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McAuliffe learns lessons at PHCC
Democrat targets jobs, worker training
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Presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe talks with Patrick Henry Community College President Angeline Godwin on Tuesday during a tour of the campus. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

With pad and pen in hand, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe visited Patrick Henry Community College on Tuesday to get ideas for his platform that he hopes will drive job growth.

“I’m all about jobs. I’m all about economic development,” said McAuliffe, who is expected to face Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, in the November governor’s race.

McAuliffe said he is focused on doing whatever he can to enhance the economy and create jobs, unlike Cuccinelli, who he claimed is focused on social issues that will divide voters.

Workforce development is the key to accomplishing both, according to McAuliffe, who is touring the state’s 23 community colleges seeking ideas on how to best train workers and identify obstacles to education and training.

Unless a company is assured it will have a well-developed workforce for the next 10, 15 or even 20 years, he said it will not locate in an area.

“I need to know what we need to do” to address the issues confronting community colleges, he said. “I view education as an investment, not an expense.”

PHCC President Angeline Godwin said there are many areas that need to be addressed, from allowing community colleges to buy items from local vendors to supporting other initiatives and even creating a child care center on campus.

She identified the lack of child care as the second largest obstacle to students. Transportation is the first, Godwin said.

Her priorities are the Rural Virginia Horse Shoe Initiative, which focuses on expanding GED attainment, college enrollment and graduation, and “expanding how we respond to” the workforce and requests for training, Godwin said.

McAuliffe asked whether students need remediation, as he heard from other community colleges.

Godwin said that PHCC does remediations to some students. It uses tests to pinpoint students’ deficiencies, she added.

Collaborations with K-12 administrators are “outstanding,” she said, and added that the number of students in dual enrollment classes has exploded, with 102 high school graduates slated to receive degrees from PHCC at the same time they receive their high school diplomas this year.

Melvin Johnson, a PHCC student who was present during McAuliffe’s tour Tuesday, said that he is a product of the Trade Act, without which he would have been unable to continue his education due to defaulted student loans. The Trade Act provides benefits to eligible displaced workers.

Currently, Johnson said he works three jobs and also takes a full classload, and he is not alone.

“We have so many gutted buildings, so we have space. We have the manpower and the education to make that dream” of creating jobs “come to pass, but a lot of people are still suffering,” Johnson said.

Getting more job opportunities in the area would enable him to cut back to one job and still carry a full class schedule, he said.

McAuliffe said he met with members of the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce before going to PHCC and learned that drug abuse is a concern. He said he was told by one employer that as many as six of every 10 applicants are unable to pass a drug test.

“We’ve got to get in those schools earlier” and teach youngsters about the hazards of drug use/abuse, McAuliffe said.

If he is elected in November, McAuliffe pledged he will meet quarterly with community college presidents, economic developers and others “in one room” to discuss issues and identify solutions.

McAuliffe said he will begin rolling out his platform in May. It will contain many of the ideas he learned while touring community colleges, he added.


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