MILWAUKEE —Throughout October, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is joining more than a dozen state agencies and other partners in celebrating Manufacturing Month to promote manufacturing, manufacturing careers and manufacturing education.
As part of Manufacturing Month, WEDC officials toured the fab lab at South Milwaukee High School today and had the opportunity to meet with students and faculty to learn more about their fab lab and how it’s providing resources to prepare students for the manufacturing jobs of the future. Among those visiting the school were Representative Jessie Rodriguez and WEDC Secretary and CEO Mark R. Hogan.
South Milwaukee is one of 25 school districts to receive grants in the first round of Wisconsin’s Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) Grant Program. This investment funds new or upgraded fabrication laboratory facilities, providing Wisconsin’s students with valuable job training and connecting them into the 21st century’s global economy.
The South Milwaukee Rocket Fab Lab opened this year and currently serves over 100 students in the Technology & Engineering Academy. Students in the Academy are interested in pursuing careers in the skilled trades, engineering, manufacturing and business fields. The high school-based fab lab has partnered with the middle school and elementary school Makerspace Programs to provide science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) education opportunities for the entire K-12 district.
Through partnerships and grants from WEDC, Caterpillar and the National Fluid Power Association, students have been provided with access to new rapid prototyping equipment. Teacher training and support from Milwaukee 7 and KRONES Inc. has helped to accelerate the establishment of the fab lab and prepare students for high-growth career fields. The fab lab has helped to increase student interest in the Technology and Engineering Department, as measured by a 39 percent increase in enrollment over the first year.
According to Dr. Rita Olson, superintendent of the School District of South Milwaukee, “The establishment of the Rocket Fab Lab has helped to generate a new level of excitement for students in our Technology and Engineering Department and beyond. There is no end to what students will be able to create and accomplish with their entrepreneurial spirit, creative minds and the support of our dedicated staff. We are very appreciative of WEDC and our other business and community partners for helping to make the Rocket Fab Lab a reality.”
“Fab labs enable students to develop and hone the skills necessary to thrive in the 21st century global economy, which is an essential component of ensuring the state’s continued economic success,” said Mark Hogan, secretary and CEO of WEDC. “This program is another example of the strong partnership between the local school districts and the state of Wisconsin, and how we are working together to ensure that students are prepared for the jobs of the future.”
While students in fab labs will develop the types of skills applicable to any industry, those skills are increasingly important in the evolution of next-generation manufacturing. As the population ages and the manufacturing sector grows, there will be significant opportunities for employment in Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry, underscoring the need to ensure a robust talent pipeline now and in the years to come.
WEDC is now accepting applications from public school districts for the second round of the Fab Labs Grant Program. Application information can be found atwww.InWisconsin.com/fablabs. The deadline for submission is Dec. 15.