Ignite Program 2018-02-13T21:57:51+00:00

Program Overview

The Ignite Program sparks career interest in the next generation of Southwest Virginia’s workforce through career awareness and hands-on learning, and helps bridge the gap between the worlds of learning and work by connecting schools and students with employers and employees.

Across the United Way of Southwest Virginia service area, the Ignite Program is investing in the lives of over 29,000 students. The initiative enables middle school and high school students from every school system in our service area to realize their potential and be ready to enter and advance in Southwest Virginia’s workforce.

The Ignite Program fights for a healthy, educated, and financially stable Southwest Virginia.

“There were so many careers out there that I didn’t even know about.”

Student

“WE MUST start now (6th grade) in rearing responsible young adults who are willing to work hard in their future.”

Teacher

“Great community involvement!”

Teacher

“The Expo was like a day off, but you’re still learning.”

Student

“With the help of the educator tours, I can advise students that there is a purpose for what they’re learning and that hard work is expected far past the years of middle and high school.”

Teacher

“Every where we went on the educator tours, the employers mentioned soft skills. I think we are so worried about our students getting an education, we sometimes forget the basic skills they need like being on time, talking to others, showing respect, and other soft skills.”

Teacher

The Need

There’s a gap between the worlds of learning and work. We educated our community about it during Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce. What’s needed is a true “cradle-to-career” continuum: a talent pipeline that prepares the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow, supplies businesses with skilled workers and builds a robust, competitive economy.

  1. According to the Virginia Department of Education, less than ½ of high school graduates in Southwest Virginia go on to technical training, two-year/four-year higher education or the military.
  2. Based on local employer feedback, Southwest Virginia is experiencing a workforce shortage and cannot fill open positions.
  3. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in 2015, more than 3,000 of Southwest Virginia’s youth between the ages of 16 and 19 weren’t in school or working.

Program Components

United Way of Southwest Virginia is bringing partners together to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. We have worked cross-sector to develop the following program components.

  • Career Awareness

  • Hands-on Learning

    • Soft skills curriculum from the Department of Labor (6th-12th grade students)
    • Money management through Reality Check financial simulations (8th grade students)
    • Apprenticeships through a summer youth work program *IN DEVELOPMENT*

Program Participation

Our 2016-2017 pilot to 1,000 students in 3 schools (Chilhowie Middle School, J.I. Burton High School, and E.B. Stanley Middle School) was a great success thanks to many local partnerships and our 38 participating employers. As of the fall of 2017, the pilot components of the program have been taken to scale to 15% of the state of Virginia – in every middle school and high school in our service area.

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Community-wide Benefits

By partnering with the Ignite Program, parents, community partners, and employers can join the efforts of United Way of Southwest Virginia to invest in tomorrow’s workforce, today.

Students

Get real-world advice and find out what options are available locally for employment once you graduate. You’ll get:

  • Online Career Matchmaking
  • Company Tours
  • Online Day-in-the-Life Videos
  • Soft Skill Development (Punctuality, Communication, etc.)
  • Resume Building
  • Career Coach
  • Money Management
  • Online Journal
  • Online Career Games
  • Careers Expo for Youth Participation
  • Work-Based Learning (coming soon)

Employers

Help prepare local youth for the workforce, whether you’re currently working or retired. How you can invest your time:

  • Career Coach
  • Guest Speaker
  • Company Tours
  • Careers Expo for Youth Participation
  • Classroom Demonstrations/Activities
  • Advisory Committee Member
  • Mock/Informational Interviews
  • Work-based Learning (coming soon)

Parents

Keep up with your students’ career interests with our software’s integration into Power School. You can:

  • See your students’ career aspirations
  • Start conversations about your students’ future
  • Contact guidance counselors and teachers

Educators

Obtain software and a career coach that helps you link your students to real employers in your area and guide them in their career choice. You’ll get:

  • Software including Online Student Assessment
  • Classroom Demonstrations
  • Professional Development
  • Pre-made Lesson Plans
  • Careers Expo for Youth Participation

Local Economic Developers

Increased opportunities to recruit outside business/industry to the region with a plan in place to develop a pipeline to a well-prepared workforce.

  • Engaged workforce
  • Cooperation among communities
  • Community-minded employers
  • Career-ready graduates

Parent Resources

Thank you for allowing us this time to inspire and invest in your child. We ask that you encourage your student to cultivate his/her talents and interests by engaging with them and expressing an interest in their future. It’s not too early to make choices in school that will enhance your student’s career later in life.

We’re currently working to build a library of resources for you to help you speak with your child about their career choices.

Link:   7 Ways to Help Your Child Choose a Career

Get Involved

Contact Crystal

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Crystal Breeding
Program Manager, Ignite
cbreeding@unitedwayswva.org
Phone: 276-525-4073
Fax: 276-525-8484

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About our work in Education

United Way of Southwest Virginia is fighting for the education of the region by making sure children and youth can start school ready to succeed, become proficient readers at a young age, stay on track in middle school, earn their high school diploma, and pursue a higher education or career.