Workforce development is among the top priorities for business and education communities.

Increasingly, industries in career and technical fields are experiencing difficulty finding the skilled workers they need. The jobs they offer are often well-paying and require less than four years of post-secondary education, but there is a lack of understanding among students and parents about the opportunities that exist through career pathways.

This phenomenon is not unique to the Roanoke region, or even the Commonwealth. Trends across the nation point to similar skills gaps, but the main differences are related to regional industry demands. Community and elected leaders are focused on finding solutions to our workforce needs.

The Roanoke Regional Chamber and Junior Achievement of Southwest Virginia are partnering to be part of the solution. Capitalizing on each organization’s resources, RRCC and JA will partner to implement a 7th grade curriculum designed to highlight career pathways, with a specific focus on our regional industry clusters.

The existing JA “It’s My Future” curriculum lays the foundation for this initiative. In six weeks, students will learn the importance of building a personal brand, explore career clusters, consider high growth opportunities, and examine the difference between technical and soft skills.

The Chamber will recruit business leaders to participate by sponsoring the program or by volunteering to lead sessions. Our goal is to engage businesses that represent the region’s top industry clusters of advanced manufacturing, health care, IT and emerging technologies, and food and beverage processing, as identified by our Region 2 GO Virginia council.

This is a great opportunity for forward-thinking business leaders to capture the attention of students at a time when they are beginning to chart their academic and career pathways. Over the course of the program, volunteers will have the opportunity to map out the careers that exist within their industry and highlight the skills needed to earn those jobs.

The success of this initiative depends on the participation of our business community. Take leadership in developing the next generation of our workforce by sponsoring or volunteering for this program. Below are the opportunities available and their corresponding commitments.

Sponsorship: Sponsorships are needed to fund course materials for students and volunteers.

Volunteer:  The investment of your time is invaluable. Your total commitment includes a one hour training session and six 45 minute sessions in the classroom.

Thank you for your consideration and support for this workforce development initiative.