Friday, April 24, 2009

My Reaction To Jon Bowerbank's Jobs Tour

For much of this week I was traveling throughout the Commonwealth with Jon Bowerbank while he was on his jobs tour. As the name of the tour suggests, one of the big things that was being discussed while we were on the road was Jon’s recently released jobs plan and what he will be working on if he’s elected Lt. Governor. As unemployment numbers are increasing (it was near 20% in some of the communities that we visited), electing leaders who have the experience and vision necessary to create more well paying jobs is something that would be extremely beneficial to our great Commonwealth.

While we visited a variety of locations, there were a few things that seemed to come up no matter who we were talking to. One big theme was the need to make access to a high quality education available to people from all economic backgrounds. This obviously came up during our visits to institutions of higher education such as JMU, the Roanoke Higher Education Center, and Southwest Community College. At SWCC, many of people spoke about how the community college system has seen an increase of students since the institutions often provide a more affordable alternative to some of the traditional four year colleges and universities. In addition to students who attend the community colleges to receive an Associate’s Degree or take a few classes to pick up skills necessary for the workforce, for instance, there are more and more students who go to community colleges for their first two years and then transfer to a four year institution to finish their Bachelor’s Degree.

Continuing on the education theme, there is a need to help prepare students for the 21st Century job market. We saw prime examples of this on our visit to JMU’s Wind Energy Collaborative where students are researching alternative and nontraditional energy resources. Not only does the program help make resources more accessible to the community, but it also prepares students for careers in the energy field. Another example was at the Roanoke Higher Education Center where they have a program for nursing students that lets them interact with a mannequin that simulates real life conditions including talking, having a pulse that can be felt by the students, bleeding, etc. This allows nursing students to receive the skills necessary to help treat patients once they graduate.

While it definitely came up during our visit to JMU’s Wind Energy Collaborative, energy also came up at almost every single location we visited. Labor leaders we visited spoke about how investing in energy technologies here at home could would not only help our environment and decrease our dependence on foreign oil, but would also help create well paying jobs right here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. At a stop at Red Birch Energy in Bassett, VA we also saw firsthand how people are working hard in Virginia to produce biofuel from various natural resources.

Throughout the jobs tour we saw how there are people all across the Commonwealth who are excited about the potential to have a Lt. Governor who has the skill set that can help spur job creation. What also served as a great reminder of why I believe Jon will make an excellent LG is the fact that no matter who he was speaking with, he took the time to truly listen to what they had to say. He would let them know about his ideas, but he wouldn’t try to jam them down their throat like some politicians I’ve talked to. In a time when we need to create an atmosphere that truly promotes a productive discussion, this is a part of Jon’s character that I believe will be very useful once he’s elected Virginia’s next Lt. Governor.

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