Workforce Investment Act LO23935

From: Tom Christoffel (
Date: 02/10/00

Dear LO list readers:

I'm director of a regional Planning District Commission in Virginia. In
other parts of the county they are Councils of Government, Development
Districts, etc. You can get some orientation though the website in my
signature block. The Northern Shenandoah Valley had been primarily
agricultural - though marginal - since reconstruction. Being 60+ miles
west of Washington, D.C., the Interstates and wealth of the 1960's spawned
second homes and growth. We have become an increasing piece of the
Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia housing market, though still fringe.
People commute 60 to 90 miles one way for jobs. Our employment base is
manufacturing and distribution, now growing because of the excellent
mid-atlantic location. The metro area growth has driven up the cost of
land and housing, but the local job base does not pay enough for new
workers to get into the housing market, so they buy further west - West
Virginia - or already live there. As a region, we import labor from the
west and export to the east. Like most southern states, particularly rural
areas, investment in education was low and remains so, relative to
suburban areas.

The local governments, in seeking to broaden their economic base, have
learned from the existing industry and businesses of all sizes that they
need a better workforce. To upgrade the skills of those already in the
workforce, many with low literacy as a result of historical educational
investment, and the job readiness of new high school graduates. Though the
Regional Partnership program, the region's strategic plan set workforce
development as its primary strategy. The Lord Fairfax Community College -
which had been working with employers for years, found interest in the
Work Keys program. Through Partnership Funds, they've been able to invest
in the staffing for it and are working to leverage with corporate training
budgets of the companies with plants in our region.

We interviewed candidates the other day for the position and have, I
think, a promising person who is currently a Quality Technician. He's
completing his MBA and wants to get off the floor. In the interview he
said he was the beneficiary of his employer's great training program. He
said, "80% of the training in the U.S. is done by 20% of the companies."

It seems that most of the readers of this list are in that market. These
are the markets for learning organizations and knowledge based companies.
The gap in a region like ours - or any area really, is that small, single
site firms - 500 to 300 to 100 to way under 50 have no corporate training.

My vision has been that the region become the corporate training
department through the cordination of Community College, job skill
training programs, private providers, corporate training departments,
public schools - etc. The Workforce Investment Act which provides Federal
funds for Job Training is intended to focus the now more limited Private
Indusry Council programs on a local basis, though for training resources,
a region is more reasonable.

Virginia is using WIA as a base and focus for all training resources. It
is encouraging a regional approach through out the state. The region for
which I work is seeking to have a common board for the Workforce
Investment Act and the Regional Parnership - which is also co-terminus
with the Planning District. The alignment of resources has the makings of
our becoming a "learning region." As long as the workforce quality in our
region is on an upward curve, its people will be able to handle shifts in
the industrial base and, ideally, create their own. This is the vision and
the strategy. It will only take about 20 years.

So - the Northern Shenandoah Valley is bootstrapping to grow its 90+% of
median Adjusted Gross Income when our Northern Virginia neighbors are 150%
of the State median and there are new IPO millionaires every day. The
difference between the regions? Higher rates of long term public
investment in education and infrastructure by people who were themselves
the product of such investment in other areas of the U.S.


Tom Christoffel
Tom Christoffel, AICP * e-mail:
Futurist, Facilitator & Regional Planner - My mission: "Value Regions
because Regions Work!" Why?
The economy is global; production is local; all markets in-between are
regional. Check my region's website:
Regional alignment of public data sets enables creativity and supports
*TJCdesigns * Box 1444 * Front Royal, Virginia (VA) 22630-1444 * Ph:


Tom Christoffel <>

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