Shepherd Snyder Published

Fellowship Program Seeks To Retain, Develop State’s Young Workforce

A young female entrepreneur smiles at the camera. She is sitting at a table full of other young people in what looks like a business meeting.
Generation West Virginia is organizing a fellowship program to help retain and advance the careers of young people in West Virginia.

Nonprofit group Generation West Virginia is organizing a fellowship program to help retain and advance the careers of young people in the state.

The nine-month fellowship program aims to help workers in their 20s and 30s interested in in-state careers grow their leadership and development skills alongside networking opportunities with fellow young professionals and business leaders.

“A lot of small businesses in West Virginia don’t have the capacity to provide really great, robust professional development opportunities for their teams,” Executive Director Alex Weld said. “And so this program is really built in response to that – how can we support young people in their growth and their efforts to stay here while also supporting companies who have young talent that they want to keep, and they want to grow into new roles that they otherwise might not be able to support on their own?”

Some of the skills involved include navigating career changes, how to develop and manage interpersonal relationships with coworkers and managers and using individual communication styles as support. Activities like hiking and whitewater rafting are also scheduled to increase bonds with fellow program-goers and to help gain an appreciation of the state.

Weld said many young workers leave to advance their careers elsewhere in part because of the lack of professional development opportunities in the state.

“We’re really trying to change that narrative, by providing young people with an opportunity to see other young people and to be a part of something with other young people,” Weld said. “It’s so they understand that you can grow and be successful here, you’re not alone in wanting to do that.”

West Virginia has a labor force participation of nearly 55 percent as of last December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The program is set to have five in-person sessions each organized in the New River Gorge area, Matewan, Williamson, Harpers Ferry, Morgantown and Charleston alongside four virtual sessions over the course of nine months.

Applications are available online until Feb. 28 with information on how to apply available on the nonprofit’s website.