Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SRI Announces New Workforce Initiative for the Valley

SRI International, Shenandoah Valley Partnership and Other Partners Unveil Regional Workforce Initiative and Comprehensive Report

Project Identifies Needs, Creates Innovative Framework for Regional Collaboration

Harrisonburg, VA.,– January 25, 2008– SRI International and the Shenandoah Valley Partnership today unveiled a new report titled A Master Plan for 21st Century Workforce Transitions in Shenandoah Valley. Developed in partnership with Shenandoah Valley stakeholders, the report includes specific recommendations for preparing the Shenandoah Valley region's students and workforce for 21st century jobs. In addition to the report's release, next steps of a new regional initiative were announced today at a press conference in Waynesboro, VA at 11:00 a.m.

Together with the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, SRI's Center for Education Policy has initiated the Shenandoah Valley 21st Century Workforce Transitions Project–a two–phased initiative to assist the region in preparing its workforce for future economic trends. New, more specialized and advanced skills are increasingly needed in the region as research and development, technology and specialized production opportunities complement a strong agriculture and manufacturing heritage.

"The Shenandoah Valley is blessed with geographic, educational, and quality of life attributes that increasingly attract 21st century business opportunities," said John Sternlicht, senior director at SRI Shenandoah Valley. "The Shenandoah Valley 21st Century Workforce Transitions Project will help both entry-level and incumbent workers prepare for new challenges and contribute to the long-term economic vitality of the region. In the face of global and regional economic change, workers need to 'retool' and 'retrain' for 21st century jobs, many of which require enhanced technical skills."

A Phased Approach

Phase I of the initiative culminates today with the release of a comprehensive report on the education and workforce systems in Augusta and Rockingham Counties, and the cities of Harrisonburg, Staunton and Waynesboro. Phase II begins today with the launch of a community-driven strategy to address workforce priorities identified in the report.

To assess the current status of regional education and workforce systems, SRI and its partners reviewed extensive regional economic, education and training data. SRI also interviewed more than 160 leaders in local businesses, government, education, workforce, economic development and community organizations.

Among the report’s key findings:

* Shenandoah Valley leadership recognizes that the region is undergoing an economic transition that demands collaborative action to enhance the region's workforce.
* Leadership across jurisdictions and industry sectors is willing and motivated to take action and work collaboratively.
* The region has a strong workforce development infrastructure in place, including numerous higher education institutions.
* The region does not retain enough of its college educated youth and highly skilled workers.
* Most new jobs in the region come from existing businesses. Developing local workforce skills that can fuel business growth and new job opportunities is paramount to a successful economic transition.
* Many of today's students graduate from high school without basic work readiness skills. Those who enter college often require significant remediation.
* Graduates of the region's high schools are less likely to enter college and more likely to go directly into the workforce than young people elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
* Teachers, counselors, parents and school administrators lack awareness of existing training options and alternative career pathways for students who do not plan on attending college.
* Funding for workforce development programs is scarce, competitive, and decreasing.

Regional leaders met in November 2007 to discuss initial findings. Four strategic priorities emerged from meetings in Harrisonburg and Staunton involving representatives from business, community, education and government organizations across the region. The strategic priorities are: enhancing high school student work readiness, supporting youth outside of school hours, enhancing business retention and expansion, and supporting worker advancement.

"This report and initiative will equip the region with a blueprint for dealing with dynamic economic influences on the region," said Sharon Johnson, a senior associate in SRI's Center for Education Policy. "It lays out the challenges, prioritizes needs and, most importantly, provides a framework for moving forward collaboratively."

Phase II of the project forms a new volunteer organization that will develop strategies to address proposed strategic priorities. An executive board of directors, comprised of regional business, educational and government leaders, will recruit and coordinate the activities of two volunteer task forces charged with leveraging existing programs and developing new ones to tackle priority areas.

Initiative directors include:

1. Robin Crowder, Superintendent, Waynesboro Public Schools
2. Ray Griffin, Executive Director, Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission
3. Betsy Hay, Executive Director, Harrisonburg United Way
4. Sharon Johnson, Senior Associate, SRI International
5. Neal Menefee, President and CEO, The Rockingham Group
6. Bill O’Brien, Rockingham County Administrator (Retired)
7. George Pace, Vice Mayor, Harrisonburg City Council
8. Jim Perkins, President, Blue Ridge Community College
9. Carl Rosberg, Executive Vice President, President-Wireless, Ntelos
10. Bob Satterwhite, Executive Director, Shenandoah Valley Workforce Investment Board
11. Jim Shaeffer, Associate Vice Provost for Outreach Programs, James Madison University
12. Michael Stoltzfus, President and CEO, Dynamic Aviation
13. Robin Sullenberger, CEO, Shenandoah Valley Partnership
14. Jeff Walker, CEO, VaLiance Health
15. Karen Wigginton, Vice President for College Relations, Bridgewater College

The first formal meeting will be held in mid-February. Task force recruitment is under way.

"This is an innovative approach to addressing critical workforce issues," said Robin Sullenberger, CEO of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership and a member of the new Transitions board. "Working together, we can embrace the new opportunities of tomorrow and continue to nurture traditional economic strengths that make the Shenandoah Valley so special."

The full report and additional details are available at:

About SRI International

Silicon Valley-based SRI International ( is one of the world's leading independent research and technology development organizations. Founded as Stanford Research Institute in 1946, SRI has been meeting the strategic needs of clients for more than 60 years. The nonprofit research institute performs client-sponsored research and development for government agencies, commercial businesses, and private foundations. In addition to conducting contract R&D, SRI licenses its technologies, forms strategic partnerships, and creates spin-off companies.

Headquartered in Menlo Park, CA, SRI International operates facilities in Harrisonburg and Arlington, Virginia. SRI operates facilities in other states throughout the United States and in several international locations.

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