REDMOND, Ore. -

For the past 22 years, Dan Kernion has been in the manufacturing industry.

"It was hard to find people with this type of skill set -- it's not offered in high school normally," Kernion said Thursday.

But it is now at Redmond High, where Kernion teaches manufacturing technology.

"Manufacturing has been on the horizon for us for a while, and we just need this opportunity to take the next step," Redmond High Principal Nicole MacTavish said.

That opportunity was the nearly $500,000 the school just received for its career and technical education programs. It's one of $8.9 million in grants announced by the Oregon Department of Education and the Bureau of Labor and Industries. It will allow them to buy new industry-standard equipment and pay for more staff.

Not even out of high school, students in the computer-aided design class at Redmond High are already using real world skills,to make prototypes like this for local companies.

"There's already companies that have already told me that they would hire students that have solid work skills for $16 to $18 an hour, right out of high school," Kernion said.

That's great news for students like Dane Blume.

"Either become a diesel mechanic or an automotive mechanic and restoring old cars," said Blume, a senior at Redmond High.

In the short term, the money is going to help the school and the students. Long term, Redmond economic development officials say it will help the entire region.

"The No. 1 site selection criteria for manufacturers is, 'What's the work force like? Can I get to them? Are they accessible? And then, what are their skill levels?" said Jon Stark, Redmond manager of economic development with Economic Development for Central Oregon.

Better answers to those questions should result from these improving classes.

The Redmond manufacturing market is already growing. This spring, manufacturing company BasX will open in the old Walmart building. The company plans to hire 150 people over the next two years.