Hampton Roads Workforce Council to receive support, funding to help connect more than 25,000 COVID-impacted workers

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – COVID-19 has put thousands of people out of work locally, but now a new program aims to change that. The Hampton Roads Workforce Council said they were selected to be part of a national initiative that will help our economy.

They say they were one of six agencies across the country to be selected for the Future of Work Grand Challenge.

They said it means they’ll receive tailored support and funding to help connect more than 25,000 COVID-impacted workers with new skills and employment opportunities.

“It’s about redeveloping the programs that we have in place to help job seekers who are seeking to get the skills that they need to be successful, so we’re excited to reinvent everything that we’re doing around this project to really add new flavors to the way that we help individuals,” said Shawn Avery, the CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council.

Avery said details about the program are being worked out and have not been defined yet, but he said they will focus on jobs related to maritime and manufacturing, like ship building, ship repair and employment at the Port of Virginia.

“We are going to identify some of the key skill sets that are needed in those areas, identify ways we could get those individuals those skills quickly, and then identify employers that are going to be able to pull these individuals on,” said Avery.

He says the COVID-19 pandemic presents new challenges, but also gives us the opportunity to re-imagine our existing programs and create new ones.

Work councils in two parts of Michigan; San Diego, California; Massachusetts; and Dallas, Texas, were also picked. The Hampton Roads Workforce Council is partnering with the nonprofit RISE, which will be providing up to $250,000 in funding to select small businesses that are part of this program.

“Once we identify these training opportunities, we as the workforce Hampton Roads Workforce Council will really help recruit businesses and recruit individuals for this training solution and hopefully make quick connections,” said Avery. “It really has us rethinking the way we do things.”

They said the Future of Work Grand Challenge was created through a groundbreaking collaboration between leading social impact organizations New Profit, JFF, XPRIZE, MIT Solve and Jobcase. They said the data gained from piloting new technology will help regional teams refine solutions in real time, create shorter feedback loops, and better align new approaches to employment services with workforce boards across the county.

Related: Newport News launches workforce assistance program in response to unemployment rates due to COVID-19

“Across the country, future-focused workforce boards are evolving their operations, strategies, and services to the changing world of work and the ever-shifting labor market brought on by COVID-19,” said Maria Flynn, president and CEO of JFF. “The Future of Work Grand Challenge is bringing together the best of emerging technology with the critical infrastructure of local workforce organizations to build a better career navigation and employment experience for workers in need of support.”