By Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

This is an exciting time for middle schools and manufacturers across the Commonwealth as the What’s So Cool About Manufacturing (WSCM) regional student video contests start wrapping up. Within NWIRC’s 13-county footprint, there are 4 regional contests (3 of which NWIRC coordinates with support from numerous community partners and sponsors). The goal of WSCM is to create awareness within the schools and the community about cool manufacturing careers through the eyes of 7th and 8th grade students. Each team, guided by their Teacher Coach, conducts research, films at the company, and edits their video for final submission to be eligible for several award categories. The community can get involved too by voting to select the Viewer’s Choice award winner at www.WhatsSoCool.org. Each regional contest hosts an awards event to announce winners in various categories. The top winners among each of the contests will advance to the Statewide Awards on April 29th in Harrisburg, PA. Last year, there were 15 WSCM contests throughout the Commonwealth with 239 schools paired with 239 manufacturers and there were 902,520 online votes cast for Viewer’s Choice awards.

You can get involved by voting for your favorite video (or school or manufacturer) during their respective voting dates. The voting dates for the programs in our regional footprint are listed (to the right). To view the videos and vote- you can visit www.WhatsSoCool.org and look for the specific contest tab. On the website you can also see the numerous featured manufacturer sponsors, program sponsors, and community partners who we thank for their support of the program.

WSCM was developed in 2014 by our sister-Industrial Resource Center in Lehigh Valley, Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC), to help change perceptions of manufacturing careers. Teachers and students continue to comment about the cool things they learn about companies in their own backyard. Manufacturers each year are enthusiastic about the opportunity to connect with the schools and tell their story for the middle school students to share with the entire community.

As I’ve mentioned many times, there are great things going on throughout our region to encourage youth to consider manufacturing careers. This includes, not only WSCM, but current activities that the GR8T Manufacturing Partnership is focusing on to increase awareness among 7th/8th grade classrooms, high school pre-apprenticeship programs, and the new McDowell Manufacturing* initiative that NWIRC is excited to help launch and move forward- just to name a few.