Meet The Cities: Norfolk, Virginia Xprize Rapid Reskilling

Through the XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling competition, teams will collaborate with workforce boards and XPERT advisors to advance new training technologies that lead to jobs paying a living wage and offering opportunities for career growth. Over the past six weeks, we’ve introduced you to the people behind each of the six selected pilot workforce boards through XPRIZE’s Meet the Cities blog series. Meet our next city, Norfolk. 

Over the past year, like many other parts of the world, the US has suffered a historic number of job losses. However, there is hope: President Joe Biden’s relief fund and accompanying plan are in motion, and we’re told that they could restore full employment by 2022. Alongside this top-down support, job centers across America are doing the hard work they’ve always done to help millions of Americans not just into employment, but into jobs they want and love. 

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council is one such organization and oversees strategic workforce development initiatives designed to connect businesses with qualified workers. Every day, they help jobseekers learn about job openings and training opportunities, allowing people to meet their true potential. Established by the Hampton Roads Workforce Development Board, the organization administers workforce development programs for eight localities in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia and North Carolina, which includes Chesapeake, Franklin, Isle of Wight, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Southampton, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach. 

“NAWB is proud to recognize the inclusion of Hampton Roads Workforce Council in the Future of Work Grand Challenge. Partnering and community engagement are in the DNA of HRWC, and this continued recognition of that. From their work with Huntington-Ingalls, their engagement in the Greater Peninsula Region, the “757” campaign and the long list of strategic partnerships, HRWC is focused on their workforce and businesses being “ready” today and tomorrow.” – Ron Painter,  President and CEO, National Association of Workforce Boards

Currently, Hampton Roads Workforce Council is one of six organizations in six cities trialing the solutions for work placement and training created by the XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling competitors. Find out more about this exciting collaboration below. 

What’s the unique impact that you provide for workers, businesses, and your community at large? 

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council is the primary convener of workforce development in our region. We are uniquely positioned to bring together a vast array of resources to benefit our community. It is this blending of government and non-profit programmatic approaches combined with our deep relationships with industry that allows us to provide comprehensive solutions to our stakeholders. We measure the impact of our work through the outcomes generated by our person-centered, high-touch initiatives that guide participants through each step of their career development journey.

What is one of your favorite stories to tell about someone that your organization has significantly impacted?

We worked with a woman who entered our programming when she was homeless and transitioning out of human trafficking. Over the course of six months, we were able to guide her through short-term, industry-recognized, credential training; a paid internship; an on-the-job training opportunity; and finally into both full-time employment and enrollment in a local community college. She was then able to secure permanent housing and purchase a car.

What tech-forward innovations or programs is your organization adopting to deconstruct systemic barriers for millions of unemployed workers? 

We have been rapidly expanding our use of virtual learning technology to provide digital access to individuals across the region. We have also been exploring the integration of virtual and augmented reality technology in local training programs.

What are some emerging skill sets in the maritime industry? What new skills are maritime employers looking for?

Local companies are exploring the use of technology, including virtual and augmented reality for digital shipbuilding. Elsewhere, they are looking for traditional technical skills such as welding, machining, painting, blasting, and pipefitting, along with skills related to emerging technology such as automated welders and computer aided design (CAD) programs. As modernization of vessels increases, so do many of the electrical components. As such, necessary electrical knowledge has advanced beyond traditional cable to fiber optics, copper connections, and more rigorous standards are in place for individuals training to advance in the marine electrical field.

What inspires you about the solutions anticipated from XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling? 

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council prides itself on pushing the boundaries of what “can” be done to find new solutions to strengthen our economy. It is inspiring to be in the company of so many innovative and future-thinking solution seekers who share that “why not” philosophy. We are excited to see these groundbreaking training solutions come to life.

How is being part of XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling and the Future of Work Grand Challenge changing your strategies for engaging regional employers and community partners? 

Workforce development, when done well, is a high-touch and people-focused initiative. Historically, much of our work has been performed exclusively through in-person interactions. As we gear up to rapidly train 350 individuals in virtual spaces, we are also adapting how we connect our employers and partners with our candidates. We are working to create virtual community hubs where those high-touch, high-quality interactions can still take place. We are excited to work with the other partners in the project, such as Jobcase, to create these spaces.

Next up: How XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling tech is making a big impact in Norfolk, Virginia

Previous: Meet the Cities: Worcester, Massachusetts I XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling

Learn more about XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling at rapidreskilling.xprize.org.