Across the United Way of Southwest Virginia service area, the Ignite Program is investing in the next generation of Southwest Virginia’s workforce through career awareness and hands-on learning for almost 30,000 students.
The Ignite Program connects schools and students with employers and employees, enabling middle school and high school students to realize their potential and be ready to enter and advance in Southwest Virginia’s workforce. We help create connections that keep students engaged in learning – inspiring them to take rigorous courses, build relationships with employers, and prepare for post-secondary education, advanced vocational training, and excelling in the workforce.
- 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.
- Based on local employer feedback, Southwest Virginia is experiencing a workforce shortage and cannot fill open positions.
- According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in 2005, more than 3,000 of Southwest Virginia’s youth between the ages of 16 and 19 weren’t in school or working.
To address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce, we have developed the following program components.
- 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*
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.
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.