In her new role as CCWA’s Vice President of Workforce Development and Credential Attainment, Elizabeth Creamer has hit the ground running. From meetings with college and community partners to this week’s milestone announcement with Governor McAuliffe, she and the CCWA staff are focused on building the region’s workforce. When asked about the road ahead, she offered some insight about her position and ensuring a focus on credentials – helping people get to work and meeting the needs of employers.
You’ve been an advocate for workforce programs for many years. How will this new role at CCWA be different for you?
I am incredibly excited to be leading CCWA. I’ve been immersed in workforce development trends and issues for the past 18 years, but this is the first time in over a decade that I’ve worked at a regional, rather than a state level. I hope that in bringing to CCWA what I’ve learned in the Governor’s Office and the Virginia Community College System, I will add value to the work of the CCWA team and to Reynolds and John Tyler Community Colleges. I’ve long worked, in my previous jobs, with CCWA administration and staff and I’m honored to be leading such a professional team.
What trends do you see affecting the delivery of workforce programs in the next few years?
In the next decade, Virginia will need to fill more than 1.3 million new jobs. Of those, from 50 to 65 percent will be trades or technician level jobs that require training and credentials beyond a high school diploma but not a baccalaureate degree. The industry demand for trained and credentialed workers in advanced manufacturing, energy, IT and cybersecurity, health care, and transportation and logistics is creating an unprecedented interest in workforce development among state and regional elected officials and industry and economic development leaders. Today’s pathways to success include short term, intensive workforce training that integrates an industry-valued certification or license as well as employability (or “soft”) skills development and career planning. Think IT boot camps. The increasing value of industry credentials, the fastest growing segment of the postsecondary education market, is definitely a growing trend as is the growth in non-traditional pathways to credentials and careers.
For example, we’ve now seen registered apprenticeships prioritized in the workforce development agendas of both the current and previous president. The related instruction component of registered apprenticeships, in a number of neighboring states, are delivered by community colleges and confer community college credentials, and there’s a great opportunity for CCWA and our colleges in working with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry to develop such programs.
Credentials are increasingly popular among employers and job seekers. What is your outlook on the growth of credentials and their impact on the workforce in the Greater Richmond region?
The best perk of my new job is having the title Vice President of Workforce Development and Credential Attainment. I believe in the power of workforce credentials such as industry certifications, occupational licenses, apprenticeship credentials, and community college career studies certificates to move more Virginians into well-paying jobs. I also believe that such credentials, when aligned and connected with community college degree programs, can provide a stepping stone to an associate or baccalaureate degree program for those adults who, otherwise, might not ever see themselves in college. I think we’ve only scratched the surface in driving industry certifications. These credentials can be imbedded in degree and certificate programs, in incumbent worker training, in dual-enrollment classes, in adult education, and, of course, in non-credit workforce training. National data shows that those who hold market valued certifications earn higher wages and are less likely to be unemployed. Credentials count!
What have you learned from the CCWA team in preparing to take the lead?
The CCWA team has given me an incredible welcome, as well as a lot of helpful information and inspiration. I’ve learned a lot from the team already. But what has struck me the most is what they’ve taught me about customer service. Each and every CCWA professional deeply cares about every aspect of customer service, from how we run the front desk to how we conduct workforce training to how we present ourselves on social media. It’s consistently impressive to see that kind of customer care in action. I most look forward to working with the CCWA team to establish stretch goals for the organization that we can all get behind, support, and promote.
Photo: CDL graduate Kenneth Pope (left), Elizabeth Creamer and John Tyler President, Dr. Ted Raspiller during a recent event.
Photographer: Clement Britt, Virginia’s Community Colleges.