School Bulletin: S.M.A.R.T. investment in workforce

School Bulletin: S.M.A.R.T. investment in workforce

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A company with more than one hundred years of history in South Milwaukee is investing in local students. The Bucyrus Foundation has gifted St. Thomas More High School a $50,000 grant to enhance the school's new S.M.A.R.T. Manufacturing Program. 

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Safety, Mechatronics, Automation, Robotics and Tools. The popular classes have students learning basic manufacturing skills with modern tools like 3D printers, laser engravers and computer-aided design, or CAD.

“It’s not just ‘Hey, grab a hammer and you’re going to make something,’” Ryan Laessig, the S.M.A.R.T. Manufacturing teacher, says. “There are so many different levels now in manufacturing, and all of these companies are looking to fill those positions with smart young minds.” 

Young minds at St. Thomas More can start in the S.M.A.R.T. program as 9th graders. Laessig says the first assignment is to creata company and design business cards. He says the students grow to be more comfortable with the machinery, and by the end of the course, they can test to become a Certified Production Technician (CPT). 

“We’re just trying to provide alternative pathways for students to go into a career,” Kevin Russell, the school’s marketing director, says, adding that manufacturing is one of the fastest growing industries in the state.

The National Association of Manufacturers reports as of 2019, nearly 16% of of Wisconsin’s workforce was in manufacturing, and in 2018,  $21.4 billion in manufactured goods were exported from the state.

“If [students] choose to go straight into those careers, they’re going to have the certification and experience to do so,” Russell says. 

Bucyrus, known for surface mining equipment, was sold to Caterpillar in 2011. Now the company’s legacy will continue with The Bucyrus Manufacturing Center at St. Thomas More. And as the industry changes, so will the new hub at the high school. 

“Technology is always evolving, machines are always evolving,” Laessig says. “Getting more modern machinery... will help these students be at the forefront of what to expect.” 

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