Gerald J. Bronkhorst, 45, of Suamico, Wis., trains students from six high schools in northeast Wisconsin in an advanced-manufacturing mobile lab – a model Rhode Island educators are considering emulating.
The Iraq War veteran decided to attend Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, Wis., to earn certificates in advanced manufacturing when he got back to the United States in 2006, and five years ago was hired by the college as a lab technician, he told Providence Business News in a phone interview.
For the past three years, he has worked as the mobile-lab technician with a few teachers and as many as 12 high school students at a time in the mobile lab, which travels about 50 miles within the school district and cost about $300,000, Bronkhorst said. The high schools pay about $5,000 for every two semesters of use, he said. Precise costs for the lab itself, a trailer hitched to a commercial grade pickup truck, and its operating costs were unavailable.
“If I can convince some of these kids to go out and learn a trade and get a job, that’s a huge win,” said Bronkhorst, the lab technician.
Rhode Island educators found out about a Michigan mobile lab just being implemented this summer and fall that is based on the Wisconsin model, and are actively exploring how such a vehicle might be used in connection with programs at the University of Rhode Island, the Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College.
Chris Semonelli, one of several co-directors in the Newport County Mentor Co-Op, met on June 27 with URI President David M. Dooley to further the conversation. Semonelli said he focused on the collaboration between North Central Michigan College, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance, and a local manufacturer, Precision Edge Surgical Products Inc. of Boyne City, Mich.