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Workforce Development Through SkillSource – Deb Stopak

(Nov 22, 2017) Catherine Read talks with Deb Stopak, Director of Advancement for SkillSource. Established in 2003, SkillSource is the non-profit fiscal agent for the Northern Virginia Workforce Development Board (NVWDB.) There are 15 Workforce Development areas in Virginia, and SkillSource serves Area 11 which covers Fairfax County, Prince William County, Loudoun County and the cities of Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park. There are currently six SkillSource One-Stop Employment Centers in Annandale, Alexandria, Reston, Leesburg, Woodbridge and on the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

SkillSource provides services to both employers and job seekers completely free of charge. They have worked with tens of thousands of employers since opening their doors, providing services to more than a million job seekers. In FY 2017, SkillSource served 55,000 job seekers in Northern Virginia.

In 1988, Congress passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a Federal job training program sponsored by the Department of Labor. Through a network of One Stop Centers, WIOA offers employers and job seekers, universal access to free employment and training services. Private foundations also provide funds that support the centers. The team approach includes both job developers and case managers. Additionally, SkillSource works closely with the Department of Family Services in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties to provide other services that are often needed when people are without a job: housing, transportation, childcare and treatment programs.

SkillSource Deb StopakWithin the larger geographic community, SkillSource supports micro-populations of job seekers that often have difficulty finding employment. They include out-of-school youth aged 17 to 24 without post secondary education, low-income adults without advanced education, adults with disabilities, ex-offenders, recent immigrants, refugees, veterans and dislocated workers. Some of those dislocated workers are government contract employees who have been impacted by sequestration. They are highly skilled and educated but have trouble finding appropriate new positions. Among ex-felons, SkillSource has an impressive track record of only a 4% recidivism rate – compared with 28-35% in Virginia as a whole, and 45% or greater nationally.

The model SkillSource is using is the identification of skills that specific employers need and the development of training programs that provide job seekers with those particular skills. The goal is to provide short term training programs that create skilled workers who can earn a living wage of $15 per hour or more. They also provide “soft skill” training to include things like good communication skills and understanding workplace cultures. While they work collaboratively with the Community College system, the short term goal is not a degree, but a demonstrable skill that may or may not include a formal certification.

One of the programs SkillSource offers is an “On The Job Training Program” which provides training and support to a job seeker who is a potential hire for an employer. That program provides subsidized wages to offset the employer’s cost and the result is most often an offer of a permanent placement. It’s a “shared risk” model that creates more opportunities for job seekers to learn skills specific to an employer without the employer bearing the entire financial burden.

For more information about the SkillSource programs and centers visit them at www.MySkillSource.org

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