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2018 Focus Forward

Focus Forward 2018
October 9
Charleston, WV

The West Virginia Public Education Collaborative, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and WV Forward hosted the inaugural Focus Forward: Preparing Today for the West Virginia of Tomorrow symposium on October 9, 2018. The trailblazing conference addressed how machine learning and artificial intelligence will significantly impact future jobs and required skills.

Never before had more than 100 government officials, policymakers, education leaders, economists and industry executives from across West Virginia and beyond come together to discuss how best to build the skills, knowledge, resiliency and productivity of West Virginia’s workforce to prepare for the rapidly evolving technology that is changing workplace skills at lightening-speed.

The day's events.

Speaker at the Focus Forward meeting

Mark Kamlet, University Professor of Economics and Public Policy and Provost Emeritus at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses the impacts of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Panel at 2018 Focus Forward

A panel of leaders in the manufacturing sector break down how technology will change their industry and act as a disruptor to future manufacturing jobs.

Key Takeaways


  • It is important to ensure that the transition of jobs, the workforce and education into the future will benefit all segments of the population.

  • While STEM is still important, the humanities and “human skills” like creativity, problem solving, communication and collaboration will be key in a future with more artificial intelligence and automation.

  • Machine learning and automation are taking over middle-class, blue-collar jobs and some white-collar jobs that are transactional in nature, leading to a hollowing out of the middle class.

  • Skills taught in schools need to align with workforce demands, which are changing as technology evolves—it is essential to teach what machine learning cannot do.

  • Clusters—areas with a concentration of related industrial activities—help to create wealth, and we should work to identify potential clusters in West Virginia.

  • We need to celebrate the resources we have and publicize the resources that exist in our state, because West Virginia’s citizens need to know that they have a hopeful future.

Key Takeaways


  • It is important to ensure that the transition of jobs, the workforce and education into the future will benefit all segments of the population.

  • While STEM is still important, the humanities and “human skills” like creativity, problem solving, communication and collaboration will be key in a future with more artificial intelligence and automation.

  • Machine learning and automation are taking over middle-class, blue-collar jobs and some white-collar jobs that are transactional in nature, leading to a hollowing out of the middle class.

  • Skills taught in schools need to align with workforce demands, which are changing as technology evolves—it is essential to teach what machine learning cannot do.

  • Clusters—areas with a concentration of related industrial activities—help to create wealth, and we should work to identify potential clusters in West Virginia.

  • We need to celebrate the resources we have and publicize the resources that exist in our state, because West Virginia’s citizens need to know that they have a hopeful future.