As manufacturers experience skills gap, MPS showcases pathway to bridge it

MILWAUKEE – At a time when manufacturers are clamoring for workers with the skills needed to take on today’s high-tech jobs – and careers in science, technology, engineering and math are in high demand – Milwaukee Public Schools will showcase on Wednesday how its students are rising to both challenges.

Wisconsin educators learn about engineering from 2 students at Escuela Vieau at a January event. Forty-five percent of MPS' Project Lead the Way students are female.

Students from schools across the district will showcase dozens of projects in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at the district’s STEM Showcase, graciously hosted by Direct Supply. The Milwaukee firm is one of dozens of local STEM partner businesses that connect MPS students to real-world careers.

Booths will showcase projects that thousands of students around the district are undertaking in robotics, alternative energy, heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC), biomedical sciences and electronics, among other fields.

“We’re hearing manufacturers asking for graduates with technical skills. We’re hearing engineering and IT companies asking for creative workers. We’re creating the career paths for our students to get there,” said Lauren Baker, MPS coordinator for career and technical education.

With 5,500 middle- and high-school students involved, Milwaukee Public Schools has the nation’s largest concentration of students connected to Project Lead the Way, a rigorous, innovative program helping students learn STEM through hands-on projects and activities. Students taking part in the program score roughly double the district average on state tests. Nearly half of the MPS students (45%) who take part are female and roughly 85% are students of color.

Direct Supply Senior Vice President – Corporate and Legal Affairs Bob Klein said the company is “delighted to have the opportunity to host the STEM Showcase this year. As a company that predominantly hires college graduates, including hundreds with technology-related degrees and experience, we fully support this vital effort to help encourage students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and to translate their learning into productive careers that provide much-needed and highly skilled knowledge and experience to the community.”

More than 150 people representing outside organizations and businesses are set to attend Wednesday’s showcase, including Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who is scheduled to speak at the event.

The showcase is set to start at 11:30 a.m. at Direct Supply, 6663 N. Industrial Road, Milwaukee 53223. Media are invited to attend. Reporters or photographers who plan to attend should contact Tony Tagliavia, MPS media manager, at 414.475.8675.

“We’re grateful to have so many community business partners stepping up and saying — we’re committed to helping students succeed,“ MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton said.

About Direct Supply: Based in Milwaukee, Direct Supply is the leading provider of equipment, eCommerce, design and service solutions to Senior Living. Founded in 1985, this employee-owned company provides its customers high quality products and services and an unexcelled response to customer needs, and leads the charge for industry advocacy in Washington. Learn more at