Over the last couple of years, industry, economic, and education entities have worked collaboratively — focusing efforts on ensuring a highly trained workforce, improving the talent pipeline, and tackling the skilled trade shortage. However, confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council has placed increased emphasis on solutions for the business community — the heartbeat of a strong local economy.
The Workforce Council represents more than 22,000 businesses in the cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach; and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties. In partnership with workforce development stakeholders across the 757, including the Greater Peninsula Workforce Board, the Workforce Council creates strong working relationships with local industries to meet the needs of the business community, while also helping job seekers find employment with companies that offer growth and upward mobility.
Here are three key services employers should consider leveraging amid this public health crisis and rapidly changing global economic landscape.
An overwhelming number of businesses have been severely impacted by COVID-19. Many have been forced to close completely following mandates from elected officials, while others are required to operate with reduced hours and staff. As such, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and the Greater Peninsula Workforce Board have been working to provide guidance, resources, and funding to help businesses through this time of uncertainty.
Following the governor’s authorization of Rapid Response funding through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Hampton Roads received about $289,000 in emergency funds to support eligible employers. In the interest of wide-scale regional participation and equitable coverage, the two workforce development boards administered funding of $2,000 each to about 145 eligible businesses located within the 15 city and county jurisdictions on the Southside and Peninsula.
In the coming weeks, the council will continue to work with the governor’s office to uncover additional opportunities for the business community.
RECRUITMENT AND PLACEMENT
While several industries — such as the retail, restaurant, and hospitality sectors — face considerable challenges that will continue into the unforeseeable future, many industries show promise for job seekers. For example, there is an increased demand for workers at grocery stores, such as Kroger and Food Lion, or warehouse and logistics companies like Target and Dollar Tree, that are actively hiring during this time.
Every day, the Workforce Council works to connect businesses with job seekers in the region, and recruitment and placement services are especially critical during this time. A list of employers with job vacancies can be found on the organization’s website — many of which were recently added in the wake of this crisis. Businesses are encouraged to use these services and share new and emerging employment needs, which may continue to evolve.
Through services provided by the Workforce Council, employers with job openings can substantially lower their training cost for newly hired employees by taking advantage of On-the-Job Training wage subsidies. These wage subsidies can be used in a number of regional industry clusters and can support up to 50% of a new worker’s wages for up to six months depending on the training requirements.
In addition to streamlining training costs, these subsidies allow employees to earn wages while they learn new skills. Further, employers benefit from training employees “their way” to assure maximum performance.
Many employers find themselves in a position where they are unable to hire, but need additional workers. Perhaps they should consider adapting their existing business models to the current economic climate — training their incumbent workforce to increase productivity. The costs to promote from within are far less substantial than onboarding new hires.
Within just a few short weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic completely disrupted our solid job market and strong regional economy. Such a dramatic shift will undoubtedly reshape how we live and approach business, but we will recover.
In the meantime, employers will need to think about ways to reinvent their services and implement a business continuity plan — identifying resources available through organizations like the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and chambers of commerce that are committed to ensuring the economic vibrancy of our region.