Students throughout Southern Oregon will have ready access to state-of-the-art manufacturing and design equipment, including large-format 3-D printers, welders, laser cutters, plasma cutters, drones and more, thanks to a nearly $500,000 Career and Technical Education grant.

Of the 73 grant applications reviewed by a committee of educators and business, trade and industry leaders, 25 applicants were awarded grants totaling $9 million. Of that, Southern Oregon Education Service District, in collaboration with the Medford and Grants Pass school districts and ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum, and the Malheur Education Service District in Eastern Oregon were awarded the largest share, $488,432 each.

The grant will outfit manufacturing labs at North Medford, South Medford and Grants Pass high schools with cutting-edge manufacturing and design equipment; provide new curriculum to support the new equipment; and create two mobile labs, which will be used throughout the community, said Brian Robin, SOESD’s regional CTE coordinator.

The goal is to provide relevant, hands-on experience for students within courses that are aligned with career paths that would provide high-wage, high-skill, high-demand jobs, said SOESD Superintendent Scott Beveridge.

One of the mobile labs will be housed at North Medford High School, and the other at Grants Pass High School, said Kirstie Christopherson, who teaches manufacturing, engineering and architecture at North and helped write the grant. 

“Basically it’s a trailer of manufacturing and design equipment that we’ll be able to take out to middle schools and elementary schools in the county to expose students to our manufacturing programs and pathways,” she said. “Most kids know there’s a football program at the high school but not a manufacturing program.”

The CTE Revitalization Grant was established in 2011 through House Bill 3362 and is awarded every biennium by the CTE Revitalization Advisory Committee, appointed by the Oregon Department of Education and Bureau of Labor and Industries.

It’s a diverse set of grants designed to reflect the local industry needs, said BOLI spokesman Charlie Burr.

“Historically, the average age of an apprentice in Oregon was 19 years old,” Burr said. ”Today, it’s around 27, so the idea is to reach more students earlier in their careers so they don’t drift for five, six, seven years. It’s about giving people access to potential career paths.”

The grant will not only bolster the vocational programs at the three high schools, but the mobile labs will be shared with surrounding districts, such as Rogue River, Phoenix-Talent and Three Rivers, that don’t have their own labs, as well as with ScienceWorks during the summer, Robin said.

Rogue Community College professors, high school teachers, ScienceWorks staff and maybe even high school students will deliver curriculum around this technology at elementary and middle school events and career fairs, he said.

The mobile labs also will be equipped with milling machines, a laser engraver, injection molding machines (think bottles), vacuum forming machines (think lids), robotic kits, GoPro cameras, wind machines to teach aeronautics, windmills to teach renewable energy and a variety of other equipment.

“That’s the stuff that kids are just drawn to,” Robin said.

The curriculum and new equipment will be in the high school labs by September and the mobile labs by May, he said.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.