Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce 2018-04-04T15:51:41+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. Our Legislative Ambassadors are committed to advocating for investment in the next generation of Southwest Virginia’s workforce through our initiatives.


Bill Carrico

Morgan Griffith

Todd Pillion

Israel O’Quinn

Tim Kaine

Jeff Campbell

Mark Warner

Joseph Yost

Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce: The White Paper

We’ve created an eight-page document that will quickly summarize our Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce initiative. This white paper contains information presented at The Leaders’ Breakfast including a breakdown 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.


Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce: The 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

Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce: The Written Series

The written “Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce” series was created to shed light on the gap between the worlds of learning and work in our region. In the nine articles released on the first and third Sundays from May-September, we’ll explore current challenges in Southwest Virginia’s workforce and showcase the talent we have here in Southwest Virginia. We’ll share the stories of local workers and discuss 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 will provide 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 Careers Expo for Youth

As an extension of the United Way of Southwest Virginia Ignite Program, the Careers Expo for Youth took place on September 26-27, 2017 at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Over 4,000 7th grade students from Southwest Virginia (17 school systems, 46 schools) participated throughout the course of two days. Students moved through four zones filled with over 75 hands-on activities by regional employers in 16 different career paths.

At this annual event seventh grade students see first-hand what it’s like to participate in a chemistry experiment, climb a utility pole, practice CPR, or use a 3D printer – directly from industry professionals. During this career exploration experience, students learn about jobs and employers located in Southwest Virginia.

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Ignite Program

The United Way of Southwest Virginia Ignite Program connects schools and students with employers through career guidance and work-based learning. The Ignite Program helps middle school and high school students realize their potential and work to be ready to enter and advance in the region’s workplace. By partnering with Ignite, a program of United Way of Southwest Virginia, parents, community partners, and employers can join the efforts of the school system to build students’ career education and awareness. In the fall of 2017, the pilot components of the program will be taken to scale to 15% of the state of Virginia – in every middle school and high school in our service area, reaching over 29,000 students in over 80 schools and partnering with dozens of regional employers.

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.