By Taylor Boyd
Dislocated workers throughout the county will have a new tool in their job search: Virginia Career Works.
The organization will help others find employment, Wanda Whitlow explained to Patrick County Board of Supervisors at an April 12 meeting.
“The best example I can give you is Hanesbrands in Woolwine, we’ll be working with them, there’s 146 workers, of course you know that, and we will be providing them with unemployment services,” she said.
Handesbrands Inc. announced plans to close the Woolwine facility later this summer.
The organization will provide dislocated workers with “job search, resume prep, going back to school to upgrade their skill sets, and we also provide supportive services to them, and that would be like mileage, going back and forth to school.”
She said if funds are available, the organization also would help with childcare when the workers are in training.
“Our goal for everybody is to go to work. That’s our goal,” Whitlow said. “To get them back to work as quickly as possible, we are going to have at least one, if not two, job fairs at the Hanesbrands site” specifically for those affected workers.
On a broader scope, the organization also wants to attract young people to the program.
“We’ve talked with Robin Ferguson (Assistant Principal and Career and Technical Director) at the high school, and we want to work hand and hand with the career and tech to pull our youth in,” she said, adding the group hopes to offer a summer youth program next summer.
“We will get them to work or in school to upgrade their skill sets. We want them all working because that’s how we’re going to make a productive workforce here in our county,” she said.
Whitlow said due to a lack of funding, the youth program will not be set up like its predecessor, with three to four caseworkers in the schools.
In this case, the organization is “just partnering with her (Ferguson) and connecting with the upcoming seniors that are graduating to let them know our workforce center is here. Everybody’s not cut for college. Some want to go to work, and we do have jobs available here in Patrick County,” she said.
The organization also is coordinating and hosting roundtable meetings that include Whitlow, Rebecca Adcock, executive director of the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce; Adam Wright, director of the workforce board, and others “so we can figure out what Patrick needs, and how we can go forward and meet some of those need with the funds we have available,” Whitlow said.
Joshua Moore, of Virginia Career Works, said there are 75 to 100 jobs available in the Patrick County area, with the number growing.
“The number just continues to rise. My goal is to get as many people aware that we are open, available, and we can help them virtually, over the phone, however, to get them enrolled and employed and help them the best way we can,” he said.
Whitlow said the organization is open Tuesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Monday, Wednesday, and Friday by appointment.
In other matters at its April 12 meeting, supervisors:
*Heard a report from Sharon Hooker, former Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) manager, who addressed comments made during a March 24 meeting.
At the time, Denise Stirewalt, of the Peters Creek District, suggested supervisors consider closing the DMV as a cost-savings measure, because the “department does not make money, it does not pay for itself.”
“Our budget for this year is $66,032,” Hooker said. “From July until December, we will be reimbursed, the reimbursement is a ballpark figure because we’re off just a few dollars, but we have done enough to be reimbursed $67,000.”
Hooker said in six months, the department made enough to pay for its entire budget during this fiscal year.
“The month of March alone, we brought in $346,185. That is a reimbursement to the county of $17,000 plus dollars,” Hooker said, and added there is no doubt the DMV will bring in more revenue to the county in the final months of this fiscal year which ends June 30.
Hooker said the DMV has always brought a substantial amount of money into the county, with the department paying for itself and making money for the last three fiscal years.
“So far this year, in nine months the one-and-a-half DMV person that we have here has brought in $2,266,203,” Hooker said. “We’re not sitting there doing nothing. We are working very hard, and we are taking care of our customers.”
*Approved the amended Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) six-year plan in a 4-1 vote. Crystal Harris, chair and of the Smith River District, said she voted against the amendment because she felt the board should work for the whole community. “It was just unbalanced in the county. It was too many in one area,” she said.
*Appointed Donna Shough, director of Human Resources, as the Assistant County Administrator. Shough will not be paid for the additional work.
*Appointed Mark Vernon, who serves as the Dual Combined Administrator for Erosion and Sediment Control & Stormwater Management, to serve as the Public Service Authority (PSA) Director. Vernon will assume those duties at no additional cost.
*Approved buying scheduling and appointments software for the Department of Motor (DMV).
*Voted to amend the meeting minutes for the March 24 meeting to add in a comment made by Harris regarding fire and rescue and the need for an increase in the real estate tax.
*Heard from Schools Superintendent Dean Gilbert regarding the Patrick County Public Schools system budget for fiscal year 2021-2022.
*Tabled a discussion of funds from the Virginia Department of Health (VDOH).
*Voted to adopt Jefferson Health Insurance.
*Heard a presentation by Lynn Chipkin about Ranked Choice Voting.
*Proclaimed April 4 – April 10 as National Library Week.