Another important emphasis of the Federal Anchor Model is recruitment of STEM-related operations. The importance of this emphasis cannot be overstated. The lack of economic diversity in West Virginia has been devastating to the state’s economy. This is especially true for West Virginia’s workforce educational attainment ranking which has been 50th for many years.
It’s important to understand that this has nothing to do with the “quality” of the West Virginia workforce nor does it have anything to do with the effectiveness of West Virginia’s educational systems. This ranking is a measure of the level of education required for the state’s workforce to participate in the state’s economy. It is a measure of the types of jobs available in the state. If the majority of jobs available in West Virginia don’t require a higher education, then the workforce is unlikely to have a higher education, and attainment will be low. This ranking should be considered an indicator of a state’s level of economic diversification and not a qualitative indicator of its workforce.
Because West Virginia’s economy has been disproportionality dominated by the coal industry, its workforce requirements have driven the state’s educational attainment ranking. The educational requirements of the coal industry simply don’t require a high educational attainment. In some cases, workers don’t even need a high school diploma. This is in no way an indictment of the coal industry. In fact, a lot of West Virginians were able to make a great living without assuming college debt. The problem is that there should have been other sectors developed in the state that provided jobs for more educated citizens so that the state economy could be balanced and healthy. Moreover, it would have provided West Virginia with an opportunity to participate in the large knowledge sector that is dominating the national economy. It is for these reasons that the Federal Anchor Model emphasizes the development of a new economic sector in the knowledge economy.