Businesses & Schools Discuss Workforce

How do we attract and retain more young people
in Highland?  How do we create more jobs while ensuring that workers are skilled and ready to take them on? Robin Sullenberger of the State Board for Virginia Community College System, the Highland County Economic Development Authority, and The Highland Center hosted a group of 38 local business owners, government officials and education leaders for a Workforce Round Table on August 31st to discuss these issues. owners from Highland and Bath spoke about the challenges they face in finding and retaining experienced workers, while representatives from the Virginia Employment Commission, the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, and the Virginia Community College System gave perspectives from statewide and regional initiatives.  Representatives from Highland County Public Schools were also in attendance.

Everyone agreed that there is a gap between jobs that exist in our area and the skills and interest of young people to take them on, especially in “middle skill” careers such as mechanics and construction.  Overall participants agreed on some tangible steps forward, including creating an inventory of all business opportunities in the region, expanding current programs such as The Highland Center’s Youth Employment Program, introducing apprenticeship and mentoring programs, and strengthening partnerships between the schools and the business community.

The Highland Center has been tackling these issues for 17 years by creating opportunities for young people, helping small businesses start and grow, and supporting farmers and local food businesses.  We’re rounding the corner on some exciting new initiatives.  Some are making a splash – like the major renovation of our historic building – while others are happening behind the scenes.

This newsletter is a spotlight on how we are moving forward.  We want YOUR input – what are we doing right, and what are we missing out on?  How can we help local businesses succeed and give young people the skills they need?  Come and find us at the Highland Inn,  email Josh Umar at, or leave a comment on our Facebook Page.  Thank you for your continued input and support!

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