Student uses a torch during the ribbon cutting at Sauk Prairie High School’s new Advanced Manufacturing Lab. The lab was built to meet growing demand for manufacturing skills among the region’s workforces.
Workforce Innovation Grant funds community and student training
PRAIRIE DU SAC, WI. FEB. 6, 2024 – The Sauk Prairie School District today celebrated the opening of its new advanced manufacturing lab, a project funded in part by a $2.44 million Workforce Innovation Grant (WIG) from the Wisconsin Economic Development Organization (WEDC) in partnership with the Department of Workforce Development (DWD).
“WEDC is committed to building an economy for all where everyone has the chance to succeed,” said Missy Hughes, Secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s leading economic development organization. “This partnership not only supports students by preparing them for their careers, but it also helps community members get the training they need now to fill high-paying jobs with local businesses.”
The Sauk Prairie School District received a $2.44 million WIG award in 2021 to support workforce development programs for students and local workers that met the needs of local businesses in three key sectors: manufacturing, agriculture, and healthcare.
A student explains the operation of a CNC Plasma Cutting Machine to Secretary Missy Hughes.
The new advanced manufacturing lab combines traditional and modern manufacturing equipment to prepare students for various opportunities in Sauk Prairie and beyond. Sauk Prairie High School students will have the chance to apply what they learn by apprenticing with local businesses, including program partners McFarlane Manufacturing and Milwaukee Valve.
“We’re always looking for ways that our program can combine our students’ passion and the community’s needs,” said Jeff Wright, Sauk Prairie School District Superintendent. “We hope this manufacturing lab brings in new students that otherwise wouldn’t be interested in manufacturing and give them the tools for success.”
Community members, as well as students, can use the new space to learn new skills or brush up on old ones. The manufacturing lab completed construction in January and welcomed its first group of students this semester.
“This new classroom and equipment help us figure out what we like,” said Logan Ballweg, a sophomore at Sauk Prairie High School taking courses in welding and materials and manufacturing. “Now I see career options I didn’t think about before. It’s pretty neat that we have it.”
Educators and students harvest a crop of vegetables with Secretary Missy Hughes. Grant funds went towards opening a greenhouse to implement more agricultural curriculum and provide microgreens at the school cafeteria.
In addition to the advanced manufacturing lab, Sauk Prairie School District’s WIG award also funded a greenhouse classroom and health care training lab. The greenhouse has allowed the high school to expand its agricultural curriculum and give students hands-on experience growing microgreens for the school’s cafeteria. The health care training lab offers classes to students and the community in phlebotomy, specimen preparation and certified nursing assistance training. This spring, students from Sauk Prairie High School will be interning at Sauk Prairie Healthcare, supporting their local community, and earning valuable experience.
“In Sauk Prairie, many of our manufacturers depend on district apprenticeships to help navigate labor shortages. More importantly, business leaders learn from these students, as their creativity and critical thinking skills bring new insights to the community,” said Tywana German, executive director of the Sauk Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce. “Vocational education has evolved and offering courses in advanced manufacturing, ag-science and medical careers is critical to educating students about employers in our region and provide insight into these careers.”
Secretary Hughes and DWD Assistant Deputy Secretary Jennifer Sereno joined school officials and community and business leaders for the ribbon-cutting and a tour of the facility.
“Gov. Evers’ historic $158 million Workforce Solutions Initiative has served more 33,000 Wisconsin residents, the majority of them through the Workforce Innovation Grant program,” DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek said. “The advanced manufacturing lab that we’re celebrating today is an example of the grant-supported collaborations that are bringing lasting and effective solutions to meet pressing workforce needs in regions across Wisconsin.”