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Virginia's community colleges find a new leader, as Youngkin wants more focus on workforce development

Governor Glenn Youngkin and Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick speak at a Women Business Leaders Forum on Friday March 18, 2022 in Richmond.
Jahd Khalil
Radio IQ
Governor Glenn Youngkin and Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick speak at a Women Business Leaders Forum on Friday March 18, 2022 in Richmond.

Virginia’s search for a new head of it's community colleges ended Thursday, as Governor Youngkin expressed his displeasure with the colleges’ governing body hiring process.

The State Board for Community Colleges, which oversees Virginia’s 23 community colleges, said Thursday it had selected Russell Kavalhuna to be the systems’ next chancellor. The current chancellor, Glenn DuBois, is retiring at the end of June.

Kavalhuna is the head of Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan and a former federal prosecutor, VCCS said in a statement.

Governor Glenn Youngkin said he doesn’t have an opinion on Kavalhuna, but he does have problems with how the search went and what priorities they had.

“I'm disappointed in the leadership from the board of our community college system,” Youngkin said Friday. “We have seen the role of the community college system not highlight one of our most important needs, which is workforce development, and I have asked them to focus on these things.”

According to reporting by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Youngkin wrote the head of the search committee, asking for a more prominent role in the hiring process.

Kavalhuna emphasized he would focus on workforce development in the community college’s statement.

“With experience in industry and in the academy, my passion and priority will be to connect unemployed and under-employed Virginians with businesses suffering through talent shortages,” said Kavalhuna. “I look forward to the challenge of leading Virginia’s Community Colleges to build the nation’s best workforce development system and serving people in every corner of the Commonwealth.”

Virginia's community colleges had 211,976 total degree or diploma-seeking students in 2020, but enrollment has steadily declined for the past ten years.

Some students utilize the colleges’ more affordable tuition before transferring to a four-year college.Others use the system for job-training programs.

Workforce development concerns during the administration of Former Governor Ralph Northam led to the development of the “G3” program. The tuition-assistance program, which stands for “Get a skill, get a job, get ahead,” began in 2021.

Democrat Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, who sponsored the bill to establish the G3 program sought to expand the program but the bill was taken off the docket. Another bill of Filler-Corn’s on apprenticeship administration was passed and needs Youngkin’s signature to become law.

Youngkin’s comments came after a forum with businesswomen in Richmond. Many of them complained that they had to pay too much in order to find employees and that the minimum wage was too high.

Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.3% in January. The labor force participation rate increased 0.3% to 62.9%.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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