MONTROSS, Virginia: In the last decade, regional collaboration has become the key ingredient in the creation of jobs in rural Virginia, with the private sector often acting as a partner to federal, state, and local governments.
A perfect example of this approach is the Westmoreland Workforce Training Center (WWTC), which opened its doors November 8, 2018, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Governor Ralph Northam and—in keeping with the spirit of public/private cooperation—several representatives from state agencies, Rappahannock Community College, elected officials at the state and federal levels, and Carry-On Trailer Corporation, in Montross.
In the United States, “there are 7.1 million jobs open today,” said congressman Rob Wittman, who was one of the speakers at the ceremony. “Seventy-five percent of them don’t need a four-year degree,” he added.
This availability of jobs that don’t require a university education was the driving force behind the creation of the Westmoreland Workforce Training Center.
Employers in manufacturing industries in the Northern Neck have been concerned that they cannot find qualified, trained employees to fill the many job openings they have available. Carry-On Trailer, seeing a high demand for its products, had plans to expand its manufacturing operation in Westmoreland County, but it was not having much luck filling the several production-welder positions needed for that expansion.
It was clear that a regional program would be required, one that matched Carry-On’s employees’ needs and schedules.
And so the partnerships began. “The college is a great facility to have in the region,” said Dr. Elizabeth Crowther, President of RCC, “but all that happens in economic development is because of the partners.”
The Northern Neck Planning District Commission facilitated the collaboration of the various interested parties and assisted with grant applications submitted to the Go Virginia program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Go Virginia’s goal is to create high-paying jobs through partnerships between business, education, and government entities, while at the same time diversifying the economy in every region of Virginia.
This collaboration included Westmoreland County, the Northern Neck-Chesapeake Bay Region Partnership, Rappahannock Community College, and USDA, which also provided funding to the training facility. Additional financial contributions came from Bay Consortium Workforce Development Board and Carry-On Trailer.
The Westmoreland Workforce Training Center is located at 80 Industrial Park Road in Montross. The college’s Workforce and Community Development Center will administer the program. Courses are open to everyone and, in addition to welding, the facility will be offering instruction in industrial machining and milling.