MG VT Graduation 051719

Graduates celebrate on the field of Lane Stadium during the Virginia Tech class of 2019 graduation ceremony in Blacksburg in May.

The Roanoke Times raised some important points about talent in our region, especially when it comes to attracting and retaining college graduates (editorials “Six troubling insights” Aug. 11 and “Two more problems” Aug. 12).

Recognizing this need, the Roanoke Regional Partnership two years ago committed to adding to our growing economic development efforts with a program around talent attraction. One outcome was the Go Virginia talent attraction and retention study mentioned in the editorials.

With data in hand, we now have strategies to connect with different populations of talent, college students to mid-career professionals, and engaging them with the region as a place to live, work, and play through our Get2KnowNoke talent brand.

Here are just seven of the initiatives underway:

n Get2KnowNoke.com went live in 2018 to show young professionals and college students that the Roanoke Region is a great place to work, live and play. The website includes a job board and now features an internship portal to connect students with area employers seeking interns, co-ops and apprentices.

n Our inaugural Summer Leadership Program for college students exceeded expectations. About 50 students came together weekly for professional development and soft-skills training, networking with peers and mentors, and connections to the region through outdoor adventure, sporting events and social gatherings. Participants came from 11 area colleges, interned at 15 companies and represented four states and two countries.

n Interns and young professionals began their summer at Experience 2019. This conference, started by volunteers and now managed by the Roanoke Regional Partnership, featured national speakers for early- and mid-career workers. More than 200 young professionals from 76 companies throughout the region attended, with 16 companies and organizations sponsoring the event. The conference has already attracted workers to the region.

n Year-round professional development supplements on-the-job training with skills such as how to create a personal brand or how to manage a project. Outdoor events, tying to our Roanoke Outside brand, provide networking and a taste of the culture that makes this region a place millennials actually want to live. Fourteen such events this year attracted over 1,000 participants.

n We are hosting a large career event at Lane Stadium on Oct. 2 to connect regional employers with students and faculty at Virginia Tech.

n We’ll attend or host up to 20 more college events throughout Virginia and beyond this fall to let college graduates know about the opportunities in our region.

n And we’ve launched a large targeted out-of-market campaign to attract professionals of all ages to move to the region to work and live.

Just as it took the Roanoke Regional Partnership a few years to build an outdoor-focused economy under the Roanoke Outside brand, our focus on nearby colleges and universities and the livability of the region will build a pool of talent in our region.

Talent is the currency of the 21st century, and with the business community’s support we’ll build our assets to secure the future of our region. For more information on how your business can be involved, contact Director of Talent Solutions Erin Burcham at Erin@roanoke.org.

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