New Funding to Get Rural Students Involved in Manufacturing and Robotics This Summer

Governor Tom Wolf announced the approval of new funding for Bridge Builders Community Foundations to get students in rural areas of Northwest Pennsylvania involved in educational summer workshops focused around manufacturing and to increase student interest in robotics. The grant will come from Governor Wolf’s Manufacturing PA initiative.

“When we get rural students involved in STEM and manufacturing, we’re not just promoting opportunities for their future careers – we’re helping Northwest Pennsylvania’s entire advanced manufacturing and robotics sector,” said Governor Wolf. “We will remain committed to supporting programs like this that help reduce the skills gap and strengthen the commonwealth’s workforce.”

The $188,300 grant will support Bridge Builders’ Pennsylvania Rural Robotics Initiative. This program collaborates with local manufacturers to offer “school to work” summer workshops for students to meet the manufacturers, explore mentorship opportunities, and learn essential skills that will enable the students to land family-sustaining manufacturing jobs after graduation. Manufacturing partners include Specialty Fabrication and Powder Coating, Komatsu Mining, Miller Fabrication Solutions, and Kronospan. Additionally, the funding will enable rural schools to start their own teams to compete in the annual VEX Competition, the largest middle and high school STEM robotics program in the world. In the VEX Competition, teams of students design robots to complete complex challenges faster than opposing teams.

“We’re grateful to the Wolf Administration for this investment into NWPA that will create opportunities for its students immediately,” said Jill Foys, executive director of the Northwest Commission and steering committee member of the Pennsylvania Rural Robotics Initiative. “The summer camp will allow students to be taught by VEX Trainers and be engaged with our regional industry partners as well as those from the workforce and economic development. They create a platform for students to develop skills that manufacturers say are important to them when selecting new hires including communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution, critical thinking and initiation of ideas.”

The Pennsylvania Manufacturing Training-to-Career grant is designed to provide funding for training programs to help unemployed and underemployed individuals, as well as those with barriers, to gain the skills they need to gain employment in the manufacturing sector. Eligible applicants include technical and trade schools, universities, and nonprofit organizations that develop new and innovative training programs and partner with two or more manufacturers.

The Training-to-Career grant is part of Governor Wolf’s Manufacturing PA initiative that was launched in October 2017. This initiative ensures that training leads not simply to any job, but to careers that provide higher pay and opportunities for advancement. Working with DCED’s strategic partners, including Industrial Resource Centers (IRCs), Pennsylvania’s colleges, universities, technical schools, and non-profit organizations, this initiative fosters collaboration and partnerships to accelerate technology advancement, encourage innovation and commercialization, and build a 21st-century workforce.

In the 2019-2020 Executive Budget, Governor Wolf proposed the new Statewide Workforce, Education, and Accountability Program (SWEAP) to provide workforce development opportunities for Pennsylvanians from birth to retirement. SWEAP will expand access to early childhood education, increase investments in schools and educators, and further partner with the private sector to build on the PAsmart initiative. Through SWEAP and PAsmart, the governor is calling for an additional $4 million to help Pennsylvania manufacturers train workers and $6 million to expand career and technical education for adults.