By Dr. Scott Ralls, President, Northern Virginia Community College
Northern Virginia’s technology companies have an urgent need for talented employees. I heard that loud and clear the other day when one of our region’s leading CEOs called me to discuss strategies for the challenges he and other tech employers are facing. The challenges are clearly reflected in the data, validating the angst that our technology employers are feeling and the urgency for our region to be laser focused on workforce development.
Approximately 30 percent of all job openings in our metropolitan region last year were in information technology, translating into 161,000 total IT positions. We have more than double the number of cybersecurity job postings of any area of the country, and last year actually had more vacancies advertised for cybersecurity analysts than we had people working in that job category. At only 8,000 IT graduates produced annually across all degree categories from all colleges and universities in our region, we are barely scratching the surface to meet the demand for new IT workers required by one of the nation’s leading technology hubs.
That is why the partnership between NOVA and NVTC is imperative. Meeting a significant regional challenge will require collective input across employers and educational institutions, and NOVA is committed to aggressive, strategic partnering with our employer community and educational colleagues to address this challenge. Doing so is the right thing for the future prosperity of our region, and it opens doors of opportunity to our students who already live in this region and aspire for good local careers.
It is critical for educational institutions and businesses to partner together to attract and retain a talented workforce. This type of partnership will better serve to develop training and workforce needs within the Northern Virginia region, ultimately allowing businesses to remain economically competitive. We hope to better prepare our students for the labor market once they complete their studies at NOVA by providing them with the right resources to enter the workforce. We also want to collaborate with the technology business community by responding to changing employer needs and providing a qualified pipeline of workers with the right skills needed for the job from day one.
Aggressive partnering also helps us maintain one of the most notable attributes of our college. Even though we have never lost a football game, NOVA doesn’t appear in any top 20 college football rankings or hardly any other traditional metrics by which colleges are often compared. But research by a Stanford economist recently indicated that we are one of the best colleges in the nation for fostering socio-economic mobility for our students. This is an accomplishment made possible by having a region with a wealth of job opportunities paired with our college focus to prepare our students to grasp those opportunities.
We value our partnership with NVTC because it allows us to strengthen and grow workforce development efforts, to ensure that our investments and efforts are hitting the right targets, and to maximize our impact for our students and the communities and region we serve.
This opinion editorial was originally published in the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s The Voice of Technology magazine in October 2017.