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Ignite interns gain experience through hands-on learning

Submitted by Leann Vernon • Oct 19, 2019 at 4:30 PM

Students from the inaugural group of Ignite interns spoke during United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce Leaders’ Breakfast on Sept. 25 about their experiences over their four-week Ignite 2019 Summer Internships. Speakers included intern and mentor matches from Universal Fibers, Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Materials, Rooftop of Virginia, and LENOWISCO Planning District Commission.

United Way created the Ignite program to supply local employers with a talent pipeline of next generation skilled workers, building a robust competitive economy in Southwest Virginia. A key part of this effort is preparing youth to be successful in the workplace by giving them opportunities to develop their skills and competencies through real-life work experiences. By connecting students with internships, United Way helps students gain critical workplace skills through hands-on learning

Through United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Ignite program, 18 companies across the region hosted a total of 36 interns this summer.

Duane Miller, executive director of LENOWISCO Planning District Commission said, “More businesses and organizations should utilize the Ignite internship program. You never know when you might find a future employee that will strengthen your company.”

Miller served as an Ignite mentor this summer. He said, “We are eager to participate in United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Ignite internship program again next year!”

According to Miller’s intern, Sarah Graham of Lee High School, “So few people my age get the opportunity to experience filling out a job application, getting to have a real job interview, and getting to see what goes on in ‘the real world’ before they graduate.”

During Graham’s presentation she explained, “More opportunities should be available to students who may benefit from exposure from companies like LENOWISCO PDC and United Way of Southwest Virginia.”

United Way of Southwest Virginia president and CEO Travis Staton said “We are hopeful that these internships will enhance the relationships between educators, employers, and students within the region, creating a sustainable solution to the challenges facing the workforce of tomorrow.”

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