University Economic Development Association


Realigning Virginia’s Coal Industry Workforce

Award Category: Talent + Place
Project Site: Realigning Virginia’s Coal Industry Workforce
Submitted By: Virginia Tech
Contact: Scott Tate , 540.315.2062


In response to the critical economic challenges experienced by coal-reliant regions due to industry declines, the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development conducted a comprehensive skills mapping and analysis of workforce competenices.  The project was unique in its field-based research to better specify the skills and abilities of coal industry workers and its blend of quantitative and qualitative data.  The project was also distinguished by its detailed descriptions of occupation competencies and mapping of transferability opportunities for workers across industries, particularly from coal occupations to manufacturing and related occupations.  The project resulted in enhanced knowledge of the occupatoins that were highly compatible for current and former coal workers, and improved the ability of front-line staff to better counsel workers, the awareness of industry human resource workers as to applicant credentials, and the capacity of training and education providers to better design training.  Perhaps most critically, the intial project led to a continued and ongoing engagement between Virginia Tech and the coal-impacted counties of far southwest Virginia, resulting in subsequent work and additional funding (such as the $2 million award from the Department of Labor through the POWER initiative) to support dislocated workers and advance economic diversification.  Virginia Tech and area partners are working to develop broadly supported regional strategies and strengthen emerging and continuing industry sectors of importance in the region.  The region’s collaborative capacity has improved and dislocated workers are being trained, and are beginning to secure employment, for occupations in emerging industries.