Regional workforce council selected for national initiative to help workers impacted by pandemic find employment


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The region’s workforce council will be working to help get hundreds of workers impacted by COVID-19 employed after it was selected for a national initiative.

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council was one of six workforce boards in the country to be selected for the Future of Work Grand Challenge, which was launched in 2020.

The goal is to help more than 25,000 workers impacted by COVID-19, whether through layoffs or furloughs, gain new employment and trade skills through innovative solutions.

“It’s one of those things you’re happy you got but you have to get to work. It’s called a ‘challenge’ for a reason,” said Shawn Avery, president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council.

The workforce council is partnering with RISE, a nonprofit that helps accelerate innovation and business growth when it comes to resilience challenges.

In the past, RISE has worked with small businesses to come up with solutions to sea level rise.

“Their job is to ensure we’re a resilient community. That’s around sea level rise, but this is our economy and they’re making sure our economy is resilient,” he said.

RISE will fund selected small businesses in the area with $250,000 to help pilot innovative solutions for this challenge.

Avery says through this challenge, they are looking to help around 300 people locally connect with jobs in the maritime industry. They will probably focus on innovative solutions concerning faster certifications and qualifications workers need.

And because of how fast the pandemic has impacted people, Avery says people don’t have time to take courses for weeks or months when they need assistance.

“What we’re hoping to learn here is how to rapidly get them the skills to get them successfully placed into a new position or career opportunity that they may not have been in before. It’s really fast-paced. Things are changing so quickly, we need to be ready for that,” he said.

The project should take about 18 months to complete.

Avery hopes that the solutions they come up with will also help in other industries such as healthcare and technology.

Workforce boards in Hartford, Connecticut; Worchester, Massachusetts; San Diego, California; Michigan; and Dallas, Texas were selected.

To learn more about the Future of Work Grand Challenge and the sponsors involved, click here.

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