Roanoke business leaders and educators will meet Thursday to discuss how they can bridge the gap between what students are learning in school and what skill sets companies need in their employees.
The event is being organized by the Western Virginia Workforce Development Board. The group has invited about a dozen leaders from all different sectors in the business community to speak on a panel.
One of the panelists, Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission Executive Director Wayne Strickland, says having a strong workforce is paramount to attracting new business to the region.
"If they can't hire the people to do the work, why would you come here," said Strickland. "They'll do some training, but if you don't have folks with some of the basic skills, they can go other places."
He says the business landscape has changed dramatically over the past few decades -- and now, rather than hire people who put things together, companies are looking for employees who can build and program the robots that put their products together.
For that reason, he says STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) need to be a focus for educators.
He hopes events like the forum will help move our economy forward.
"There needs to be a stronger discussion or more collaboration between the businesses and educators in our region," said Strickland.
The forum runs from 9:00am - 12:30pm at the Higher Education Center in Downtown Roanoke.
The Workforce Board says it plans to host a similar forum in the near future where educators sit on the panel.
An event that brought thousands of people to Salem this year is coming back next year. Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. for the Blue Ridge Music Festival.