The surge in new businesses in Hampton Roads is a great indicator of economic growth in the region.
According to the 2017 State of the Workforce & Gap Analysis – a report presented by Opportunity Inc., the Peninsula Council for Workforce Development, ReInvent Hampton Roads, and the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance – Hampton Roads is home to more than 40,000 establishments that are expected to add more than 30,000 jobs within the next five years.
The development of new businesses moves the needle in the right direction and holds promise for more employment opportunities – shifting the focus of workforce development stakeholders to developing talent to meet the needs of the business community.
Established by the Hampton Roads Workforce Development Board, Opportunity Inc. represents more than 22,000 businesses and more than 1.2 million residents within the cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach; and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties. As the regional convener of workforce development, the organization is committed to working with business, education, and community partners to strategically and collaboratively facilitate meaningful employment and economic growth in Hampton Roads.
Through its Business Services team, Opportunity Inc. has played an integral role in supporting businesses in the region in their efforts to recruit, hire and retain an exceptional workforce.
“Our Business Services team is dedicated to assisting employers throughout the entire employee lifecycle and helping to enhance their overall business operations and profitability,” said Steve Cook, vice president of Opportunity Inc.’s Workforce Innovation.
New businesses, such as Amec Foster Wheeler, Lidl grocery stores, Waterside Live, Norfolk Premium Outlets, and existing businesses have leveraged services and programs provided through Opportunity Inc.’s One-Stop Workforce Center – to include job postings, hiring events, and on-site space for interviews.
Opportunity Inc. offers its services for free to employers and job seekers. Its services are funded through the U.S. Department of Labor, which absorbs all costs for job seekers and employers.
“Opportunity Inc. continues to make intentional efforts to develop strategic partnerships with business and industry, educational institutions and economic development organizations, said William Crow, president of the Virginia Ship Repair Association. “Through greater collaboration amongst all stakeholders, we’re inching toward a more holistic and sustainable approach to workforce development that will ultimately facilitate economic growth and vitality for the region.”
In addition to the onboarding of new employees, Opportunity Inc. provides training assistance for new hires and incumbent workers. In partnership with Tidewater Community College, the organization provides funds to small- and medium-sized businesses seeking to improve the skills of their employees through the Incumbent Worker Innovation Program.
This grant-based program helps employees with credential-based training – aligning their skill set with new and expanded job requirements. The program targets employers in high-demand industries, such as manufacturing, energy, information technology and cybersecurity.
Oceaneering International Inc., a full-service ship repair company, has supported U.S. government’s military vessels for more than 25 years. The company’s Marine Services Division, based in Chesapeake, used the grant to complete a course in Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerances.
“Workforce development initiatives like this help us skill our current workforce with job-related technical instruction that can have a positive impact on production and efficiency,” said Guy St. John, apprentice program manager for Oceaneering.
The persistent challenge to match talent with opportunities is one Opportunity Inc. is tackling head-on through industry-specific initiatives that integrate workforce and economic development strategies. Adopting this sector-based approach creates a stronger and deeper talent pool and improves employment outcomes.
Last year, Opportunity Inc. placed more than 50 percent of its job seekers in health care positions. In response to this growing health care industry cluster, for example, the organization hosted the Regional Healthcare Fair in partnership with the Peninsula Council for Workforce Development, Virginia Employment Commission, Job Assistance Center LLC. and Thomas Nelson Workforce Development.
The fair included more than 30 health care employers, including Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, Commonwealth Senior Living, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Southeastern Virginia Health System and the Veteran Affairs Medical Center.
“These events are important, not only for the job seekers, but also for the vendors to be able to interact with each other – see what others are offering,” said Danielle Calhoun, assistant director of compensation and employee relations at EVMS. “It’s possible they may know someone that we can take on and vice versa.”
While Opportunity Inc. continues to target services to the business community – on-the-job training, rapid response services and federal bonding are just a few – the organization’s efforts to strengthen the workforce are comprehensive and multifaceted, serving both employers and job seekers.
The One-Stop Workforce Center provides career services for traditional jobseekers as well as veterans transitioning into the workforce, including resume development, GED and literacy workshops and computer and interview skills development.
Through a partnership with the Hampton Roads Chamber and local employment and educational resource providers, Opportunity Inc. is working to expand services and programs for transitioning service members, military veterans and their families. The organization will facilitate the opening of a new veterans employment facility this fall.
“Hampton Roads is blessed with a large population of service members, veterans and their family members. I can tell you from personal experience what amazing employees they make once they transition from the military,” said Bryan Stephens, President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber. “Our partnership with Opportunity Inc. is enabling us to create a more collaborative, organized and efficient system to improve their access to good-paying jobs in Hampton Roads. It’s unquestionably the right thing to do for them; but from a Chamber perspective, it’s also good for business because businesses will unquestionably reap the rewards of outstanding employees.”
The organization has also placed a specific emphasis on supporting the emerging workforce. The Youth Career Center of Hampton Roads, on the Virginia Beach campus of Tidewater Community College, offers assistance with educational and employment opportunities to prepare the next generation for jobs of the future. Since 2010, the Youth Career Center has served more than 25,000 youth and young adults – ages 14 to 24.
“To ensure we are prepared for anticipated job growth within the region, we must work in tandem with employers and job seekers – providing solutions that help to attract and retain new businesses in Hampton Roads and develop the talent to meet their demands, said Shawn Avery, president and CEO of Opportunity Inc.
For more information on Opportunity Inc.’s services and programs, visit Opp-Inc.org.
Delceno C. Miles is president and CEO of the Miles Agency – a marketing and public relations firm in Virginia Beach. She is also chair for The Hampton Roads Workforce Development Board. Reach her at Delceno@themilesagency.com.