America has always been good at elevating the potential of its people.
Recently, however, a “skills gap” has developed that is threatening the ability of our nation, our state and our community to compete with rivals in a rapidly evolving global marketplace. It’s a problem that could impact our national security in the long term and affects our local business and industry partners.
Virginia General Assembly members are considering a proposal that would place community college workforce training within reach of people and businesses being left behind as competition for workers and innovation intensifies. It would expand the pool of people businesses need to fill good paying, skills gap jobs such as construction, IT and healthcare.
Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back-- referred to as G3-- is a financial aid program that creates opportunities for low- and middle-income families, while requiring service from the recipients.
Those opportunities are focused in five career fields in which employers are having a hard time finding qualified job candidates: healthcare; information technology and computer science; manufacturing and skilled trades; early childhood education; and public safety.
Germanna Community College’s service region contains about a half a million people and we educate and train almost 12,000 of them annually. About 80 percent of those students remain in the area, and the skills they learn help Stafford County businesses and strengthen the local economy.
According to the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the No. 1 concern of businesses across the state is that they can’t find the people they need to do the things they need to do.
The state employment commission says Virginia needs to fill 2.6 million jobs by the year 2026 that will require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree.
Ed Dalrymple, who runs Chemung Contracting Corp. in Culpeper, says his company has about 125 total employees and 15-20 unfilled positions. He has to decline contracts because he can’t find enough skilled workers to fill open positions despite good pay and benefits.
“Part of it is demand ...,” Dalrymple, a Spotsylvania County resident and the driving force behind Germanna’s first-rate asphalt program, told Virginia Public Media, “and the other part is for people that are retiring.”
Dalrymple partnered with Germanna Community College a few years ago to start an apprenticeship program, and to help recruit younger people like Allen Miller of Orange County. Miller is a former GCC apprentice program student who is now the asphalt plant manager in Culpeper.
“Lots of people are aging out of the industry,” Miller, who graduated from Germanna last year, told Virginia Public Media.
The G3 plan puts college in reach for more local people
G3 is a last-dollar scholarship program. To be eligible, an individual must come from a household that makes less than $100,000 a year, and first fill out a federal financial aid form, known as FAFSA.
As proposed, the G3 program also offers a modest incentive – $1,000 per semester for a student taking fulltime classes and eligible for full federal financial aid – that will help them cope with the cost of living.
Those benefits will make a big difference for ALICE families. ALICE means Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, and Employed. Two out of five Virginia households are within the ALICE population. They work hard and earn more than the official federal poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living.
The programs G3 will include are built for the real-life challenges people face today.
The vast majority of Germanna students work at least part-time and take classes part-time. Many work more than one job while doing that and often require much longer than two years to complete an associate degree, if they ever do.
Germanna and other Virginia community colleges partner with employers to transform programs to put skills first and allow students to earn stackable college credentials as they move through their training. This allows a student to start and stop--while working--without losing academic progress along the way to an associate degree.
G3 programs boost the wages of graduates by 60 percent.
Former graduates of programs in these fields saw a wage gains of 60 percent.
If we don’t train our own people to fill these good jobs that pay well state and local companies will either have to hire people from outside or area and state or move to another state.
Janet Gullickson is president of Germanna Community College