A group of Democratic legislators on Thursday urged the General Assembly to approve a package of bills aimed at helping small businesses and training young people for good-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree.
At a news conference led by Del. Matthew James of Portsmouth, the lawmakers discussed several bills relating to workforce development and job creation in Virginia.
“Our No. 1 goal for this 60-day legislative session is to help improve the lives of all Virginians,” James said. “We’re here to help people get better jobs; we’re here to help small businesses get skilled workers.”
The House members said their bills would help small businesses grow and workers develop vocational skills:
.HB 306, introduced by Del. Vivian E. Watts of Fairfax, would assist businesses that participate in the Virginia Registered Apprenticeship program, which provides on-the-job training. Under the measure, state agencies could give extra consideration to such businesses in awarding contracts for goods and services.
.HJ 17, filed by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax, calls for a study on how to expand experiential learning and workforce development opportunities for high school students in high-demand fields.
.HB 632, sponsored by Del. David L. Bulova of Fairfax, would require Virginia schools to offer courses and other activities in which students explore different careers, including in trades and technical fields.
.Under HB 1407, introduced by Del. Jeion A. Ward of Hampton, the state would set a goal to award 42 percent of its procurement orders and contracts to small businesses and microbusinesses. In addition, state agencies could set aside certain contracts that only small businesses or microbusinesses could bid on.
Current law defines a small business as having 250 or fewer employees. Ward’s bill would define a microbusiness as having up to 25 workers.
James and Bulova said high-salary jobs in Virginia are going unfilled because there aren’t enough trained and skilled workers.
“We need to have those welders; we need those electricians,” Bulova said.
James said he hopes the legislation will “help Virginians ease their financial insecurities so they can sleep better and their kids can dream.”