HUNTINGTON — A new manufacturing program brought dozens of eighth-grade students from Cabell and Putnam counties to the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Technology (RCBI) in downtown Huntington on Friday morning.

The West Virginia Manufacturers Association Educational Fund’s “Explore the New Manufacturing” program brings together tomorrow’s workforce with local and regional manufacturing companies to inform students of the educational and career opportunities in West Virginia, according to Monica Cross, the program’s director.

“We have local manufacturers here today talking to students about career opportunities in manufacturing,” Cross said.

Cross said the program originated due to the lack of workforce for available manufacturing jobs in the state.

“Those discussions led to bringing education and industry together,” she said. “‘Explore the New Manufacturing’ generates excitement about the manufacturing industry in the state for both students and companies.”

Cross said today’s modern-day manufacturing jobs are not like those of the past.

“Many are not heavy lifting or a male-preferred industry in dark, dank conditions,” she explained. “Today’s manufacturing jobs can be highly technical fields, which are things students like to do already with technology.”

Jeremy Dalton, human resources manager with Sogefi, says his company was able to interact with students and educate them about some of the things that go on inside its auto parts plant in Prichard, West Virginia.

“We are showing them some of the things that go on in making automotive parts,” he said. “We use a lot of plastics to make the parts today, which makes them much lighter. We are showing them the different technologies we use at the facility. We are giving them one simulation of what we do in our process, so they’re actually doing a mini-assembly line and having an end product at each table.”

Dalton says the importance of the event in his eyes is that it shows students there are other pathways to a good-paying career without having to seek a traditional four-year college degree.

“For us, we can train prospective employees in-house with the technical aspects of the job, and many of these jobs pay a very good salary without having a four-year college degree,” he said.

Other companies hosting labs at the event included Alcon, a global medical company specializing in eye care products that has a research facility in Huntington; and Rubberlite Inc., a leader of converted cellular rubber and plastic products and manufacturer of custom-engineered polyurethane foams from its facility in Huntington.

“We have 10 of these academies across the state,” Cross said. “We have other programs for high school students as well. These programs are providing students with the opportunity to invest in their futures. ‘Explore’ representatives and manufacturing company employees educate students about the educational pathways, career opportunities and benefits available within the state’s growing manufacturing industry.”

Schools interested in hosting an “Explore” event or presentation can find information online at or visit the Facebook page at

Follow reporter Fred Pace at and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

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