MT. PLEASANT — Mt. Pleasant High School students will soon be able to learn the software and designing process on a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine thanks to the Future Ready Iowa Employer Innovation Fund.
The Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance, in collaboration with the local school district, was one of 14 recipients of the new grant program, which is geared toward addressing workforce issues.
Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the third round of recipients last Tuesday, wrapping up the first year of awards. According to a news release from Iowa Workforce Development, a total of $1.2 million has been awarded to 49 businesses and employers across Iowa.
“It encourages employers, community leaders, and others to lead efforts for developing regional workforce talent pools,” the funding program’s website states.
In their weekly newsletter, the Mt. Pleasant Chamber explained that the nonprofit was awarded $10,000, which will be matched in equal parts by the school district and the business community in Mt. Pleasant, with each group contributing $5,000. The funds will go toward purchasing a CNC machine and training teachers to teach the design software to students.
“We are very honored to receive the Employer Innovation Fund grant. We look forward to working with Colby Newman and other teachers in the Career and Technical Education department to train students on this exciting piece of equipment,” Kristi Ray, Executive Vice President of the Mount Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance, said.
Newman, Mt. Pleasant High School’s building and trades teacher, was the driving force behind the community’s decision to apply for the grant.
The teacher said that the school currently has a mill for metalworking that is “all hand-controlled and outdated.” When he began researching new equipment that would best help prepare students for the workforce, Newman’s conversations with local manufacturing firms were all centered on CNC machines. The teacher explained that the machines are widely utilized across the manufacturing industry to design and “mill parts and objects.”
“We wanted to talk to businesses about what they’re using because we didn’t want to purchase something that nobody is using. In the meetings we were having with community companies, they kept on saying that applicants they were getting were lacking the real-world skills [the firms are] actually using,” Newman explained.
“[The machine] will give students some real-world application and experience ... and having this program will give a boost to our local economy and workforce and pool that [companies] get to draw from,” the teacher noted.
Newman hopes teaching students how to use software involved with running the CNC machine will not only “give them a leg-up over other applicants” when competing for jobs, but also “excite some interest and draw more students into the shop program.”
“At least seven to eight classes will be getting exposed to this program and young people are very interested in tech, so hopefully this will draw in some more students. Also, the shop classes tend to get the kids who like the hands-on stuff. So I’m hoping we can also get them excited about new tech and working with computers,” Newman said.
Mt. Pleasant Community School District’s superintendent, John Henriksen, added that the district is “excited about the opportunity to connect kids with local businesses and local employers,” noting that the involvement of businesses will allow students an opportunity to network and make connections with local industries.
“It’ll show students that they can live and work and have a family right here in the Mt. Pleasant region,” Henriksen said.
Newman explained that once the chamber receives the grant money, an order will be put in for the CNC machine. The teacher hopes to begin utilizing the machine within the semester and plans to hold an open house to invite community members and parents once the new piece of equipment is installed at the school.