West Virginia might be 2,500 miles from Silicon Valley, but that’s not stopping tech entrepreneurs from finding ways to bring California IT jobs to the Mountain State.
“We have so many talented people already here in West Virginia, we just need to get the word out that we’re here and ready to get to work,” said Todd Cope, CEO of CentralApp, a Huntington-based talent exchange that connects tech companies with IT workers living in West Virginia and other Appalachian states.
In recent months, Cope has traveled the country to sell tech executives on his company’s services and to spread the word about West Virginia.
“As I talk to people about outsourcing tech jobs to West Virginia, I’ve learned that the most important thing is making them aware that we’re here, that the quality of our work is good and that we’re affordable,” Cope said.
Connecting tech companies with IT workers in West Virginia
Many tech companies already outsource jobs to other countries. So, Cope thought: why not bring them to West Virginia instead?
“Our state is a huge resource for the whole country and we can bring remote tech jobs to West Virginia and keep talent here,” Cope said.
Thanks to advancements in technology, remote work has become more popular in recent years, creating opportunities for rural workers who may not want to or be able to move to an urban area for work. It’s also given tech workers from expensive urban areas the flexibility to move to more affordable areas, such as West Virginia.
“When people have opportunities, a lot of doors can open up,” Cope said. “We have a lot of success stories of people who lost their job, went through a training program and now make a living as a remote tech worker from Ashland, Kentucky or Boone County, West Virginia."
The future of West Virginia’s workforce
As West Virginia’s economy becomes more and more Internet-based, the state and its workers will need better Internet access and more training to remain competitive.
Improving broadband comes with challenges, but Cope believes it needs to be done and can be done. As for training, Cope says West Virginia can keep more talent in the state by providing tech education and certifications at the high school and college level. For those who’ve already finished school, there are affordable training programs.
“A lot of people are hesitant and say they can’t learn how to work in IT, but anyone can do it," Cope said. "Don’t sell yourself short because you worked in another industry. Take a chance and make the investment in yourself.”
Cope’s advice to someone who wants to transition to remote tech work is to contact CentralApp and go through a training course to become Salesforce certified. From there, one can enter the talent exchange and take additional certifications to specialize in an ecosystem.
“It’s a great option for people who need a part-time job and for those who are looking for a career change,” Cope said.