Evers, DWD announce $495,106 in technical education equipment grants to 17 Wisconsin school districts

Evers, DWD announce $495,106 in technical education equipment grants to 17 Wisconsin school districts

Student working in East Troy High School's Industrial Robotics and Programming course

An East Troy High School student programs the school’s FANUC industrial robot as part of the Industrial Robotics and Programming course, transcripted through Gateway Technical College as a college credit course. East Troy High School’s FANUC industrial robot is one of the machines in the school’s Technology Education (Tech ED) program that will interface with new equipment purchased through a recent $29,103 Department of Workforce Development technology equipment grant funding award, allowing students to get a more hands-on learning experience.

The technology education program at East Troy High School in Walworth County received a welcome big boost thanks to a recent state grant funding award.

Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced April 3 that 2,927 students in 17 school districts statewide will benefit from advanced manufacturing training in preparation for high-demand job opportunities thanks to grants from the Wisconsin Fast Forward Program.

Tony Evers


“There’s no denying the role of advanced manufacturing in the future of our economy and workforce right here in Wisconsin, and ensuring our kids have access to high-demand, high-skill job training opportunities is critical if we want to prepare our future workforce for the 21st Century,” Evers said. “By investing in technical education in school districts across the state, we are connecting the dots and expanding career opportunities for thousands of students while positioning our manufacturers for success.”

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The current round of Wisconsin Fast Forward grants from DWD totals $495,106 for school districts across the state to train students for career paths involving robotics, welding, plasma cutting, 3D printing, drones, and more. These grants reimburse school districts for the costs of purchasing and installing technical education equipment used for vocational training and technical education in advanced manufacturing fields. This includes the purchase of new equipment such as computer numerical control (CNC) machines, robotic welders, fiber laser cutting machines, 3D printers, and more.

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Amy Pechacek


“Fast Forward grants accelerate advanced manufacturing training and equipment to better prepare our future workforce for careers in this high-demand, high-skill industry,” said DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek. “The state-of-the-art equipment, including robotic welders, laser cutters, 3D printers, and other high-tech tools, will enable schools to provide coursework that aligns with industry standards and requirements.”

High school students will train in advanced manufacturing fields to prepare for stable careers while they obtain dual enrollment credits, industry-endorsed certificates, and technical endorsements on high school diplomas. Advanced manufacturing refers to a family of manufacturing activities that depend on the use and coordination of information, automation, computation, software, sensing, and networking, and/or use of cutting-edge materials and emerging production capabilities enabled by the physical and biological sciences (e.g., nanotechnology, chemistry, and biology). This involves both new ways of manufacturing existing products and manufacturing new products emerging from advanced technologies.

East Troy High School awarded grant

In Walworth County, the East Troy Community School District received a $29,103 Wisconsin Fast Forward Program grant for an Amatrol Industry 4.0 Advanced Manufacturing Learning System to facilitate a new course and support current courses at East Troy High School, 3128 Graydon Ave., East Troy.

East Troy Community School District Director of Teaching and Continuous Improvement of Student Learning Amy Foszpanczyk


“We’re so excited, elated, thrilled to have this opportunity … so that we can make this vision come to life,” said Amy Foszpanczyk, director of Teaching and Continuous Improvement of Student Learning for the East Troy Community School District. “The grant that we obtained is gonna be used to further develop our enhanced manufacturing pathway. That focus really has come from the interest of our students, and also information from the Department of Workforce Development regarding the growth rates in those careers. Industrial engineering careers, they say by 2030, are expected to experience 25.8% growth. 19.1% for electrical engineers. Mechanical maintenance technicians, 18.9%. So knowing that, knowing the interest of our students, we’re always looking for ways to improve and expand our programs and prepare them for the future and for career opportunities.”

Given the financial challenges faced by school districts across Wisconsin, caught in a tight spot between state-mandated property tax levy limits and the inflationary rising costs of doing business, among other financial pinch points, grant funding programs like Fast Forward provide districts like East Troy with a welcome and much needed infusion of funds for things like expanding hands-on technical education learning opportunities for students.

“Given the fact that we have limited budgets, we have to look for additional ways to support the purchases to make those programs happen,” Foszpanczyk said. “We’re limited in the amount of money we have to support these programs. This grant has really been helpful in ensuring we have the equipment needed, so that students can participate in lab experiments that will help them to development programming principles, work on system components, essentially enter that advanced manufacturing pathway. Any assistance financially that we can get … helps us to propell our program and benefit our students.”

East Troy High School computer science, technical education and mathematics instructor and Esports advisor and coach Nolan Pawelski


East Troy High School computer science, technical education and mathematics instructor Nolan Pawelski, who also serves as the school’s Esports advisor and coach, was excited by news of the Wisconsin Fast Forward grant awarded the district in support of the high school tech ed program.

“Personally, I am ecstatic we got it,” Pawelski said of the Wisconsin Fast Forward grant funding award. “It allows us to purchase a lot of equipment that is being incorporated into a lot of industrial plants. The grant was written specifically to purchase advanced manufacturing equipment, so we got PNCs, programmable logic controllers, which are now being used in factories to control the difference processes … It’s going to help us leverage a lot of the stuff … We have a robotics course here that works off an industrial robot. What we purchase will also integrate into that and help kids have a more-hands-on experience learning how these systems work together, versus where in the past it’s been kind of more theoretical, where we talk about it but we don’t get to physically do it. It’s going to benefit students because they’re going to get actual relevant skills. They’re going to see these things if they go into manufacturing and be able to know what’s going on there. This can also lead them to pursue and get careers that are a bit higher paying … It’s gonna be a really good experience for our kids. They can see and get exposed to some of this equipment and hopefully get interested in those careers and fufill that need here in the state.”

Other grant awards

Department of Workforce Development Fast Forward Program grants in surrounding counties included a $48,210 grant to the School District of Jefferson in Jefferson County for an Acer 3VS Vertical E-Milling Machine and a Badger/Miller Welder to modernize the manufacturing lab and better align with industry standards to teach skills needed in the trades.

Also in Jefferson County, the Fort Atkinson School District received a $10,011 grant for a 770M CNC Mill to teach students how to set up, program, and use the machine for program design, preparing students for careers in manufacturing.

In Waukesha County, the Muskego-Norway School District received a $37,997 grant to purchase a Laguna Industrial Planer, Laguna Widebelt Sander, and Oscillating Spindle Sander to help students prepare for careers in precision manufacturing with various materials.

In Rock County, the School District of Milton received a $19,615 grant to purchase a Boss Table 4’x4’ CNC Plasma Table and Hypertherm Powermax 45xp plasma cutter, giving students hands-on experience with relevant industry equipment.

Other Wisconsin school districts receiving grant funding were:

School District of Nekoosa, Wood County — $14,425.

West Bend School District, Washington County — $7,367.

Pulaski Community School District, Brown County — $50,000.

Whitehall School District, Trempealeau County — $50,000.

St. Croix Central School District, St. Croix County — $50,000.

Chilton School District, Calumet County — $17,235.

School District of Monroe, Green County — $50,000.

Prairie du Chien Area School District, Crawford County — $50,000.

Wausau School District, Marathon County — $12,062.

Hartford Union High School District, Washington County — $14,166.

School District of Lomira, Dodge County — $24,751.

Wittenberg-Birnamwood School District, Shawano County — $10,164.

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