Federal designation helps Lynchburg improve training for high-paying jobs

by: Tim Saunders, WDBJ7, tsaunders@wdbj7.com

LYNCHBURG, Va. - Lynchburg has plenty of jobs with good salaries, but the specialized workers needed to fill those positions are scarce.

Trax International is an engineering firm based on Fort Avenue that develops simulators for the power industry.

"We have a rather unique brand of engineering and technical support that we provide to our customers around the world, so finding qualified candidates is a little tough to do at times," explained John Kenney, president of Trax International.

Lynchburg's Economic Development Authority is helping address the problem.  They've landed a Federal designation for the city called "Tech Hire."

"Being the only one in Virginia thus far puts us on the map," said Lynchburg's economic development director, Marjette Upshur.

The Obama administration developed Tech Hire to address the need for technical training.

By joining the program, Lynchburg will have a chance to interact with leaders in other tech-driven cities to learn about educational opportunities and job recruitment.

"It has given us access to resources that we might not have known were out there," Upshur said.

Tech Hire will help Lynchburg strengthen training programs that already exist.

Software developers like Sharp Top Company, based in downtown Lynchburg, can rapidly train new workers for their own company and others.

"As we produce these software developers, we're actually looking to instill in them the idea of entrepreneurship so that we can get some start-ups going like Sharp Top," said Tony Erskine, founder of Sharp Top Company.

Upshur believes the initiative will help Lynchburg retain employers, by creating a strong pool of highly skilled workers to fill their open positions.

"It strengthens our relationship with existing employers," said Upshur.

Upshur hopes the designation will eventually give Lynchburg access to Federal grant money that can be used to advance the city's technology training programs and possibly attract new employers.

Copyright © 2015, WDBJ7