A ‘Talented’ Approach to Growing the Roanoke Region

The Roanoke Region is getting “stickier” by the day.

The summer schedule is packed with Get2KnowNoke programming for college students and young professionals to help them develop professionally and create a network with ties to the region.

It’s part of a two-pronged talent solution strategy developed by the Roanoke Regional Partnership to connect with college students while engaging them with the region as a place to work after graduation.

The inaugural Summer Internship Program is exceeding expectations. A cohort of 50 students come together weekly for professional development and soft skills training, networking with peers and mentors, and connect to the region through outdoor adventure, sporting events, and other social gatherings.

Interns started the summer at the Experience 2019 conference, June 6-7. The event, managed by the Roanoke Regional Partnership, featured two days of networking and professional development for early- and mid-career workers. Summer interns and young professionals from 76 companies throughout the region attended.

This year, 225 attendees heard from national and local speakers about the Future of Leadership, taking away tools that they could use to grow their careers. Most Experience attendees hold a mid-level position within a regional company and say that they would like to continue to grow in this region.

Demographic breakdown of Experience 2019 attendees

  • 99% had some college
  • 91% had at least a bachelor’s degree (or will have one within the next year)
  • 18% had a master’s degree

Experience attendees say they value

  • Connecting with people in this area, getting to know what makes Roanoke Region great, and helping create a positive culture
  • Developing leadership skills
  • Leadership, technology, and innovation
  • Building lifelong relationships and helping individuals reach their goals
  • A people-centric culture where economic endeavors compliment the community

Keynote speakers Dr. Michael Friedlander, Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology at Virginia Tech, Executive Director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, and Senior Dean for Research at VTC School of Medicine; and Zach Mercurio, author of “The Invisible Leader,” were favorites among conference attendees. Both sessions provided access to information and tools that aren’t always available to early-career workers.

The conference, which has primarily been used to help engage and retain young talent in the past, also draws new workers to the region.

“I am so impressed with the intentionality with which you organized and delivered Experience 2019. To create a space for young professionals to work on themselves is purpose in action,” said Mercurio, who lives in Denver. “I’ll be talking about what you all are doing in the Roanoke Region often!”

Interns and young professionals have plenty of other opportunities to engage with the community for the rest of the summer with dedicated programming. (A key factor in making a place “sticky” is having amenities, activities, and groups that people want to be a part of to create a sense of belonging.)

“I did not know what to expect coming back to Roanoke to intern over the summer. Through the Get2KnowNoke Summer Internship Program, I have a new network of friends from all over the region and beyond,” said Kyle Campbell, who is interning with Marsh and McLennan Agency. “I am looking forward to staying in touch with this group for years to come.”

Interns from across the region were enrolled in the program by their summer employers. They encompass a wide swath of industries and in-demand jobs.

Demographic breakdown of Summer Internship Program participants

  • From 11 colleges
  • Interning at 15 companies
  • Represent four states and two countries

“The experience has been great,” said Alexie Jean Jacques, a Branch Builds Field Management intern. “I get the opportunity to see Roanoke from a different perspective, as well as meet young professionals who show promise for a bright future. I have a greater appreciation for the Roanoke Region today and I am excited to see all the new development.”

Upcoming events include a tour of Roanoke by bike, hiking in Franklin County, attending a Salem Red Sox game, and kayaking in Alleghany County.

Summer programming isn’t just for college students. While the Experience conference is the place for big ideas, year-long programming provides actionable opportunities.

Professional development events supplement on-the-job training with critical work skills, such a learning to create a personal brand or how to manage a project. From intro hikes to learning how to use the bike share system to getting on a stand-up paddleboard for the first time, outdoor events provide networking, access to outdoor amenities, and a taste of the culture that makes this region a “place millennials actually want to live in.” 

Attracting and retaining talent is a regional effort. Sponsorships from 16 regional companies and organizations helped us elevate Experience to a higher level and will help us continue to grow the series.

It’s not too early to start thinking about next year. Save the date for Experience 2020: June 4-5.

Contact Erin Burcham to get involved.


roanoke summer internship program