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Howard's Commentary - How Do You Keep Them Down on the Farm...

Keeping and attracting young people to WV is a major priority in the Mountain State. Having an educated, trained, professional workforce is critical to bringing the kind of 21st Century investment into the state that is necessary for it to have a viable future. (Not to mention it keeps parents and grandparents happy when the young ones don't need to flee to succeed).

A new project by Generation WV should be an important step to achieving that end for a half dozen future leaders.

For generations the path to financial success for many West Virginians was to enter mines or the mills right after high school, but the professional track often meant a trip out of state. With the dramatic change in our state's economy, the decline of mining and manufacturing, and the choice of more young people to enter professional fields, that traditional path to good-paying jobs isn't viable. And as the state transitions to a new economy, professional careers are more important than ever.

Six companies—including Wheeling-based Wesbanco—are the initial participants in IMPACT WV. They offer one-year paid fellowships with benefits in professional fields for college graduates. In addition to a 32 hour-work week, the fellows will spend Fridays doing non-profit work in their communities. The 6 fellowships will be granted following a competitive application process.

Our goal is three-fold: To connect young talent to innovative West Virginia companies, empower young talent to be a part of the solution in West Virginia, and by doing so, highlight the true potential and opportunity that West Virginia has to offer. (

Natalie Roper, Executive Director of Generation WV, said this week on The Watchdog Morning Show that "many companies have opportunities for people with 5 or more years of experience, but where do graduates go for years 1 to 5"?.

When Governor Bob Wise started the PROMISE scholarship program, its purpose was to keep young West Virginians in the state for their college careers. It is based on the belief that students who attend school here are more likely to stay here after graduation. But without a good paying job, many still have to leave to find their careers. Impact WV takes the PROMISE concept to its next level offering the professional job needed as that bridge between years 1 to 5 Roper refers to.

The 6 companies involved in this initial rollout are all innovative professional businesses in the Mountain State the include research analysis, education advocacy, banking, health care, design, and engineering. New companies and additional fellowships will hopefully after the successful launch. Wheeling-based Wesbanco, for example, will give the selected fellow opportunities in many aspects of the banking field.

At WesBanco Bank, you will be place in one of several growth areas of our bank based on your skill set, interests, and our needs. You will have the opportunity to work as a member of one of teams that are dedicated to bringing the latest banking and financial services to the communities in our five metropolitan markets as well as other local communities in our footprint. We have challenging developmental opportunities within following areas of WesBanco:

  • Risk Management & Compliance
  • Credit Underwriting & Portfolio Management
  • Commercial & Consumer Lending
  • Project Management
  • Strategic Planning
  • Wealth Management
  • Retail Delivery

Impact West Virginia is modeled after Challenge Detroit, an organization founded in 2012 with a mission to challenge leaders to learn by doing through a year of meaningful employment and intellectual work with area nonprofits designed to positively impact our diverse, culturally vibrant city. In the fellowship program's first five years, over 75 company partnerships were established, over 4000 individuals applied to participate and over $8 million in value to the local economy was generated.(

Roper notes that while "young people CAN'T stay in a place without a job, they WON'T stay in a place they don't like" which is why the fellows will be directly involved in making their communities a better place and through the non-profit competent, they'll be able to feel the value of place in their area. She also points out that while IMPACT WV gives hope to residents and in-state grads, it also may be a path for young people who are not from WV to come to the state and experience what we have to offer.

Applicants interested need to apply by March 13 with a written application. Those selected to move ahead will write an essay and attend in-person interviews later. More details are available at

West Virginia has been mired in its past too long. We have spent too many years and too much energy trying to recreate that which was—but is no more. Forward-looking ideas are needed now.

Small steps that can bring us to a brighter future.

Generation WV is making a move with IMPACT WV.

Building a better West Virginia a brick at a time.

(You can hear my Morning Show interview with Roper here)