Over the past three years, as the Explore the New Manufacturing Program has expanded to new regions, our team has worked with students and educators to increase the understanding of manufacturing across the state. We have been amazed by student talent and poise. The educators, who participate in our programs, are steadfast champions for their students, tirelessly seeking means to help them succeed in their personal career development. As a result, we decided it was imperative to celebrate these West Virginians, both locally and statewide, for their success and achievements.

Although outdated stigmasurrounding high school career and technical education courses as training options, and manufacturing as a career path, remain, mindsets are beginning to shift. While many still equate years spent in school with the amount of talent and success one has, the Explore Team regularly engages with students and educators across the state who prove far differently. The WVMAEF launched the Emerging Elite in Manufacturing and Outstanding Industry Educator Awards in 2020 to shine a spotlight on the ongoing achievement in the classroom by students and teachers who excel in manufacturing-related courses and programs. There is no shortness of talent coming out of these programs; just a lack of understanding about how those skillsets transition and translate into the workforce. Kudos to the West Virginia Department of Education, who works tirelessly to introduce the advantages for students, including those who are college-bound, to experience courses geared toward real-world applications. Perceptions are changing, but work remains to elevate these talents to a more appropriate and deserving stature.

The pandemic has created numerous challenges for teaching and learning, yet we've witnessed educators and students determinedly rise beyond these constraints to excel. Although these individuals strive for excellence, whether their efforts are awarded or not, the WVMAEF and its partners throughout the industry and state, want to recognize and champion these West Virginians.

Starting May 10th, the Explore Program will begin announcing this year's recipients. We cannot wait to share their stories. Make sure to follow our social media pages, so you don't miss all the excitement about the 2021 Emerging Elite in Manufacturing and Outstanding Industry Educator Awards and these fine West Virginians.