Praising Danville’s ‘world-class workforce,’ governor announces Work Ready Community designation

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that Danville has been named a certified Work Ready Community — a nationally recognized designation by the state government and the American College Testing.

In short, that means the city will attract new businesses and jobs because the city’s high school students have job-ready skills.

“We’re here today to talk about Danville’s world-class workforce,” Northam said during a gathering at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.

Danville is the fifth Virginia community to receive the designation. Pittsylvania County was named a Work Ready Community in June 2016 by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Henry and Halifax County, as well as the city of Martinsville have also earned this designation. Patrick County is 92 percent of the way to being named another one.

“Danville’s recognition as a certified work ready community serves as evidence that we have continued to make investments that result in our community becoming more competitive and closing the skills gap that paralyzed the economy in this region for many years,” Danville Public Schools Superintendent Stanley Jones said.

The Dan River Region Collaborative was chosen to pilot the program in Virginia in 2012. It is the first regional-state hybrid in the country to be selected by the Iowa City, Iowa-based ACT — a nonprofit career and college readiness group — to participate in the program, which combines employer and school system collaboration to create a community that matches people to jobs based on their skills, not just their education.

“We have people that need jobs and jobs that need people,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healey.

More than 5,000 residents of Southern Virginia hold career readiness certificates — nearly 30 percent of total certificates awarded in Virginia thus far. This certification is intended to help show employers proof of a person’s skills and improve opportunities for career changes and advancement.

“I’m delighted that Danville has reached this goal as a certified Work Ready Community,” Danville Economic Development Director Telly Tucker said. “Increasingly, businesses and industry are emphasizing the importance of a highly skilled workforce.”

The designation means that Danville will get its name into Site Selection magazine, an industry journal that highlights top communities for business.

Southern Virginia Regional Alliance Economic Development Director Linda Green said that Site Selection magazine is an important criterion for many companies looking to build or expand, and that this certification gives Southern Virginia a running start.

“They use workforce as the No. 1 thing that industries benchmark when they’re moving into a region,” Green said. “When they’re looking at that workforce credential, this one certification scores one third of the scoring as to whether or not it’s a good area to move into.”

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