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As Manufacturing Jobs Return, Students Get Ready

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

ST. FRANCIS, Minn. (WCCO) — If Minnesota’s manufacturing sector is going to re-tool for a brighter future, it will need skilled young talent like high school junior Bryce Brethorst.

“I want to be a CNC machinist,” said the St. Francis student.

Brethorst is well on his way thanks to enrolling in a manufacturing technology program at St. Francis High School.

“Being with machines, I just always like machines, working with my dad out in the garage. I just like making things, building things,” explained Brethorst.

On welders and milling machines, metal lathes and gas cutting tables, 112 students at St. Francis are receiving training that’s on par with many trade schools. At a time when many districts were forced to cut or end their industrial arts programs due to tight budgets and the state’s focus on basic learning, St. Francis has strengthened its technology programs.

It has also received help from outside. What the school can’t afford, a number of private businesses have pitched in with specific grants and gifts of specialized equipment.

Brent Stavig has been an instructor with the program for the past eight years.

“Our school’s actually made a commitment to invest in the program, and now with job openings in manufacturing it’s really paying off. We’re receiving contacts for job opportunities,” said Stavig.

And it’s not just little things like personalized paper weights and aluminum name plates the students are fabricating. Each year they will combine to rebuild all the parts for a customized “chopper” motorcycle. Current students are designing and building hydraulic grapple buckets that will be used on the front end of a Bobcat loader.

Senior Haley Jansen is turning out steel bushings for that grapple bucket. Although she is one of the few girls enrolled in the school’s program, Jansen said she’s not intimidated by pursuing a career that’s long been dominated by men.

To Jansen, what matters most is turning a skill into a paycheck.

“It’s a good opportunity for people just because it’s an open, the field is open and there’s a lot of job opportunities there for whoever, girls or guys,” said Jansen.

So whether designing a chopper or machining a piece of metal, what’s taught in the class is building a manufacturing workforce, one kid at a time.

WCCO-TV’s Bill Hudson Reports

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