Lawmakers hear from Vision Shared on the state’s education audit - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Lawmakers hear from Vision Shared on the state’s education audit

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Representatives from Vision Shared wants to be sure work force development does not get neglected in the plans for education reform in the state, among the 100-some page audit performed last year.

Rebecca Randolph, president and CEO of Vision Shared, told lawmakers during interim committee meetings Dec. 10 about some of the comments and concerns brought up during eight public forums that took place in June and July.

The forums were aimed at soliciting input for recommendations given in the state's education audit, performed by Public Works.

Randolph said a little more than 300 people participated in the forums, and 42 percent were employees of local school systems. An additional 20 percent of participants had direct ties to the education system, and less than 8 percent of participants were members of the business community.

Randolph said the audit pointed out that collaborations exist, but not at a state level between career and technical centers and the state's community and technical colleges.

She said the state has a strategic program called Compass to look at work force demands as well as provide students with work force information.

"West Virginia continues to lag behind because of a lack of students prepared for post-secondary education," she said. "As a result, those that require remediation often don't graduate, and if they do, it's at a much slower pace."

Randolph said Vision Shared identified consensus in the forums as three or more locations coming to agreement about specific objects. Out of the 13 recommendations in the audit, five of them received consensus among the forum participants.

Those agreements included enhancing strategic planning among education, work force needs and economic development; using better job forecasting data in planning and preparedness in curriculum.

She said nearly everyone who attended the forums called for better data on the state's employment needs, and even beyond the state's lines for border counties that may want to take a regional approach to work force development.

She said a few observations from the forums of challenges to work force development were a lack of common service areas, overlapping activities and the lack of clear responsibility or ownership for work force development.

"I think it's easy to place blame when we're falling short," Randolph said.

She said forum participants in Morgantown, Wheeling and Martinsburg thought they needed better organization of school and career pathways based on regional industry needs, but she said participants in Charleston thought that was already happening.

Randolph said she has been talking to people to try to expand the network of stakeholders within the state because she said West Virginia still has a fragmented approach to work force development.

"One challenge we know we have is making sure that our students are prepared, our business sector is engaged and that our lawmakers know exactly what's needed between those two," she said. "What we want to do is basically look at the information that's available that indicates what jobs are needed, and then train our work force to meet the demands."