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WV ‘far behind’ in technology, workforce assets

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is so far behind in developing assets — both in technology and workforce — for information technology based “knowledge-sector” jobs that there’s no easy solution to help the state catch up, the president and CEO of the West Virginia High Technology Foundation told legislators Sunday.

“Our state has fallen so far behind in the accumulation of the needed assets to participate, it’s hard to think of competing,” Jeff Estep told the interim Joint Commission on Economic Development.

Estep said West Virginia is caught in a “chicken or the egg” dilemma: High tech knowledge sector businesses seek locations where highly educated workforces are readily available, but the state can’t retain those well-educated workers when the knowledge sector jobs are unavailable here.

He said West Virginia has the lowest educational achievement rates, lowest adult workforce participation rates, and the highest percentage of residents receiving disability benefits in the country.

“These are the loudest of alarm bells and reddest of red flags,” he said, calling it a workforce crisis.

“West Virginia is hemorrhaging its youngest residents at an alarming rate…

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