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The Future of the West Virginia Economy Challenge

The American economy is amid a transformative shift in the nature of work – from workplace culture and practice to digital disruptions to rapid advances in automation and artificial intelligence impacting traditional workforces and workplaces across industry sectors. Meanwhile the Center for Rural Innovation notes that COVID-19 has challenged assumptions about where influential jobs and talent can thrive. As tech industries have come to embrace distributed teams, and as more workers have left or are considering leaving urban areas to work remotely in rural America, this poses opportunities for communities and industries prepared to adapt to and support new workers.

Emerging future-of-work initiatives are creatively assembling rural community leaders, emerging skills training, local work force readiness programs, remote tech employers, and institutions of higher education to re-imagine the future of a wide variety of the challenges and opportunities for blue collar, white collar and essential work through a rural lens.

Additionally, re-thinking the modern workplace requires a whole cloth re-imagining including an architectural, behavioral and geographic perspective, from factories transitioning to automation to the nature of what is an office itself. Additionally, new metrics and emphasis on quality of life have caused people to rethink where and how they live and where and how they work. As the state envisions alternative futures, it has an opportunity to leverage its outdoor assets to enhance and ignite future economies that contribute to the region’s economic health and social prosperity that expand opportunities and quality of life for both current and new residents.

The complexities, challenges and opportunities in this topic area are significant. Your team challenge is to identify opportunities that intersect with your team’s diverse expertise and the larger landscape of disruption impacting the future of work and West Virginia’s economies to envision tangible opportunities for solutions and impact within the state.

Key Questions

  • How do we intentionally engage our faculty/students/staff in participating in activities and efforts focused on developing and growing a sustainable West Virginia economy?
  • How can we prepare the emerging workforce to thrive in a highly automated, decentralized, and virtual workplace?
  • What kinds of curriculum/academic programs do we need to develop to enable our graduates to be successful in new areas of growth?
  • What role should WVU play to ensure economic opportunities for all West Virginians?
  • How can we overcome the perceived barriers to economic development? (i.e., financing, skills, housing, transportation, etc.)
  • What are the current assets in WV that could serve as a foundation to launch sustainable economic prosperity?