How the Prince William Chamber Is Preparing for Tomorrow’s Workforce

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Provided by Prince William Chamber of Commerce

The Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s Education & Innovation Committee has developed a workforce development initiative in partnership with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), Virginia Department of Labor & Industry (VADOLI), and public school divisions of the Prince William County and cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. The goal of the partnership is to strategically connect the business community to the three school divisions by way of Career & Technical Education (CTE).

In Virginia, CTE programs serve more than 550,000 students in grades 6-12. These programs are designed to prepare young people for productive futures while meeting the Commonwealth’s need for well-trained and industry-certified technical workers. While the schools provide students with ‘book-knowledge’ learning, the CTE departments rely on the business community for ‘applied-knowledge’ instruction. The Education & Innovation Committee serves as a conduit for both groups.

The partnership with VDOE and VADOLI allows the Committee to connect state-level resources into the region. This is made possible by connecting PW Chamber members to state-level programs offered by VDOE and VADOLI. These two programs are Work-Based Learning (WBL) and Youth Registered Apprenticeship (YRA) Program.

Work-Based Learning (WBL)

Work-Based Learning is a school-coordinated sequence of workplace experiences that are related to students’ career goals and/or interests. In partnership with local businesses, industries and/or other organizations in the community, they assist the students with ‘in-school’ instruction in the classroom. There are eight types of work-based learning methods of instruction used in Virginia; job shadowing, mentorship, service learning, internship, clinical experience, cooperative education, youth registered apprenticeship, and registered apprenticeship.

By working with VDOE, the Education & Innovation Committee strives to connect the business community to the three school divisions, starting in the sixth grade. This convening brings together businesses and educators focused on building positive WBL experiences for CTE students throughout the region. The business community is categorized according to each relevant Career Cluster which helps students discover their interests and passions, and empowers them to choose the educational pathway that can lead to success in high school, college and career. In total, there are 16 Career Clusters in the National Career Clusters Framework, representing more than 79 Career Pathways.

Youth Registered Apprenticeship (YRA)

YRA integrates school-based and work-based learning to help students gain employability and occupational skills while completing their high school education. The objective of YRA is to expand the state’s skilled workforce through a coordinated effort involving community, industry, parents, and school staff.

This ‘out-of-school’ initiative gives part-time students apprenticeship opportunities. By acting as a conduit, the Education & Innovation Committee helps foster apprenticeship agreements by connecting the business community to CTE departments of the three school divisions.

One of VADOLI’s goals is to improve opportunities for businesses and employees in the Commonwealth and to contribute to economic development and quality of life for all Virginians. The Director of VADOLI, Patricia Morrison, said, “As all three school districts in the Prince William region go into the New Year, the Department of Labor and Industry is ready to show employers, educators, students, and parents how to create and grow a network of the region’s future workforce.”

Prince William Chamber of Commerce

YRA, which is currently piloting the program in select parts of the Commonwealth, has been around since December 2017. Since the Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) is the second largest school division in Virginia, VADOLI is relying heavily on their success, coupled with the two adjacent school divisions in the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. VADOLI believes that these partnerships in the Prince William region would be an effective model for the rest of the Commonwealth.

If VADOLI wants to show employers how to grow a network of the region’s future workforce, it would only make sense for the strongest voice for the business community in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region be involved. Enter the Prince William Chamber of Commerce with its headquarters in Manassas, VA. The Chamber focuses on business growth, economic development, advocacy, education, and community outreach. By allocating their efforts in these key areas, they are building a solid foundation for the success of our business members and our community.

Debbie Jones, President & CEO, understands the impact of the Education & Innovation Committee’s partnerships with VDOE & VADOLI and their workforce development initiatives with WBL & YRA and the three school divisions. “I am excited that the Prince William Chamber is playing an integral role in preparing the workforce of the future. Our whole region will win.”

Education & Innovation Committee

The Education & Innovation Committee builds partnerships that enhance the educational experience for students in the Prince William region by providing a connection between the business community and educators. Their program & event initiatives include: National Young Readers Day for literacy, Speed-Networking & Interviewing Skills programs for high school students, the Student Scholarship Program, and their Annual Education & Innovation Summit. Throughout the year, the Committee helps to recruit business volunteers for the school districts Career Days and Career Fairs.

Zuzana Steen, who represents a large employer (Micron), chairs the Innovation and Workforce Development side of the Committee. She understands the importance of CTE and serves on numerous state and local CTE advisory and workforce development boards. She said, “Strategic connections between education and businesses and organizations in our community help create effective partnerships that not only enhance educational experience but also help cultivate critical pool of talent that advances our industries and the economy at large.” Meaningful education and workforce development are pressing challenges facing our region and all of Virginia today. Developing and sustaining strategic education and business partnerships are a key part of the solution.

Eugene Brown, who serves as Zuzana’s Vice-Chair, has helped organize the structure and connection between the business community and the school divisions. Together with the Chamber staff he developed a landing page. This page is used as a vehicle connecting the school divisions, CTE staff, and business community. “Streamlining accessibility to each other was the goal”, he says. “It’s tough making the connections when each side doesn’t speak the jargon of the other.”

Help Us Create the Workforce of the Future: How You Can Get Involved

The Education & Innovation Committee is looking for businesses and organizations to join them in these initiatives. If you want to learn more visit pwchamber.org/cte. Or, contact the Prince William Chamber’s Director of Community Outreach, Suzanne Lewis, at [email protected] / 571.765.7753.

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