GRPS, WMU partner on the manufacturing and design training certificate for high school students

LARGE RAPIDS — Western Michigan University and Grand Rapids Public Schools have formed a two-year dual enrollment partnership to help high school students interested in pursuing careers in embedded design and manufacturing.

Thanks to this collaboration, GRPS students can obtain a WMU undergraduate certificate for free.

The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) Laboratory in downtown Grand Rapids – built in conjunction with WMU, the Manufacturers of West Michigan, Autocam Medical Devices LLCand Grand Rapids Community College – will host the program. GRPS students will attend the lab during their school days and participate in classes led by faculty from WMU’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Kimmy Beuchler, director of early college programs at WMU’s Merze Tate College, says the program is similar to language immersion programs the university has partnered on with various school districts in western Michigan.

“Our goal with any of these programs is for the student to have something tangible they can walk away with, something that will either set them up for academic success if they follow an academic path, or set them up for success. if he decides to enter the labor market directly,” said Beuchler MiBiz.

Program applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. The program is open to GRPS high school seniors with a 3.0 GPA or 2.75 for seniors. This year’s cohort consists of mostly high school students, a few 11th graders and one 10th grader, Beuchler said.

Earning the certificate is equivalent to 15 credit hours, or about one semester, but the goal is for the certificate to lead to an associate degree at Grand Rapids Community College, where GRPS students can attend for free as part of a Promise Zone scholarship. This would form the basis for earning a bachelor’s degree at WMU.

Long term goals

Joanne Roehm, director of WMU-Grand Rapids, said the AMP Lab was created to help change the narrative and perception of manufacturing careers.

“Manufacturing is one of the industries, certainly in West Michigan and the Midwest, that has been identified as a labor need,” Roehm said.

Additionally, the program aims to help employers in the manufacturing sector fill a much-needed talent pool.

“There are a lot of opportunities and a lot of different companies to start a career in manufacturing, and I think there’s growing recognition that investing in those workers is important to retaining them, so you see more and more companies having tuition reimbursement or other training opportunities for people in those fields as well,” Roehm said.

In addition, Autocam Medical runs a skilled trades apprenticeship program that uses the AMP lab to develop the company’s talent pool. Earlier this year, the company graduated its fourth cohort of CNC machinist apprentices, who are receiving free company tuition toward an engineering degree.

The first GRPS cohort is underway and a second cohort will begin in April 2023. The AMP Lab Gift Fund will help cover the cost of books, materials, and transportation. The program will be administered by WMU’s Early College Programs, which will also provide additional student support services.

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Milton S. Rodgers