology Centers

Executive Summary:
House Joint Resolution (HJR) 124 directs the State Board for Community Colleges and the Board of Education to “study the feasibility of establishing technology centers to focus on workforce training and education.” Factors to consider in determining feasibility include placement and governance of such centers, the role of the community college, community partnerships to be established, dual enrollment opportunities, coordination between the community colleges and the public schools in statewide workforce development, and business-education linkages to promote workforce preparation. An advantage to the Commonwealth of establishing regional, joint technology centers is expected improvement in workforce development, including cost-and-time effectiveness and the state’s ability to respond to business and industry demand for highly skilled workers.

Although Virginia has demonstrated considerable progress in workforce development, economic growth, and technological achievement, there is a critical shortage of highly trained and technologically skilled workers. For example, the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) has identified thousands of available positions that are unfilled as a result of this shortage. Efforts are under way, however, to alleviate this problem. Virginia Community College System (VCCS) has been given responsibility for workforce training at the postsecondary level, and the Statewide Workforce Training Council has been established. In addition, the importance of collaboration among education and training entities, both public and private and at the secondary and postsecondary levels, has been emphasized, including the development of a technological network as a joint project of several Virginia institutions of higher education. The new cabinet-level position of Secretary of Technology has been created to ensure that technology needs are identified and addressed. Also, the Regional Competitiveness Act, passed by the Virginia General Assembly, has provided funding to cities and counties who have joined together cooperatively to address regional workforce development needs. Further evidence of state progress in workforce development is the establishment by the VCCS of three Centers of Workforce Training Excellence.

Five examples of community college/public school partnership selected for study from other states include those located in Oklahoma, Arizona, Michigan, Maine, and Florida. The most advanced public community college/public school partnership in Virginia, the Tidewater Community College/Virginia Beach City Public Schools Technical Center (TCC/VBCPS), has been examined to determine its applicability to other regions of the Commonwealth. Features of all the models are described in detail in this report. A primary conclusion is that Virginia has many of the components needed to develop a model national workforce. It seems that a pilot project is needed to determine whether joint community college/public school centers can significantly improve the quality and skill level of graduates. Recommendations may be summarized as follows: continue to support implementation of the Virginia Beach model; select a rural region of the state to initiate a pilot joint facility adaptable to other rural areas of the Commonwealth; provide appropriate funding to both the urban and rural models of collaboration; expand the membership of the Statewide Workforce Training Council to include the Superintendent of Public Instruction; conduct a study of the regional vocational centers to evaluate their potential for upgrading to regional technical centers; encourage the Council to examine other collaborative initiatives and determine business/industry support for these linkages, including expanded Board of Education/State Board of Community Colleges collaboration; and evaluate the progress of collaborative initiatives.