The following article is from The Hampton Roads Business Journal.

Shawn Avery summed up the past year for Opportunity Inc. as time spent building meaningful partnerships to strengthen the regional workforce.

“Sometimes we play the quarterback, sometimes the coach and sometimes the water boy,” said Avery, president and CEO of the organization. “We all know it takes a team to be successful.”

He said collaboration has been the main point of its efforts to ensure strategic workforce development solutions for the region.

Opportunity Inc., which was established by the Hampton Roads Workforce Development Board, oversees federally funded workforce development programs geared toward helping businesses acquire qualified workers and jobseekers find job openings and increase their earning potential through training.

It is responsible for workforce development in Chesapeake, Franklin, Isle of Wight, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Southampton, Suffolk and Virginia Beach.

At its annual meeting and Workforce Innovation Awards on Sept. 20, leaders touched on what it has accomplished and what is on the horizon while honoring several of the established partnerships that are helping with its mission.

“This is our way of saying thank you to our many partners,” Delceno Miles, Workforce Development board chair said. “Thank you for your generosity and more importantly for your belief in what we’re doing.”

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who was awarded the Hampton Roads Workforce Champion of the Year, commented on how Virginia is a different state than it was when he took office.

Four years ago, it was reeling from the loss of 240,000 jobs due to sequestration, but since then 216,000 new jobs have been created and more than $16 billion in capital investment has been brought to communities throughout the state, he said.

“We’ve made great progress. The challenge is that we don’t want jobs anymore; we need to fill the jobs,” McAuliffe said, stressing it all comes down to workforce development.

Last year alone, the organization’s One-Stop Workforce Centers provided services to more than 12,000 individuals. It enrolled 604 customers in training services and 641 were placed in career services. It placed 495 customers in jobs paying an average of $31,325. More than 400 credentials were obtained for participants.

The organization continues to grow with two new One-Stop Centers, the Veterans Transition Center and a GED Prep Center set to open this fall as well as the expansion of its Youth Career Center.

“We continue to service our No. 1 customer in the region which is our employers,” said Avery, noting it was the fifth consecutive year Opportunity Inc. exceeded all of it performance measures.

The announcement of four grants — $200,000 from Bank of America for the Veterans Transition Center, $170,000 from Altierus Career College for the GED Prep Center, $15,000 from SunTrust Bank for financial education programs and $50,000 from the state to support the Youth Career Center – was met with resounding applause.

Kevin Will, president of the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Virginia, bestowed the community-based organization award to Tom Crockett, executive director of Together We Can.

“They share our passion for giving our youth every opportunity in Hampton Roads,” Will said of the not-for-profit organization that works to improve the lives of at-risk youth.

Tidewater Community College President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani presented the second award in the education category to Dan Lufkin, president of Paul D. Camp Community College.

“We know they will leave here job ready and be a competent employee ready to meet the needs of the workforce,” Lufkin said.

The business award was given to SunTrust Bank.

“It’s an honor to receive this award when there are so many other organizations, financial institutions … doing great work. We want to make sure our region is prepared for the future,” said Mark Johnson, vice president and community development manager at SunTrust.

The Hampton Roads Chamber was the recipient of the final award for being a regional innovator.

“I learned the importance of collaboration in my military career and it’s the philosophy I brought to this job,” said Bryan Stephens, chamber president and CEO. “Nothing in Hampton Roads gets done unless it’s a collaboration. We bring groups together for the experiential power it has to get things accomplished.”