The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development recognized West Bend School District’s Career and Technical Education department during a student showcase and tour. The event was part of statewide efforts to highlight CTE during the month of February, which is CTE Month.
Attendees included educators, school board members and industry leaders who have contributed to the programs and who directly benefit from the education and certification being offered in these courses.
WBSD’s CTE program is extensive, including Automotive, Graphic Communications, Engineering, Digital Media, Architecture and Construction, Manufacturing and Welding, Culinary Arts, Finance and Accounting, Computer Science and IT, Fashion and Interior Design. Each of these programs offers benefits to students, including certificates, youth apprenticeship opportunities and articulated credits to Moraine Park Technical College.
As attendees arrived, students showcased their projects and talked about their coursework, certifications, and work-based learning opportunities. For some, the classes reinforced career plans and gave them opportunities many students would not have until post-secondary education. For others, the classes introduced new career paths they might not have otherwise considered.
As the event began, Superintendent Dan Kirkegaard addressed the room, acknowledging the role the DWD had in fostering the progress of CTE at the school.
“The success of our programs are due in part to the grant opportunities through the Department of Workforce Development such as the manufacturing equipment grant,” he said.
In September 2018, WBSD was announced as one of 35 school districts to receive a Wisconsin Fast Forward Advanced Manufacturing Technical Education Equipment Grant. Fast Forward grants have benefited many schools and companies across the state in the last few years, but government isn’t the only avenue for upgrading and expanding resources in schools.
In fact, DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman reinforced this idea during his speech at the event. After acknowledging the DWD’s support of CTE programs, he shifted focus toward the partnerships between local industry and education.
“We really applaud this type of investment in our schools and in our students…It’s so important that they start these conversations early and often as to what we can do to introduce students to different careers and industries to make sure they get a full spectrum of what’s out there.”
Frostman went on to recognize Metalcraft of Mayville for their investment in West Bend’s manufacturing program. The company recently worked with LAB Midwest to install industrial-grade robotics equipment from FANUC, the world’s leading industrial robotics manufacturer.
“I think it’s pretty evident what happens when you partner with groups like that for our children, for our economy, and for our community,” remarked Frostman.
The evidence was clear during the tour that followed.
Each CTE classroom was filled with authentic technology for teaching industry-relevant skills. Perhaps most impressive of all was the Metalcraft Learning Lab, where instructor Jacob Gitter was able to explain how the equipment is used in the Manufacturing and Welding program:
Our manufacturing program is very robust. We offer students a choice of six courses. Ranging from introductory to a high level capstone course where students run a small business. Throughout all these courses we seek to expose and teach the students methods, processes, and techniques that are only relevant to the industries which we support. The students who participate in the capstone course also experience a taste of a real manufacturing environment. This includes workplace expectations, deadlines and customer interaction. This course is very helpful to prepare students for a “real” world manufacturing environment.
The Learning Lab includes a FANUC Robot loaded machining center with a Levil CNC machine and FANUC CNC controls, a FANUC LR Mate Robot Cert Cart, FANUC/Lincoln Electric Robot Welding Cell, a FANUC CNC Simulator, and ROBOGUIDE software.
Metalcraft’s vision was to create a hands-on learning environment that simulated authentic industrial practices so students can transition directly to work on the same machines.
Sonal Ramani, HR at Metalcraft, said the company currently has five WB high school students working various shifts in the facility. One of those is Jakob, a senior who works in the company’s machining department measuring materials for tolerance and loading the machines.
When asked how his CTE experience has prepared him for work, he explained,
“I learned a lot. I pretty much just took this program here – the intro and the advanced – and it’s pretty much the same as Metalcraft.”
Jakob will be attending Moraine Park Technical College in the fall, completing the CNC program with the hopes of remaining at Metalcraft as a full CNC programmer.
Technical college is just one of many career pathways available to CTE students. Credits and certifications open the door to many options, like apprenticeships, university, or entering directly into the workforce. This is the value of career and technical education: it gives students a chance to explore their interests and talents so they learn what they don’t want to do as well as what they do want to pursue in life.
Click here to view the full album from the event.