APPLE VALLEY – Students, staff, local public officials and industry professionals gathered for an open house of Apple Valley High School’s new Precision Machining Academy on Thursday afternoon. The state-of-the-art computerized manufacturing shop was created to give AVHS students a leg up in the job market as well as incorporate applied math and science learning, Principal Dustin Conrad said.

“The diverse group that’s here each possess a skill and talent to step onto one of these machines and be educated in an area that was previously unavailable to us,” Conrad said about the students selected to attend the open house.

Advanced placement computer science and physics students, as well as those that have demonstrated skills in wood shop and welding, were invited to attend, he said. Classes in the academy will officially start at the beginning of the school’s next semester, and students in attendance were encouraged to sign up.

Computer-aided manufacturing jobs make up as many as 1,200 job opportunities in the region annually, he said. The Precision Machining Academy includes two Computer Numerical Control machines, two manual CNC lathes and a program to teach CNC programming software.

On Wednesday, machining professionals demonstrated how to make engraved aluminum keychains of the AVHS logo and pulley parts. Mechanical engineer Landon Stevens of Exquadrum, the only research engineering and design firm in the Victor Valley, assisted with the presentation at a CNC mill.

Shiloh Schardt, a 16-year-old junior at AVHS, said he plans to enroll in the precision machining courses but he hopes to eventually go to medical school. He said he plans to work in a manufacturing job in order to pay his way through college.

“It’s something High Desert high schools don’t have,” Schardt said about the new academy. “It’s a new experience and it’s pretty awesome that we’re the only high school that has this opportunity.”

Apple Valley Unified School District Superintendent Thomas Hoegerman said the program would fuel employment opportunities locally by boosting the skills of the local workforce.

“This is really the opening of new opportunities for economic development in the High Desert by preparing a workforce that is capable of highly technical skills and precision machining that will go all the way from a technician level to an engineering level,” Hoegerman said.

The academy’s opening was supported by a $95,000 grant secured by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and donations of local professionals and vendors such as Exquadrum and Haas Automation, Inc.

Officials who attended the open house included 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood; Steve Johnson, a senior field representative for Assemblyman Tim Donnelly; Wally Linn, field representative for Congressman Paul Cook; Apple Valley Mayor Pro Tem Art Bishop; Exquadrum President Eric Schmidt; and Hesperia Unified School District Superintendent David McLaughlin.

Brooke Self may be reached at 760-951-6232 or You can also follow her on Twitter at @BrookeSelf.

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