Breaking Ground on a Groundbreaking Project

Ground_BreakingBy: Erik Rutledge

On Wednesday, March 16, 2016 the groundbreaking ceremony for the finalization of Red Raider Manufacturing occurred. Everyone from the Red Raider Oversight Team, investors, community members, and North and South High staff and students were excited to have the opportunity to attended the event. They are all thankful for those who have invested money and time into this outstanding project.

“Thanks to many of you here and what we call investors, the whole idea of donations are over.  It’s truly a partnership and investment,” Sheboygan Area School District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Sheehan said.

This project began on May 30, 2014, with the thought of improving the learning process of manufacturing. In the present day, parts of that idea are already in place while others still must undergo the building process. Everyone involved or looking to be involved in this huge project were, and still are, extremely excited to see the final product and see the students get involved with all the local manufacturing business here in Sheboygan.

“In about three weeks we were able to secure financial commitments from local manufacturers of approximately $2.3 million. That’s those investors Joe [Sheehan] was talking about,”  Robert Kraus, Vice President of Operations at Vollrath Company, said “We had people that were literally writing checks the day after we had meetings with them talking about what this investment was for.”

The whole process of implementing RRM was not all smooth sailing. Grants for the project were denied once, but the administration, investors, and local manufacturing businesses knew how important this was for the community and wanted to see it go through. Therefore, they looked for more investors and developed their plans a little more to receive that grant. In order to get the money, both North and South High School teachers attended schooling classes and/or did an internship type program to see what has come with the 21st Century in the manufacturing field. They also tested out the Co-Op program for students.

“We have already placed 17 students with five companies for the third and fourth quarter this year,” Kraus said, “That’s a tremendous accomplishment that is something that nobody thought we could pull off in two months, but somehow we did it.”

As for the future development of RRM and the Co-Op program, all the machinery is planned to be delivered by the end of the year by then the Co-Op program will have doubled in size. In order to have these goals accomplished, Sheboygan Area School District and local industries had to make an ongoing commitment.

“In industry, we have an axiom. What’s important gets measured and what gets measured gets improved,”  Kohler Company Representative Jeff Klosterman said, “The high school student gets a chance to be introduced to advanced manufacturing in the service industry, jobs that pay family raising wages and benefits while still in high school, and a chance to experience multiple positions with multiple companies with pay throughout the Sheboygan area.”

The Sheboygan Area School District has done a lot to get students and the public the knowledge of this change to satisfy the needs of local manufacturing businesses. SASD has used videos, written articles, signs at the ground breaking ceremony, the new machines in the classrooms, and the construction for the new shops to get the word out.

“It is great walking down the hall and noticing more students going by the technology wing to check out the latest machines. What’s even better is hearing students talk about what’s going on within technology education classrooms and how they are signing up for RRM classes,” South High’s technology instructor, Craig Heeler, said.

None of this could be possible without the technology teachers at North and South. In order for the students to learn this new style of manufacturing, the teacher need to first.

“These tech ed instructor’s have spent countless hours researching manufacturing technologies and developing a vision for the future. They are the heart of this program,” Johnsonville’s Paul Griffin said, “They represent the future of teaching and their dedication to students and their personal commitment to lifelong learning is immeasurable.”

This is just the beginning for RRM. A lot of work and time between the manufacturing businesses, SASD, and others have hopefully put this program on  track for an outstanding future.

“I see the relationship between local businesses and district as a symbiotic relationship by coming together and developing these partnerships with local businesses. We as a school district are able to better provide different opportunities for all students,” North High Guidance Counselor Joe O’Brien said.

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