CHARLESTON – Hundreds of middle school students recently learned more about West Virginia’s manufacturing industry, and the educational pathways and career benefits available to them through the West Virginia Manufacturers Association Educational Fund’s (WVMAEF) Explore the New Manufacturing campaign.
Five Explore academies were hosted across West Virginia in October, the month in which America’s history and future in manufacturing is celebrated. About 425 STEM and tech-education middle school students from Wheeling, Martinsburg, Farmington, Eleanor, Oak Hill and surrounding areas attended the academies to learn from local manufacturers, tech-education instructors and students in the state’s simulated workplace programs.
Students were chosen by their teachers and participated in lab sessions and demonstrations, and heard from manufacturing company representatives. High school students in simulated workplace programs also shared their experiences.
“We are thrilled to host manufacturing academies for eighth graders across the state who are interested in math, science and technology, and who may consider manufacturing, or a similar field, a viable career option when the time comes,” said Joe Eddy, chairman of the WVMAEF board of directors and president and CEO of Eagle Manufacturing.
“I believe students really enjoyed learning from local manufacturers, and hopefully they have a better understanding about the educational options, career choices and benefits available to them here at home,” he said.
Industry companies across the state including Mylan, Toyota, The Mull Group, Eagle Manufacturing, Touchstone, NGK Spark Plug, Argos and SteelCON as well as the Robert C. Byrd Institute and West Virginia University significantly contributed to the academies’ successes.
“Our goal was to offer an interesting platform that would garner interest, awareness and engagement among students,” Eddy said. “The Explore academies were a great opportunity that allowed us to do just that.”
Representatives from the Southern Regional Education Board also hosted an exercise where students learned the basics of fiscal management and budgeting. Students from the host schools’ culinary simulated workplace program prepared and served meals during the academies, giving participants another perception of the hands-on learning experience.
“We want to make sure students are aware of their options, and encourage them to consider all possibilities as they study in school and choose a career path,” said Rebecca McPhail, president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association (WVMA). “Participating students, as well as teachers, counselors and others who attended these academies, should have a much better understanding of the manufacturing field and the benefits of simulated workplace learning and career and technical education.
“Some students may want to pursue a four-year degree, while others will succeed in a more hands-on environment, and manufacturing needs employees from both styles of learning environments,” McPhail concluded.
The five Explore academies were hosted at:
- Oct. 6 – Wheeling Park High School, Wheeling, W.Va. (WV National Manufacturing Day)
- Oct. 18 – Marion County Technical Center, Farmington, W.Va.
- Oct. 20 – James Rumsey Technical Institute, Martinsburg, W.Va.
- Oct. 24 – Putnam Career and Technical Center, Eleanor, W.Va.
- Oct. 27 – Fayette Institute of Technology, Oak Hill, W.Va.