Using technology to connect employers to talent
By Esther Bolling, Executive Director and CEO, Southwestern Virginia Technology Council (SWVTC)
The third in the series of four “Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce” op-ed pieces
August 24, 2018 – I take a lot of pride in my Southwest Virginia roots. I believe people in our region have a community identity based in our willingness to work hard, take care of our families, and take care of each other. But I also know that we are facing a crisis, and this one involves a precious resource: our children. Southwest Virginia’s population declined by 16,035 residents from 2010-2016, continuing a trend of young residents leaving primarily to seek better job opportunities. As the outmigration continues, we are losing our future workers.
As the Executive Director and CEO of the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council (SWVTC), it is my mission to address technology issues for business, education and government with the purpose of enhancing the vitality and social well-being of Southwestern Virginia. To help us achieve our goals, we applied to the Virginia Initiative for Growth and Opportunity, GO Virginia, for funds to bring together components of the talent pipeline supporting technology company recruitment efforts throughout the Southwest Virginia Region One.
The SWVTC is focusing on providing a user-friendly and effective platform, which connects technology employers to qualified talent. The platform provides a common information portal with the region’s resources thereby strengthening the pipeline to existing information technologies and emerging technologies.
Our work will align with another GO Virginia grantee, United Way of Southwest Virginia, as they invest in their Ignite program by creating a capacity-building platform that provides activities that encourage post‑secondary education, streamline work credentialing, provide work-based learning opportunities, and match new graduates with local employers through a web-based platform.
I am pleased that the SWVTC’s work will build on the work United Way is doing for our middle and high school students. GO Virginia is providing opportunities for organizations in Southwest Virginia to network ideas and solutions to address the issues, opportunities, and challenges of technology. Our efforts will be better rewarded if we work together to foster coordinated technology development programs in the areas of education, commerce and economic development.
Employer needs in Southwest Virginia are continually changing, and schools are continually asked to do more with less. These challenges will only become more difficult in a 21st century economy. Southwest Virginia will need sector and community-wide solutions. These challenges are not for business, academic or government to solve alone. It will take all stakeholders working together to solve this.
As I think about the future, I am excited to be working in technology. There will be jobs five years from now that don’t exist today, we are at the forefront of this new work. That’s amazing! But, even as we move forward, we cannot leave our children behind. I envision a region that has an education pipeline that help employers recruit high-caliber and diverse talent, employers locate here because Southwest Virginia has the best workforce in America, and youth who no longer need to leave the region to find a good job with a livable wage.
I want to create sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing both today’s and tomorrow’s workforce, and I am committed to working with schools, businesses, governments and other nonprofits in our region to develop them. The return on this investment will be the skilled workers needed to build a robust competitive economy.
United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life. 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, lasting social change. With a footprint that covers nearly 20% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia programs and initiatives serve the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Floyd, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Montgomery, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, Norton, and Radford.