Green Bay high schoolers to get head start on manufacturing careers

Green Bay high school students get a head start on their manufacturing careers with new program at West High School.

GREEN BAY – When Madison Maccaux found out she was accepted into the Bay Link Manufacturing Program.

"I did a little happy dance,” she said.

Maccaux is one of a few Green Bay high school students that are getting a head start on a possible manufacturing career.

The Green Bay Area Public School District, state officials and manufacturers cut the ribbon on a new manufacturing lab at West High School Wednesday.

All juniors and seniors in the district are eligible, but only a few are chosen for the program that offers students high school and technical college credit.

Called Bay Link Manufacturing, the lab gives students real world experience metal machining, welding, marketing and business skills. Located in the high school’s old auto shop, now filled with various milling and cutting machines, the program is a partnership between the school district, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and North East Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance. Adult classes through the technical college will also be offered.

Maccaux says she’s now on track to accomplish her dream of going into the manufacturing trade. A dream forged early on, working on projects in the garage with her dad.

"Just getting my hands on the new technology and being able to work with the things that are out in the field today," she said Wednesday morning.

The roughly $400,000 lab was funded through public and private partnerships and donations.

Plans are to have the class expand in the future. But, at the moment, only twelve students are in the first year-long, three-hours-a-day elective. So just getting in can be tough, but there is help.

"They learn how to write a resume, they learn how to fill out an application, they learn how to go get a letter of recommendation,” said Bay Link Manufacturing’s coordinator (teacher) Andy Belongia. “That's all kind of part of the learning process."

Once accepted into the program, Bay Link students become subcontractors for area manufacturing companies. Students will learn how to take their metal machining and fabricating skills and take them to the business side of the industry.

At a press conference celebrating the lab’s opening, both educators and manufacturers say it's one thing to teach students how to run this milling machine, but it's another to teach them how to run a business, as a team.

"It's the team building, it's the problem solving, it's getting to work on time,” said Jeffrey Rafn, president of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. “Here they're going to get to do that."

"This program is going to give us the confidence that we are going to have for the future workforce we need," said Lindquist Machine Corporation President Mark Kaiser.

And Maccaux says she's ready to get started.