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Cuccinelli touts workforce plan during local visit
Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli outlines his Virginia Workforce Investment and Jobs Plan, which is designed to promote job creation and prepare students for manufacturing jobs, Tuesday at Solid Stone Fabrics in Martinsville. (Bulletin photo by Ben R. Williams)
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin staff writer
Virginia Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli on Tuesday unveiled his Virginia Workforce Investment and Jobs Plan that is designed to help long-term job creation and prepare students and others for modern manufacturing jobs.
Cuccinelli discussed his plan during a campaign stop at Solid Stone Fabrics in Martinsville.
The plan “is driven by two overarching principles,” he said. “One, I believe that Virginia lawmakers have a responsibility to ensure our students and our workers are in the best possible position to attain high-paying, high-skilled jobs. And two, achieving meaningful, and quantifiable ... improvements in our workforce training programs will be instrumental in attracting new businesses to the commonwealth and encouraging our existing businesses to expand.”
While Virginia, and particularly Henry County and Martinsville, have lost a vast number of manufacturing jobs, different types of manufacturing jobs are emerging, Cuccinelli said.
“We’re losing jobs that produce a vital source of income for Virginia families when we lose manufacturing,” he said. “Across the country, jobs that have been performed by workers are migrating to higher technology or machine application, and that requires different skills.”
Cuccinelli, who said he is a former engineer, believes that the first step in transitioning workers into those new jobs is a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs in schools and making those programs more effective and widely available to Virginians.
As part of this initiative, he said, community colleges need to be able to offer specialized classes that train students for available jobs.
“We have to make sure community colleges are fully in sync with the business community at the board level right on down,” Cuccinelli said, “including curriculum and connecting the labor force demand with what we’re doing for workforce readiness in our community colleges. That also means encouraging Virginia businesses to offer more internships and making sure our community colleges are giving students ample opportunities to take part in those internships.”
When asked where the money would come from to fund new workforce training, he said, “we have a decent amount of money in workforce development right now, but it’s scattered around, in my view, less effectively than it could be. ... One of my concerns with our existing system is we’re putting out a lot of certifications based on federal funding, but that those certifications aren’t well connected to business demands. The goal is to get people into jobs.”
Cuccinelli stressed the importance of assimilating increasing numbers of returning veterans into the workforce.
“Our veterans return home ... with invaluable leadership and teamwork skills that are impossible to replicate in any classroom,” He said. “... There’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be able to better translate those skills into the professional world.”
Cuccinelli added that he would propose a change in the law to allow National Guard members to “use education training funds at any academic or certified center that provides vocational or technology training that suits their needs.”
He spoke highly of Solid Stone Fabrics and its owner and founder, David Stone. The company, on Fayette Street in Martinsville, manufactures and prints on stretch fabrics, banners and other items.
“I’m really glad Solid Stone Fabrics is here in Virginia,” Cuccinelli said. “What’s immediately apparent about Solid Stone Fabrics is that they’re not content with the status quo. You see some things going on here that are cutting edge, and especially for a smaller company. We encourage that, and we’re encouraged by it.”