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New WV fellowship program aims at fighting the ‘brain drain’


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A new program is underway to attract and retain young professionals to West Virginia.


The state, along with Ohio and Kentucky, are among the top 10 where people are moving out, according to a recent survey.

The fellowship program is designed to make communities too good to leave.

“We need to keep people who are here," said Core 10 COO Lee Farabaugh.

The Impact WV fellowship program unveiled Tuesday hopes to help.

Six companies like Huntington's Core10 are offering a yearlong paid fellowship with a minimum salary of $31,000 plus benefits.

"This is a tremendous way to invigorate young people, get them interested in coming here, show them what all the opportunities are," Farabaugh said.

Those selected will work at their fellowship four days a week, then use their expertise at a local non-profit on Fridays.

"That's connecting young people to the potential to the places they are living in and empowering them to be a part of the solution in West Virginia,” said Natalie Roper, executive director of Generation WV which is overseeing the program. “When you feel a part of something, you're less likely to leave."

While there are just seven fellowships available in the first year, the goal is to have at least 25 available by the fifth years, at which point the program is self-sustaining.

One extra benefit is that it exposes people, both inside and outside West Virginia, to innovative companies they may otherwise never hear of. If the fit is right, it might just become the last place they ever work.

"Fellowships are a really powerful young-talent attraction and retention tool," Roper said.

That's what Farabaugh hopes happens at Core10, a software development company for financial institutions.

"The people who are from here love this place,” she said. “There's a draw here, brings people back and makes them want to stay. So when you provide an opportunity, they are hungry for it."

The first phase of the application process ends on March 13. The winners will be announced in June, with the program beginning in September.

It’s based on the model of a program called Challenge Detroit. In just five years, it has drawn 4,000 applicants to more than 75 company partnerships, creating an economic value of $8 million.

Two fellowships are available in Huntington and Charleston. One each is available in Beckley, Morgantown and Wheeling.


Originally posted on WSAZ.

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