October is Manufacturing Month in the state—a perfect time for Elk Grove High School to unveil its new Advanced Manufacturing Lab, a hands-on classroom where students can gain 21st century skills and industry credentials before graduation.
Created by combining two existing classrooms, the renovated space was made possible thanks to an initial $100,000 installment of a five-year, $500,000 grant from the Village of Elk Grove.
On Oct. 22, the school held an open house to give officials from the Village and Township High School District 214 a tour of the new classroom, which is an extension of the longtime, more traditional Fabrication Lab. The Village also presented its second $100,000 gift to the District 214 Education Foundation. The latest funds will be used to acquire additional high-tech equipment, including CNC machinery.
Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson announced the Village grant in October 2019 at the 7th annual Made in Elk Grove Manufacturing and Technology Expo.
The grant is part of the Village’s overall efforts to strengthen the local workforce through education, so that Elk Grove businesses have access to a skilled and dedicated local talent pool.
“With more than 400 manufacturers in Elk Grove Village that employ thousands of people, we’re doing everything we can to provide them with a well-educated talent pool right here in the same community that they call home,” Johnson says. “This grant also helps Elk Grove students get a head start on careers in manufacturing, high-tech technology, robotics and other sectors that rely on a highly-skilled workforce to thrive.”
Kyle Burritt, Associate Principal at Elk Grove High School, says the Village’s investment has a ripple effect on students’ lives and on the business community.
“We are grateful for the amazing partnership we have with the Village. Mayor Johnson and the Village Board are making it possible to inspire and engage kids while strengthening our community. We were proud to show them what their vision and generosity has made possible.”
Burritt adds that in creating the Advanced Manufacturing Lab, the school was “going for ‘wow’ factor.”
“It’s clean and modern with all of the mechanicals—from temperature controls to electrical—to accommodate precision equipment,” he says. “We want to dispel preconceptions about manufacturing and show students, and their parents, that this is an exciting career pathway.”
While the new lab represents the future of manufacturing, the more traditional fabrication lab continues to play an important role. Its industry-standard equipment allows students to learn how to work with metal, wood and other materials. “Kids still need to learn manual equipment,” Burritt says. “That is where you start with shop safety and the craft of making things. We didn’t abandon fabrication.”
Thanks to the school’s relationships with local industry partners, five seniors in the school’s manufacturing program currently have paid internships with Elk Grove companies. And while the coronavirus pandemic has restricted some classroom learning for other courses, manufacturing students were among the first wave brought back for in-classroom learning.
“Students are working in small groups, adhering to social distancing and other preventative measures and best practices,” Burritt says. “You can’t do this kind of learning online.”