Virginia Manufacturers Team Up With Colleges to Attract Young Workers

Working with community colleges across the state, the Virginia Manufacturers Association hopes to use expanded training programs to bring younger workers into the field as older ones start to retire.

Like the construction industry, the manufacturing industry is engaged in efforts to bring younger workers with the right skill sets into the fold, and the Virginia Manufacturers Association hopes to build on them.

Last month, VMA announced a partnership with nine community colleges in the state that will become authorized assessment centers for the association’s workforce development program, the Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI). In a news release, the association said the plan will offer students necessary technical skills in areas such as math, manufacturing technology, and business, with an initial focus on expanding the Manufacturing Technician 1 certificate program to direct students to a part of the industry where demand is high.

“We knew in 2007 that manufacturers would have a skills gap of approximately 11,000 people a year. We also knew that the largest need was in the manufacturing technician occupation and 96 percent of manufacturers wanted people with these applied and measurable skills,” VMA President and CEO Brett Vassey said. “Although the economic challenges of the last few years slowed demand, it is back, and we need to move quickly, and this partnership between MSI and Virginia’s community colleges will help close the skills gaps for manufacturers.”

Speaking to the Richmond Times-Dispatch last month, Vassey noted that the labor force is in the middle of a major demographic shift and that he expects 35,000 people to retire from the industry in the near future.

“We are going to need the capacity statewide in a very short time to be able to replace and train a large number of people for production-manufacturing-related occupations,” he said.

The following schools are taking part:

  • Blue Ridge Community College
  • The Community College Workforce Alliance (which includes John Tyler Community College and J. Sargent Reynolds Community College)
  • Mountain Empire Community College
  • Southside Virginia Community College
  • Tidewater Community College
  • Thomas Nelson Community College
  • Virginia Highlands Community College
  • Virginia Western Community College


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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