Students Encouraged To Pursue Manufacturing Careers During Visit to West Virginia Northern Community College in Wheeling

Photo by Scott McCloskey More than a dozen Bridge Street Middle School students tour Wednesday the advanced manufacturing lab at West Virginia Northern Community College’s Wheeling campus.

Dozens of middle school students from Ohio and Marshall counties were encouraged Wednesday to pursue career opportunities in manufacturing.

Students participated in the West Virginia Manufacturers Association Education Fund’s “Explore the New Manufacturing” statewide program to boost youth interest in occupations where there is a gap in jobs regionally. More than 100 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and tech-education students from Bridge Street, Triadelphia, Wheeling, Warwood and Sherrard middle schools participated in the first of its kind event at West Virginia Northern Community College’s Wheeling campus.

Gary Clay, chairman of the association, said the goal of the statewide initiative is to close the skills gap and prepare students for West Virginia’s growing manufacturing field.

“We have a specific group and a specific fund working for about 136 manufacturers across the state,” Clay said. “What started this is about five or six years ago we identified our biggest problem was finding workers, and it continues to be that today. Across the association there are probably 600 jobs going unfilled in the state.”

He said many people don’t realize what goes on in manufacturing and the job opportunities around the state. He said the association is reaching out to the middle school students who are just beginning to think about career choices because the group found that many high-school students have already made up their minds as to what career path they want to follow.

During the academy, Eagle Manufacturing, Ziegenfelder, The Mull Group Inc. and Warwood Tool conducted hands-on exercises to show students the different aspects of the manufacturing field. The college hosted a tour of its facilities for the students that highlighted programs offered at the campus. Students in Wheeling Park’s ProStart program provided lunch for attendees. The academy concluded with students participating in an interactive career planning exercise.

Clay said the program allows students to be exposed to a variety of manufacturing careers at a much high level and provides them the opportunity to receive classroom instruction and hands-on lab experience at regional community colleges. He said many of the jobs out there are “excellent paying” jobs.

“The average manufacturing job (in West Virginia) is $62,000, with full benefits,” Clay explained. “And locally … Eagle Manufacturing, Warwood Tool, those kinds of places pay good money for workers.”

Also, Clay said many companies that are looking for good employees are willing to help them with educational internships, grants or scholarships.

Monica Cross, newly-hired program director of the association, said it is extremely important to educate young people about the career and educational opportunities they have in West Virginia.

“We are so excited to be hosting these events this year, and giving these students the chance to learn about our local manufacturing industry,” Cross said.

Joe Eddy, president and CEO of Eagle Manufacturing, said the company is grateful to the college for allowing them to participate in the event at its campus, which includes a new Industrial Technology Center with expanded manufacturing training capabilities.

“We hope the students enjoy this valuable experience and consider a career in this exciting industry,” Eddy said.

“Explore the New Manufacturing” is a statewide education campaign made possible with funding from Chevron and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

The next academy will take place Oct. 12 at the Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Six more academies, including one in Hancock and Brooke counties, are planned to reach students throughout the state.

To learn more about the program, visit exploremfgwv.com or visit its Facebook page.

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