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Job opportunities focus of Workforce Forward Forum

More than 150 educators, economical developers, business and industry leaders and Southern Virginia Higher Education Center staffers were eager to hear successful players in the manufacturing arena share their stories and perspectives during Thursday’s Workforce Forward Forum held at The Prizery.

Hosted by the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, the forum’s theme was “Virginia Manufacturing: Back to the Future.” 

 Patricia Thomas, chairman of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center Board of Trustees, welcomed those attending, and Southern Virginia Higher Education System Executive Director Betty Adams offered an overview and purpose of the day’s event.

 “The purpose of this event was to bring together educators, economic developers, community leaders, business and industry leaders to focus on what the job opportunities are to be today and in the future in southern Virginia, and what are the programs we need to offer to get those jobs,” Adams said.

Harry Moser, founder of the Reshoring Initiative, delivered the keynote address entitled “Reshoring: A Key to Employment and Economic Development.” 

According to Moser, the Reshoring Initiative works to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States by helping manufacturers see the benefits of bringing off-shore jobs back to America. 

In January 2012, Moser joined 18 fellow business leaders at the White House for President Barack Obama’s forum on “Insourcing American Jobs.” 

  During Thursday’s forum at The Prizery, three panels addressed topics of Manufacturing Trendsetters, Emerging Manufacturing Opportunities and Educational Trendsetters.

 Leigh Cockram, executive director of the newly formed Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, facilitated the Manufacturing Trendsetters panel. 

The panelists were billed as manufacturing practitioners who, in spite of national and regional economic challenges, are leading manufacturing organizations that are not just surviving but thriving in their respective market segments. 

Panelists included Presto Plant Manager Rick Duckstader, Linstrand President Angela Lewis and Morgan Lumber Company Board Chairman Ken Morgan.

 Director of Development for the Virginia Manufacturers Association, Katherine Derosear facilitated the Emerging Manufacturing Opportunities Panel that included manufacturing practitioners who were breaking new ground in Virginia manufacturing. 

Among the panelists were Cardinal Homes CEO Bret Berneche, SIPS of America Owner Jimmy Farlow and MDS10/ Cross Laminated Timber Architect Crawford Murphy.

Adams facilitated the Educational Trendsetters Panel composed of educational practitioners breaking new ground in workforce education. 

Panelists included Dan River Project Director Dr. Julie Brown, Virginia Technical Institute CEO Dale Moore and Virginia State University Dean of the School of Engineering, Science and Technology Dr. Keith Williamson.