Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce2018-09-11T14:46:50+00:00

Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce

There’s a gap between the worlds of learning and work.

There is a gap between the worlds of learning and work in Southwest Virginia. Research shows us that less than half of high school graduates in Southwest Virginia go on to further their education; in Southwest Virginia in 2015, more than 3,000 16-19 year olds were not in school or working; and our employers need to fill open positions. 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.

We are bringing partners together to do something about it.

Youth should be ready to enter and advance in the region’s workforce. Together with dozens of community partners, we are addressing the problem through initiative-based community impact.

Our Sponsors are committed to preparing our youth for viable careers and a lifetime of learning. Our Chamber Ambassadors help get the business community involved in showcasing what employment opportunities are available to our youth. If you have questions about supporting the Expo, please call Mary Anne Holbrook at 276.525.4075 or email mholbrook@unitedwayswva.org.


Chamber Ambassadors

Legislative Ambassadors

2018 Leaders Breakfast

On September 26, 2018, United Way of Southwest Virginia will again host Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce: The Leaders Breakfast, the invitation-only event for business CEOs, legislators, city managers, county administrators, workforce investment boards, school superintendents, and other cross-sector leadership from throughout the region. Travis Staton (President and CEO, United Way of Southwest Virginia) and guest speakers will provide up-to-date information and research on current workforce issues of the region, report on the cradle-to-career vision and success of the Ignite Program, and engage partners with the new components: internships, credential alignment, and project-based learning.

History: We held the first Leaders Breakfast on September 27, 2017. United Way of Southwest Virginia brought together CEOs, legislators, administrators, workforce investment boards, superintendents, and other cross-sector leadership from throughout the region. Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce: The Leaders Breakfast was hosted by Steve Smith (President/CEO, Food City), Alan Levine (President/CEO, Mountain States Health Alliance), and Travis Staton (President and CEO, United Way of Southwest Virginia). Guest Speaker Stephen Moret, President and CEOVirginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), joined the three event hosts as they explored the current workforce issues faced by the region, explained the power of a cradle-to-career approach, and engaged event participants to form collaborative and actionable partnerships across the community to strengthen tomorrow’s workforce.

Learn More

2018 Op-Ed Series

The series of four opinion pieces will be published in June, July, August, and September. The op-ed series will include opinions from community leaders about the issues facing our region and proposed solutions with positive, long-term effects on the workforce of tomorrow.

2018 Written Series

The three articles in the 2018 written series will be published during the months of July, August, and September, and will showcase “bright spots” in Southwest Virginia related to skill development through hands-on learning. We’ll share the stories of local success and the investments companies are making in the next generation – preparing our region’s young people for tomorrow’s workforce.

2017 Written Series

The eleven-article written series was created to shed light on the gap between the worlds of learning and work in our region and introduce “Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce” in 2017. We explored challenges in Southwest Virginia’s workforce and showcased the talent we have here in Southwest Virginia. We shared the stories of local workers and discussed topics that specifically affect our workforce in Southwest Virginia such as local livable-wage jobs, local innovation, the value of working at an early age, the uniqueness of the community college system, and combining passion with skill – just to name a few. Our last article provided an overview of the actions being taken to bridge the gap between the worlds of learning and work in our region.

The “Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce” series was written by United Way of Southwest Virginia and was published in the Bristol Herald Courier, Clinch Valley Times, The Castlewood – St. Paul Observer, and The Lebanon News from May through October 2017. A sidequel series was also published in The Business Journal of Tri-Cities Tennessee / Virginia from May through October 2017. The series as a whole garnered over 50,000 digital impressions through social media and online access to the original articles. The printed articles were distributed to a readership of over 50,000 individuals across the region, adding up to more than 500,000 print impressions.

This written series was a Platinum Award recipient in the MarCom Awards 2017 competition.

MarCom’s Platinum Award is presented to those entries judged to be among the most outstanding entries in the competition. There were over 6,500 entries from throughout the United States, Canada and 17 other countries in the MarCom Awards 2017 competition.

11/11: United Way of SWVA creating major community collaborations to strengthen tomorrow’s workforce

2017 White Paper

We’ve created an eight-page document that will quickly summarize the Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce initiative as of 2017. This white paper contains information presented at the 2017 Leaders Breakfast including a breakdown of the 2017 components of our Ignite Program, as well as our research and sources. We invite you to download the PDF using the link below.

Click here to read Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce: The White Paper.


Ignite Program

The United Way of Southwest Virginia Ignite Program sparks career interest in the next generation of Southwest Virginia’s workforce through career awareness (through components like the Careers Expo for Youth) and skill development. The program 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 – enabling middle school and high school students to realize their potential and be ready to enter and advance in the region’s workforce.

Learn More

How can you join in our efforts?

About United Way of Southwest Virginia

United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia. Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, sustainable social change. With a footprint that covers almost 15% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia serves Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, and Wise, and the cities of Galax and Norton.