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Cloquet program is about building futures

A tour through the new Cloquet High School Career and Technical Education area makes one thing immediately obvious: This is not your father's shop class.

Yes, there are still lathes and bandsaws, wrenches and screwdrivers, welders and automobile lifts. But there are also 3-D printers that can build parts and other three-dimensional objects out of plastic, and laser printers that can etch designs on wood, glass, leather, and even three-dimensional objects.

It's been about a year since Cloquet completed its updated and expanded CTE space, adding a clean manufacturing/fabrication lab to the traditional shop classes, along with a computer and computer-assisted drawing lab, which are used by art and vocational students alike, since the art department is also located in the $1.8 million renovated space.

CHS principal Steve Battaglia said they realized a few years ago that the high school had great programming for college-bound students - including 80 College in the Schools credits - but it needed to do more. That's because only about 1-in-3 adults in the U.S. complete a four-year degree.

"If that (college) is our sole mission, then we're failing a ton of people by not giving them a path to something," Battaglia said. "So we've put a ton of effort into this arena and we're seeing it pay off."

Nastasija Harris is banking on that. Not only does the Cloquet senior love the vocational classes she's taken at CHS, she hopes to be a crane operator or work in the construction field - especially since successful completion of all three construction classes at CHS guarantees any student a place in the carpenters union. The school has a similar deal with the millwrights union.

"This is a really good opportunity," Harris said. "I feel like more people should definitely take the chance if they have any interest in what we do in here."

That's what happened with junior Josh Anderson.

"I wanted to learn how to weld so I could fix or build something on my own," he said. "After the first semester, I knew I really enjoyed it and I wanted to know how to weld proficiently."

There's a wide range of course offerings in the CTE program, designed to satisfy curiosity or start a career. Students can enroll in modern auto mechanics, small engines and welding classes, plumbing and pipefitting, electrical training, woodworking and construction, as well as website coding and engineering design classes. The computer lab offers high-end programs such as Photoshop and computer-aided design software.

At the same time, the district was updating facilities and using its portion of a $1.5 million regional grant to purchase new equipment. Cloquet also has focused on building stronger relationships with trade unions and local industry and business.

A number of students have graduated from the construction program and gone straight into union membership. Others have internships at Sappi, which will help them pay for college courses to learn the skills they will use at the local paper mill.

The partnerships also help instructors understand the needs of industry, so the Cloquet programs can be adapted to offer the advanced training to prepare students for jobs and further education.

Last month, the school hosted the first-ever Arrowhead Manufacturers and Fabricators Association jamboree, focusing on generating more opportunities for students to understand where opportunities are in the workforce and on "what companies can do to help programs get more people engaged so there's a workforce to make things," said Blake Kolquist.

Kolquist serves on the AMFA board and works for industrial pump manufacturer GPM Inc. He said the growing company needs welders and machinists to replace an aging workforce.

The group of factory owners and union leaders toured different parts of the CTE program, learning about the construction program, welding and auto mechanics and the clean manufacturing/fab lab, where students are using 3-D and laser printers to create and manufacture items, including trophies, Christmas ornaments and games for the district and area businesses, often working with other vocational classes.

Any money made from selling the goods goes right back into the CTE program to pay for materials and upkeep of the expensive tools they're learning to use.

Asked what the biggest issue is for its AMFA members, president Wade Karnes didn't beat around the bush.

"Not enough bodies to fill the jobs," he said.

Cloquet's CTE program aims to help with that, Battaglia said.

"We're more than willing to work with any manufacturer - we're trying to build relationships," the principal said. "We can help you. We can send students your direction, right from high school, that are pretty well-trained. Tell us what you need your workforce to look like, and we'll do our best to prepare kids to join you."



The final course in the Carpenters Career Pathway. The course is a 2-hour class in which students continue to develop their skills, knowledge and craft in the Carpenters Career Pathway within the Commercial and Residential Construction fields. Upon completion of this course, students meeting the course benchmarks will receive a Level 3 Certificate for the Carpenters Union Local 361, which guarantees a place in the union.

Ever since she was a little girl, Nastasija Harris dreamed of being able to build things. Big things, like a house. Moving to Cloquet from Hoyt Lakes as a sophomore gave Harris the opportunity to learn the skills that can make that dream come true, and land her a well-paying job in the future.

Harris is the only girl in her Construction Careers 3 class at Cloquet High School, and she spent much of the fall semester leading her four classmates as they built a portable sauna that will be sold to raise money for future projects.

Together, they modified plans for the sauna - to make sure it could withstand a northern Minnesota snow-load - and built it piece by piece.

She loves the hands-on aspect of the vocational program.

"This is my favorite class, above all," Harris told a tour group of local industry professionals. Her second-favorite class? "Math," she said. "I like being challenged."


Students enrolled in this course will demonstrate knowledge and skills of the design process as it applies to engineering fields, using multiple software applications and tools to produce and present working drawings, solid model renderings and prototypes. Students will use a variety of computer hardware and software applications to complete assignments and projects.

CHS students EJ Stone, left, and Emmett Prosen, below left, like their design and modeling class so much that they spend extra time in the new Lumberjacks Design and Fabrication Lab. They're either making and designing things, or just experimenting.

Prosen said he enjoys the creativity of making things in the fab lab. Stone said he joined the robotics team at the school, then heard about the fab lab and thought, wow, that's an opportunity.

"I can get right in the thick of it with these programs and I can learn how to use all these machines," said Stone, a potential future engineer, as the pair waited for their latest project to take shape in one of the school's 3-D printers.

"This doesn't look like much now, but in about three hours, it will start to take shape," Stone added. "Just layer by layer it prints in 3D."

While Stone described the process of making some of the projects, Prosen went even further, explaining how the different printers work, and shared that he thinks he might like to be a shop teacher someday. Both juniors are excited to take even more Career and Technical Education classes next year.