In Wytheville today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine hosted a roundtable discussion with business and community leaders at Wytheville Community College. Kaine learned more about economic development in the region, including the need for expanded workforce development training and career and technical education, as well as discussed his efforts to help pass a two-year budget agreement that has provided greater budget certainty for communities across the Commonwealth.
"If we continue on the path to get budgets back in regular order, that will help consumers and businesses in Virginia and around the globe," said Kaine. "Giving two years of certainty allows people to plan. Prospects are good for increased consumer demand and consumer confidence, but it's up to Congress to continue providing that certainty."
In the afternoon, Kaine toured the General Dynamics facility in Marion. "The work being done at General Dynamics says a lot about the workforce here and their high level of skill," Kaine said. "It also speaks to the demand for high-tech manufacturing skills that exists in this industry. This is work that is too complex for any machine, so it's important we're helping to build the Virginia workforce to fill these jobs."
Later, Kaine visited Emory & Henry College to speak with students and deliver a guest lecture to a politics and public policy class, before traveling to Abingdon where he met with regional business leaders involved with Vision 2020, a regional economic initiative to address local issues and help spur business growth. During the meeting, Kaine, who is a co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, discussed his efforts to expand CTE to better equip students across the Commonwealth with skills needed to succeed in today's 21st century workforce.
"There is a billboard in Tazewell that says "we hire welders.' Why is it that in an area with higher than average unemployment, they are having trouble finding workers to fill these good jobs? We are bringing in tens of thousands of foreign welders to fill positions, instead of hiring American-trained welders," said Kaine. "It is very important that we work to increase access to career and technical education and expand workforce development opportunities. We have to start getting the message to kids and parents that these are great professions where you can make a good living. The earlier we start with these educational efforts, the better."
Tomorrow, Kaine will conclude his two-week tour of the Commonwealth with events in Bristol.