July 13, 2024

UMW Shares Virginia DOE Business & Industry Partnership Award

 The Stafford Workforce and Education Partnership (SWEP) was awarded the Career and Technical Education Creating Excellence Award for 2010-2011 by the Virginia Department of Education in recognition of the outstanding work of business and industry representatives for promoting career and technical education.

“Workplace development is an important component of economic development,” said Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Mark Dudenhefer. “Continuing education helps employers retain employees and stay competitive, and contributes to their success as well as Stafford’s long-term economic growth.”

While the county ranked number two in job growth and fourth in business growth in Virginia (by percentage of growth 2005-2010), Stafford County officials recognized they could facilitate better workforce training for County businesses. As a result, Stafford’s Department of Economic Development worked with Stafford schools, the University of Mary Washington, and Germanna Community College, to collaborate and form what would become the Stafford Workforce Education Partnership. This group then set out to identify education and workforce development gaps, and to develop a plan to fill those gaps.

To gain insight directly from businesses, The University of Mary Washington and the SWEP team conducted a series of focus group sessions with more than 30 key business and industry representatives from throughout Stafford to determine what their workforce development needs were. They also looked at the education and workforce development programs that were available in Stafford. The result of the focus group sessions revealed that “soft skills” such as work ethics, accountability, problem solving, adaptability, team work, communication skills and collaborative skills were the overwhelming need of all participating employers. Also included were “hard skills” such as software training, security clearance, information technology and engineering skills, and other technical skills. Furthermore, employers, regardless of industry group, were mostly unaware of the array of education and workforce development programs and services that were readily accessible through Stafford County Schools, Germanna Community College’s Stafford County Center, and the University of Mary Washington’s Stafford Campus.

“With an emphasis on 21st century skills and workplace readiness, our educational community is committed to providing opportunities for students at all levels beginning as early as elementary school and continuing throughout life,” said Dr. Randy Bridges, Superintendent of Stafford Schools.

The final SWEP Report was presented last summer to the Stafford Board of Supervisors by Rick Hurley, President of University of Mary Washington, Dr. David Sam, Germanna Community College, and the Dr. Andre Nougaret, Interim Superintendent for Stafford Schools. This process has created a more collaborative approach in the community toward workforce education and development. SWEP representatives continue to meet, and provided Stafford’s Economic Development with a list of education and workforce development programs and services as they evolve. These programs are posted on the department’s website and distributed through an informational publication sent to employers in the county. Several Activities such as Career Information Night for Stafford parents and their students, career mentoring, and planning of a joint Career and Technical Center are also taking place.

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.