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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Worker demand to rise
For medium-skilled positions

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

DANVILLE (AP) — The demand for manufacturing workers in Virginia’s tobacco-growing region will reach nearly 7,000 jobs by 2017 but there won’t be enough medium-skilled workers to meet that demand, according to a report paid for by the Virginia Tobacco Commission.

The report predicts the supply of machinists, welders and industrial maintenance mechanics in the region will fall short of the demand by more than 1,000 workers.

The job study is contained in a report conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, the Danville Register and Bee reported.

The purpose of the study is to help the commission and the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing develop a plan to improve the region’s ready workforce. The Commonwealth Center requested the study.

The former tobacco region stretches east from Lee County to Greenville County. Officials hope to use the study’s recommendations to prepare its young people for the advanced manufacturing industries projected to come.

“It was very good for our region and state to see emphasis on advanced manufacturing,” said Laurie Moran, president of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s important to attract jobs that have family-sustaining income,” she said.

Delegate Danny Marshall, R-Danville, said heavy industries and/or their suppliers could be lured back to areas like the former tobacco region from China by cheap energy prices, such as those for natural gas.

The 3,500-acre Berry Hill industrial mega park site has a pipeline for natural gas, which could lead to the development of an advanced manufacturing cluster that would include a major company and smaller companies that would supply it, Marshall said.

“It will be a big plus for us to attract companies,” Marshall said.

Marshall said the tobacco commission is considering investing another $4.9 million in the Berry Hill site, which would bring its total investment to $31 million.

Another $787,000 might be spent by the tobacco commission to help bring a precision machining program to the Pittsylvania Career and Technical Center.

The report recommends development of three regional “Centers for Excellence” that would offer students hands-on training programs and educate them about advanced manufacturing jobs.


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