VCU poll finds support for higher taxes to fund workforce training and development in Virginia

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The 2017 Public Policy Poll: Economic Development and Workforce Training —conducted by the Center for Public Policy at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University — found strong support for continued funding for workforce training and development in Virginia.

“Economic development and workforce development are important topics nationally as well as statewide, and they will certainly be at the forefront of this year’s General Assembly session,” said John Accordino, Ph.D., interim dean of the Wilder School. “As policymakers wrestle with these issues, it’s critical that citizens’ views be taken into account.” 

As policymakers wrestle with these issues, it’s critical that citizens’ views be taken into account.

More than half of the poll’s respondents (58 percent) said they were willing to pay more in taxes to keep programs for workforce training and development at current state levels, with Democrat respondents being more supportive (69 percent) than Republicans (46 percent). Not only were citizens supportive of workforce training and development, they also stated that the expansion of workforce training and education should be tied to state economic development funds. Respondents living in Northern Virginia (53 percent) and Tidewater (52 percent) showed the strongest support for such incentives. 

Despite support for workforce training and development, more than half of those surveyed (57 percent) said they were not familiar with job and career opportunities in their community. More concerning is 80 percent of those with less than a high school diploma are unfamiliar with the education and training opportunities in their community. Just over 70 percent (72 percent) were not familiar with the state’s One-Stop Career Centers, which give Virginians access to the resources needed to search for jobs and improve their professional employment skills.

Lack of awareness of such programs might also be a result of inadequate transportation and housing. Slightly less than half of the respondents (45 percent) stated that access to adequate public transportation and housing close to employment are issues in their community. 

Along with training for and access to employment opportunities, the ability to attract new business to the state was also addressed. Slightly less than half (47 percent) of those surveyed feel Virginia does a “good” or “excellent” job at attracting new businesses to the state, with 35 percent thinking the state is doing a fair job. Those with more formal education as well as those living in Northern and South Central Virginia showed strongest support, as well as those with a family income of $59,000 a year or higher. 

“This report hits the nail on the head — we must closely align workforce training with economic development — and I appreciate VCU and the Wilder School’s interest in learning more about how our citizenry feels about these two key issues for the commonwealth’s prosperity,” said Todd Haymore, secretary of commerce and trade for Virginia. “The results also correlate with Gov. McAuliffe’s vision and the administration’s strategic plan for workforce and economic development in Virginia, confirming that we’re on the right track in our efforts to build a new Virginia economy that continues to support workforce training and job creation efforts.”

The 2017 Public Policy Poll: Economic Development and Workforce Training, conducted by the Office of Public Policy Outreach in the Center for Public Policy at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, obtained telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 adults living in Virginia. The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The interviews were administered from Dec. 1 to 20, 2016. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ±4.1 percentage points.

To read the poll’s full overview and methodology, visit