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LTC-Plymouth Science & Technology Center unveiled

Posted by on February 6, 2012 at 9:37 AM | 0 Comments

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The eagerly anticipated LTC-Plymouth Science & Technology Center at Plymouth High School celebrated its grand opening Feb. 1 with officials from the Plymouth School District, Lakeshore Technical College, the City of Plymouth and area businesses.

Later that same day, the public got its first look at the $1.25 million facility, which will prepare high school and college students for engineering and technical careers.

The center is a unique collaboration involving LTC, the school district, the city and the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce.

Sadly, examples of such collaboration are rare, because they can be messy, Plymouth Schools Superintendent Clark Reinke told those gathered.

“I am thrilled to say because of the dedication and hard work on the part of many leaders, this partnership is not only off and rolling,” he said. “I believe it will not only serve our students, our community, and area businesses, but it will be a model that can be shared with others.”

The facility will go a long way toward reaching the district’s goal of preparing every graduate to enter higher education or a career of his or her choice, Dr. Reinke said.

But he said his vision for the center does not end with providing the maintenance tech workers that area manufacturers need today. “We want our graduates designing the new machine that packages brats at Johnsonville or creating the new product that keeps Sargento at the leading edge,” he said.  

Speakers also included Mark Rhyan, president of the Plymouth Board of Education and executive vice president and chief operations officer for Sargento Foods, which donated the high-speed packaging machine in the manufacturing lab.

Mr. Rhyan offered four perspectives: employer, school board member, parent and community member.

“As an employer, I recognize the value of well-trained individuals,” he said, commending LTC for the job it does in training workers.

As a school board member, Mr. Rhyan said the center raises the bar for every student and helps the district prepare all students to follow their career goals.

Mr. Rhyan attributed the successes of his own children to the efforts of the school district, and in particular expressed gratitude to the teachers. He told the technology education instructors that the facility is at their disposal, but noted that the building alone won’t provide the instruction.

“Use it well to teach these kids,” he said. “I don’t believe I understate the importance of your work when I say that the future of this state and, for that matter, our country depends heavily upon your success in educating these kids. Have at it, gentlemen.”

Mike Lanser, president of Lakeshore Technical College, said the center has its roots in 2008, when he sat down with Dr. Reinke to talk about ways to collaborate.

"We are excited about the articulation agreements with Plymouth High School to offer dual-credit degree programs for high school students,” Dr. Lanser said. “This engagement will allow students to leverage their high school education into a post-secondary degree and establishes a firm learning foundation and exposure to career opportunities in our region."

The center meets key workforce needs and will go a long way toward closing the skills gap, which is what motivated LTC to get involved, he said.

"When you walk through the center and see how engaged the students are, the passion of the instructors, and the teamwork between LTC and Plymouth faculty you know this was the right thing to do,” he said. “The success of this partnership is a testament to the positive impact a community can provide through the sharing of ideas, resources and good will."

John Lukas, chairperson of the Lakeshore Technical College District Board and a manufacturer in Manitowoc, recalled being in Washington, D.C., when he learned that federal grant money might be available for the project.

In addition to being in the right place at the right time, seeing the project to fruition also took teamwork, dedication and passion, he said.

The college and the school district provided with more than $250,000 in in-kind donations to the project. The City of Plymouth provided an additional $250,000 in economic development funds.

Plymouth Mayor Don Pohlman said the facility exists thanks to teamwork and a shared commitment to bringing the project to its conclusion, and serves as an example to others. He encouraged those involved to look for more opportunities to collaborate.

“If this is the first step, I can’t wait to see the second step,” he said.

Jeanette Tamayo, regional director for the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which provided $683,000 in grant money, also encouraged those involved to continue to collaborate.

She said the EDA provides funding and tools to encourage innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship in the hopes of growing regional and national economies.

State Superintendent Tony Evers, a Plymouth High School graduate, said in videotaped remarks that the center is a model for all of Wisconsin. He noted that it will open career paths that meet community needs.

Those career paths are a priority for the Wisconsin Technical College System, WTCS president Dan Clancy told those at the grand opening.

The skills gap can’t be solved by any single entity, he noted, but will take the efforts of educators, government and especially businesses. “This is an outstanding example of this type of synergy,” he said.

The remarks were followed by the unveiling of a plaque and the singing of a dual-credit agreement between LTC and the Plymouth School District.

Those visiting the center then were treated to tours of the facility and to student demonstrations:

  • CAD Lab: Computer-aided design software and a three-dimensional printer
  • CNC Lab: State-of-the-art Haas CNC mills and a Haas lathe
  • Engineering Lab: Control panel and immersive CNC simulators for Haas high-tech mills
  • Graphics Lab: Laser engraver
  • Manufacturing Lab: High-speed packaging machine manufactured by Viking-Masek donated by Sargento Foods
  • Welding Lab: Professional metal fabrication training facility

PHS culinary arts students catered the grand opening and provided cookies for the open house.

During the open house, school-age children were able to explore science and engineering through a number of hands-on activities in the Aspiring Engineers room. Also open that evening were the school’s agriscience, automotive and construction labs

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