Gubernatorial candidates attend Virginia Workforce Conference

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — On Thursday, hundreds of people gathered at the Greater Richmond Convention Center for the 2017 Virginia Workforce Conference with the VA Chamber Foundation. The theme was Veterans: Closing the Workforce Gap.

Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam were both there to speak to the crowd.

Both gubernatorial candidates have said jobs and the economy are key issues for their campaigns. The conference focused on how veterans fit into those topics.

The Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services said it’s a subject that should be important to the candidates because services for veterans are run out of the executive branch, through the governor.

“They are important in getting the resources and people needed across all of our offices across Virginia, that we can touch veterans, give them the services they need and most importantly let them know what opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship there are here in Virginia,” said Commissioner John Newby.

Gillespie said, as governor, he would like to improve how military training is converted to certification. It’s something the General Assembly has also been focused on.

“If you served in the military and you gained a skill, you shouldn’t have to go back to school to get certified for a skill you could teach,” said Gillespie.

The Republican also said he wants to double the number of companies participating in the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program, which promotes employing veterans.

“When the current governor came to office, he had a double the number goal,” said Newby. “We met that, so I think we’re up for the challenge.”

When Northam addressed the crowd, he took some time to highlight what he believes Virginia is doing well. He cited getting homeless veterans off the streets and increasing support for returning military members.

“We have made tremendous efforts and tremendous success with the transitioning program in Virginia,” said Northam.

He also emphasized the growth of the V3 program.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe recognized some of the businesses hiring veterans with awards at the conference.

Since V3 started in 2012, nearly 27,000 veterans have been hired in Virginia.

After reaching McAuliffe’s previous goal early, the latest goal is to have 30,000 veterans hired by Jan. 2018.

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