ELITE Grant Grows Tech Talent for the Region

interns working together

In the past three years, 62 students at 17 different companies completed internships thanks to $94,000 in funding from GO Virginia. The effort was facilitated by the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council as part of the ELITE (Experiential Learning in Technology Employment) Grant.

Employers in Pulaski, Lynchburg, Roanoke, Blacksburg, and other communities built their talent pipelines while strengthening the regional technology ecosystem thanks to funding that supported intern employment. The grant also included a partnership with Exelaration, a software development company with a nationally recognized internship program, who supported the connection and mentor oversight of 19 interns to multiple employers.   

“The ELITE Grant enabled more regional businesses to be competitive when working with regional technology students,” said Erin Burcham, President of Verge and Executive Director of RBTC. “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.”

The ELITE Grant, which concluded at the end of September, underscores the importance of solving the region’s technology challenges both in the near- and long-term. It is especially critical when addressing the local technology deficit companies face. In addition to offering wage support, the grant supported training and professional development activities to further students’ career readiness.

“Getting to know a plethora of knowledgeable individuals in the field has given me a leg up on my road to success,” said Jimmy Ortiz, an intern at Cloudfit Software. “The projects they put us on give us real-world experience, which gives us a giant boost in our careers. I would love to work for CloudFit someday, not only because of the experiences but because the environment here has been exquisite.”

intern working with employer

ELITE supported creating hubs of innovation and activity around talent development and retention. Hundreds of students benefited from activities that were a result of collaboration from higher education institutions, employers, economic development organizations, and RBTC including:

  • Onboard ROA from Get2KnowNoke, a summer professional development program for student interns, young professionals, and remote workers to learn more about the Roanoke area while furthering career-related skills and possibilities.
  • Onward NRV Experience, a summer employer internship program to help students grow professionally while experiencing the benefits of living and working in the New River Valley. Grant funding supported 21 interns in this program.
  • Student Pitch Competition with nearly 200 students showcasing innovative ideas to create positive change with mentorship and judging provided by industry leaders. Sponsors contributed $16,000 in prize money to support aspiring entrepreneurs.
  • Generative AI increased students’ knowledge on the topic and connected them with an employer in the region that is leveraging this technology to serve its customers.
  • Biotech Takeover allowed students and young professionals to engage with biotech leaders through various presentations and networking to learn about exciting opportunities occurring here in the region.
  • Innovative Problem Identification and Solving connected students, entrepreneurs and other professionals to learn about tools and techniques for successfully identifying core problems and enhancing solution-focused decision making.
  • Multiple professional development events, educational workshops, and networking opportunities were offered in collaboration with Virginia Tech, Radford University, Virginia Western Community College, New River Community College, Sweet Briar College, and Roanoke College.

“The innovation occurring in this region is remarkable,” said stated Jason Clayton, RBTC Tech Talent Strategist. “Outstanding institutions of higher learning, a culture of regional partners collaborating to support technology and biotechnology efforts, a plethora of thought leaders, and a priority of attracting and retaining quality talent are strengths of Region 2.

“Support for meeting technology talent gaps in the region, like what was afforded by GO Virginia’s ELITE Grant, play a tremendous role in further leveraging the assets we have to reach talent goals and strengthen the innovation economy.”

Learn more and get access to the new “Guide for Professionally Managed Talent Development Experiences,” made possible by the ELITE Grant. Explore, engage, network, learn, and contribute to the excitement occurring in the regional technology ecosystem by attending an upcoming event.

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