By Mark Gunderman, Communications Specialist, Chippewa Valley Technical College
A $133,200 grant from 3M will enable Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) to partner with four area school districts to create career pathways for students in two areas of manufacturing.
The grant, to the CVTC Foundation, Inc., is designed to help develop the skills and knowledge of high school teachers and students in automation and mechatronics – the technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering.
CVTC will partner with high schools in Altoona, Durand, Eau Claire and Menomonie in the project, called “Building and Sustaining Regional Manufacturing Pathways.”
“Great manufacturing jobs in the Chippewa Valley are going unfilled for the lack of workers trained in the technology of modern manufacturing,” said Jeff Sullivan, CVTC dean of manufacturing. “With this generous grant through 3Mgives, we hope to build both skills and interest in manufacturing at the secondary school level to help fill those needs and get our young people started in lucrative careers early.”
With the grant, CVTC will purchase flexible manufacturing learning platforms to be used in the high schools and will offer professional development workshops for teachers so they can make the best use of the equipment. CVTC will partner with automation technology manufacturer Festo for the project.
The grant will also help develop career mentor partnerships, internships and career exploration opportunities with area manufacturing businesses.
Students in the partner school districts who develop an interest in automation and mechatronics could go on to enroll in CVTC’s Automation Engineering Technology program. That program prepares students for high-tech careers in maintaining, installing, repairing, fabricating and designing automated equipment.
Sullivan said that 3M Plant Engineering and 3Mgives (the company’s charitable arm) approached CVTC last February to discuss the possibility of academic partnerships in the region. These efforts are aimed at getting students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.
“This endeavor is modeled after a 3Mgives-funded pilot project at Alexandria Technical and Community College in Minnesota,” he said. “This project will facilitate a partnership between 3Mgives and 3M Menomonie, CVTC Foundation, Inc., CVTC, and regional school districts.”
Tom Harris, plant manager at 3M Menomonie, noted that “3M has enjoyed a very collaborative relationship with CVTC” and added that the grant “will address a very real need for current and future employers in the Chippewa Valley.
“Workforce availability and preparedness is a critical issue, and this grant establishes an extensive training program into our area schools,” he said. “This program will not only provide the skills needed for students to apply to well-paying jobs, but to also position themselves for future career advancement in high tech manufacturing.”