Revolutionizing the Workplace: Navigating Industry 4.0 for Employers

Harnessing the Technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Each time transformational technology has been added to the landscape of business and manufacturing, there has been an industrial revolution (think gas-powered machines, electronics, nuclear power, and the internet). The fourth industrial revolution is here (some might argue the fifth is upon us), and industries across the world are harnessing the power of cutting-edge technologies such as additive manufacturing, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, automation, and more.

Changing your entire company structure to marry new technologies with old systems can feel overwhelming and requires cooperation from the C-suite down to trainees. Thanks to a project led by GO Virginia and Virginia Tech College of Engineering, the Roanoke Region of Virginia now has access to free Industry 4.0 curriculum, training, and implementation-plan development. Get your entire company thinking with future tech in mind.

Contact the program coordinator to learn more about the training and curriculum, or join one of the upcoming information sessions or workshops.

Benefits of Implementing Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 technologies extend their influence across various sectors, including manufacturing, transportation, retail, agriculture, healthcare, banking, emergency response, and education. To thrive in the rapidly evolving digital economy, introducing your workforce to the knowledge of Industry 4.0 becomes imperative. Industry 4.0 planning and training can affect your company’s bottom line in a variety of ways, but below are a few positive outcomes Industry 4.0 practitioners can point to:

  • Increasing labor productivity, production capacity, and reducing material losses
  • Improving customer service, delivery lead times, and supply chain efficiency
  • Leveraging digitized operational data for business decision making
  • Facilitating more effective human-computer-robot production environments
  • Achieving higher employee satisfaction from being part of the transformation process
  • Capitalizing on existing talent and improving skill sets to elevate the intrinsic value of your workforce
  • Reducing environmental impact through waste reduction, water consumption, and energy efficiency

Source: McKinsey & Company

The recent pandemic underscored the need for resilient manufacturing capabilities. The increased demand for growth and the constraints of traditional workforce development put manufacturers in a bind. Industry 4.0 presents an opportunity for manufacturers, especially small ones, to adopt advanced technologies, enhance productivity, and provide upskilling opportunities for sustainable growth.

Dean Young, Vice President, Business Transformation, GENEDGE Alliance

Deloitte University video on exploring the world of connected enterprises. Industry 4.0

Prioritizing Industry 4.0 in the C-Suite

If you’re serious about your Industry 4.0 future, it must be initiated in the C-suite first. Without that level of engagement, real change is next to impossible, and you could find yourself outpaced by competitors.

To build your Industry 4.0 plan for success, identify a leader with the experience to:

  • Analyze and solve gaps in your digitalization strategy.
  • Identify areas where your investment will have the greatest impact on overall safety, efficiency, agility, and operational control.
  • Drive cultural change and empower your workforce to embrace innovation and advocate for digitally driven solutions.


What Does Industry 4.0 Training Entail?

Luckily for employers in the Roanoke Region, the GO Virginia and Virginia Tech Industry 4.0 Curriculum breaks down the content into modules relevant to different experiences and education levels.

Module 1: Overview of Industry 4.0 and the Foundation Skills Required (This could be relevant for CTE students in high school and learners being introduced to Industry 4.0 concepts by employers.)
Module 2: Soft Skills Required in Industry 4.0 Organizations (Focuses on self-awareness and critical thinking; machinery communications and the basics of network structures, protocols, procedures, etc.)
Module 3: Industry 4.0 Professional Education (Continued education for professionals already working within Industry 4.0. Includes advice/support developing business plans and new products.)

“Given the recent demographic trend of baby-boomers exiting the workforce and the challenges of recruiting Millennials and GenZ into the manufacturing sector, these ‘connected solutions’ are now becoming far more valuable in terms of creating a work culture where our next generation of leaders will thrive.  Wealth creation from these technologies is also opening more pathways to the middle class for a broader segment of our communities.  It is an exciting time to be involved in Industry 4.0!”

– Jay Foster, CEO and Founder of Flex-Metrics

Create Higher Paying Jobs and ACE Employers

Automated-Connected-Electrified (ACE) employers will be global leaders in next-generation manufacturing and automation, and we’re here to make sure that Roanoke Region employers are those leaders. With demographic shifts in the workforce, these technologies create a work culture conducive to the growth of the next generation of leaders, fostering wealth creation and broadening pathways to the middle class. You won’t need 1000 employees to run a high-volume, productive plant anymore – you need 200 Industry 4.0 savvy employees.

Industry 4.0 is not just a technological revolution; it’s a strategic imperative for employers. Embracing these transformative technologies and investing in workforce education can position your organization at the forefront of the evolving industrial landscape. As Industry 4.0 unfolds, be the catalyst for change, unlocking the true potential of your workforce and ensuring sustained success in the digital age.

CNBC Explains: What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Firefli Named Top 20 Best Places to Work in VA. Here’s why…

If you’ve ever worked with the amazing design and development teams at Firefli, you totally get why this company is thriving and winning awards like the Virginia Business Top Places to Work. They are friendly, agile, and lean – and experts at finding the balance between strategy, design, and functionality.

Owner and founder, Greg Brock, understands that “inspired creative individuals that feel valued create amazing work.” This is why they work with the intention to nurture their team of creatives and to grow strategically by including staff with different skill sets and perspectives. We’ve been lucky enough to work with Firefli on projects like and the Get2KnowNoke brand new talent portal, estimated to launch in March 2024.

Learn how they created an award-winning team, headquartered right in the heart of downtown Roanoke.

Firefli plans regular outings to celebrate their wins and build comradery.
Continue reading “Firefli Named Top 20 Best Places to Work in VA. Here’s why…”

One Of Virginia’s Largest Construction Companies Talks Talent Attraction

Branch is one of the largest construction companies in Virginia, and their 58,000+ sq. foot corporate headquarters can be found on Peters Creek Rd. in the city of Roanoke. The employee-owned company has expanded its presence across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, with a large portion of its 1,100 employees living and working in the Roanoke Region (as well as Virginia and North Carolina). You can learn more about the history of Branch here.

We spoke with a great group of folks who manage talent attraction and human relations across all their business units, which include Branch Civil, Branch Builds, and Hopkins|Lacy – and got some great insight into why their company is leading the way for the Roanoke Region.

State-of-the-Art STEM Building at Virginia Western – Built by Branch Group

Branch Group’s Recruitment Strategy

Branch is not unique when facing challenges in the labor market. In addition to the unprecedented, historically high number of job openings exacerbated by COVID-19, the construction industry is battling an increased shortage of skilled workers. Closing the gap between the large number of experienced workers retiring from the industry and the small number of those entering will be a challenge for the next decade. As an employee-owned company, it’s critical that we are always striving to attract and keep the best employees we can since our success hinges on their talents.

One of the foundational elements of our strategy is consistent communication and workforce planning with our business unit leaders (Branch has three separate entities). This allows us to understand current and future staffing needs.

These needs can change suddenly due to project schedules, and we often have to recruit high numbers quickly. By having regular meetings, tracking current and predicted job openings, and sharing intel, we can be proactive instead of reactive.

It’s proved crucial to stay on top of technology trends and incorporate new platforms efficiently for both recruiters and hiring managers. In 2022, we introduced a new employee referral program and the number of referrals has increased dramatically. The addition of a text messaging system, integrated with our recruiting software, improved our ability to communicate with candidates who work in the field and are on the go. We also improved our reporting and added analytical data to help identify gaps in our pipeline, the jobs, and regions that are most popular or have the largest candidates drop off and inform us about the candidate’s journey from awareness to hire.

2023 Branch Group Intern Cohort

Talent also has a strong partnership with the internal marketing department. Sharing this data with marketing allows them to create better campaigns, strategically buy media, and pivot quickly when needed. They can effectively communicate our company’s employee value proposition (EVP) in creative ways to break through the noise of our competitors — by focusing on the culture that employee ownership creates, the accountability and opportunities that exist because of it, and the rewards it reaps, we’re able to attract the best talent.

Construction is a traditionally male profession, but Branch works hard to break those social norms.

Tapping Into Diverse or Unexpected Talent Pools

Comprising members of Human Resources and stakeholders within the business units, our Workforce Development committee has successfully identified the best-untapped talent pools and groups that have diverse candidates with transferrable skills. Through these programs and partnerships with various agencies, we are seeing more candidates and a positive impact on our diversity numbers. It’s critical that HR works on identifying these groups with employees within the organization since they will know where their peers are. As an organization, you cannot always depend on your leaders to know where to look.

What Could the Roanoke Region Be Doing to Attract More Young Talent?

To attract young talent, it is imperative that the region offer affordable housing options to new graduates (especially those saddled with student loans) and young adults just moving out on their own. This may call for fewer restrictions to building apartments or incentivizing the building of smaller, single-family homes.

The region does a great job of highlighting our amazing outdoor lifestyle and vibrant downtown, both of which are attractive to young adults. We’ve also noticed neighboring regions introducing “non-alcoholic bars” which is a trend that our region is lacking.

Businesses and organizations need to build stronger relationships with the many colleges and universities in the region. We want recent graduates to stay here, instead of transplanting to larger, more expensive cities or moving back to their hometowns. They may not even consider us an option if we don’t show them what we offer.

Campus recruitment & K-12 engagement are essential elements of Branch’s long-term recruitment strategy.

Branch Collaborations with Regional Educational Institutions

Building relationships is one of Branch’s core values, so collaboration with local educational institutions is a top priority. We consistently evaluate our success with students in their various programs to optimize the relationship for both parties. Sponsoring and attending hiring events, speaking at colleges and classes, mentoring students, offering internships and career exploration opportunities, and working with their career centers are just a few ways that we engage.

It should be noted that we have found the most success in partnering with our local high schools. Interest in STEM careers like construction and engineering starts way before college! We love to interact with the students at local vocational and high schools.

Branch Builds and Hopkins|Lacy are both involved in the mega-project for Carilion’s newest tower.

We provide interviewing coaching, soft-skill training, career exploration days, and career fairs. We have a reputable 25-year-old mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP) student apprenticeship programs and newer heavy equipment and carpentry apprenticeships that successfully recruit students.

Alongside Roanoke City schools, we’ve created an externship for a mechanical engineering student who will shadow our Building Information Management (BIM) team and explore real-world applications. In July, we offered our first Career Exploration Day, which allowed students ages 16-18 to job shadow each department at Branch, including non-construction-related careers. These experiences will help students get an idea of the career paths they can explore upon graduation.

Successful Mentorship and Internship Programs Nurture Young Talent and Prepare Them for Employment

Branch has hosted summer interns for decades. During the nine-week internships, we offer three career pathways in three-week rotations. This format provides hands-on experiences to help young talent determine their area of focus upon graduation. To aid development off the job site, we created intern-specific webinars about employee benefits, how retirement accounts work, resume tips, and interview skills (just to name a few).

Our employees host social events for the interns at Top Golf or to go axe-throwing! The opportunity to network with seasoned professionals and fellow interns helps build culture and relationships. To become their employer-of-choice upon graduation, we invite those who are eligible back for another summer or offer them a full-time position. If you’re interested in an internship at Branch Group for 2024, meet with them at the October 4 Intern & Early Career Expo at the Taubman Museum in downtown Roanoke.

What Workforce and Talent Attraction Tools in the Roanoke Region Would You Recommend to Another Employer?

Your business doesn’t have to solve every challenge on its own. Use your workforce development agencies! They offer funding for training, career counselors who integrate candidates into places of employment, and potential financial incentives for companies who hire from disenfranchised populations. Overcome barriers to employment by working with agencies that provide wrap-around services; for example, ride-sharing for employees who don’t have reliable transportation, or financial benefits for employees to maintain reliable childcare. Talk to your vendors, clients, and even competitors to see how they are solving their workforce challenges – you may discover new resources or find a partner.

Economic development agencies, such as the Roanoke Regional Partnership, are invested in retaining talent after graduation from local colleges and universities and encouraging those who grew up here, but settled elsewhere after graduation, to return to the region. Employers can do this as well by highlighting the quality of life that the region offers while extending an offer for employment. Use the marketing materials they provide to persuade your candidates that Roanoke is the place to be.

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RELATED ‘NOKE NEWS Makes Finding Regional Jobs Easier

A new, regional job board launched today on, the talent attraction arm of the Roanoke Regional Partnership.

A job board is a webpage used by employers to advertise their job vacancies to job seekers, and this regional version pulls opportunities for all regional employers and offers special filtering tools making it easier to use.

The Get2KnowNoke site is free for employers and job seekers to use and includes listings for all companies in Roanoke, Franklin, Botetourt, and Alleghany counties, the cities of Salem, Roanoke, and Covington, and the town of Vinton. Job seekers can filter jobs by job category, employer, or use the search bar to filter by key terms.

“While there are many job sites specific to one town or one employer, the Partnership identified that our region was lacking a user-friendly tool for job seekers and employers that encompassed our entire labor shed, said Julia Boas, director of talent strategies for the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “Now technology exists that allows us to keep listings up to date without employers having to lift a finger.”

Currently, 8,164 job listings are populating the jobs board, which are pulled from the best-in-class platform Jobs EQ. Jobs EQ uses website crawling technology to scrape data from over 14,000 websites daily, including top sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter. If any employers’ listings are not showing, their internal websites can be submitted to Jobs EQ.

As part of the Thrive 2027 plan, the Partnership recognized the importance of expanding the Roanoke Region’s ability to attract and retain in-demand talent as one of the top priorities over the next five years. In addition to developing web assets like the jobs board, Get2KnowNoke focuses on marketing and brand-building around the talent narrative, as well as supporting the advancement of the education pipeline and workforce development initiatives.

An entirely new talent portal, currently being developed in collaboration with the Greater Roanoke Workforce Development Board thanks to a grant from GO Virginia, will feature livability assets, neighborhood guides, employer resources, internships, and networking opportunities with a scheduled finish date of early 2024.

With the current demand for qualified labor at an all-time high, employers need to remove any barriers for potential talent looking to relocate to the region. This tool, coupled with the development of a more robust website, will provide all the resources a prospective resident may need in one place.

“Now that we’ve developed this useful tool, we can promote it to potential employees in key markets where we know that people are leaving to move to Roanoke, or places that have a labor-pool density with skills our employers are seeking,” said Boas, “We expect the site to become the go-to resource for regional job opportunities and intend to glean valuable insights into the demographics of people using the site.”

You can view the jobs board by going to – If employers have questions on how their listings appear, they may contact

Working Remote Presents New Challenges; Navigate Them with Ease 

zoom tips

Videoconferencing, team chat apps, and virtual meetings are making everyone a little uncomfortable. 

And that’s OK. 

As a digital native, or someone that works in the technology industry, this can be an exciting challenge. Learning new technology is fun and adds efficiency to your day. 

Working remotely is new for many of us and our aptitudes in technology are front and center. We feel angst as a coworker struggles to get Zoom off mute or when document-sharing isn’t so seamless. Learning curves are on display for all to see.   Continue reading “Working Remote Presents New Challenges; Navigate Them with Ease “

Nab Top Talent Next Summer with a Better Internship Listing Now

roanoke region internship

Top college students will start looking for summer internships as soon as they return to campus this fall.

That means it’s not too early to get a listing online and in front of top college talent before they commit somewhere else. Even if your company’s internship details haven’t been formally approved, you can post an evergreen listing to help generate interest and collect resumes. Continue reading “Nab Top Talent Next Summer with a Better Internship Listing Now”

Love What You Do: How To Turn Your Hobby Into A Career

About 30% of life is spent working.

Let’s put that in perspective, between the ages of 20 and 65 the average American will work about 260 days per year, 8 hours per day to equal about 93,600 hours over a lifetime. If you love what you do, you may not ever spend a day of your life “working.” So, why not turn a hobby into a career?

Here are a few careers — brewing, engineering, nursing — that can grow out of activities you already enjoy. Continue reading “Love What You Do: How To Turn Your Hobby Into A Career”

Get Help to Pay Off Student Loan Debt with New Program

student loan debt grants

Franklin County is part of a new program of the Virginia Tobacco Revitalization Commission which will help pay off student loan debt for recent college graduates who reside in Franklin County (or another tobacco region community) and fill in-demand jobs.

The Talent Attraction Program will award up to $48,000 per graduate over four years when recipients live and work in the tobacco region at specific jobs in education, health care, engineering, and computer technology. Award recipients also are required to become civically engaged in the community by volunteering with local non-profits or government activities. Continue reading “Get Help to Pay Off Student Loan Debt with New Program”