Last week, members of the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce heard some harsh statistics about the job skill levels for West Virginia's high school graduates.
Gary Clay, workforce and education development committee chairman of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, told the group that about 36 percent of West Virginia high school students go on to college, and only about 22 percent graduate college. Therefore, he said, many of the other students "are coming out of high school with no skill sets."
The state's future is increasingly dependent on a workforce that is not only trained, but prepared to learn for upcoming roles. As Clay also pointed out, nearly 50 percent of West Virginia workers are 50 years old or older, and in the next 10 years, half of those workers will reach retirement age. Additionally, the manufacturing trade has evolved into one that requires "a little higher level of skill sets" - mostly with computer technology, Clays says.
The good news is the West Virginia Manufacturers Association has a solution to help students learn what's needed to step into a career and potentially advance. Pathway to Manufacturing, a pilot project started in Randolph and Kanawha counties last school year, is now available to schools throughout the state. The program allows students to work with a manufacturer to develop abilities and attend classes that can further their knowledge for the job.
The key to the program's success is having companies and schools work together to determine what type of skills are needed and then making sure those courses are available. Students, too, have to be willing to make the commitment to put forth their best efforts to build a career.
West Virginia can excel in this arena if we all work toward the common goal.