Winchester, Virginia is at the center of a regional workforce of 4.1 million, which includes 1.4 million residents who have earned at least a Bachelor’s degree and another 844,000 who have earned an associate degree or its equivalent.
Our city and region place a significant value on both traditional education and career and technical programs throughout K-12 schools, evidenced by the powerful relationship between John Handley High School, the Emil and Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center, Laurel Ridge Community College, and Shenandoah University. The Innovation Center is a 50,000-square-foot dedicated technical training facility on the John Handley High School campus that has been made possible by a $1 million donation from The Frederick D. and Karen G. Schaufeld Family Foundation.
At John Handley High School, students prepare for careers through programs focused on in-demand skills, using input from local employers and the Winchester Economic Development Authority. Several high school programs are offered in cooperation with Laurel Ridge Community College and in partnership with Valley Health, Shenandoah University, and the City of Winchester. For example, within the health and medical field, students can gain the skills needed for careers in kinesiology, medical laboratory technologies, and medical systems administration, along with preparation for certification as an Emergency Medical Technician or Certified Nursing Assistant. There are also college-level anatomy and physiology courses. The school serves as a testing facility for the National Phlebotomy Exam. Professional services programs at the school include industrial maintenance, materials and processes technology, technical drawing and design (CAD), and welding (with AWS Sense I testing performed on site). STEM programs include electronic systems, computer systems technology, and computer mathematics.
Students benefit from early exposure to career fields. Worlds of Work! is a two-day event that connects 3,000 seventh-graders with more than 65 local employers and higher education providers for hands-on career exploration. Among the activities students can experience are performing CPR on a medical simulation mannequin, checking vitals using real medical equipment, analyzing x-rays, using a welding simulator, participating in a robotics arena, and assembling vehicle engines.
We are also preparing young people for the skills they will need to excel in 21st century jobs through a variety of comprehensive workforce training programs. One example is the $200,000 Apprenticeship USA State Accelerator Grant, which the U.S. Department of Labor awarded to the Commonwealth of Virginia to support programs that create a skilled workforce pipeline.
Continuing education and professional development are an ongoing process, and local workers and employers have solid resources in Laurel Ridge Community College and its Workforce Solutions program. LRCC offers programs in healthcare, technical, and professional career fields taught by professionals with real-world experience. Through Workforce Solutions, those professionals can deliver customized training and onboarding programs to meet employer needs at the College’s facilities or onsite.
Shenandoah University is a local source for a broad variety of undergraduate and graduate degree and professional programs. The University offers Bachelor’s degrees in business administration, economic, finance, and more, as well as an MBA program. Within healthcare, programs include pharmacy, graduate and doctoral nursing, as well as PT/OT, public health, and EMS programs.
Employment in the Health Care and Social Assistance continually has been the top industry for employment in Winchester, with Manufacturing, Transportation and Warehousing, Construction, and Administrative/Support following close behind. This shows a continued diversification and a lowered reliance on single employers/industry sectors. As an employment sector, Health Care and Social Assistance counts for roughly 15.3% of the region’s total employment, has continued to expand, remains the region’s largest employment sector, and has seen a healthy rebound since dipping during the 2020 pandemic. The Health Care and Social Assistance sector has a projected average annual growth rate of 1.1% with current employment numbers being at 10,008 for the region.
The main reason for this overwhelming percentage is due to the presence of Valley Health in the region. The health company boasts over 5,300 employees. Other large employers of Winchester include Navy Federal, Continental, Shenandoah University and American Woodmark.