GRANT HELPS WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WITH MANUFACTURING SKILLS

The state of Wisconsin is committed to making sure that today's students have the tools they need to become the highly skilled workers of tomorrow.

And helping schools throughout the state provide students with the necessary training to ensure they're prepared for the 21st century's global economy is what's behind Wisconsin's new Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) Grant Program. The program, funded by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), is providing nearly $600,000 to 25 public school districts for the creation or expansion of fab labs, which will help ready students for the manufacturing jobs of the future.

Among the schools that received a grant in the first round of awards in May was the Washington High School of Information Technology, located in the Sherman Park neighborhood on Milwaukee's north side, which is part of the Transform Milwaukee area.

The $25,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), coupled with a $9,700 federal grant will enable the school to convert a portion of its library into a fab lab.

The funds will be used to purchase equipment, including a 3D printer and scanner, a computer numerical control milling machine, a laser cutter and a vinyl cutter.

School officials say students from 11 different course offerings will use Washington High School's fab lab on a regular basis. In addition, each student who is enrolled in entry-level National Academy Foundation and Project Lead the Way courses at Washington will create products using fab lab equipment. Students will also participate in community events, including workshops, open houses and freshman orientations.

“The manufacturing jobs of tomorrow will require workers to have a new set of skills, and, through the Fab Labs Grant Program, WEDC is working with schools around the state to help make sure that students will have those key skills when they enter the workforce,” said Mark Hogan, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state's lead economic development organization. “More and more manufacturers are incorporating technologies such as 3D printing and computer-assisted design, and the employees who use that technology must have strong math, information technology and engineering skills.”

The $500,000 in funding for the Fab Labs program was included by Governor Scott Walker in the 2015-17 state budget and approved by the state Legislature.

In response to an overwhelming number of applications, WEDC provided about $100,000 in additional funds for the program, which enabled the organization to award 25 school districts up to $25,000 each.

WEDC received 90 applications representing more than $2 million in funding requests. All applications were competitively evaluated based on criteria that included evidence of long-range planning, curriculum, partnerships and financial need. The review committee consisted of experts from the Department of Public Instruction, the Wisconsin Technical College System and the University of Wisconsin-Stout, along with two WEDC team members.

The grant to Washington High School is just one example of WEDC's commitment to Transform Milwaukee.

In the last two years, WEDC has directly invested more than $87 million in grants, loans and tax credits for economic development projects as part of Transform Milwaukee. Those investments are expected to result in the creation of nearly 700 jobs in the corridor over the next several years. That figure includes tax credits under Wisconsin's Historic Tax Credit Program, which has been a catalyst in redeveloping historic buildings throughout the Transform Milwaukee area.

For more information on the Fab Labs Grant Program, visit www.inwisconsin.com/fablabs.