The past year has been a whirlwind of uncertainty and adaptability for the Explore the New Manufacturing Program and our manufacturing and educational partners. Our main concern quickly became what we could do to support teachers and their students when normalcy was no longer something that anyone could take for granted.In reflection, the Explore team's pivots throughout 2020-2021 allowed us to develop a new virtual program and introduce a new high school program while flexing existing programming to accommodate virtual tools.We ended the year stronger and are ready for the next challenge.
The 2020-2021 West Virginia Manufacturers Association Educational Fund, Inc. Annual Report, now available on the Explore website, is an insightful overview of the past year with several milestone events. Just a few highlights:
- Because of our philosophy of pivot and adapt, the Explore the New Manufacturing programming expanded to all fifty-five West Virginia counties, an expansion made possible with the new Manufacturing Day Virtual Lab series launch.
- When COVID eased up last winter, we jumped at the opportunity to launch the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge (MIC) for high school career and technical students.The students swung and hit the MIC out of the park!
- In year two of the Emerging Elite in Manufacturing and Outstanding Industry Educator Awards, we expanded the number of awards, plus presented a lifetime award that got a little creative thanks to the help of two career and technical students.
- A high point of the year was when Governor Jim Justice proclaimed May 10, 2021, as West Virginia Manufacturing Education Day, a collaborative celebration between the WVMAEF and the West Virginia Department of Education.
I encourage you to read the 2021 Annual Report and consider joining our effort to cultivate interest in manufacturing careers across the state. Thanks to new grant support from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, and EQT Foundation, the Explore the New Manufacturing Program is ready to expand programming next year! New regions and new schools mean we need additional manufacturing and educational partners to help us engage more students. Your participation in the short term means more West Virginia middle and high school students getting excited to learn about a host of potential career paths. The long-term picture coming into view is an employment pipeline that keeps manufacturers at capacity and regional communities thriving. It's a great mission for everyone to get behind!