Augusta Free Press

Kirk Cox: Our number one priority is jobs

Growing Virginia’s economy and creating jobs have always been House Republicans’ number one priority. This emphasis yielded results as 177,300 new jobs were created over the last four years and Forbes ranked Virginia the number one state for doing business. Only 9.6% of the new jobs are government jobs, and Virginia’s 5.4% unemployment rate is 3rd lowest east of the Mississippi, lowest in the Southeast, and1.8% lower than the average for our region.

As an educated workforce is the key to a competitive workforce, my goal as the Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman has always been to foster an environment where students can get the best education possible that fits their individual life goals. While some students will attend Virginia’s world class public universities, there are other students who would benefit from a workforce development program that provides technical training for jobs in high paying manufacturing fields.

To support and expand opportunities in these technical training programs, I have proposed a budget amendment that creates an Advanced Manufacturing Apprentice Academy designed to strengthen our workforce vocational training opportunities. The Academy will train students in advanced technology areas that are in high demand fields such as advanced manufacturing, data analytics, bioscience, and information technology.

The Academy will be anchored at the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), located in Prince George County. In addition, four Regional Centers of Excellence, located in Southside and Southwest Virginia, making use of distance learning and mobile labs each will have the capacity to train 70-75 students annually. My amendment will also create an Advanced Manufacturing Advisory Council (AMAC), with a mission to provide the General Assembly advanced manufacturing advice and evaluation support for workforce development program requests from higher education institutions. The goal is to ensure workforce programs are accomplishing their goals and producing positive results. AMAC will be tasked with providing recommendations on how to best use the special knowledge and skills of veterans and to expedite them through the credentialing process.

We know that a highly talented and educated workforce is the lynchpin for maintaining, evaluating and enhancing Virginia’s economic competitiveness. This $25 million budget amendment will help strengthen Virginia’s approach to workforce development and elevate Virginia’s workforce system to national recognition. This week I discussed our approach with Gary Thomson, newly named Chairman of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce is supportive of our efforts and believes it is a long term solution to providing for Virginia’s workforce needs.

Kirk Cox is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.



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