Michigan schools, both public and private, have until Thursday, Nov. 8 to apply for more than $3 million in grant money to expand their robotics programs. The grants will be awarded by the Michigan Department of Education.

There is $3 million available for public schools and $300,000 available for non-public schools.

The grant program is part of the state’s talent strategy for the next decade. There will be 811,000 career openings in high-demand, high-wage fields like robotics, as well as information technology, manufacturing, health care and other business and professional trades careers by the year 2024, says Dan Olsen, communications and media relations manager for the Michigan Talent and Economic Development Department.

Robotics programs benefit students in multiple ways. They receive hands-on training in robotics but also improved communication skills through the presentations required of them. These are the skills that employers are looking for, says Olsen.

An understanding of advanced robotics is especially important to the future of connected and autonomous vehicle development.

“This is part of the state’s commitment to expanding education opportunities and to expand the program statewide,” he says.

“We want to build the 21st century skills that employers are desperately searching for, and especially here in Michigan.”

The robotics programs also prepare students for competition in the FIRST Robotics World Championship, which returns to Detroit in 2019 and 2020. Nearly 35,000 students from across the country on 700 teams are expected to compete next year. The event takes place at Ford Field.

Michigan teams took top honors at the competition the past two years.

While some may view robotics as a threat to jobs, the opposite is true, says Olsen.

“Technology continues to advance in the workplace,” he says. “We’re seeing a net gain of jobs in automation. We need more people to program and maintain the robots.”

Grant applications for schools are available now on the Michigan Department of Education’s MEGS+ system. The deadline is Nov. 8, 2018.

This story was edited September 18, 2018 with a correction to include the range of career openings by 2024 of other high-wage, high-demand skills in addition to robotics.