Schools, employers unite to develop a stronger workforce in far Southwest Va.
As the sun rose on an autumn morning, business and education leaders from across Virginia’s coalfields gathered for breakfast to celebrate their latest effort to reverse their region’s downward spiral.
Over buttered biscuits and scrambled eggs, they listened to high schoolers explain all that they learned during summer internships doing real and meaningful work. Across town, a parade of buses turned into the Washington County fairgrounds. They were bringing 4,720 seventh-graders from 19 school systems to a career fair aimed at giving them a hands-on look at the types of jobs and careers they can find at home.
Both of these programs are part of Ignite, an initiative created by the United Way of Southwest Virginia to get at the root causes of poverty. Ignite aims to bridge the gulf between what schools teach and what businesses need. In its few short years, it has won recognition and awards and has spawned similar events, including the Career Quest held last month at the Salem Civic Center for 5,000 seventh-graders.
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