Cash to Southside, Good Story for Follow-up

Governor Warner has announced a grant of $1,098,500.00 to a Southside community hit hard by lay-offs. A plant closing in Charlotte County put 450 workers on the street and there have been scattered lay-offs in other nearby jurisdictions (Prince Edward and Nottoway Counties). The money comes from Virginia Employment Commission funds to serve displaced workers.

According to the Governor’s press release:

Over the next two years, the South Central WIB [Workforce Investment Board] will use the grant to assist workers through the existing system of One-Stop offices in the region. These services will include vocational assessment, case management, placement, follow-up, and, if appropriate, skills upgrading and vocational training. Other services may be offered as well if the need arises.

Local employers will offer training for a variety of occupations in demand. Emphasis will be placed on on-the-job training, as opposed to traditional training, as surveys of the affected workers reflect a concentrated interest in becoming re-employed.

This grant is a great opportunity for a working Virginia reporter to do a long-range story on how workforce training funds, considered so important to economic development, are spent and just what the spending produces. Some have wondered if workforce training funds do more for workforce trainers than workers; this would be a chance to find out.

The General Assembly considered, and dropped, ideas to merge workforce training programs. This might serve as a case study on whether the current system works.

Getting long term plant workers who have been laid off into new jobs is a daunting challenge, especially in a rural area with limited employers like Charlotte County. Still, this grant is pretty substantial and someone should start following the money now, instead of two years from now when it, and a lot of records, are long gone.

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  1. Laszlo Avatar

    Would you prefer nothing to be done to help Southside Virginia. At least Governor Warner is trying to help. You should try living in Southside and be out looking for a job. Don’t worry about the follow-up, worry about helping unemployed families survive.

  2. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Would you prefer we just throw money at a problem and congratulate ourselves on having “worried” about Southside?

    I’m glad the money is going to Southside, but it’s going to an existing infrastructure of service providers that, frankly, may not be up to the job if we are to believe the impetus behind some legislation. We can’t change the infrastructure now, but we can watch to see how it performs so we have a better idea about whether we need to change the infrastructure in the future.

    My post implies no criticism of Gov. Warner; he doesn’t have day-to-day control of the WIB. And, just for your information, I recently spent a day in Southside at a resource fair for these same job-seekers. I listened to their stories and I understand their plight. I work with some of them every day in the course of my job. I want them to get help and I’d prefer that it be effective.

    What are you doing to help?

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Yeah I don’t think Will was poo-pooing the idea of sending money down there. He was just asking whether the money was having its intended effect.

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    There is a systemic problem in Virginia’s workforce training programs, indeed, in workforce training programs across the U.S. From everything I hear, the Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) created to rationalize the balkanized jumble of government training programs do not appear to be working very well. Virginia’s workforce development “czar” (or, more accurately, “czarina”, has not accomplished much, from what I hear.

    The REALLY big story is how poorly Virginia is spending HUNDREDS of millions of dollars in training programs. Some of the problems are structural — multiple funding sources, government mandates, buraucratic intransigence, etc. Some of the problems, I suspect, may reflect a lack of attention from the highest levels of the Warner administration. An enterprising reporter might ask: Is the administration all talk and no action when it comes to knocking heads and rationalizing the system? Finally, I have heard that there may be issues related to personality clashes.

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