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Manufacturing Workforce Continuum: Building a Pipeline for Tomorrow's Workers

During National Manufacturing Month, as we continue forging ahead through the unprecedented reopening of schools this fall, we are excited about developing virtual connectivity between industry and education so that earlier efforts are not lost. We anticipate the new virtual platforms will expand outreach efforts to more areas around the state. Launching this month, Manufacturing Day Virtual Labs will feature manufacturers demonstrating processes and interactive labs for remote learning application. Both the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge and the What's So Cool About Manufacturing? Student video contest will be modified virtually for the coming year. We have also established an Educator's Roundtable to assist with evaluating programming strategies and program feedback. When possible, we plan to reintroduce our in-person programming while utilizing these new virtual formats to fill gaps where it is logistically hard to offer in-school events.

Long-term, however, our approach calls for broader collaboration among partners in addition to widescale programming from elementary school through placement in the workforce. As the pandemic's whipsawing effect struck all aspects of our lives, forcing us to reflect on the potential challenges that impact the state's youth, workforce, employers, and economy, it carved out the paths and blueprint for the pipeline we now must build. Constructing a workforce continuum that will supply our state's manufacturers with skilled, trained workers needed to operate production facilities will be a substantial but equally important undertaking. Developing the pipeline that expands the dialogue between educators and manufacturers will extend communication to students and their parents about the opportunities for well-paying jobs locally that provide upward mobility options. From fostering awareness of our manufacturing heritage in elementary school to aligning with the highly technical world today's students work toward to obtain certification and training for modern manufacturing, each link is essential. Weaving connective bridges between the separate phases of the continuum and its partners will simultaneously provide the relationships and data necessary to address workforce shortages and retain young talent in West Virginia. In collaboration with our partners, we've constructed the Manufacturing Workforce Continuum which outlines goals for each grade level so we can better illustrate the compounding impact of early participation.

We can no longer accept the workforce gap generated by the exodus of young folks leaving WV to pursue jobs because of the widely held perception jobs are unavailable without getting involved to offer awareness of the contrary. It's not alright to allow the outdated stigma that manufacturing jobs are dirty, labor-intensive, or preferential to males when the reality is the jobs are highly technical, and diversity in the workplace is a reality. Nor can we lay the burden of changing these falsities at educators' feet without actively providing support, engagement opportunities, and resources to dispel them.

Now, more than any other time in recent history, it is imperative to get involved. Frankly, if we do not adapt and step up to help our educational partners, progress will stall at a time that it is critical for us to deliver. If we do not, the long-term impact will compound the workforce challenges manufacturers continue to face.

How can you get involved? 1. Partner and participate in our virtual programs this year or help connect the Explore Team with those manufacturers who will. 2. Help the WVMAEF expand its outreach by making a financial contribution today. 3. Contact us to learn how to get involved. Tomorrow's West Virginians will thank you.

Manufacturing Day Virtual Labs for Middle Schools ...