GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new collaboration with Western Michigan University and Grand Rapids Public Schools is nurturing the next generation of makers.

The college is offering a dual enrollment program for high school students interested in integrated design and manufacturing fields.

“We’ve found a lot of the barriers for students are time, transportation and cost. What we’ve done is effectively create this partnership where this is no cost for materials, no cost for transportation. It’s embedded within their school day, so there’s no extra time commitment,” WMU Director of Early College Programs, Kimmy Beuchler.

The students take courses with the WMU instructors and work in the college’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Laboratory, located downtown.

The curriculum offers students hands-on experience. If they complete the program, they will receive an undergraduate certificate from WMU, which can be used to further their studies in design, manufacturing and engineering.

“They can go to (Grand Rapids Community College) and ladder into an associates and get it free because they are GRPS students,” Beuchler said.

Beuchler added that the program prepares students for the next level by exploring the possibilities “they’re not going into debt to try to figure it out.”

Innovation Central High School students are the first cohort to participate in the program. Jason McGhee, the school’s principal, believes this is a game changer.

“They are going to have the leg up because they’re doing it as 12th graders, as 11th graders and even some as 10th graders. They have a chance to have that leverage amongst those who are coming out of high school going into manufacturing with no experience,” he said. “

“They have experience. They come equipped with experience. That’s going to allow them to be the first to get hired. When you’re able to give these types of experiences, now you’re starting to change lives.”

Innovation Central has similar equipment to what they’re using at WMU’s Amp Lab though the school hasn’t been able to utilize it much.

“We’ve had them for a few years. We got them from a grant. We’re excited to have them, but we don’t know how to use them. So now, we’re going to get the training through our partnership with WMU. The students will actually get to use the machines,” McGhee said.

The second cohort will begin in the spring of 2023.

WMU partners with other districts to offer language immersion programs with dual enrollment. This is the first time it has branched out beyond language immersion.

If you would like to learn more about the dual enrollment partnership, you can contact Kimmy Beuchler at kimberly.beuchler@wmich.edu.