CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 200 business leaders, innovators, policy makers and educators from across West Virginia are working together to share strategies on how to develop talent to fill vacant statewide positions.
The Education Alliance, a Charleston-based non-profit, held sessions Tuesday at the Embassy Suites in downtown Charleston for the annual West Virginia Education Summit.
“We’re hearing from business leaders and education leaders about the need to start younger and really give students quality experience that excite them for future careers,” said Dr. Amelia Courts, president and CEO of the Education Alliance.
West Virginia has very low workforce participation which is why Courts said their goal is to provide students more hands-on experiences to help them navigate different career paths.
“Equip them with skills so they have not just the passion, but they are ready with the knowledge and skills that they need to enter those career pathways,” she said.
This year’s theme is “Pathways to the Future – Strategies to Grow Your Own.”
Courts said the summit comes at a time when a number of new companies are planning to move to West Virginia and create hundreds of jobs. Many employees are also nearing retirement, which is leading to a number of openings.
“We know that we do have a very low workforce participation rate in West Virginia,” Courts said. “It really just emphasizes the need that we not only have to develop the talent that we have through college and other programs, but also grow the talent that we have right here in our state.”
It’s not just about recruiting new workers, Courts said. Business leaders also want potential employees to know they’re focused on retaining their workers.
“They offer continuing education, so once you’re in their employee ranks, they’re going to help pay for your college and that additional certificate. They’re also going to promote from within so they’re looking internally,” she said.
Courts said the COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for those in economic development as well as “educator-burnout”; however, she said they’re optimistic for the future.
David Donaldson, managing partner at the National Center for Grow Your Own at Harvard University, served as this year’s keynote speaker.
The last time the summit was held in-person was 2019. The last two years were held virtually.