Building the new Swva

Combating brain drain and supporting our schools

Our greatest asset is our people, particularly our young people. With higher poverty rates, fewer resources, and the lowest paid teachers in the state, our students consistently score high on standards of learning exams (#1 in math, science, and reading) and rank in the top 10-20% in the state, while succeeding in areas like robotics. We cannot afford to lose these gains, but must support our teachers with higher pay and ensure our schools get the funding and resources they need to further prepare our youth for jobs in the 21st century.

Right now, our best and brightest seemingly have no choice but to leave SWVA to find jobs or further their education. We need to try everything possible to create jobs and opportunities so our students can stay, and offer incentives for those who have left to come back to the area and contribute to the SWVA economy. We need to offer more training programs for students in high school that allow them to graduate directly to jobs, and also enhance our area’s technical education. We need to keep our Job Corps Program.

We need to formalize the untapped skills of our unemployed workers and coal miners, giving them certificates for skills they already have so they can obtain jobs, and so our area can attract more industry. We need to offer shorter-term training and certificate programs at our community colleges for our citizens of any age to learn relevant skills including coding, software and web development, and other skills that are important to succeed in today’s technology jobs. We need to support these STEM jobs, while also promoting the arts and provide ways our area artisans, musicians and creatives can work together, expand their reach, and sell their products online all across the country.

We need to realize the potential of our area colleges, including the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, Emory and Henry, and our great community colleges, law and pharmacy schools, and also expand post-graduate education.

My primary focus is on jobs and the economy, and we cannot successfully attract industry without making sure we are adequately preparing our students. The intellect and adaptability of our students is already here, but we must do our part to ensure our students are putting the most relevant tools in their toolbox to contribute to the 21st century economy.