New Google feature aims to simplify Hampton Roads job searches

A new Google pilot program could help Hampton Roads job seekers find high-paying jobs and training options, but one workforce expert says there’s still more companies can do to connect people to local resources.

The enormous tech company recently announced it would be piloting a new Google Search feature called Pathways in Hampton Roads and Richmond. The new tool is designed to help those looking for employment quickly find information about in-demand jobs and local training programs.

“Based on the first glance of it, it seems like a great opportunity to continue to highlight the careers and the educational programs that are in our area,” said Shawn Avery, president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council.

To use the tool, job seekers can start by inputting search terms like “jobs near me” or “job training” into Google. A search by Inside Business led to an option to “explore low-cost training programs for in-demand jobs near Norfolk.” Links to careers like metalworking, physical therapy and medical technician appear, along with typical local salaries and costs of training programs.

Clicking on, for example, a machining job, leads to a list of programs at locations like The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding and jobs with the Department of Defense or the Naval Air Systems Command.

Gov. Ralph Northam said in a news release that knowledge is the key to opportunity in the modern economy.

“As a result of this unique public-private partnership, Virginians will be able to explore in-demand career fields, evaluate local training programs and chart the course to a better life for their family,” Northam said.

Avery agreed with Northam and added that knowledge is one of the biggest obstacles preventing job seekers from accessing in-demand, high-paying jobs.

“Having that ability right at your fingertips is a great resource,” Avery said.

The tool includes information for both entry-level positions and opportunities for advancement into higher-paying jobs. The tool searches for training programs that require less than a bachelor’s degree, like a two-year associate degree or a certificate program.

Avery said national tech companies can help job seekers even more by connecting them to local workforce resources and making sure they have the right employment data.

“It’s got to stay timely,” Avery said. “You’ve got to make sure it’s up to date. You’ve got to make sure you’re keeping a pulse on what the business community needs are.”

Hampton Roads industries like advanced manufacturing, health care, warehousing and transportation are having trouble finding enough talent to fill positions, according to a workforce study completed earlier this year by the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and other partners. The study also found the public lacked awareness of numerous career education and training providers.

Virginia is the first state to have access to the Pathways tool. Google plans to roll out the program in more states by the end of the year, according to a news release. The program’s partners include the state government, the Virginia Community College System and regional workforce development agencies.

Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345,