While the upcoming General Assembly session will focus on such issues as the state budget, ethics reform, and whether or not to expand Medicaid, small business advocates have rolled out a blueprint of their own legislative priorities.
Their agenda arose from a summit of the state’s entrepreneurs and business leaders, who want to ensure that the Commonwealth maintains its competitive edge through business-friendly policies.
The Small Business Partnership told lawmakers that Virginia has a “skills gap”—in which workers lack training and competencies that match employer needs.
The blueprint calls for a paradigm shift to align the education system more closely with economic needs. Partnership President Tim Ciampaglio said the demand for qualified workers now exceeds the supply.
“Virginia should look at making funding available to community colleges to develop special programs to meet the needs of local employers—and create grants that schools can award to local businesses to pay for internships.”
Ciampaglio also said that among job-seekers who are not qualified for open positions, one-third lack so-called “soft skills.”
“That’s in writing, math, leadership, and critical thinking. For students not pursuing a four-year degree from high school, more high schools should consider work-study internships, which may help these children.”
He added that 30 percent of job openings in the near future will require only associate’s degrees or occupational certificates, so schools need career coaches that can provide this guidance.