United Way of Southwest Virginia and Mitsubishi Chemical Advance Materials Connect Local Teachers to Local Manufacturing

Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Materials, a global manufacturing company, hosted nearly 20 middle school educators at their Wytheville, Virginia, location this October. United Way of Southwest Virginia brought teachers from Carroll County, Wythe County, Grayson County and Bland County to tour the facility, which specializes in engineering plastics.

Before gearing up in the protective gear required to tour – safety glasses, a neon yellow vest, closed-toed shoes, and earplugs – teachers sat in on a brief presentation led by the Plant Manager, Alan Freeman.

Freeman shared with the teachers what specific skills are required to obtain an entry-level position within the company. “We require minimum of a high school education, good basic math skills, communication skills, ability to work in a team environment and a good work ethic,” stated Freeman.

“Wytheville Community College offers many courses for high school students to graduate with certifications. Learning the skills for industrial maintenance, both electrical and mechanical, is a key need in this industry right now.” According to Freeman, any post-grad high school student with electrical and mechanical certifications will stand out in a crowd of applicants. “That is in high demand and an excellent paying job right now.”

Freeman stated that they are specifically looking for people who are good problem solvers. “Work is evolving. The hard physical aspects of manufacturing are slowly being eliminated via automation, so we need people to be responsive critical thinkers in order to problem solve and work with advanced technology.

Freeman’s comment about problem solving skills immediately sparked conversation among the teachers regarding the skills needed by workforce of tomorrow.

“I tell all my students that if you’ve failed, it is okay,” stated Wythe County engineering teacher, Virginia Otey. “I want my students to learn from their mistakes. I try to teach them that if they take a risk in a project and mess up, they have a new opportunity to correct the issue and make the solution even better.”

According to Freeman, “We really want the younger potential employees in our schools to understand that problems are not a bad thing – they are an opportunity to expand and grow.  We are looking for problem solvers and advanced thinkers on our team.”

Travis Staton, President and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia stated, “We are so excited to have educators all across the region touring and learning about all the opportunities right here in their own community. Connecting teachers to employers allows our educators to learn first-hand about the skills our students need in order to succeed in the workforce.”

Made possible by a grant received from Go Virginia Region 1, United Way of Southwest Virginia works with our business partners to host teacher tours at local employers’ work sites so teachers can learn about the workplace skills that their students need to be successful. Because many educators in the region are unaware of the job opportunities available for their students in the region, the Educator in Industry tours provide an opportunity for teachers to learn and share information with their students and faculty members.