In push to pull in young talent, Roanoke hosts JMU students Friday

Students tour business, get glimpse of potential lifestyle


ROANOKE, Va. – There were more efforts Friday to attract young people to Roanoke.

A group of students from James Madison University got see what it would be like to live and work in the Star City after graduation. A group of 12 engineering and business majors met with local companies and explored the downtown area.

It was a part of a larger effort from Roanoke Regional Partnership leaders to increase the talent pool as businesses in the Roanoke Valley expand.

The students, who were a mix of business, engineering and other majors, weren’t just getting the lowdown on job openings. Roanoke wants to present a potential life style to job seekers.

“We talk about professional opportunities in the Roanoke region but we also talk about lifestyle,” said Erin Burcham, director of talent solutions with the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “We bring in our Roanoke Outside message and talk about outdoor assets, all the quality of life points, low cost of living.”

The students heard about what the Roanoke Valley has to offer -- from events, to food, to apartments, to outdoor activities. Many of them said they're now considering moving to Roanoke from Harrisonburg after graduation.

“It has potential. I could see myself here. It's a nice area,” said engineering major Alex Gellios.

The experience even helped a Roanoke native.

“I've lived here my whole life and I'm really getting to see a new side of Roanoke,” said finance major Andrew Withers.

The group toured businesses, like Delta Dental, which has a gym for its employees.

“We were so happy to have the chance to showcase Delta Dental but more importantly showcase the whole Roanoke Valley for the students,” said Kathy Claytor, VP of HR at Delta Dental.

Students asked about internships and how they can apply for jobs.

“I think that students are really impressed with the opportunities that we have,” Burcham said.

The students said the trip was beneficial. Some of them didn’t know much about Roanoke beforehand.

“It was fun to talk with the employees and not just about the work that they actually do, but why they like the city here,” said management major Rachel Abella.

A lot of JMU students were interested in this trip. There wasn’t room for everyone who wanted to come.