1. What makes you get out of bed each morning?
I work on a team that gets a great deal of satisfaction from doing meaningful work. I don’t think we’re alone in feeling that way. To that end, Virginia’s Community Colleges offer the critical ingredient – workforce development services – that helps other find meaningful work. A big part of our work is aimed at bridging the divide between unfilled jobs and the people who want those jobs. I’m proud to be part of a team that focuses on the solution to a problem that keeps many families and business leaders up at night.
2. You came from SCHEV, worked on the Wizard with academic services, and are now leading Workforce Development Services. What are the connections and disconnections you see between workforce and academics? What opportunities?
I suspect the practitioners in higher education are more hung up on the terms “workforce” and “academics” than the hundreds of thousands of Virginians that are served by our community colleges, universities, and other providers of training and education. The Wizard helped me to understand that our customers are far more likely to think about the end goal — getting the skills needed to secure or advance in a profession. As community colleges, we can offer pathways to jobs that require degrees or workforce credentials and we offer coaching services that help you find and navigate that path. The opportunity is to make the pathway between workforce training and traditional academic programs as easy as possible. Our next strategic vision – Complete 2021, which intends to triple the number of credentials our students achieve – will place new emphasis on lowering any hurdles between workforce credentials and degrees.
3. As we at VCCS plan for the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) which takes effect this summer, what are your thoughts regarding how community colleges will fit into state and local workforce plans?
While we await further guidance from our colleagues at the federal level on critical implementation components of WIOA, it is already clear that the new law presents Virginia with a real opportunity to capitalize on our strengths and on the coherent visions cast by Governor McAuliffe and Chancellor DuBois – specifically, Virginia’s unified emphasis on credential attainment as a means for expanding individual opportunity, meeting the workforce needs of business, and generally making economies stronger. We’re looking forward to rolling our sleeves up even further as we dig into WIOA and the guidance we expect from the federal government.
4. What, in your opinion, are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing workforce development services at the community colleges and how do you propose to address these?
Our work is all about cultivating a skilled and competent workforce that best matches needs of business. The challenges are in bridging the gaps in interest, skills, information, and affordability that stand between business and the talent they need. Initiatives like the Rural Virginia Horseshoe and the adult career coach program offer opportunities to address gaps in interest and information by using the labor market information at our disposal to guide smart career choices. But we’d benefit as a Commonwealth from more and better labor market information to help guide those smart choices. Once a Virginian has a career plan in focus, the community college is keen to address the gaps in skills needed to successfully attain the right credential or credentials for employment. But, the big hurdle for many Virginians – particularly those that will often benefit most from workforce training – is the cost of training, particularly non-credit workforce training for which there has been no financial aid and very limited state support to offset costs. Over the next year, we anticipate diving into the issue of affordability.
5. On a personal level, please tell us three things about you that others don’t already know (hobbies, interests, etc.)?
It is no secret that I really like being outside. Things like running, walking my dogs, and hiking give me the chance to do so year round.
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