Representatives from 34 businesses, industries, community colleges, the county’s major public employers and the educational offerings under the school division’s Career and Technical Education programs spent Thursday giving Botetourt’s eighth and 10th graders “a look behind the curtain” during the first BOCO Xpo.
The business and industry representatives talked with students and answered questions about the education needed and career paths available in those businesses and public sectors.
The 750 students from both middle schools and high schools were bused to Greenfield at various times and each group had about an hour to go through the various pods of businesses set up at Greenfield Education and Training Center for the daylong BOCO Xpo.
The Xpo was organized by the Botetourt school division’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) Department in cooperation with the Botetourt Chamber of Commerce and Botetourt County’s Economic Development Department.
Most of the county’s major industries and the county’s largest public employers— Botetourt schools, Sheriff’s Department and Fire and EMS— were set up at the Xpo along with a variety of businesses that represented a menagerie of service fields.
To say it was a successful first-time expo may be an understatement.
“The BOCO Xpo was a wildly successful event in my eyes, and Lisa Barnett and the school system, Sheri Winesette and the Botetourt Chamber and Ken McFadyen and the county and all who had anything to do with the first BOCO Xpo should all be highly praised for all of the hard work and commitment to the community,” Botetourt County Administrator Gary Larrowe said, adding, “The BOCO Xpo was one of the most beneficial events to the future of Botetourt that I have seen lately.”
“Every community struggles with keeping their young people from moving to other places for jobs and livelihoods,” McFadyen said. “A big part of this challenge is that young people typically don’t know what their hometown’s employers have to offer in a familiar setting. BOCO Xpo has provided at least 750 of our Botetourt County middle and high school students with a look behind the curtain at what our county’s employers do and how rewarding it can be.
“There was obvious excitement at the Xpo and it should provide huge benefits for Botetourt County in the years to come,” McFadyen added.
“From an organizational standpoint, I’d like to say the BOCO Xpo has been the most rewarding experience of my 30 years in education,” the school division’s Instructional Coordinator for CTE and ABE Lisa Barnett explained. “The community in Botetourt County shares in the vision for our community. The county leaders, the Chamber and the school system worked together to bring this event together.”
Barnett coordinated and helped plan the Xpo for the school division along with Winesett and McFadyen, who directs the county’s Economic Development Department.
“I heard counselors say that the students were engaging in meaningful conversations with business representatives,” Barnett said. “I heard from multiple business representatives that our students were polite and represented themselves very professionally.
“Beth Mast, principal at Read Mountain (Middle School), reported that students love the event and were all chattering about their experience,” Barnett continued. “Cindy Boggs, a teacher at Lord Botetourt, said that her students returned to LB from the event talking about all they had seen and learned. It was a huge success.”
Botetourt Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sheri Winesett echoed those sentiments.
“The Botetourt business community recognizes the importance of working collaboratively to ensure our students graduate with the skills employers are looking for in their next generation of new hires,” Winesett said. “Our members have a strong sense of responsibility for creating awareness of local job opportunities and career paths. The BOCO Xpo has laid a solid foundation for us to build on as we continue to partner with the county and the public school system.”
“The XPO was an excellent way for students to get a taste of the ‘world-class’ opportunities they have here in Botetourt,” Larrowe said. “It was the intent to provide a glimpse of the many opportunities that are local within the Botetourt corporate family to students as they build their career path. I suspect that the Xpo provided some students a building block toward some intriguing career that they did not know about until the event.”
Larrowe continued, “It is incredible to think that:
“High end printing takes place in Botetourt.
“The only cement plant in Virginia is in Botetourt.
“ A steel company who built the last dorm at Yale University came from Botetourt.
“The transportation company who transports the Hokies football equipment on one of their 700 trucks is from Botetourt.
“The largest craft beer brewery on the East Coast is in Botetourt.
“A cinema screen production company is in Botetourt.
“A world-leading plastics dryer company is in Botetourt.
“The leading utility truck and crane company is in Botetourt.
“The leading automotive ignition system company is locating in Botetourt.
“A leading manufacturer of transmission components is located in Botetourt.
“A nationwide security guard service is located in Botetourt.
“A leading explosive handling equipment manufacturer is located in Botetourt.
“A leading manufacturer of brick is located in Botetourt.
“The truck rails for Volvo trucks are made in Botetourt.
“And the list goes on and on.”
Larrowe said the Xpo exposed students to many of the possibilities that are within those companies. “Within each of these companies, there is a need for well-educated talent that can supply opportunities for the youth of today in almost every field of study,” he said, “from chemical engineering to graphic arts to computer-aided design professionals.
“Many of the high paying jobs of the future will not require a four-year degree, however will require an industry certificate from a community college,” Larrowe said. “I was amazed to find that we have graduating seniors from high schools in Botetourt who have been offered salaries from $50,000-$80,000 to start. Obviously, this is the upper end, however there is a need for skills and we need to let the youth know that there are opportunities here at home.”
The businesses, industries and public institutions at the Xpo included:
Association of General Contractors of Virginia
Ballast Point Brewery
Bank of Botetourt
The Bank of Fincastle
Botetourt schools CTE programs in Agriculture Ed, Building Trades, Business Ed, Cosmetology, CST & IST, Engineering & Mechatronics, Health Occuptions/Nursing, Welding
Botetourt County Fire and EMS
Botetourt County Public Schools
Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office
Division of Rehabilitative Services
Dabney S. Lancaster Community College
John Alderson Agency (insurance)
Roanoke Regional Home Builders Association
Spectrum Design, PC
Virginia Cooperative Extension
Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) Workforce Solutions
VWCC Education Foundation