WHEELING — Twenty-five percent of the jobs that exist today won’t exist five years from now, according to Frank Vitale, CEO of Forge Business Solutions in Morgantown.
Forge facilitated a “Career Readiness West Virginia” discussion Thursday night in the Wheeling Park High School media center.
He said he often hears from employers they can’t find trained workers to hire. At the same time, he said he overhears conversations among college students in Morgantown saying they want to stay in the state after graduating from West Virginia University, but don’t see any opportunities.
This inspired Forge to approach the State Department of Education about starting the Career Readiness West Virginia program.
The discussions have happened in 21 counties throughout West Virginia so far.
Invited to participate are representatives from public education, chambers of commerce, public and private sector employers, tradesman and contractors and non-profit organizations. They discuss how best to drive career and workforce development in local communities.
“We live in a changing world,” Forge told those in attendance. “I don’t want to give the impression I’m against higher education — I’m not. … But we have to come to terms with the idea there are other pathways for our students, as well.”
Career and technical education provides opportunities for students to attend a two-year technical college, then go on to a four-year degree, while learning a skill.
“You have a great CTE program here in Ohio County, and we want to expound upon those opportunities,” he said.
Forge added that the biggest challenge facing West Virginia, as it looks to creating future jobs, is the lack of broadband technology in the state, which he said he keeps many companies from locating here. He encouraged the public to continue pressing for more broadband.
Forge provided numbers indicating that population loss is affecting Ohio County perhaps more so than elsewhere in West Virginia. The population in Ohio County between 2010 and 2018 has decreased 6.1 percent, he said. The state’s decline is at a slower 2.5 percent.
The student population, meanwhile across the state, has declined 7.3 percent, while that number is 5.2 percent in Ohio County.
“We are losing students at a much greater rate statewide than we are our residents. That’s because our students have more choices than the average citizen.”
Attendees were asked to fill out a survey asking them their thoughts on what employment sectors are growing in the area, and which are declining. It also asked thoughts on the training and education of disabled workers and military veterans.
Results will be tabulated at Forge Business Solutions, then distributed to Ohio County Schools, the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, and others who provided their e-mail address at the event.
Among those also speaking were Alyssa Keedy, workforce development coordinator for the office of governor’s economic institutions; and Amelia Courts, president and CEO of Education Alliance.