Attracting and retaining technology talent is more important today than ever. COVID has accelerated a high demand for technology solutions, and that trend only seems to be increasing, especially in support of education, life sciences, and healthcare.
It is time to be creative in filling our talent needs and retaining the talent that is already here. Our biggest talent-generating asset is our strong higher education institutions in the region. There are many Fortune 500 companies that show up at our four-year institutions ready to scoop up the technical talent that our region is producing.
The traditional way for employers to navigate a regional college or university to access talent is through their career center as a starting point. Many majors have specialized clubs and student organizations that provide professional development to their members, and they are always looking for thought leaders in the region to speak and provide mentorships.
Another popular model of connecting students and employers is through project-based learning. This is a great way to meet faculty and students to expose both parties to your brand without having to take on an intern internally at your company.
The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) has partnered with Exelaration, a software development company with a nationally-recognized internship program, to offer a new pathway for connecting undergraduate software engineers with local employers using funding from the ELITE (Experiential Learning Through Tech Employment) Grant.
The ELITE Grant is a two-year program funded by GO Virginia and facilitated by the RBTC. Through fall 2022, it will equip the region’s businesses with the funding and tech talent to complete mission-critical tech projects. The state expects to reap workforce rewards such as regional retention of engineering graduates and attract employers from beyond the region to bring businesses to the area through project based learning.
“The ELITE Grant presents an incredible opportunity for Region 2 employers,” said Steve Cooper, CEO of Exelaration. “We formed Exelaration for companies in need of a technology internship, but without the capacity to run one. Tech recruiting is broken, and the permanent solution is to invite more participants to the tech workplace and get them started earlier. That’s what Exelaration does, and we can do it even faster, thanks to the ELITE Grant.”
Virginia’s Region 2 companies are eligible to take advantage of the grant, receiving up to $25,000 to engage professionally mentored software development interns. Companies can apply for the program through RBTC and [close extra space here] then get connected with Exelaration to complete their tech projects utilizing undergraduate developers managed by full-time technology experts.
This marks the first time a government entity has provided funds to connect developers with employers to build technology solutions through a professionally managed internship or apprenticeship program. It underscores the importance of solving the region’s technology challenges both in the near- and long-term, particularly when addressing the local technology talent deficit companies face.
Virginia has a noticeably urgent need for new workers in the technology field, especially in the Roanoke, Blacksburg, and Lynchburg areas. With this grant, the award-winning Exelaration program will accelerate its work to bridge that gap by creating more internship positions and bringing new tech engineers into the workforce before graduation. Those positions will help local companies previously stifled due to budget constraints or reduced employment resources.
The Roanoke – Blacksburg Technology Council is thrilled to work with Exelaration to implement the ELITE Grant to enable regional businesses to up their technology. After graduating from the region’s world-class universities, those joining the workforce often leave the area in search of nationally-known employers. By introducing talented students to local companies and allowing them to foster a connection to the community, they are more likely to remain in the area upon graduation. That’s a win for the students and the local economy.