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Workforce Development Council Seeks New Ways to Serve Local Service-members

Every year, more than 14,000 military personnel exit the services in the Commonwealth of Virginia and nearly 60% of those highly trained and disciplined workers choose to establish residency in Hampton Roads. Seeing a need for innovative and collaborative ways to serve this growing population, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council sought new ways to connect veterans to new jobs through strategic workforce development programs and initiatives. 

Established by the Hampton Roads Workforce Development Board, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council (HRWC), formerly Opportunity Inc., oversees workforce development programs for eight localities in Hampton Roads, Virginia. HRWC provides strategic workforce development solutions designed to assist businesses in accessing qualified workers and jobseekers in search of suitable job openings and training opportunities to bolster their earning potential. 

Steve Cook, Vice President of Workforce Innovation at HRWC, sat down with the Alliance to share why having the resources to serve local service-members and help them transition into the civilian workforce is paramount for workforce development and ultimately, for business attraction.
 

Tell us a bit about your background in economic development and workforce development.
Steve Cook (SC): I’ve worked in economic development for over 20 years. I started with an internship with the City of Hampton’s Economic Development department during the spring of my senior year at Christopher Newport University. From there, I worked for Virginia Tech’s Economic Development Assistance Center while attending Virginia Tech for my Masters degree. My first full time job in economic development was working for York County’s Economic Development office, where I spent five years building their business retention program. I went on to work for the Peninsula Alliance for Economic Development before it merged with the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance. For the next 12 years, I worked for the Alliance marketing our region nationally and internationally. Because of my background in local and regional economic development, I was hired to be the VP of Workforce Innovation for the Hampton Roads Workforce Council in 2015 and have been here since. 

What is the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and what is their role in regional economic development?
SC: The Hampton Roads Workforce Council serves as the regional leader of workforce development, ensuring the strategic alignment of efforts that facilitate meaningful employment and economic growth in Hampton Roads. We serve the eight communities on the Southside, from Southampton to Virginia Beach. Our newest endeavor is a collaborative agreement with the Greater Peninsula Workforce Board where we will address business engagement, communication and outreach efforts, labor market intelligence, veteran transition support and services and emerging workforce services with one voice. A true regional collaborative of workforce services, offering one point of contact for these services for all of Hampton Roads.
 

What’s the relationship between the HRWC and the Alliance?
SC: We like to say that "Workforce Development is Economic Development" – We focus on the people side of the equation while the Alliance focuses on business attraction. Workforce development is typically the number one reason why a company chooses to locate to an area, so when the CEO and/or the human resource manager of that company is visiting the region, the Alliance and our team work together to present the different programs and services we offer to make that transition as stress-free as possible.

In your experience, what is the significance of the exiting military for the Hampton Roads region?
SC: Having a pool of talented men and women transitioning from the military in our region every year gives us an advantage that not many communities can brag about. Transitioning these service members, veterans, and their spouses bring a wealth of experience to the local civilian labor force. They have the ability to work in a team and bring unique insights and a strong work ethic to their jobs, which makes them highly attractive for employers in the region.  

What services does the Hampton Roads Workforce Council offer exiting military? What is the Veterans Career Compass and how was it formed?
SC: The HRWC, along with many partners, established the Hampton Roads Veterans Employment Center, based in Norfolk near Military Circle. The Center is designed to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military families identify, navigate, and access services and resources to attain their employment goals and support their successful transition to the civilian workforce in Hampton Roads. Many of our partners like Tidewater Community College, the USO (United Service Organizations, Inc.), Virginia Employment Center, and Old Dominion University provide staff support to assist with making the transition as seamless and easy as possible.

The Hampton Roads Veterans Career Compass (HRVCC) is an online resource dedicated to connecting veterans, transitioning service members and spouse/family members with Hampton Roads employers. The HRVCC has features that will enable military connected job seekers to identify and apply to jobs aligned with their military background and interests, while the employer has dedicated access to these job seekers all the while signaling their commitment to increase employment opportunities for this significant sector or our region.

The Hampton Roads Community Foundation invested $500,000 to create this online resource, which is overseen by the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and the Peninsula Council for Workforce Development. The two organizations have recently combined their boards into the Southeastern Virginia Workforce Regional Collaborative.

How does a military transcript get reconfigured into a working resume?
SC: After logging on to the Veteran Career Portal, the job seeker initiates the process of building their story. This includes the ability to upload your military transcript which then creates a working resume. The job seeker can customize this resume to meet the requirements outlined from the employer. If they prefer, they can meet one of our career coaches at the Veterans Employment Center for more assistance with their resume and other services offered at the Center.

How many military personnel has the Hampton Roads Workforce Council served?
SC: Since January 2019, we have served over 1,600 military personnel and their spouses.

For more information about how the Hampton Roads Workforce Council is serving the military population and others in Hampton Roads, please visit www.vcwhamptonroads.org or contact Steve Cook at scook@vcwhamptonroads.org.

 
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