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2019 Focus Forward

Focus Forward 2019
September 16
Charleston, WV

Building on the momentum and success of the inaugural Focus Forward, this second annual Focus Forward symposium explored how today’s landscape of big data offers promise and potential in West Virginia.

As a unique event designed to link education and economic development, Focus Forward gathered more than 150 decisionmakers along with state and national experts to address emerging workforce needs. The symposium not only offered opportunities to forge dynamic partnerships, it served as a launchpad to consider what skillsets are needed to increase job growth in this rapidly evolving world.

The day's event.

2019 Focus Forward meeting

A roomful of statewide thought leaders gather to discuss the impacts that big data will have on West Virginia’s future.

2019 Focus Forward speakers

Introduced by WVPEC Executive Director Donna Hoylman Peduto, Illah Nourbakhsh, K&L Gates Professor of Ethics and Computational Technologies at Carnegie Mellon University and Jen Giovannitti, President of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, sum up key takeaways from Focus Forward 2019.

Key Takeaways

  • Personalized learning can be enhanced by manipulating big data to allow teachers to customize learning paths around individual student needs and styles of learning.

  • Data can help educators personalize learning for each student and increase graduation rates by identifying those who are at risk. Professional development will enable teachers to make the most of this asset.

  • It is important to connect technical education to social or community impact.

  • Employing STEM skills, not as the goal of education, but as the means to accomplish a greater social good, will help students to feel more invested in their communities.

  • We need to identify what types of data can be collected from students, how it can be used and who owns it.

  • Teachers are at a disadvantage in preparing students for the workforce because they cannot be certain what careers will be available to these students at graduation. Therefore, we need to focus on timeless skills like communication, collaboration, creativity and logic.

  • Reliable broadband access is the base we need to be able to attract new members of the workforce to West Virginia and expand existing industry. People could live and work remotely here if our broadband was improved.
  • It’s important to focus on both retention and recruitment. We need to emphasize the high quality of life, low cost of living, and great people right here in West Virginia.

  • We need to take the reins and tell our story better. We have unique assets worth publicizing, like the Summit Bechtel Reserve and the High Technology Foundation. We also have wonderful people who are humble, hospitable and hardworking, and the lowest workforce turnover rate nationwide.

  • West Virginia is an ideal location for federal agencies looking to relocate. We should work to attract these agencies.

  • Finding ways to make data public and shareable is the best way to harness it and utilize it to its full potential.

  • The number of organizations and entities working with cybersecurity in West Virginia is voluminous, but there needs to be more coordination and collaboration.

  • We must continue to increase utilization of a statewide human capital management system and be more deliberate in communication strategies.

Links to agenda and documents

View the Program


The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation