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Career expo targets youth across Southern Virginia
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Julie Brown of the Dan River Region Collaborative tells the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce's board about the Career Choice SOVA Youth Expo 2014, to be held Oct. 1-2 in Chatham. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Henry County and Martinsville businesses are being asked to take part in an event designed to teach Southern Virginia youth about career options.

The Career Choice SOVA Youth Expo 2014 will be held Oct. 1-2 at the Olde Dominion Agricultural Center in Chatham. About 5,000 students in grades 7 and 9 from all of the region’s school systems will attend, according to Julie Brown of the Dan River Region Collaborative, which is organizing the event.

Speaking to the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce’s board on Thursday, Brown noted that all seventh-graders in Virginia public schools now must declare future career plans by the time they enter the eighth grade.

Except for the employers of family members and neighbors, youth may not know about local companies and the types of jobs they have, she said.

In terms of jobs, “we need to give kids a true snapshot of what’s available in Martinsville-Henry County ... so we don’t have students going away to a four-year college and never coming back,” said chamber President Amanda Witt.

Information technology jobs are an example of ones people may not realize exist in the region.

“Just because you don’t see Google here doesn’t mean we don’t have IT jobs,” said Brown.

But “we have problems filling IT jobs” because people in the region lack the necessary skills, she said. “Students need to know that” so they can get the education and training needed to do the jobs, she added.

The expo is modeled on an event held in Alabama for several years. At that event, employees of companies are expected to enthusiastically discuss with students careers at those companies, according to Brown, who also is director of advanced learning for the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville.

Businesses also will be expected to provide fun activities representing some aspect of their work. For example, based on activities at the Alabama event, a construction company might teach students how to use bricks and mortar to build a wall, or a motel might hold a luggage cart race, Brown said.

Various sponsorship levels are available to companies that want to take part in the expo. For more information, call Brown at (434) 766-6711 or email her at

In addition, about 75 hospitality volunteers are needed to, for example, park school buses and provide refreshments in employer break areas, she said.

Also Thursday, the chamber board:

• Learned that a kickoff event for the organization’s 2014 leadership development program will be held Sept. 16 at Martinsville Speedway.

The 10-week program is designed to help people learn about the various aspects of leadership and develop skills to be leaders in the workplace and the community, according to a letter to chamber members.

Workshops on leadership issues and conflict resolution will be held later this month and in September at the West Piedmont Business Development Center uptown. Anyone interested in participating in the program or the workshops can call the chamber at 632-6401 for more information.

• Learned that more than 60 bicycle riders took part in the recent Tour de Scholar to benefit the chamber’s Education Foundation, which raises private funds to foster partnership and leadership activities through education.

Some of the riders were from as far away as Asheville, N.C., said chamber Deputy Director Sharon Shepherd.

The event raised more than $3,500, she said.

• Learned that efforts are under way to recruit a NASCAR official to speak during the chamber’s annual meeting, tentatively set for October.

• Learned from Witt that A-1 Business Solutions has moved into the West Piedmont Business Development Center and Chick-fil-A plans to occupy two suites in the small business incubator uptown for its catering, administrative and marketing operations.

The Chamber’s Partnership for Economic Growth took over managing the city-owned incubator on East Church Street uptown in April. Tenants seem happy with the change, Witt said.

The incubator now is more than 80 percent occupied, and negotiations are continuing with prospective tenants, chamber officials said.

• Approved four new chamber members — PhytoWerks, Deborah’s Antiques and Collectibles, Williams Auction Co. LLC and Verizon-Wireless Zone.

Those businesses bring the chamber’s total membership to 635.


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