The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission has officially approved a program to help pay off recent college graduates’ student loan debt if they move to one of 40 localities in Southside and southwest Virginia and fill in-demand jobs.
The Roanoke Times reports that the Talent Attraction Program will give $24,000 over two years to each person willing to live in the tobacco region and work a specific job, with the possibility of another $24,000 over an additional two years after that. Those in healthcare jobs are in line for as much as $140,000 over four years, thanks to the commission’s partnership with the Virginia Department of Health.
The program comes as a response to the exodus of qualified workers from the southwest and Southside regions. As the Roanoke Times reports, young Virginians are leaving and not returning, leaving a shortage of qualified workers to fill critical jobs like doctors, nurses, teachers and engineers.
The commission is aware that student debt is a key factor in recent graduates’ decision to focus on finding higher-paying jobs in urban areas and is hoping the promise of debt relief will help lure these graduates back to the Southside and southwest regions instead.
The commission’s goal is not only to fill these in-demand jobs in the short term, but to persuade these young people to put down roots in their region and stick around in the long run. To encourage this, the program requires participants to become civically engaged in their community.
Anyone in the United States can apply for the program, but the program will prioritize to those who were raised in the tobacco region.
The Talent Attraction Program is part of the commission’s larger purpose to spur economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities, using proceeds of the national tobacco settlement.
The tobacco commission will start accepting applications this summer, according to the Roanoke Times.
More information about the program can be found on the commission’s website.