As the sprint to spring graduation starts for the region's high school and college students, economic developers are considering how they can retain talent in our region. At the core of every economic development department is ensuring high-quality, high-paying jobs that can lead to new residents. 

In September, David Hunn, executive director at Virginia Career Works Northern Region, moderated a discussion on workforce development with Prince William County leaders, including: 

  • Dr. Anne Kress, President of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA);
  • Dr. LaTanya D. McDade, Superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS); and 
  • Christina Winn, Executive Director of Prince William County Department of Economic Development and Tourism (PWCDEDT). 

The panel promoted the ELEVATE Initiative, which helps COVID-impacted job seekers, who can apply to skills training programs, support services and career assistance to move into today’s in-demand jobs. ELEVATE assists employers upskill their current workers to enhance their company’s competitiveness while also identifying their best new hires for continued growth. To date, over 600 county job seekers have participated in this initiative, with more than 275 contacts with county employers.

"Ten years ago, businesses could focus on attaining the best real estate first and rely on the appeal of good jobs to attract talent to localities," said Winn. "Economic developers today, when pitching for a big project or proposal, are now faced with initial questions about labor availability from business owners and potential investors. We saw this proven over the COVID-19 pandemic, when workforce moved to locations that best suited their life, not always their job."

McDade spoke about changes in K-12 education approaches, specifically about flexibility and choice for students who need to be prepared not only for jobs, but also life.

“The school system [must] recognize our job goes beyond the diploma on the stage at graduation. We have to make sure students are positioned for success post-secondary – that means we want students to graduate with the ability to acquire rewarding careers. From those rewarding careers, then they have economic mobility and live a fulfilling and purpose-filled life. That’s ultimately the goal of Prince William County,” said McDade.

Kress spoke about NOVA’s mission to provide equitable and affordable access to higher education and workforce programs—and multiple ways to get there. There are three tracks of opportunities for developing your career, including the following programs:

  • The Fast Forward program, which provides in-demand, essential industry credentials that do not require a college degree for specific sectors, such as information technology or logistics.
  • The G3 Tuition Assistance program, which provides financial assistance for select programs in healthcare, early childhood education, and public safety.
  • The NOVA / Mason ADVANCE program, which gives students targeted, personalized support to complete their bachelor's degrees at George Mason University in a timely manner, while saving money.

And Kress stressed that NOVA offers free college courses to students while they’re still enrolled in high school. More than 2600 PWPS students were enrolled for the fall 2023 semester–earning credits than can transfer not only to NOVA, but also across all public universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


"We are the largest provider of talent in the region," said Kress. "NOVA's mission to provide equitable and affordable access to exceptional education and workforce programs, transforming the lives of students and advancing opportunity in our community. We do that not just by offering classes on our campuses and through NOVA online, but through partnership with business and industry."

This is the first post in a three-part series on the ELEVATE Workforce Panel. 

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