WEC receives $750K STEM grant from U.S. Navy for equipment, staff costs

THE WESTERLY EDUCATION CENTER received a $750,000 STEM grant to support the acquisition of new equipment and to support staff positions. / COURTESY THE WESTERLY EDUCATION CENTER
THE WESTERLY EDUCATION CENTER received a $750,000 STEM grant to support the acquisition of new equipment and to support staff positions. / COURTESY THE WESTERLY EDUCATION CENTER

WESTERLY – The Westerly Education Center received a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research to fund the addition of capacity and equipment supporting workforce training and education services, the center announced Thursday.

The three-year science, technology, education and mathematics, or STEM, grant was earmarked for staff positions and equipment purchases for the site’s hands-on teaching labs.

“Westerly Education Center must build capacity to meet the accelerating demand for the skilled workers needed to support industry-level operational endurance and to provide a pipeline of uniformly skilled workers,” stated Amy Grzybowski, executive director at the WEC. “With added capacity, we can improve recruitment of diverse U.S. citizens, seek additional sources of funding for capacity building, and outreach to and enroll direct-to-career high school students and adult students looking to upskill or change their careers. We are thankful to the Office of Naval Research for awarding us this grant, which will allow us to serve more citizens looking for careers in STEM fields, especially veterans and employers supporting the defense industry.”

The WEC, a self-supporting division of the R.I. Office of Postsecondary Commissioner, noted the center is a major provider of job training for General Dynamics Electric Boat, which has multiple contracts with the U.S. Navy for both the Columbia-class and Virginia-class submarines.

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“In its two-year existence, Westerly Education Center has had a meaningful impact on the provision of high-quality workforce development in the region,” stated Brenda Dann-Messier, Rhode Island’s commissioner of higher education. “Electric Boat reports that the 885 students trained at Westerly Education Center in the past two years are consistently performing well on the job and enter the workforce extraordinarily prepared.”

The center said the grant will be used to invest in equipment for its science labs, which will also benefit the Precision Measurement and Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerance class at Westerly High School.

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