ISSUE 14  |  FALL 2014
Virginia Performs, a signature initiative of the Council, is a performance leadership and accountability system that links a
high-level vision and key goals for citizens with performance-based planning and assessment across all levels of state government.

Virginia Summit on Economic Competitiveness and Higher Education  back to top

On September 17, the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC) held its second annual Virginia Summit on Economic Competitiveness and Higher Education. Co-sponsored by the Council on Virginia's Future and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the summit focused on the synergies among higher education, economic development, and workforce.

New Degree and Credential Goals Established

As part of the summit and the state's continued focus on higher education, VBHEC Vice Chairman Linwood Rose announced an updated goal for degree production. Building on the success of Grow by Degrees, the new target calls for 168,628 new bachelor's and associate's degrees between 2014 and 2030 -- which would rank Virginia #1 in college attainment nationally.

Older man teaching younger one trucking repairThis year, the Council worked with its partners to broaden Virginia's focus by identifying a long-term target for workforce credential attainment. In announcing this new target, Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones emphasized that strengthening Virginia's competitive position in the global economy includes identifying, recognizing, and embracing the "credentials to compete." These credentials -- which include certificates issued by accredited institutions, industry-based certifications and licensures, and registered apprenticeship programs -- have been shown to provide recipients with significant employment and wage gains.

Based on analysis from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, the state's target for employer-valued workforce credentials is to increase the percentage of Virginians with one of these credentials to 10 percent, or 461,000 individuals -- a growth of nearly 300,000 credentials over the 3.7 percent found in 2012. This long-term target complements the Governor's four-year goal to produce 50,000 STEM-H workforce credentials (see below). Taken together, meeting these new degree and workforce credential goals would establish Virginia as a world leader in workforce quality.

You may view VBEHC's comments (with slides) on the new degree goal here: Word | PDF

Governor McAuliffe: A New Virginia Economy

Governor McAuliffe also addressed the summit and emphasized his administration's commitment to creating a "New Virginia Economy," with high-tech and high-growth industries creating opportunity for all Virginians -- and a re-energized workforce ready to accept the challenge.

Following on earlier remarks by Secretary Jones, the Governor noted that Virginia's significant competitive assets give the state a strong foundation for the future. Among those assets are:

  • world-class institutions of higher education to serve as engines of research and innovation
  • a strategic mid-Atlantic location with top-notch transportation assets
  • a talented and willing workforce
  • a large number of skilled and motivated veterans ready to move into the private workplace

Governor McAuliffe then highlighted two key economic initiatives: Executive Order 23 establishes the New Virginia Economy Workforce Initiative; Executive Order 26 establishes a high-level steering committee to work with industry and government leaders across the state to craft "A New Virginia Economy Strategic Plan."

Workforce Plan to Boost Virginia's Competitive Edge

Recognizing its importance for enhancing Virginia's competitive advantage, Governor McAuliffe has made workforce one of his top priorities. Recent studies by Dr. Stephen Fuller at George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis bear that out: Dr. Fuller estimates Virginia will need to fill 1.4 million new and replacement jobs by 2023 and about 100,000 STEM-related jobs by 2018. More importantly, a majority of these jobs will not require a college degree, but specialized training that leads to a work-related credential.

It's Time to Hire a VeteranGiven that federal spending -- a historic driver of Virginia's economy -- continues to be reduced, it is more important than ever for Virginia to maximize its economic potential by preparing workers for these jobs. They will serve as an important complement to the state's traditional strengths in creating and attracting well-educated professionals to the Commonwealth.

The overall goal of the New Economy Workforce Initiative is to prepare Virginia and its citizens for the aforementioned changes to the state's employment marketplace and to deal with a large retiring workforce. This long-term, comprehensive plan will help equip Virginia workers with in-demand skill sets and includes several specific goals:

  • Increase statewide attainment rates of credentials -- community college degrees, certificate programs, apprenticeships, certifications, licenses, etc. -- that align with employer needs. A new "Pathway to 50K" goal is to attain 50,000 STEM-H credentials, licenses, apprenticeships, and associate degrees that meet immediate workforce needs. Key agencies will work with the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to establish current credential baselines and annual targets for reaching the 50K goal within 4 years.
  • Create seamless transitions for Virginia's veterans by providing high-quality education and workforce services that accelerate career opportunities. Strategies here include an aggressive campaign to convert military experience and training into academic or workforce credentials and to accelerate the vet's transition process to the workplace. A new "Patriot Pledge" encourages 10,000 Virginia businesses to hire a veteran and to double the number of vets hired through the Department of Veterans Services' V3 program.
  • Diversify the economy by encouraging the growth of robust industry sectors that do not rely on federal government contracting or grant funding.
  • Align workforce supply to current and anticipated employer demands by constructing career pathways and training solutions for the dislocated, underemployed, and future worker. 

Strategic Plan to Drive New Economic Development

Governor McAuliffe's 4-year strategic plan will address five economic development priorities: 

"Project Ready" Infrastructure. Virginia must ensure that our infrastructure assets and resources, such as healthcare, energy, housing, and broadband are ready to attract small, medium, and large scale projects throughout the Commonwealth and advance our competitive position locally, regionally, and globally. 

Diversified High-Growth Industries. Virginia must devote vital resources to strengthen thriving industries, while diversifying targeted high-growth industry sectors and expanding trading partnerships. 

Preeminent Business Climate. Virginia must ensure that tax, regulatory, and incentive policies sustain Virginia's position as the best state to start, grow, and locate a business. 

Innovation and Entrepreneurs. Virginia must pursue policies and public-private partnerships that attract talent, promote business and social entrepreneurship, business development and investment, and encourage the creation and commercialization of new products and services. 

"Skills to Jobs" Workforce. Virginia must align higher education system priorities and resources to supply in-demand workers, transition veterans, and meet current and future employer needs in the private and public sectors.

Perspectives on Economic Competitiveness

The summit also featured thought-provoking perspectives on economic prosperity from Bruce Katz, author of The Metropolitan Revolution and Vice President and Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Katz's presentation highlighted key themes for Virginia's economic future:

  • The federal government, which is responsible for about 20 percent of Virginia's economy, will not be an engine of growth for Virginia for years to come. Virginia's economic future will depend on its ability to innovate, diversify its economy, and strengthen the quality of its workforce.
  • Virginia's metro areas are -- and will be -- the keys to Virginia's economic future. Virginia's top three metro areas already account for 72 percent of all jobs and 75 percent of economic output. (If you include all 11 Virginia metro areas, the numbers rise to 89 percent of jobs and 90 percent of output.) Economic growth will continue to be concentrated in these metropolitan areas.
  • Regional collaboration is key to regional economic vibrancy. While no one model for collaborative efforts will work for all regions -- Dr. Katz presented examples from seven metro regions -- it is vital for each region to find its own strategy.

The slides for Bruce Katz's talk are available online here | in PDF format. end of story

Agencies Make Progress on Key Enterprise Goals    back to top

One of the underlying principles behind Virginia Performs is to clarify and strengthen the alignment between Virginia's broadest goals -- "a vibrant economy," "educational excellence," "superior governance" -- and what state government actually does every day.

What follows is the second installment in our series showcasing how agencies, often working in concert across Secretariats, are tackling some of Virginia's biggest challenges.

Improving Outcomes for Virginia's Most Vulnerable

Virginia's Department of Social Services (DSS) plays the lead role in marshaling the many public and private resources which help our most vulnerable families and at-risk children; it does so through central oversight and a statewide network of 121 locally administered departments.

Recovering addicts during a parenting classDSS has been working for more than a decade to transform the way it assists at-risk families and children. Prior to these changes, services were not well coordinated and results often didn't meet expectations. Each service component -- income assistance, family assistance, etc. -- tended to be handled independently, although the reality for most DSS clients is that they need help in many of these areas at the same time (e.g., a recovering addict needs ongoing counseling, job assistance, and some help caring properly for her 2-year-old son).

In addition, state incentives sometimes wound up working against the very people they were designed to assist; for instance, too many foster care kids were ending up in institutions and aging out of the system without ever really knowing a family. (The long-term prospects for children who age out of foster care are notoriously bleak, with as many as 40 percent jobless and homeless within a year of institutional release.)

A New Model for Performance

Clearly, better coordination of services, as well as a more integrated way of applying for them, was needed. Although making such systemic changes proved challenging to implement, DSS leadership didn't stop there: They developed a management philosophy and approach that would facilitate execution on the ground and improve buy-in at every level. Elements included:

  • Increasing reliance on evidence-based approaches: With need increasing and resources stretched, it was more imperative than ever to improve effectiveness by implementing practices that were provably successful, even if that meant abandoning old ways of doing things.
  • Professional development: The agency's new, more holistic approach to client services also meant that employees needed to adjust their own thinking and practices. As a result, local department employees receiving professional development jumped from 58 percent in 2007 to 90 percent in 2012.
  • Data-driven performance management: DSS is setting aggressive goals around metrics that matter -- keeping children in family settings, preventing abuse -- and emphasizing community-based services.
  • Continuous quality improvement: Data alone isn't enough to fully understand what's going on; DSS engages its departments in structured ways aimed at eliminating waste and improving everyone's results.

Once its family of services was coordinated and application processes streamlined, DSS then moved to translate that into better technology, too. Its new CommonHelp Web portal is a nationally recognized industry advancement that makes it much easier for people to understand, identify, and apply for the services they are eligible to receive. Now DSS is starting to automate eligibility processes at the local level, as current methods are too expensive, too complicated, poorly automated -- and lead to too many determination errors.

Thumbnail of DSS goals and measures chart. See text or enlarged image for explanation.The chart at right gives you a breakdown of selected DSS goals and illustrates how the agency turns these challenges into improved outcomes.

Results in Foster Care

The percentage of children aging out of foster care was 31 percent in 2007, but dropped to 25 percent in 2011. At the same time, family-based placements rose from 70 percent (2007) to nearly 84 percent (2013). DSS has employed two main strategies to increase these family placements:

  • Encourage more local departments to conduct family searches and placements more frequently
  • Offer custody assistance and resources to kin who become legal guardians

Finally, the percentage of children who left foster care to go to a permanent family arrangement (through reunification with family, custody transfer to another relative, or outright adoption) went from 67 percent in 2007 to 7 percent in 2013.

Results in Vulnerable Virginians Helped

DSS has also made significant progress in getting needed services out to Virginians in communities across the state -- though it should be noted that much of DSS's increased caseload coincided with the effects of the Great Recession here in Virginia, which largely accounts for the sometimes dramatic increases seen in those receiving DSS services through 2012.

Some key statistics:

  • Clients receiving domestic violence services rose from 72 percent in 2007 to 82 percent in 2012.
  • Average monthly cases for SNAP benefits (aka food stamps) increased significantly, especially for residents not on public income assistance. For those on public assistance, SNAP benefits went from approximately 64,000 monthly cases in 2007 to 82,00 in 2012; while SNAP benefits for those not on public assistance jumped from 164,000 monthly cases in 2007 to 353,000 in 2012.
  • At the same time, payment error rates for SNAP have dropped nearly 50 percent, from 6.5 percent in 2007 to 3.4 percent in 2011. Overpayment collections have also nearly doubled over the same period.
  • Eligible individuals receiving Medicaid assistance went from 650,000 in 2007 to 835,000 in 2012; over half (55%) are low-income children, and another 22 percent are blind and disabled citizens.
  • 106,000 households being helped with heating bills in 2007 increased to 147,000 in 2012; cooling assistance went from 44,000 households to 80,000 households over the same time period.   end of story