New law aims to bridge gap between students and skilled job openings in Virginia

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - After working in retail, Justin Vaughan decided it was time for a change.

He enrolled in Tidewater Community College's Skilled Trades Academy and after 10 days of training in the construction and maritime fields, he'll be set up with a job in Chesapeake.

"I decided to do it because I was tired of working dead-end jobs," he said.

Gov. Ralph Northam says programs like this are the way forward for many in Virginia and Hampton Roads. There are lots of job openings for things like ship repair, but employers are having trouble finding people with the skills to do the work.

"I hear from businesses every day that say, 'Ralph if you can help us train our workforce our businesses will thrive here in Virginia,'" Gov. Northam said.

During a ceremony Wednesday, Gov. Northam signed HB2020 into law. The bill, introduced by outgoing Del. Matthew James, allows the Virginia Community College System to hire someone to help link up the business community with students to help the students find apprenticeships and jobs.

"If one doesn't have a skill in today's age, they really have a disadvantage. We really want to make sure people are trained," Gov. Northam said.

In today's economy, Northam believes that not everyone needs to go to college for four years. Programs, like at TCC, can be a solution to getting people on the path towards careers.

Vaughan sees himself now staying on this career path. "Moving forward I could see myself being here for the next 10 to 15 years, so it's good for the community," he said.

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