It's no secret there is a skills gap at both the national and state levels that is ever-broadening due to technological advancement, among other factors. Speaking specifically to our state, there are West Virginians who need skills in order to acquire sustainable employment and yet there are jobs – good paying jobs - in our state right now that remain unfilled. Currently, in manufacturing alone there are approximately 1,000 job openings.The skills gap wasn't created in a day and we can't expect it to close in short order. But we do have to address it.
To that measure, the WVMAEF,thanks to funding by The Benedum Foundation and Chevron, isthrilled to partner with and use the expertise of our educators and manufacturers, in taking a step towards closing the gap through its Explore the New Manufacturing program.By providing students an insight into today's manufacturing world and the career options available for these highly skilled, highly technical jobs, the program equips them with information to make more informed career choices. Our goal is to keep our younger generations in West Virginia by providing them options – and an awareness of career pathways - and to dispel the belief that manufacturing is a "dirty" job with lots of heavy lifting and few possibilities for females, among other erroneous perceptions.
Research shows children begin pondering career choices at the middle school level which is why Explore gears programming to this age. As we expand our outreach, programming may grow to encompass students throughout various points in their education. But for this academic year, our efforts are focused at the middle school level.