Workforce & Education

The pandemic has highlighted the critical role skilled employees play in the success of our economy. Moreover, states that develop a resilient and industry-focused talent pipeline do a better job of attracting employers and building a vibrant economy. Workforce development remains the highest priority for the business community in every region of the Commonwealth and for every industry. Access to a well-trained, qualified workforce is vital for businesses to grow and prosper. This starts with a strong educational foundation. It has become clear that states who are able to develop, attract and retain talented workers with the right skills are the ones that will have a competitive advantage when it comes to economic development and business growth.

To be responsive to the shifting needs of a global economy, Virginia needs to develop a well-trained, adaptive workforce. When employers struggle to find and hire talent, they are less productive, hurting not only their bottom line but the Commonwealth’s overall potential for economic growth.

The recommendations in this section aim not only to maintain Virginia’s strong position in education and workforce, but to plan for and improve upon the Commonwealth’s ability to supply the workforce needs of the future.

  • Encourage employer policies and strategies that support access to high-quality, affordable early learning and child care for families
  • Expand public-private partnerships, community provider delivery of preschool services, and childcare subsidies with broadened eligibility and improved allocation practices to increase affordable access to child care for families
  • Strengthen and stabilize the child care industry through special assistance, incentives, shared services strategies, and contract and enrollment-based financing
  • Bolster the workforce that supports early learning and child care by ensuring access to affordable, competency-building credentials, competitive compensation, and retention and development strategies
  • Support the Virginia Board of Education and its Early Childhood Advisory Committee in its expanded oversight and accountability role for early care and education out of the home
  • Build out the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP) longitudinally in grades first through third and provide a train-the-trainer model approach for teachers
  • Provide high-quality curriculum, professional development, and coaching models to improve teaching and learning in the classroom (early learning to third grade)

Systemwide Coordination

  • Engage Virginia’s employer community for workforce and education efforts through a coordinated strategy to limit duplications in efforts among educational institutions and instead foster sharing of resources and curriculum
  • Coordinate development of talent pathways and other talent recruitment and development programs through a unified public-private partnership entity with a statewide vision for building Virginia’s talent supply in alignment with the current and future needs of employers and specific to regionally oriented industry clusters
  • Identify the most important industry clusters in each region and conduct a skills gap analysis to determine what training resources are needed to support their growth
  • Establish and improve integrated IT, data, and information management systems to inform financing and policymaking decisions, clarify needs/gaps, and promote accountability
  • Benchmark performance metrics to track progress in addressing policy goals

K-12 Education

  • Support improvements to the Standards of Quality that provide high-quality learning, reflect the changing makeup of our schools, and prepare students for post-secondary education and the workforce
  • Support updating the Local Composite Index formula and provide the appropriate funding needed with appropriate hold harmless safeguards
  • Pair improved funding with evaluative criteria that measure outcomes over time for improved accountability
  • Support and expand Dual Language Immersion and the Seal of Biliteracy as seminal pathways toward industry credentialing
    • Emphasize language instruction in earlier grades where children more easily learn other languages
  • Partner with and create internships with multinational companies emphasizing language and technical skills
  • Explore innovative models to fund the repair or replacement of aging school buildings, including the use of the historic tax credit or private investment
  • Support and fund achievement of rigorous academic standards, growth measures, and other outcome measures to determine student achievement (e.g. dropouts, student growth, closing the achievement gap and absenteeism) and hold schools and divisions accountable for results over time
  • Support early state intervention, improvement strategies, resources, and parent and family engagement to assist struggling schools and ensure improved quality for all students
  • Work with school divisions, the board of education, higher education institutions, the community college system, and state policymakers to recruit and retain a robust and diverse teacher workforce in order to address the critical teacher shortage crisis in Virginia through solutions such as flexible staffing, recruitment of retired and part-time teachers, affordable professional pathways, mentorship programs, tuition assistance, financial assistance for adding credentials such as dual enrollment, teacher residencies, and achieving and exceeding the national average teacher salary 
  • Continue to streamline the Standards of Learning process to reduce the number of tests and more meaningfully track student achievement
  • Encourage the further development of regional approaches to delivering educational services, both academic and operational, including exploring the use of financial incentives to enhance collaboration
  • Support alternative and innovative models of education delivery with an appropriate incentive model and resources to help localities use them, especially through partnerships with the community college system
  • Expand the use of effective virtual learning strategies as a way to offer improved access to specialized curriculum and flexible instruction options to all students, regardless of geography or school division
  • Encourage additional work-based learning opportunities for students that help students explore potential careers and connect classroom instruction to experiential learning
  • Develop career and technical education pathways that integrate high school and post-secondary training and lead to in-demand essential (middle) skills jobs in Virginia
  • Support community-based efforts like the Opportunity Scholars Program that seeks to better prepare all students for life after high school through community engagement, career counseling for different pathways, and financial supports such as income sharing agreements

Post-Secondary Education

  • Provide every young Virginian access to an affordable talent pathway degree or credential program that includes a paid, for-credit internship or other work-based learning experience with a Virginia employer and that leads to full-time Virginia-based employment after graduation
  • Provide all Virginians affordable and equitable access to a quality higher education and a strong return on investment through strategic increases in student financial assistance and state operating support for higher education 
  • Support opportunities for students to leverage and earn early college credit, including improvements to Virginia’s dual-enrollment system
  • Improve the transfer process for community college students to four-year higher education institutions 
  • Expand work-based learning opportunities for Virginia students, employers, and educational institutions through the initiatives of the Virginia Talent and Opportunity Partnership (Virginia TOP)
  • Support the higher education initiatives from the Growth4VA campaign which seeks to improve Virginia’s talent supply, the affordability of higher education, the innovation ecosystem, and educational opportunity for all Virginians
  • Coordinate with educational institutions on strategic initiatives to improve access and outcomes such as Virginia Community College System’s Opportunity 2027 plan and SCHEV’s Pathways to Opportunity plan

  • Promote talent pathways for Virginia’s current and future workforce that include educator-employer collaboration, curriculum alignment with workforce needs, and internships and other work-based learning experiences, and opportunities for full-time Virginia-based employment after graduation
  • Support the joint efforts of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) and the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV) and the new Virginia Office of Education Economics to better connect the skills and curriculum of education with the current and future needs of employers, and provide jobseekers with an understanding of the skills needed for in-demand careers
  • Expand opportunities for the business community to engage in validating Virginia’s demand analyses for its education and workforce training programs
  • Grow state and regional partnerships such as the GO Virginia Talent Pathways Initiative which utilizes partnerships among early childhood education, K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and business to align resources and identify existing and future supply and demand for skills and jobs

  • Close the readiness gap by ensuring equitable access to early childhood education for children birth to age five
  • Close the digital education divide through expanded access to broadband which is a necessity for learning in today’s world
  • Expand access to “Earn & Learn” and credentialing programs that require a high school degree but less than a four-year or even two-year degree
  • Ensure work-based learning opportunities like internships and apprenticeships promote diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Make post-secondary educational opportunities accessible and affordable for all Virginians, including low-income, first-generation, and other underrepresented college students
  • Promote the “soft skills” that build a strong foundation of translatable skills, such as those that are found in the Profile of a Virginia Graduate, regardless of occupation
  • Provide additional funding to Virginia’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and collaborate on efforts to close the educational, economic, and entrepreneurial gaps in Virginia
  • Invest in higher education institutions that enhance access for underrepresented populations and enroll large percentages of low-income students
  • Support training programs that prepare individuals with disabilities for the workforce 
  • Improve job training and educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals such as “ready to work” initiatives that provide incarcerated individuals with critical job skills training prior to release
  • Support efforts and programs to recruit more minority teachers and a more diverse teacher workforce generally


  • Attract, retain, and expand high-need credentials and degrees that are linked to the needs of businesses and are crucial to the economy with an emphasis on STEM and other in-demand fields (ex: growth in digital engineering)
    • Ensure that these efforts are regionally aligned through GO Virginia efforts and geared towards current and future industry needs
  • Build on the New Virginia Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program to expand production of high-demand credentials including market-driven approaches, the integration of stackable non-credit FastForward credentials into degree programs, the On-Line Virginia Network, and other enhancements as appropriate
  • Support programs that increase employability, skills development, and educational attainment for adults including veterans, displaced workers, individuals with disabilities, incarcerated or previously incarcerated individuals, limited English proficient communities where English is not the primary language, and other unique populations
  • Continue to make reform-based investments to keep Virginia on track to become the best-educated state in the nation through its degree and credential goals, and recognize that some form of post-secondary education is required to fully participate in the economy
  • Enable workforce solutions for Virginia’s small and medium-sized businesses that leverage the non-proprietary elements of training programs 
  • Support efforts to provide incentives for public and private colleges to enroll more Pell-eligible students and consider need-based financial aid strategies to supplement


  • Support Virginia’s world-class, turnkey, customized workforce recruitment and training incentive program known as the Virginia Talent Accelerator
  • Fully fund the Virginia Jobs Investment Partnership (VJIP)
  • Build significant and meaningful partnerships among the business community, K-12 schools, and higher education to support the implementation of Virginia’s high school redesign efforts (profile of a high school graduate, new high school graduation requirements, the five C’s, and opportunities for students to participate in work-based learning experiences)
  • Collaborate with the business community to develop and validate curriculum and explore opportunities for work-based learning experiences
  • Scale-up best practices, such as the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s talent pipeline management model and the K2M Innovation Challenge
  • Make work-based learning opportunities, internships, and apprenticeships available to every Virginia student through initiatives such as:
    • Virginia Talent and Opportunity Partnership (Virginia TOP)
    • Growth4VA’s talent pathways and internship initiatives
    • LEAD4IT and other federal grant programs that encourage work-based learning
  • Ensure that students and teachers throughout the Commonwealth have access and exposure to the technologies needed to flourish 
  • Support programs that encourage mentorship and career exploration opportunities for all young people in STEM-related fields, particularly for underrepresented populations in those fields such as women and minorities
  • Expand and enhance career and skills development throughout a student’s educational experience using models that integrate career exploration into counseling, academic advising, and curriculum and develop tools and resources that support the easy exploration of careers


  • Encourage the development of skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration, and citizenship (the five C’s)
  • Support models that identify and measure quality in higher education, including civic engagement and job preparedness
  • Expand entrepreneurship and financial literacy education beginning in elementary school


  • Promote Virginia as a top state to live and work to attract and retain talented workers and their families through a talent attraction campaign
    • Market and highlight Virginia’s strengths in quality of life, education system, and economic opportunities
    • Explore incentives for talent pathways and other innovative strategies to attract and retain additional talented workers
  • Utilize state collaboration and regional partnerships such as GO Virginia regions to target and fund talent attraction and retention efforts
  • Identify and solve for challenges to talent attraction and retention such as high cost of living, transportation, broadband access, affordable housing, and other factors