October 26th, 2023

Media Contact

Hannah Emerson

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – Moments ago, the 2023 Virginia Education and Workforce Conference hosted by the Virginia Chamber Foundation, the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC), and the Virginia Talent and Opportunity Partnership (V-TOP), concluded with participation of 500 attendees.

This signature conference serves to foster meaningful discussions between Virginia’s business, education, and public policy leaders on how we can position Virginia’s workforce for success. Discussions at this year’s conference were focused on the value and impact of internships on the Commonwealth, how Virginia can continue to attract and retain a skilled workforce by building talent pathways, and how to get underemployed and unemployed Virginians back into the workforce.

“To maintain the Commonwealth’s position as a top state for business, education, and talent, we must focus our collaborative efforts on developing pathways to attract and retain a skilled workforce to help fill the current workforce demand,” said Virginia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Barry DuVal. “Through programs such as V-TOP, we can work together to meet the growing workforce needs of the Commonwealth and its economy.”

“We know that to keep Virginia competitive in the global economy, we must keep our talent here. That starts with helping college students gain access to paid internships and talent pathways while they are still in school. This link between our higher education system and future economic growth is crucial,” said Kirk Cox, President, Virginia Business Higher Education Council. “Today’s conference highlighted that link and the work that must be done to strengthen it in the years ahead. It was an honor to be a part of today’s conference, and to join so many other education and business leaders who are equally committed to this issue.”

“Bringing businesses and colleges together in Virginia is key to increasing student internships and statewide competitiveness. This type of collaboration benefits both parties, prepares graduates for future careers in Virginia and keeps academic programs relevant to industry needs,” said Peter Blake, Director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce also presented Peter Blake with the Lifetime Achievement Award to honor his decades of public service and commitment to excellence in postsecondary education, workforce development, and improving the business climate of the Commonwealth. Peter joined the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) in January 2012. Previously, he served as a legislative discal analyst for the House Appropriations Committee, as deputy secretary of education and secretary of education under Governor Mark Warner, and as vice chancellor of workforce development services for the Virginia Community College System. He is set to retire at the end of 2023.


Additional Highlights from Conference Included:

(Listed in order of appearance)


Welcome & Opening Remarks:

Barry DuVal, President and CEO, Virginia Chamber of Commerce

Kirk Cox, President, Virginia Business Higher Education Council


Morning Keynote Remarks:

Stephen Moret, President and CEO, Strada Education Foundation


Panel Discussion- The Value and Impact of Internships & Work-Based Learning Opportunities on Developing Talent Pipelines

Panel Introduction: Wendy Shields, Senior Manager, Community Impact, Altria Client Services

Moderator: The Honorable Aimee Guidera, Virginia Secretary of Education, Office of the Governor


Dr. Alisha Bazemore, Assistant Director for Innovative Work-Based Learning Initiatives, Strategic Planning and Policy Studies, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

Kenya Brown, Logistics Data Analyst, Micron Technology Virginia

Mark Pace, President and Owner, E.C. Pace Company, Inc.

Dr. Katherine Rowe, President, William & Mary

Lauren Walton, Program Manager, U.S. Apprenticeships, Google


Panel Discussion- Developing talent pathways to meet workforce demands: Help Virginia Attract and Retain a Skilled Workforce

Moderator: Dennis Treacy, Senior Counsel, Reed Smith and Chair, Virginia Business Higher Education Council


Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston, President, Norfolk State University

Nancy Howell Agee, Chief Executive Officer, Carilion Clinic

Dr. Amy Cashwell, Superintendent, Henrico County Public Schools

Dr. David Doré, Chancellor, Virginia Community College System

Colin Newman, National Director of Workforce and Economic Development, Amazon


Panel Discussion- Getting Unemployed and Underemployed Individuals Back in the Workforce

Panel Introduction: Matt Kellam, Manager of Workforce Development & Planning, Dominion Energy

Moderator: Tina Pfalzgraf, Chief Human Resources Officer, The Branch Group and Co-Chair, Blueprint Virginia 2030 Workforce and Education Executive Committee


Kasia Grzelkowski, President and CEO, VersAbility Resources

Dr. Sarah Scarbrough, Founder and Director, REAL LIFE

John Wilson, Market President, Addiction Recovery Care (ARC)


Luncheon Program Featured Remarks: Edmond Hughes, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, HII