Donations by local businesses help fund Schools2Skills

June 2, 2014

From “Donations by local companies help fund Schools2Skills” — The effort seems to be paying off.

For the past three years, the Waukesha County Business Alliance has positively affected high school students in Waukesha County with its Schools2Skills program.

The program takes local students, parents and educators on tours of three manufacturing facilities, as well as a visit to the Waukesha County Technical College Engineering and Manufacturing Center, to increase interest in manufacturing careers.

On Friday, May 23, AT&T presented the WCTC Foundation with a $5,000 check to help fund the Schools2Skills program.

State Sen. Paul Farrow was in attendance, as well as representatives from WCTC and AT&T.

“The event was wonderful,” WCBA President Suzanne Kelley said. “We greatly appreciate the support.”

Making a change

The program was launched when concern rose over a loss of interest in manufacturing.

“Manufacturers really wanted us to help them reach out to young people and to ensure they became aware of the great job interviews that existed in manufacturing,” Kelley said. “Over the last three years we’ve taken more a thousand high school students throughout Waukesha County on these Schools2Skills tours.”

The daylong tour focuses on one school at a time to tour the different manufacturing facilities and meet senior leadership and production associates.

Kelley noted that all of the public schools in Waukesha County have participated in the program.

Students from a number of private schools, such as St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy, have also gone on tours.

“That was a new school that heard about the program and contacted us that they would be interested in sending a group of students,” Kelley said.

But students aren’t the only ones being educated.

“We also did a tour with middle school guidance counselors,” Kelley said. “We know they are at the forefront of reaching students at that age group.”

Funding the cause

Money donated by companies such as AT&T goes toward funding coach buses the WCBA rents to transport the different school groups that go on tours.

The learning doesn’t stop at the factories, as Kelley noted the importance of using the coach bus microphones and video access to inform students between stops.

There is no cost to the school districts, Kelley said.

Jessica Erickson, director of Public Affairs at AT&T Wisconsin, applauded Schools2Skills.

“This program is a great way to help promote education and help engage students in the promising careers that are available in advanced manufacturing,” Erickson said. “We see this as a perfect company to help.”

Already making a difference

Even with just three years in existence, the program has affected a number of individuals.

“We’ve run in to students who graduated from high school who took our tours and are now enrolled at WCTC,” Kelley said. “Because of the tours, they learned about the kind of training that’s needed for certain kind of manufacturing jobs and were inspired by the tours.”

One of the companies on the tour, Weldall, employs students who took part in the program, according to Kelley.

In just a short period of time, the Schools2Skills program is making a difference in the community, one school at a time.


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