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New Workforce Center Offers One Stop Shopping for Jobs, Skills

Governor Tim Kaine and other dignitaries cut the ribbon.
Governor Tim Kaine and other dignitaries cut the ribbon.

Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, and the recent economic slowdown in Virginia is one reason, said Governor Tim Kaine, that many agencies are looking to work smarter and more closely together.  That was one major goal of the new Roanoke Valley Workforce Center, where Kaine helped cut the ribbon on Monday morning at Crossroads Mall.

A Goody’s department store formerly occupied the site, which now is home to a handful of agencies, all under one roof: the Virginia Employment Commission, Virginia Western Community College, Goodwill Industries, the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services and Total Action Against Poverty.

The outgoing Democratic Governor was pleased to see that everyone at the center wore the same badge, labeled Roanoke Valley Workforce Center, instead of each individual agency.  One-stop centers and reducing the bureaucracy needed to help people find jobs or training was one of his goals [when taking office],” said Kaine. “The Roanoke site,” added the governor during brief remarks, “is the most comprehensive yet opened in the Commonwealth.”

The VEC’s workforce center had been located at Valley View Mall before the ribbon cutting on Monday, but the employment commission is now part of a larger entity, working in tandem with other agencies to offer job counseling, employment searches, skills training, assessments and even something called “layoff aversion strategy development.”

Kaine took a brief tour of the building before the ribbon cutting ceremony began, urging Workforce Center employees to “keep up the good work,” as he toured the narrow hallways and stopped by offices, some already occupied at 9:30 a.m. by those looking for work. “It’s good to see this,” said the governor, “it’s important work that you do [in] tough times for people.”

Western Virginia Workforce Development board chair Carroll Gentry spoke about the “many hours that have gone into planning this, [the] first truly comprehensive center in the state.”

U.S. Department of Labor representative, Jeffrey Gabriel, said Kaine had shown “an ability to understand workforce issues,” during his tenure in Richmond. As for the changes needed to put several agencies under one roof at 1351 Hershberger Road, Gabriel added that, “we understand the hard decisions and the compromises.”  To the rest of the state he noted, “[we] will be looking at you,” as they build their own one-stop workforce development centers.

“Sometimes it takes a conglomeration of programs,” said Western Virginia Workforce Development board member, Doloris Vest, about what an unemployed, low-skilled worker might need to raise their stock.

The economy was “going great,” when he was elected four years ago, but Kaine said he knew changes would be needed in the way Virginia approached work force development.  “What we needed to do at the state level was simplify.” One change: community college systems like Virginia Western now spearhead skills training. “You’re the role model,” said Kaine before he helped open the Roanoke Center. “Talent is the most precious commodity in the world.”

By Gene Marrano
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