Thursday, December 11, the Virginia Conference on Economic Leadership was held at The Jefferson Hotel here in Richmond, hosted by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce (VCC) and the Virginia Economic Developers Association (VEDA). The focus of the conference was "Virginia’s Workforce Development Capability: Can We Do Better?".
I was fortunate to be able to attend, so I took the opportunity to soak in the information being presented, and bounce some of my questions off of the other attendees. A lot of interesting points were made, and I’ll report what I thought were some of the more salient issues raised.
There were a few common threads that arose throughout the day:
- a key piece of workforce development in Virginia is the community college system
- the need to organize the numerous workforce development programs and the agencies overseeing those programs (see the RTD article "Rolls-Royce plant deal gave state an education" for a thorough explanation of that topic)
- there is a disconnect between "concept and context" in education — educators lack real world experience and expertise, so business leaders need to become more involved in a variety of ways (look for more about this in the 2nd part of this series)
Representatives of the community college system that I spoke with were kind enough to explain the difference between workforce education and other education. The example that was given to me was this: Say someone wants to take a Spanish class, they could take a class for college credit, or they could take a shorter, more focussed course like "Spanish for Use in Business Situations". The for-credit course is traditional education, and the non-credit course is considered workforce development.
Now this isn’t to say that workforce education was presented as the end-all to preparing for the future, but it is an important part. Of course, the primary and secondary school systems need to be enhanced. (look for more about this in the 3rd part of this series)
This is the first of a series of four posts regarding the Conference on Economic Leadership that I will post over the next few days.