United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Ignite program shows results and looks to the future

Abingdon, VA (September 27, 2018) – United Way of Southwest Virginia has been creating major community collaborations to address the gap between the worlds of learning and work.

At an event on September 26 called Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce: The Leaders Breakfast, Travis Staton, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia recapped successes and announced additions to the Ignite Program.

The Leaders Breakfast at the Higher Education Center, centered on United Way’s Ignite Program, featured a keynote by Megan Healy, chief workforce advisor to the governor of Virginia, and involved community leaders Tony Keck, executive vice president of system innovation and chief public health officer for Ballad Health; Scott Robertson, managing editor of The Business Journal of Tri-Cities, TN/VA; and Steve Smith, president and CEO of Food City. Following the breakfast, attendees were taken on a tour of the program’s Careers Expo for Youth happening a few miles away at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

Ignite, a program developed by the United Way of Southwest Virginia, was created as part of their “cradle-to-career” continuum to fill a community void in response to employer and school system needs. The program is backed by data at the national, state, regional, and local levels and has won awards from the Southwest Virginia Technology Council and the Governor of Virginia.

The program focuses on developing a talent pipeline that prepares the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow, supplying businesses with skilled workers, and building a robust, competitive economy.

Staton recapped the success of the program and its partnerships during its first year: career planning and exploration software for 29,790 sixth through twelfth grade students, local employer worksite tours to 64 middle school teachers across the region, reality store financial simulations to 3,054 eighth grade students, and the hands-on Careers Expo for Youth for 4,317 seventh grade students.

Staton announced that the next phase of the Ignite Program will include: a credential study to help inform coursework and training leading to the alignment with local employer demand; a Speakers Bureau to present in classrooms across the region; and internships that build on existing models across the region.

Ballad Health’s Tony Keck said, “Ignite is helping to level the playing field for all of our youth in Southwest Virginia. As I reflect on my own early work experiences and think of those who I have worked with throughout the years, those first lessons you learn in the workplace are among the most important, and ones that we all carry without us throughout our careers.”

About United Way of Southwest Virginia
United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life. Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change. With a footprint that covers nearly 17% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia programs and initiatives serve the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, and Norton. For more information about United Way of Southwest Virginia, visit www.UnitedWaySWVA.org.