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GRAFTON - High school students will be able to work with manufacturing and health services companies to earn skill certifications, college credits, and work experience.

That's part of a program to expand youth apprenticeship programs for the 2017-18 school year Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch announced Friday, Feb. 24, to employees of RAM Tool Inc. in Grafton.

The programs will be funded through statewide grants.

The state of Wisconsin spent around $3.2 million for youth apprenticeship programs last year. Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year calls for a $5 million increase in funding for those programs, with a focus on relationships between technical colleges and school districts. Kleefisch noted job listings on various sites for more then 90,000 manufacturing jobs available.

"The state of Wisconsin depends on manufacturing jobs," said Kleefisch, who stressed the importance of avoiding a statewide labor shortage. "We are currently second in the country in number of manufacturing jobs behind Indiana. With the help of this apprenticeship program, I see no reason why we can't be No. 1."

Kleefisch praised the collaboration between student apprentices from Grafton High School and RAM Tool Inc., a manufacturing company that has specialized in custom machining and building of aluminum and zinc die cast dies since 1979.

"RAM Tool Inc. is a family-owned business that has proudly served this community for years and has contributed to the school district with apprenticeship programs and donated equipment for school services," Grafton Chamber of Commerce President Pam King said.

Applications for grants for youth apprenticeship programs for the 2017-18 academic year are due by April 10 and can be accessed through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development website.

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