RISE 2024: Igniting Collective Action for a Thriving Roanoke Region

Experience Conference 2024 Event Recap

Over 200 attendees, speakers, and panelists gathered for the highly anticipated relaunch of the 2024 Experience Conference, held on May 2-3 at venues throughout downtown Roanoke. Showcasing the vibrancy of the region’s urban core, the conference spanned iconic locations such as the Taubman Museum of Art, Six and Sky Rooftop Bar, the new EYE planetarium, Hotel Roanoke, and the City Market Building.

Attendees hailing from 19 towns, cities, and localities across the Commonwealth converged at the event to delve into cutting-edge technology, engage with non-profit organizations, explore new avenues for community involvement, network with peers, and glean insights into the power of individual and collective action.

“Experience Conference never disappoints. Rishi Jaitly’s captivating talk on being a ‘Full Stack Human’, and his call to self-reflection to reengage with the humanities and liberal arts to add meaning and context to technology deeply resonated with me,” said John Park, co-owner of JPG Agency and a Get2KnowNoke ambassador. “As someone mid-career, I also gained a surprising amount of useful insights from the professional networking and communication session. I left feeling inspired and energized, with a renewed sense of what’s possible.”

Virginia State Delegate Sam Rasoul kicked off the conference with an impromptu speech that recognized local influencers in the room and highlighted the diverse, melting pot that now represents the city.

While the theme of this year’s conference was RISE, with the intention to RISE together as one, the recurring topic among many of the speakers and panels was transformation. From the Riverdale Project in SE Roanoke to the Melrose Plaza Project in NW Roanoke, to the innovation corridor investments and the introduction of their incubator on Jefferson Ave., to transformational tech like AI, and even in The Rookie Restaurateur live podcast session, they spoke to the energy of the region’s burgeoning culinary scene.

“There are so many transformational projects happening right now in the Roanoke Region which have brought us to this tipping point, said Julia Boas, event organizer and director of talent strategies at the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “It’s an exciting time to be working and living in the Roanoke Region, and together we can support these projects and community efforts in a variety of ways.”

A session inside the Taubman Museum of Art theater with a great crowd, ready for thought-leading discussion.

The 2024 Experience Conference tasked attendees to think deeply about how we can lift each other up within the community, and attract new talent to the region. How can we support non-profits, the arts, transformational developments, talent attraction efforts, higher education, small businesses, and infrastructure improvements? These unique elements are critical in making the Roanoke Region an ideal place to live and work.

Attendees were informed of the many exciting things happening around the region, leaving all feeling invigorated, inspired, and ready to support through collective action, information sharing, fundraising, volunteering, and more!

We were also reminded of the boundless potential in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and the power we all have to implement positive change. Change isn’t an abstract concept or beyond our reach; it’s something we’ve witnessed time and again in this beautiful place.

Live dance, music, and art permeated the conference adding vibrancy and beauty between sessions. Special thanks to the Roanoke Cultural Endowment and Local Colors for organizing.

Think about the landmarks we cherish today—the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail, Explore Park, Elmwood Amphitheater, Daleville Town Center, Main Street Salem, Rocky Mount, or Vinton (just to name a few)— all of these projects started with a spark of inspiration and grew through collective action. From large-scale projects to our favorite local small businesses, each required the support of passionate individuals, supportive governments, and private-sector involvement. That spark is what Experience is meant to ignite.

As we move forward from Experience 2024, let’s carry forward this guiding premise. Change isn’t just possible; it’s inevitable and can be immensely positive when driven by informed individuals (like you). Let’s continue to dream, innovate, and make a difference because together, we have the power to shape the future of the Roanoke Region into something truly extraordinary.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the attendees, speakers, partners, and sponsors who supported the conference and contributed to its success. Your enthusiasm and dedication inspire us to continue building upon this momentum for future years.

We invite you to join us in shaping the future of the Experience Conference, to participate in the committee, and to help us amplify its impact on our community. Shoot us an email if you’d like to host a program or join the Experience planning committee. Together we can make a difference!

Join our newsletter and stay updated on future events and initiatives aimed at transforming our community and attracting and engaging talent.

Where to Experience EXPERIENCE! A Complete List of 2024 Conference Venues

Change isn’t about staying in the same space—it’s about moving forward. That being said, why would we host a change-maker conference in just one spot?

Experience Conference 2024 is taking place among a dozen venues in Roanoke so attendees can, well, experience the vibrant, beautiful city we all know and love! Each day features a conference hub location with satellite locations for various other programs and events. Check out the venues below!

The Taubman Museum of Art

110 Salem Ave. SE, Roanoke (May 2 Main Hub)

What better place to get inspired than the cultural hub of the region? With its unique architectural style reflecting the Blue Ridge Mountains and the point of the Roanoke Star, the Taubman is one of the most recognizable buildings in all of Roanoke. We’ll shine a spotlight on arts, culture, and connections in the sunny atrium, and soak in the words of nationally-recognized speakers among classic works of art.

Talent Wars Unpacked with Patience Fairbrother (Keynote)
Networking and Communication in Professional Settings
Live Dance Performance with the Southwest Virginia Ballet
“What is the Super Power of the Future? With Rishi Jaitly (Keynote)

The EYE Planetarium at the Science Museum of Western Virginia

1 Market Square, SE, Roanoke, VA

Did you know Roanoke has a planetarium? It’s brand new! Thanks to a sponsorship from the Science Museum of Western Virginia, you enjoy it during an exclusive Experience-attendee only Hoot and Holler, aptly named “Working 9 to 5!” This storytelling program, reminiscent of the Moth Radio Hour and TED Talks, has become a local favorite. Led by “story mid-wife” Lee Hunsaker, these uniquely human events regularly sell out, one-time-only you can see it in a setting that’s out of the world (see what we did there?). Seating is limited to the first 100 people, so get there quickly! (Pro tip: afterward, head straight upstairs for the Networking Happy Hour at Six and Sky Rooftop Bar)

“Working 9 to 5” exclusive Hoot and Holler (May 2)

Six and Sky Rooftop Grille

1 Market Square, Roanoke

(Photo courtesy of SixandSky.com)

Situated atop the Center in the Square in the heart of Downtown Roanoke, you can check out Roanoke’s new (and only) rooftop bar, Six and Sky! This newly renovated venue offers panoramic views of the city and the Blue Ridge Mountains, an incredible and unique menu, and excellent service. Experience Conference is hosting a Roanoke Regional Professional Network Social here, and Experience attendees can enjoy their first drink for free along with some tasty snacks and great conversation.

Thursday Night Social at Six & Ski Rooftop Bar (May 2)


110 Franklin Road SE, Roanoke

Let’s talk tech in one of the techiest spaces we have—PowerSchool! Located in the former Norfolk Southern Building in downtown Roanoke, PowerSchool is the leading provider of cloud-based education software in North America and a major tech employer in the region.

Innovation Speed Shares (May 2)
What’s Happening at 1030 2. Jefferson? Roanoke Biotech Incubator. (May 2)
Collaboratively Driving Innovation Forward (May 3)

City Market Building

32 Market Square SE, Roanoke

(Photo courtesy of CityMarketBuilding.com)

A centralized market originally created to bring the community together? Sounds like the ideal place to keep the conversation flowing over some local fare! This historic building is in the heart of downtown and “stands as a vibrant testament to the city’s rich heritage and thriving community spirit.” Inside, you’ll find restaurants and shops showcasing Roanoke’s artistic, cultural, and culinary scene.

Lunch @ The Market, sponsored by RBTC (May 2&3)
The Power of an Invested Community (May 3)

The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center

110 Shenandoah Ave, NE, Roanoke, VA (May 3 Hub Location)

Are you even going to a conference in Roanoke if you’re not at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center? Originally built in 1882, the Hotel Roanoke (also known as The Grand Old Lady) has been a mainstay of the region for nearly 150 years. It’s home to international conferences, festive celebrations, and even the Virginia Tech Hokies Football Team! The Tudor-style construction stands in stark (but welcome) contrast to the urban setting and the architectural style of its neighbor, The Taubman Museum of Art. While we might be in a historic building, we’ll actually be talking about the future with topics such as transformational developments in the region, building infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians, and the new Melrose Plaza.

Transformational Development with Ed Walker (Keynote)
Reducing Car Dependence: Who’s Doing it Right and How Does the Roanoke Region Measure Up?
Melrose Plaza: Celebrating Culture. Empowering a Community
Holy S*#t: The Future of AI with Marty Weiner (Keynote)

The Spot on Kirk

22 Kirk Ave, SW, Roanoke, VA

(Photo courtesy of thespotonkirk.org)

With a capacity of 130 people, this intimate venue is one of the best spots to catch a musical act or comedy show up close and personal! For our purposes, it’s the perfect place for our Live Podcast Stage! Local podcasters Quincy Randolph (Rookie Restauranteur Podcast)  Xavier Tremaine (The Hustler’s Spirit) and Liz Long (The Roanoker Magazine) will be recording live podcasts surrounding the local community, and you can be there LIVE! Check it out Friday, May 3 from 1-5 PM.

Live Podcast Stage (May 3)

The Fab Lab at Virginia Western

3094 Colonial Ave. SW, Roanoke

If you haven’t noticed, Virginia Western has been doing some REALLY cool stuff in our community. They’re actively helping regional employers educate and train their workforce (usually at no cost to the student), and they’re helping the region keep this highly skilled talent here at home! It’s a beautiful campus in Roanoke, and you can check out their new (and super awesome) Fab Lab!

(Photo courtesy of Branch Builds)

The Fab Lab: Hands-on Experience with 3D Printing +More (May 3)

202 Social House

202 Market Street SE, Roanoke

(Photo courtesy of Instagram)

202 Social House is the perfect combination of dining and nightlight. With four separate rooms, each with its own theme, it’s like four different venues in one! This makes it ideal for the official Experience After Pary: Music MAY-HEM. Upstairs will be vibing over the hottest hits from icons Beyonce and Drake. Downstairs will keep you moving with pop-dance favorites throughout the night. After two days of personal and professional growth, you deserve to let loose and dance the night away!

Official Experience After Party: Music MAY-HEM @ 202 Social House (May 3)

Status Lounge

213 Williamson Rd, Roanoke

An award-winning chef and a fun, welcoming environment–we are excited to bring Status into the venue lineup for Experience Conference as the site of Bonnie’s Big Inclusive Brunch! Hosted by Get2KnowNoke Talent Ambassador and CEO of Building Beloved Communities Bonnie Chavez, this after-after party is the perfect conclusion to this placemaking and professional development conference.

(Photo courtesy of Facebook.com)

Bonnie’s Big Inclusive Brunch (May 4)

First Annual Talent Summit with State and Regional Leaders Hosted at Roanoke College

The beautiful Roanoke College campus in Salem, Virginia surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The beautiful Roanoke College campus in Salem, Virginia surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The region’s most influential leaders on talent attraction and retention are gathering at the 2024 Talent Summit on March 7, 2024, at Roanoke College. The goal of this event is to align the efforts of employers, higher education, workforce and economic development, and government as they collaborate to develop talent from within, form meaningful connections with students in our region, and attract top-tier talent to area employers.

As communities across the country are battling to attract, train, and retain top-tier talent, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Roanoke Region, and New River Valley are working intentionally and collectively to set themselves apart from the competition. The summit will help leaders identify gaps in the talent pipeline and help build better connections between education and industry.

The summit will be held inside the Morris M. Cregger Center’s performance arena on the Roanoke College campus from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and is open to representatives from government, higher education, C-suite management, and human resource and marketing professionals. The event will lead with a welcome from state leadership followed by a keynote from former Virginia delegate and president of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council, Kirk Cox.

Inside the state-of-the-art Morris M. Cregger Center, the primary venue for the first annual Talent Summit

“We are thrilled to host the inaugural Talent Summit at Roanoke College, bringing together leaders from various sectors to shape the future of talent in Virginia. Through meaningful panel discussions and sessions, we aim to equip professionals with practical knowledge that drives positive change and nurtures talent attraction pipelines. Roanoke College is honored to play a pivotal role in advancing discussions on higher education’s role in catering to industry needs and empowering employers to actively contribute to shaping the future workforce,” remarked Frank Shushok Jr., Ph.D., president of Roanoke College. “Our collaboration with esteemed partners and the support from initiatives like Growth4VA and GO Virginia highlight the collective effort invested in creating talent pathways that benefit our region’s employers.”

Mid-morning the summit will host a panel of higher education leaders, moderated by Dr. Shushok of Roanoke College, with major colleges and universities from the region represented, followed by optional lunch and learn sessions regarding employer success stories, communication best practices, and building partnerships. These sessions will provide human resources, marketing, and management professionals with practical knowledge they can implement within their organizations to effect change and develop meaningful talent attraction pipelines.

“While the Roanoke Region is ahead of many localities when it comes to talent attraction, student awareness of our region’s employers is still a big challenge for us,” says Julia Boas, director of talent strategies at the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “We don’t want to be known as a place that exports all its top talent. We want to be known as a place where you can get a world-class education, find a great paid internship, fall in love with the beauty and vibrancy of Virginia’s Blue Ridge and stay for a great job.”

Young professionals are choosing the Roanoke Region over larger metros, here’s why.

Collaborative partners working to host the first annual summit include the Roanoke Regional Partnership and their talent attraction organization Get2KnowNoke, the Greater Roanoke Workforce Development Board, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, Onward NRV, Virginia Talent + Opportunity Partnership, New River/Mt. Rogers Workforce Development Board, and every major college and higher education institution in the Roanoke Region and New River Valley.

“The talent summit is a great opportunity to convene leaders from all aspects of workforce, education, private sector, and economic development,” explained Morgan Romeo, executive director of the Greater Roanoke Workforce Development Board. “Developing and maintaining a talent pipeline is a team effort and thanks to GO Virginia we can host this summit and invite stakeholders to come to the table and develop tangible solutions as part of a regional talent strategy.”

Future summits are expected to rotate locations throughout the Roanoke Region and New River Valley to highlight the level of excellence at the higher education institutions that these two regions wield.

Combined, the Roanoke Region and New River Valley encompass 25 institutions of higher education, with more than 100,000 undergraduate and graduate students. That’s a higher concentration of undergraduates — .108 per capita – than in the Boston-Cambridge, San Francisco-Oakland, and Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill areas.

Combined the Roanoke Region and New River Valleys have over 100,000 students of higher learning.

The 2024 Talent Summit is just one of the many ways that regional partners are working together to leverage the asset of higher education density and create talent pathways that directly benefit our region’s employers. This work is made possible thanks to grants and support from GO Virginia, the Commonwealth’s initiative by senior business leaders to foster private-sector growth and job creation through state incentives for regional collaboration by business, education, and government.

Kim Blair
Vice President for Advancement
Roanoke College

Julia Boas
Director of Talent Strategies
Roanoke Regional Partnership

Morgan Romeo
Executive Director
Greater Roanoke Workforce Board

2024 Get2KnowNoke Ambassadors Poised to Attract and Retain Talent in the Roanoke Region

The newly inducted 2024 Roanoke Region talent ambassadors at their orientation on January 11.

ROANOKE, Va. (January 17, 2024) – The Roanoke Region of Virginia launched the 2024 Get2KnowNoke Talent Ambassador program with 26 young professionals and influencers poised to highlight the unique benefits of living and working in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountain metro.

Get2KnowNoke, a talent attraction initiative of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, selected 26 ambassadors to reflect the region’s diverse lifestyle offerings; they span the distance from Smith Mountain Lake in Franklin County to Botetourt County and everything in between; they work for diverse industries from automotive manufacturing to banking, to local artists and entrepreneurs; and they are culturally diverse so that anyone considering moving to the region sees themselves represented.

“We had an unprecedented and overwhelming number of applicants this year, which speaks to the growing interest in our talent attraction efforts and the enthusiasm of our young professionals to invest their time in the region,” said Julia Boas, director of talent strategies at the Roanoke Regional Partnership. “As with previous livability initiatives, the key to success is turning residents into Roanoke Region evangelists.”

The Roanoke Region Professional Network quarterly socials regularly see 150-200 attendees.

Talent attraction and retention are a top priority in the Roanoke Regional Partnership’s five-year strategic plan. As communities across the country are fighting to attract, train, and retain top-tier talent, evidence shows that those connecting with young talent early and working intentionally to develop livability assets will win this battle.

Ambassadors are key to making those connections. The 2024 inductees will use their skillsets and interest areas to host pop-up events welcoming newcomers and creating connectivity among user groups, promote lifestyle stories and attractions on social media, develop a strong professional network, and represent the region on campuses, with legislators or leadership, or even meet with companies looking to relocate to the area.

“I am passionate about providing opportunities for urban youth and using technology to create those opportunities,” explained Douglas Pitzer, a newly selected ambassador, founder of Strokes of Genius, vice president of Blacks in Technology for Southwest Virginia, and a polysomnographic technologist at Carilion Clinic. “I’m excited to leverage my connection with Get2KnowNoke to bring awareness to vital causes and continue to strengthen this wonderful community and bring economic prosperity to its residents.”

Doug Pitzer shown third from the left representing Blacks in Technology at the Q3 Social.

The Get2KnowNoke ambassador program is just one piece of the funnel under development by the Partnership’s talent attraction brand. Also being launched in 2024 is the Roanoke Region’s new talent attraction website, a targeted marketing campaign, on-campus interaction with students being educated in the region, summer onboarding programs to connect employers with emerging talent, year-round regional employer branding events, and the Experience Conference in May.

Get2KnowNoke is working diligently with regional partners to fill gaps in the talent pipeline. From current residents, regional employers, and higher education institutions, to students entering the workforce, and mid-career professionals relocating, the region is developing the connections and solutions that make it a place where people want to live and work. And of course, this diverse group of successful and enthusiastic ambassadors will take these initiatives to the next level.

In a study by the Knight Soul of the Community, researchers determined the key indicators that make a community “sticky”, meaning how attached a person is to their community, include openness (how welcome people feel), aesthetics, social offerings, and connections. This three-year study compared residents’ attachment level to GDP growth, with findings showing a significant correlation between community attachment and economic growth.

The Roanoke Outside initiative changed the way we looked at ourselves and helped us leverage our strengths. Get2KnowNoke plans to expand on that positive narrative to include more amenities.

Thanks to previous placemaking and livability efforts by the Roanoke Regional Partnership, including the nationally recognized Roanoke Outside initiative, the region is well-positioned to make its case to young and mid-career audiences. The Get2KnowNoke effort will expand on these successes to ensure that all aspects of our region’s lifestyles are being highlighted.

Meet and connect with all of the Roanoke Region ambassadors by visiting https://get2knownoke.com/talent-ambassadors/. Receive all Get2KnowNoke talent initiative updates by signing up for our bi-monthly e-newsletters.



Get2KnowNoke is the Roanoke Region’s talent attraction brand, developed to lead the effort in showcasing livability assets and make the case for what sets our mountain metro apart from the competition. The initiative was developed by the Roanoke Regional Partnership to leverage the organization’s marketing expertise to develop a young, diverse, and skilled workforce; and to collaborate with education and workforce development partners to better align with employer needs. Learn more at get2knownoke.com.


The Roanoke Regional Partnership, founded in 1983, is the public-private economic development marketing and strategy organization supported by Alleghany, Botetourt, Franklin, and Roanoke counties, the cities of Covington, Roanoke, and Salem, and the town of Vinton as well as more than 200 businesses. The organization has worked with its partners to create more than 19,000 primary jobs and $19 billion in investment by attracting companies such as Orvis, Altec, McAirlaids, Bimbo Bakeries, Cardinal Glass, Balchem, Eldor, Mack Trucks, STS Group, Traditional Medicinals, New Belgium Brewery and others to the region. The Roanoke Regional Partnership manages 501(c)3 organizations Roanoke Outside and Get2KnowNoke. Learn more at Roanoke.org.

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.

Source: Forbes.com

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 RoanokeOutside.com 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…”

Roanoke Region Professional Events Calendar is LIVE

The new self-populating, always-updated regional calendar will pull in your events automatically

The new self-populating, always-updated Roanoke Regional calendar will pull in your events automatically, the caveat being your event must be available online event with a unique url. But if you don’t have that, we can still add them manually.

View the video below to learn more about adding your events to our calendar, using the navigation tools, submitting your internal url for scraping, or promoting events via the portal.

All regional partners and investors of the Roanoke Regional Partnership are eligible for FREE event promotions related to professional development, careers, networking, livability, and placemaking. Just let our staff know, and we’ll help you spread the word.

Continue reading “Roanoke Region Professional Events Calendar is LIVE”

Roanoke Career Event Aimed at Students and Graduates Hopes to Strengthen Talent Pipeline

October 4 Talent Expo to be held at the Taubman Museum in Downtown Roanoke

Roanoke, VA (September 26, 2023)– Get2KnowNoke (G2KN) and the Virginia Talent + Opportunity Partnership (V-TOP) are hosting the Fall Intern and Early Career Expo to connect Roanoke Region employers with potential talent educated in the region. On October 4, college students, recent graduates, and early career professionals are invited to meet with regional employers about career and intern opportunities.

From 4:30-7:30 p.m. at the Taubman Museum of Art in downtown Roanoke, nearly 50 local employers will be on-site to discuss both paid internship programs and early career positions with talent looking to gain valuable experience and on-the-job training. Attendees can still register online to learn about regional companies, internship opportunities, entry-level positions, the Roanoke Region, and its professional ecosystem.

Entry to the expo is free for attendees, and higher education institutions will provide transportation to and from the event. Enrolled students and alumni must register by September 27 for transportation.

Along with G2KN and V-TOP, all the region’s top colleges and universities have collaborated in the planning of this event to maximize the value to students and employers. Hollins University, Ferrum College, Virginia Tech, Radford University, Roanoke College, and Virginia Western Community College career service department are all engaged in this effort.

Continue reading “Roanoke Career Event Aimed at Students and Graduates Hopes to Strengthen Talent Pipeline”

Roanoke Named to ‘Top 25 Hiking Cities in the US’ List by CNN

The Roanoke Roanoke has long been known as an outdoor enthusiast’s haven, but being featured as one of the nation’s premier hiking destinations is an extra feather in the cap.

McAfee Knob in Roanoke is the most photographed overlook on the entirety of the Appalachian Trail. Known for its stunning 270-degree view, rock outcrops, fall foliage, and epic sunsets and sunrises.

Roanoke was recently featured as one of the “25 Best Hiking Cities in the U.S.” by CNN.com. Roanoke was featured at the top of the list behind only Boise, ID. – coincidence? We don’t think so!

Proximity to assets like green spaces, hiking trails, waterfalls, and mountains played a big role in which cities made it on the list. This is one of the main things people mention when talking about the Roanoke hiking scene – some of the most beautiful hikes in the U.S. are just a 15-minute drive from downtown.

This is timely news considering the City of Roanoke just announced over 100 miles of trails and greenways within its limits, and they plan to celebrate with a trail work day and party on Mill Mountain, September 23. And that’s 100 miles solely in the urban core!

Continue reading “Roanoke Named to ‘Top 25 Hiking Cities in the US’ List by CNN”

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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