Gov. Northam unveils Northern Virginia Tech Pathways Program as part of workforce development “listening tour”

Gov. Ralph Northam visited Chantilly High School on Tuesday to kick off the Northern Virginia Tech Pathways program with a host of area academic and business leaders. The program is designed to enlighten high-schoolers and middle-schoolers about the forecast explosion of technology-related jobs in the area and how they can prepare to be part of the tech economy.

The governor made the announcement during the area session of his eight-stop workforce development listening tour around the Commonwealth.

The conversation among business owners, residents and local elected officials focused on the needs of workers and employers in communities throughout Northern Virginia, particularly when it comes to filling all tech-related jobs – not to be confused with IT-specific jobs – designed for highly skilled workers across a variety of industries.

The discussions also centered on how to better prepare students for these jobs, and best strengthen Northern Virginia’s talent pipeline while addressing emerging employment challenges. Currently, 42,000 tech-related jobs are available in Northern Virginia.

“Virginia was recently named the best state to do business in America, and that recognition is the result of our ongoing and targeted investments to build a diverse and highly-skilled talent pipeline,” Northam said. “These conversations will help us better understand how we can address their needs as we work to develop policies and programs aimed at expanding economic opportunity for all Virginians.”

Northam also mentioned that he thinks a lot of the success will come from reaching out to our youth and their families and talking to them about the exciting careers that are available to them and then helping them on that pathway. “If we can keep that pipeline open from our youth to the workforce then business will be successful in Virginia,” he said.

Joining Northam at the event were Scott Braband, superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, Mel Schiavelli, interim president of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), and Kristie Grinnell, global chief information officer and vice president for supply chain at Fairfax County-based General Dynamics Information Technology.

FCEDA Commissioner Steven Partridge also participated in the kickoff. Partridge is vice president of strategic partnerships and workforce innovation at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), leading collaboration between the College and the community.

“The Tech Pathways Program is a new region wide initiative for Northern Virginia to really help kids and their parents navigate how to get into high-demand, high-skilled careers,” Partridge said. “A lot of people want to enter the tech industry, but they are not often sure what they need to do in high school or middle school to prepare for that, or even what courses or degrees are open to them in college. So this way it helps them navigate it so hopefully they get thought it faster and cheaper.”

Northam allocated $5 million in discretionary funds to help Virginia’s community colleges restructure high demand skills-based programs to increase flexibility and better emphasize skills development. The Office of the Chief Workforce Development Advisor has created an online portal to collect input from Virginians who wish to provide feedback or ideas.

As part of the kickoff, the governor issued a proclamation declaring September as workforce development month.