Program Goals and Objectives

1. Generate Awareness of Regional Programs and Initiatives
2. Challenge Preconceived Perceptions and Inspire Empathy and Engagement
3. Encourage Participants to Explore Personal and Professional Growth

Calls to Action

1. Tell a job seeker or a business seeking employees about a resource that would help them
2. “Grow” someone else: Offer to be a mentor, encourage apprenticeship and internship programs, or volunteer
3. “Grow” yourself: Find your own mentor and regularly complete a self-assessment


The day’s theme “Grow Your Own Workforce” recognized that the Roanoke Valley already has significant potential with many resources available that serve diverse populations. These resources provide assistance to young people, people who have recently lost a job, those looking to switch careers, and some with barriers to employment. Because of low unemployment, many sectors are becoming creative in how they can “grow” their own workforce.

The Registered Apprenticeship Programs being offered in the region give high school students a jump start on their careers, as participants learned in four break-out sessions. In one session, participants drove the Western Virginia Water Authority’s excavator in an impressive 3D simulator. Rob Leonard with F&S Building Innovations Inc. spoke of the crushing student loan debt that apprenticeship programs can bypass, if we can overcome the stigma associated with not attending college. Representatives from Roanoke County Schools and Roanoke County Economic Development explained the importance of  “growing” our own students to be ready for the workforce upon graduation.

But often the Roanoke region is competing to keep local graduates and also graduates from nearby colleges and universities. Erin Burcham, Director of Talent Solutions with the Roanoke Regional Partnership, described her role over the past year to market the area to new graduates as a great place to live, work, and play. Erin encouraged participants to connect their businesses with her newly created internship program targeted at creating a social environment for interns based in Roanoke over the summer.

Lunch from Second Helpings “fed” into our “Grow Your Own” theme as Second Helpings, a program of the Rescue Mission, employs and supports job training programs for people without housing.

The afternoon kicked off with tours of the Virginia Career Works Roanoke Center, which showcased programs in the region that nurture both job seekers and businesses seeking employees. A leg of the tour included a short self-assessment, one that job seekers utilizing the VCW would be given upon arrival. Virginia Career Works executive director, Morgan Romeo, explained the variety of those that utilize the center including job seekers with with barriers to employment, those recently laid off, but also people who are employed and looking for new opportunities.

An impromptu call to action arose when participants learned that Valley Metro was currently accepting public comment on extending bus service to Virginia Career Works, a move that could double the number of people served. The next week, Valley Metro reported that the most common positive comment they received (several within an hour of the action alert email sent to participants) supported bus service to Virginia Career Works. Participants really did make a difference!

Throughout the day participants learned about resources and programs happening in the area to “grow our own workforce.” As the program began to wrap up, participants were reminded that their own growth was vital to the success of our region.
As participants finished up an afternoon sweet treat provide by Homestead Creamery, Karen Cardozo from Hollins University shared the importance of continued self-assessment and inspired participants to pursue their our own professional development by understanding their our personality types and those around us.

The day wrapped up with Ruth Cassell hosting a “Between Two Ferns” discussion with Patience O’Brien about the LRV Alumni Association and how we can “grow” in our professional development through the Alumni Association.


  • Western Virginia Water Authority
  • Virginia Career Works
  • Valley Star Credit Union
  • American Financial Planning
  • F&S Building Innovations Inc.
  • Nest Realty
  • First Citizens Bank
  • Roanoke Disc Golf
  • Roanoke Valley Orthodontics – Dr. David L. Jones
  • Johnson Orthodontics – Dr. Evan Johnson


  • Mike Altizer, Western Virginia Water Authority
  • Jay Brenchick, Roanoke County Economic Development
  • Jason Suhr, Roanoke County Public Schools Burton Center
  • Rob Leonard, F&S Building Innovations Inc.
  • Erin Burcham, Roanoke Regional Partnership
  • Morgan Romeo, Virginia Career Works Blue Ridge Region
  • Karen Cardozo, Hollins University
  • Ruth Cassell, Leadership Roanoke Valley Alumni Association
  • Patience O’Brien, Leadership Roanoke Valley Alumni Association

Team Members

  • Catherine Boush
  • Daniel Colston
  • John J. Hanna
  • James Hosch
  • Sara Lovern
  • Rachel Ruhlen
  • Smriti Sinha
  • Melissa Stankov
  • Meredith Thompson

Team Advisors

  • Chasity Barbour
  • Brian Hughes
  • Shamaill Ross