Manufacturing and health care training at Sherman and Denison High schools are getting a bit of a kickback. Workforce Solutions Texoma is partnering with the Sherman Economic Development Corporation and Denison Development Alliance to raise more than $300,000 in total for new equipment for career training programs at the schools.

In separate meetings this week, both SEDCO and the DDA agreed to allocate $75,000 each as a part of a matching grant with the Texas Workforce Commission. Through these grants, the TWC would match the local contributions for a total of $150,000 for each city.

“This grant is called a High Demand Job Training Grant and it is something that TWC started several years ago to help colleges and high schools to develop training programs in their demand occupation areas,” WST Executive Director Janie Bates said Tuesday “For us manufacturing and health care are big items.”

Bates said she has a received a list of equipment that each campus is seeking, but did not go into specifics. Among the items that could be purchased are equipment, such as lathes, that are in place at Grayson College’s advanced manufacturing lab.

This would allow students to move for the high school onto advanced training with little changes in the equipment they are working with, Bates said.

“In general it is things for students in training programs in high school prepare for Grayson or whatever program they move onto,” Bates said.

This represents the fourth and fifth grant through the program that WST has done in recent years, following one related to North Central Texas College and two for the Grayson College manufacturing lab.

“It is really a great opportunity for our high schools to get equipment and for the workforce,” Bates said. “We are able to to get the equipment as the schools can’t always afford it. With Denison having a fairly new high school — Sherman is getting a new high school — it will just make their labs and career-tech programs more successful.”

SEDCO President Kent Sharp said he has utilized these grants previously during his tenure in economic development with Abilene. One of the grants he assisted with was used to purchase new welding equipment to train students in rural areas that were not well equipped.

“They were teaching kids to weld with equipment that was on farms in the 1950s,” Sharp said.

Through these grants, Sharp said he hoped to increase interest in the region’s advanced manufacturing training program, which incentivizes and assists high school students in getting career training in manufacturing skills while still in high school. Currently, the program has about 70 students from across the county.

Denison Development Alliance President Tony Kaai addressed the Denison city council Monday asking for an amendment to add an additional $75,000 to the DDA budget to provide for the grant.

Kaai said this is the first time DDA would be able to provide funding to the school for equipment. He said every year both DDA and SEDCO provide funding to the program to cover various costs. This will also be the first year the program will see students graduating.

“We still have some work to do before we submit the grant,” Kaai said. “The school district refined the list of equipment we would be using that funding for. The program is definitely growing. We’re going to continue to make it a top priority.”

Bates said she was unsure how quickly the grant could be authorized or how long it would take to get the equipment in place, given the current Coronavirus epidemic.

“Right now, we don’t know. Everyone has other things on the agendas, and the schools are furloughed for a little while,” she said.