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'Multiple pathways for Virginians': Youngkin signs workforce development bill in Lynchburg visit

View story at The News & Advance...“You are hired.”

Those three words, in Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s view, are the most important in the English language second only to “I love you,” he told a packed room at the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance on Wednesday. On the Republican governor’s stop in Lynchburg to sign Senate Bill 436, legislation that strengthens workforce development efforts in various ways, he said there is dignity in finding work.

The bill will create multiple pathways and careers for Virginians and benefit a new generation of future employees and business owners, he said.

He praised the work of the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance, which hosted the bill signing ceremony that drew well over 100 people to its headquarters downtown, including a range of local government and law enforcement officials and business leaders. Legislators representing the Lynchburg area in the Virginia General Assembly and state Sen. John Maguire, R-Goochland, who is vying for the Republican nomination to represent Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, also attended.

Youngkin said when business thrives the community and Virginians benefit and during his speech gave his vision for a business-friendly Virginia that in the past few years improved from the bottom third state in the nation in job growth to No. 7.

“In fact, so many small businesses were out of business,” Youngkin, in his third year in office, said. “And we locked arms together, Democrats and Republicans, local leaders, state leaders, House members, Senate members, and we collectively said we are going to be open for business … Today we have the most number of people working than ever in the history of the commonwealth.”

He said his administration is helping Virginia compete and win with a formula promoting a pro-business environment that reduces costs for businesses, lifts up talent supply, makes sure sites are ready for companies to build on and expand and streamlining government regulations. Those efforts include making more high schoolers ready for employment directly after graduation.

“That is what we mean by meeting students and Virginians where they are as opposed to having a one-size-fits-all kind of system,” Youngkin said.

He thanked former Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, who recently retired after a 26-year career in the legislature, for being a “true champion of workforce development.” Virginia is in a great place, he said, because the business climate is booming with 200,000 more working than two years ago and the state has received a record number of receipts, up 40% from five years ago.

That private sector expansion can support a $64 billion state budget without tax increases, a goal he set out for but couldn’t pull off with two chambers under Democratic majority.

“We can support record spending in K-12 education, $21.3 billion to be invested … underpinned by continuing to pay our teachers at the national average and beyond with 3% raises in each of the next two fiscal years,” Youngkin said.
With those raises, teachers will earn $3,500 more on average than the national average per year, he said.
“We certainly don’t need tax increases,” Youngkin said.

He said the Virginia Works plan is about developing talent, bringing together a broad array of workforce development programs and Senate Bill 436 is a big step in advancing that vision with data. The Workforce Data Trust will be used to build talent pipelines that feed the most in-demand jobs.

“This legislation requires that workforce development programs use high-demand job lists as a targeting function so that our efforts are most impactful,” Youngkin said.

The legislation also will allow for more youth-registered apprenticeships and help families make decisions earlier with a broader range of options.

“The bottom line is we want to start this journey earlier in our high schools and we want to make it more accessible to so many more Virginians,” Youngkin said, adding: “We are literally seeing job growth at record levels across the commonwealth.”

He said the legislation directs workforce programs to push high-demand jobs and described job opportunities in skilled trades as “truly unlimited” where many Virginians can choose industry-related credentials.

“The need is enormous, and the reason why is we have both employers with many, many unmet job opportunities, hundreds of thousands of them, and we have Virginians who are ready to take them because we have the most talented people in the nation,” Youngkin said while stating the need to connect them together.

Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, said the many great companies and colleges represented at Wednesday’s event are creating jobs.

“I’d like to think of Lynchburg as the champion of workforce development in the commonwealth of Virginia,” Peake said.

Del. Wendell Walker, R-Lynchburg, said Virginia’s workforce is churning along at the best speed it can under Youngkin’s leadership and the state is beating 42 others in job growth the past two years. Youngkin understands business and industry and what it takes to keep them working successfully, Walker said.

“This legislation will help advance the newly created Virginia Works agency that will help folks get to work here in the commonwealth,” Walker said.

Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, introduced the legislation and spoke of the role business plays in generating revenue to provide the most vital government services such as public safety and education. He said the bill received strong bipartisan support and addresses the need to make credentials for jobs more accessible for those young people who opt not to pursue two-year and four-year degrees in college. The state needs to prioritize those credentials so more young people can advance in professions and start their own businesses in some cases, which will benefit Virginia.

Walker said local legislators working with Youngkin are focused on streamlining and making the workforce development processes better and compete and win through the newly created Virginia Works agency.
“This is certainly the backbone to our region here,” Walker said of the business community.