Northern Virginia Community College’s Workforce Development recently hosted a lively presentation and discussion with representatives from various organizations in Australia that focus on technical training and apprenticeships.
NOVA President Scott Ralls also attended the meeting along with Jobs for the Future Senior Program Manager Nneka Thompson and the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS) Executive Director Montez King.
The purpose of the meeting was to share ideas on how to improve and promote apprenticeships and ways to encourage parents and K-12 students to consider careers such as welding, information technology, cybersecurity and healthcare. In these industries, there is a great need to fill positions with skilled and certified professionals.
NOVA Labor Market Analyst Alex Cooley highlighted some pros and cons of the Northern Virginia labor market – stating that there is a huge focus on IT, cybersecurity and healthcare. There are more than 1.2 million jobs in the region with some of the largest occupation groups being in computers, business, retail and food and beverage. Cooley also said the region faces some challenges with retaining skilled professionals for various reasons including the increasing cost of living.
The College is always interested in creating partnerships that will create a pipeline of skilled and prepared students to go into the workforce. Ralls emphasized that the majority of students who attend NOVA are looking to transfer to four-year universities or go directly into their chosen field. With that in mind, NOVA provides what those students need to excel in their next steps.
“NOVA’s mission is to help promote socioeconomic mobility. We want to help people who come to us to get someplace else,” Ralls said. “In a way, NOVA is a pathways college. Students come through NOVA to get to a four-year university or to a workplace. We embrace that role and that mission of creating pathways in order to increase socioeconomic mobility for our students.”
During the discussion, the group shared some achievements and challenges they’ve faced while trying to start apprenticeships, create partnerships with companies and promote the opportunities to potential students.
Australian representatives from Apprenticeship Employment Network, Westvic Staffing Solutions, Gforce Employment Solutions and AGA Apprenticeships Plus also shared some challenges they face with changing the culture in Australia where – like in the States – testing and ranks in grade school are what drive the education system.
NOVA Vice President of Workforce Development Steve Partridge led a brief discussion about a new partnership with Amazon Web Service where eligible NOVA students have the opportunity to be an apprentice with the company for the cloud computing or cloud support divisions. Partridge highlighted the need to go back to the basics when it comes to preparing students for careers and discussed with the group what higher education can do to create those apprenticeships and opportunities.
“What we try to look at in this region is what industries would benefit from apprenticeships,” Partridge said. “There’s been a big push under the Obama administration saying we need to go back to the basics because we have a workforce that’s aging and retiring. It’s great that we want to push everyone to college, but when half leave after their first year, we have to consider what their occupation opportunities are after that. So with apprenticeship opportunities, it’s a matter of finding them, creating them and cultivating them.”
Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.