Growing career and technical offerings in our high schools are expanding opportunities for Lakeville Area students to explore interests and gain hands-on skills in manufacturing, engineering, design, health sciences and technology. From the STEM program at Lakeville South to the STEM Manufacturing, Engineering & Technology and Biomedical programs at Lakeville North, these growing career pathways programs are being made possible in large part thanks to the support from Lakeville Area business partners and the Lakeville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Lakeville Works program.
One Lakeville Area business partner in particular has not only helped to expand career and technical opportunities at the high school level, but is helping kick-start a new Manufacturing and Engineering Pathways program for middle school students at Century Middle School.
BTD Manufacturing, based in the Airlake Industrial Park in Lakeville, has donated nearly $40,000 to Lakeville North High School over the past two years to underwrite the cost of manufacturing equipment to give students access to build skills in metal fabrication, forming, welding, prototyping and laser cutting. The company’s contributions have helped to expose students to potential metal-working services in a replicated and scaled environment based on real-world, industry standards.
BTD Manufacturing President Paul Gintner said the program at Lakeville North is exciting for companies like BTD because the hands-on knowledge students gain translates right into the workforce.
“Years ago, we were hiring a lot of individuals who grew up working on small family farms who had experience in mechanics because of the skills they had gained at home working on equipment like tractors, lawn mowers, vehicles and such. In today’s workforce, there is a shortage of skilled workers,” said Gintner. “With vast changes in technology and far less family-owned farms, individuals no longer are required to learn the mechanical skills that were once needed. As we experienced this shift in the workforce at BTD, I recognized there is a gap. For us, it’s not just about finding workers, we need to hire skilled workers who have mechanical aptitude and the specific training required for manufacturing.”
Gintner said, “Students are being exposed to possible career interests that they might not otherwise learn or know about, and that is what is so appealing for companies like BTD. These opportunities are opening up students’ minds in a (education) system that has traditionally promoted college as the next step after graduation, when trades have a great need for workers and offer many tracks for students to lead successful and exciting careers.”
When BTD and Gintner were approached by teachers Loralee Anderson and Kim Wibbens from Century Middle School with the opportunity to expand pathways programming to Lakeville Area middle school students, his company was excited to do so. In total, the company has committed to a three-year grant surpassing $30,000 to provide middle school students hands-on learning experiences in 3D printing, computer-aided design and engineering.
“The goal of the program is to provide a pathway to the Lakeville North Manufacturing Program, Graphic Design and Math courses,” said teacher Loralee Anderson. “I had a vision to create an updated makerspace for students at Century Middle School. Kim had a special connection to BTD, as her husband, Dave works for the company. We planned and developed the grant request in order to create an interactive media center, which will be integrated into current and future classroom curriculum.”
“At Century Middle School, our goal is to provide each middle school student with an experience that will help foster growth in ideas, determine interests and build skills,” said Century Middle School Principal Jason Bakke. “There may be a budding designer, engineer, welder, mechanic or video production artist among our students. Our hope is that students will find experiences that appeal to them and hone in on what drives them to continue their learning journey. Their career path may be dramatically affected based upon the opportunities we provide. Our goal with this program is to plant the seed that might grow and carry on through coursework offered at Lakeville North High School and their careers.”
“BTD is pleased to partner with Century Middle School to further support growing manufacturing and engineering interests for students in grades 6-8,” said Gintner. “Often, by the time students enter high school, they already are walking in with their minds set on specific interests and passions. Supporting opportunities at the middle level will give students earlier exposure to engineering, math and sciences, in hopes to open their minds to the many opportunities, including the trades, that they can explore going into to high school and beyond.”
Lakeville Area Schools Career Pathways Coordinator Cindy Nolan said, “Our relationship with BTD is a great example of businesses and schools working collaboratively to develop students’ problem-solving skills so students can be better prepared for their future opportunities.”
On Dec. 12, STEM Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology teacher Kevin Baas presented a student-made, fabricated panther to students and staff at Century Middle School to commemorate the new pathways pipeline between the two schools and the two programs.