“Ed Talks” Tackle Next Generation Work Force Challenges

Local News

West Virginia’s education leaders are working to better prepare the next generation for the future workforce landscape. From policy to programs to public health, three women spoke at the Education Alliance’s Ed Talks about making the state brighter for workers of tomorrow.

In the last few months Toyota has announced millions of dollars worth of investment in West Virginia. But the question is, will there be qualified workers to fill the jobs being created?

“According to a Deloitte study, there’s going to be 2-million unfilled jobs in the STEM world. So we know we also have baby boomers that are going to retire in the next so many years. So you add that to these unfilled jobs- yes we do see a shortage,” Leah Curry, President of Toyota Motors Manufacturing WV.

Curry believes we can get more young people excited about STEM fields by introducing hands-on activities, like robotics competitions.

“As I visit those classrooms and those type of activities, you can see the enthusiasm and the passion. So anytime we can bring that into the classroom as part of the normal learning, that’s what we need to do,” Curry added.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito said this also means emphasizing career and technical education.

“We actually are doing a lot of things in Washington with career and technical education with the ‘new collar’ jobs and these are jobs and these are jobs that really don’t require a 4-year college degree but are great paying and very much in demand occupations,” Senator Capito said.

Senator Capito said she’s recently attended a dinner at Ivanka Trump’s house with IBM and Northrop Grumman’s CEO. They talked about reinstating the Perkins Act, a 1984 program to improve career and technical education.

“To hear from the two CEOs about the skills gap and how they’ve got, in Wes Bush’s case, thousands of jobs that they can’t fill,” Senator Capito explained.

Huntington Fire Chief Jan Radar also spoke at the Ed Talk about the opioid epidemic, emphasizing the need to provide a clean healthy environment for children, in order to break the cycle of drug abuse. State leaders say many employers struggle to fill jobs because they have a hard time finding workers who can pass a drug test.

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