Manufacturing job-ready students

Winston-Dillard School District will expand partnerships, student skills with technology upgrade

Equipment wears out, but a skill once learned can be applied again and again.

An $11,000 grant from Umpqua Valley STEAM will be used to help Winston-Dillard School District upgrade its plasma cam system, which will boost the technical skills of many more students. And that in turn will allow the students to enter the work force or continue their educations at the next level.

The school district’s plasma cam system upgrade was one of five projects recently selected for mini-grants by a panel representing the STEAM Hub. Douglas High School Principal Rob Boyé said the funds provided by the STEAM Hub grant will be used to expand the school’s Career & Technical Education offerings by allowing classes to manufacture and mill curved metal objects such as pipes and railing. As a result, school officials hope to form more local partnerships in manufacturing.

Of the grant total, $6,000 will be spent on plasma cam cutter assembly, computer upgrade and other equipment. Another $3,500 will be used to train teachers how to use the equipment and plan activities. The remaining $1,500 is earmarked for a ventilation upgrade, as the shop must have more ventilation to handle the extra activity, Boyé said.

He added that students will benefit in many ways from the project, one being the acquisition of job skills that will directly translate to the private sector. Douglas High already has links with Umpqua Training & Employment and Umpqua Community College. UT&E is committed to training and placing students in work experience and on-the-job training. UCC has worked with the school district on establishing its expanded options programs and CTE offerings. In addition, the school district is in negotiations with Roseburg-based North River Boats to manufacture parts and place interns at the company’s plant.

“Our partners at UT&E should have no trouble finding opportunities for students versed in design and production of these metal components,” Boyé said. “We will also be designing artistic creations in cooperation with our art and math classes. Our business department is eager to market these unique products.”

Winston is home to many students and families who are interested in careers involving manufacturing and metallurgy. Douglas staff members are pleased to offer a program that offers youth kinetic activities that teach manufacturing. It also allows students to master STEM skills that get them ready for the workplace.

“By adding more functionality to our metals program,” Boyé said, “we hope to give our students the real-world skills needed to thrive in today’s economy.”