How to Gain New Skills for the Digital Economy in Southern Virginia


View this article on Jeremy Satterfield’s LinkedIn page here.

How to Gain New Skills for the Digital Economy in Southern Virginia

Jeremy Satterfield

Jeremy Satterfield
Manager TechSpark Virginia at Microsoft

As we celebrate the third year of Microsoft’s TechSpark program, we’re focused on bringing digital skilling opportunities to our local communities—and for us in Southern Virginia—we’re thrilled about the doors that are opening for our residents and organizations.

At a time when a record number of Americans are working from home across the U.S., most rural residents lack vital digital skills that can unlock opportunities in the new digital economy. In such an important time in history, we chose to partner with gener8tor and the SOVA Innovation Hub to bring an upskilling opportunity to the residents of Southern Virginia that will position them to compete for advanced jobs regionally, as well as nationally. Economic development has always been tougher for rural communities, and the current pandemic has made things even more challenging. This new skilling opportunity will allow our lifelong residents to remain in the region while securing gainful employment.

TechSpark Southern Virginia chose to partner with gener8tor and the SOVA Innovation Hub to offer a free, virtual, self-paced program aimed at enhancing participants’ skills in customer service and/or sales. We received more than 150 applications from across Virginia during the short application window, and ultimately selected 35 participants from the Southern Virginia TechSpark region who began the five-week program on October 19th.

Our partner at the SOVA Innovation Hub, Lauren Mathena, Director of Economic Development and Community Engagement for Mid-Atlantic Broadband, had the following to say about our work together on the initiative:

We are excited to be working with gener8tor and Microsoft to bring this opportunity to the citizens of Southern Virginia. The goal of the SOVA Innovation Hub is to inspire people to pursue digital careers and entrepreneurship, and the skills taught in this program are critical to success in these fields. COVID-19 has made us even more aware of the importance of technology for the future of work. The gener8tor Upskilling program is providing people in Southern Virginia with enhanced digital skills to advance their careers and improve their lives.

Emily J. working on her digital skills from home as she embarks on her new career path.

Skilling for the new digital economy will be invaluable for our rural communities, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Here is how one of the participants, Emily J., summed up her experiences to date:

Having the guidance and support this program has provided is invaluable. Working one on one with a career coach and working through LinkedIn Learning modules has helped me see and pursue more career options for growth I wouldn’t have otherwise. I believe the opportunities this program provides will help change the employment landscape of Southern Virginia that much faster.

As we head into the winter holidays, finding and keeping a job with a living wage will be increasingly important to so many families. If you’re in the Southern Virginia area and would like to get involved and start your upskilling journey, visit our website gener8tor upskilling and be sure to take a look at Microsoft’s global skilling initiative as a first step. You’ll be glad you did!

TechSpark Spotlight: Through the TechSpark program, Microsoft partners with communities to understand their unique regional challenges and to explore solutions, programs, and partnerships that will be most effective locally. This first-hand account is part of the Microsoft TechSpark Spotlight series that shines a light on each community we serve.

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