March 3, 2014
From leadertelegram.com: “Manufacturing in the spotlight” — A group of high school students stood wide-eyed as a Chippewa Valley Technical College student dropped a metal ball that seemed to defy gravity as it fell through a simple copper tube. It fell slowly through the tube as if moving in molasses, never touching the sides.
The demonstration of electromagnetic forces took place in the Nano Engineering Technology area of CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center last March at the annual Manufacturing Show, which returns for a third year Thursday.
That simple ball-and-tube trick will have to take a distant back seat to other high-end demonstrations this year. For instance, CVTC now has equipment that uses streams of water under extremely high pressure to cut metal in precise detail, without the harmful effects heat-based metal cutting can leave behind.
Manufacturing Show demonstrations also will include a three-dimensional printer that doesn’t use ink. Instead, it produces, layer after layer, at high speed, a 3-D plastic model of items drawn up with paper and numbers.
“It gives us an ability to replicate a concept or design, showing the working parts,” said CVTC Associate Dean of Manufacturing Jeff Sullivan. “The printers are being used a lot in the medical field.”
New machine tool program equipment that will be on display is capable of speeds up to 12,000 rpm. “The purpose of the high speed is higher accuracy and tighter tolerances,” Sullivan said.
And the purpose of students working on such a machine is to prepare them for the kind of equipment being used in the industry today, important given the prevalence of the machine tool industry in the Eau Claire area.
Welcome to the world of modern manufacturing. People who still picture manufacturing as taking place in dark, dingy places with low-skilled workers doing simple repetitive work will have their minds changed by attending the show, people affiliated with the event said.
“The entire show will present a good overview of manufacturing careers in western Wisconsin,” said Roger Stanford, CVTC vice president of instruction. “We have a great diversity of manufacturing companies in this area, many of them producing products that are getting attention worldwide. Attendees can learn more about these companies at the Manufacturing Show and how CVTC prepares workers for lucrative careers in manufacturing.”
About 20 manufacturing companies will have displays about their role in their industries and in the Chippewa Valley economy. They will use the show to recruit new workers as well.
Joining those companies will be representatives of CVTC’s manufacturing programs: electromechanical technology, industrial mechanic, industrial mechanical technician, machine tooling technics, welding and welding fabrication. Some of the physical science programs, such as nano engineering technology, manufacturing engineering technologist and industrial engineering technician also will be involved.
Students play a vital role in the show. As part of regular course work, they have constructed and programmed robotic equipment that performs such tasks as playing a guitar, making a golf putt or resetting bowling pins.
Area high school students also will be heavily involved in this year’s show. Back again will be the Junkyard Battle, in which high school welding students will compete with their creations made of scrap metal. Last year the contest featured student-made sculptures of their school mascots. This year’s show will feature several more competitions.
Machine tool students will compete in the Amazing Maze event, creating complicated mazes in competition for the best design. Engineering students will use computer-aided design programs to draw up plans for devices. The top design will be reproduced on the 3D printer.
In the electromechanical area, students will create robots that work through a maze without human intervention. The industrial mechanics program is working on a competition involving development of miniature cannons.
“We are reaching out to our K-12 school district partners to develop agreements and programs that expose younger students to manufacturing and prepare high school students for entry into CVTC’s manufacturing programs,” Sullivan said.
The event has been well-attended by the general public since its inception, and area school districts take advantage by using it as an educational experience for students. Some parents bring their children who are starting to think about careers.
The show offers plenty for attendees to do, such as trying out simulators, watching robotic welders, learning what local manufacturers are producing and witnessing student creativity.
February 25, 2014
From fox6now.com: “Increasing demand for apprenticeships as aging workers retire” – Want to get paid to go to school? With an apprenticeship — you can do just that! Through an apprenticeship, an individual has access to on-the-job training and related classroom instruction. A participating employer teaches the skills of the trade on the job. The classroom instruction is theoretical and practical knowledge pertaining to the given trade. It’s an option more and more students in Wisconsin are taking — with the growing need for skilled manufacturing workers in the state.
“The student works 32 hours a week and goes to class eight hours a week, but they’re paid for 40 hours a week,” Debbie Davidson with Gateway Technical College said.
In a nutshell, that’s how an apprenticeship works. Students get hands-on and in-classroom training in a service, construction or industrial field. Typically, the programs run anywhere from three to five years.
“Apprenticeship is really unique in that you start with an employer with a need and match them with an individual to go through the training,” Davidson said.
Officials with Gateway Technical College say the demand for apprenticeship opportunities has grown, as has the number of students enrolling in programs at the school.
“In 2012, we had a total of 49 apprentices. Then, a year later, we had 80 apprentices. Now we have 140,” Davidson said.
“We’ve already started plans on four brand new programs coming up and we know that we’re going to be doubling our numbers within a very short time,” Wisconsin Apprentice Training Representative Sandy Briezman said.
So what’s driving the renewed interest in apprenticeships? We’re told it’s a skills gap, fueled at least in part by soon-to-retire workers.
“The skills gap that we’re seeing now is what was projected even before the downturn in 2009 because people were planning to retire at that point. They stayed a little bit longer, but they kept aging, so now we’re seeing people are actually at that point of retirement and companies are seeing that we need to fill that gap — and before our people leave and retire how can we utilize them to train that next generation of worker?” Davidson said.
Davidson says the late 90s were really kind of the high point for apprenticeship programs.
The Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards says statewide, there were more than 15,000 apprentices in 2001. By 2012, they had dropped to about 9,700.
February 17, 2014
From postcrescent.com: “Algoma Wolf Tech takes real life into the classroom” – ALGOMA — Manufacturing has a home in Algoma. Precision Machine, Olson Fabrication, Algoma Hardwoods and WS Packaging Group are among companies that make things in the Kewaunee County community.
So, too, is Algoma Wolf Tech, a relatively new manufacturing company housed in the tech ed classrooms of Algoma High School.
“I pretty strongly believe that kids have to make something of substance to understand the process that goes into things,” said Nick Cochart, principal of the school since 2011 and godfather of Wolf Tech.
Eleva-Strum School District’s Cardinal Manufacturing south of Eau Claire, which started in 2007, established the model for in-school manufacturing. Wolf Tech followed suit, and Bay Link Manufacturing, a creation of the Green Bay School District, will launch in the fall.
Other schools are considering similar programs, said Mark Weber, dean of Trades & Engineering Technologies at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, which is assisting many schools in establishing manufacturing-related programs.
Wolf Tech is not a seat-of-the-pants, we’ve got a saw and a few welders affair. Its equipment includes two CNC milling machines, a CNC wood router, state-of-the-art table saws and, later this month, a CNC lathe.
“We are not making widgets. We are making stuff in industry that people are using every day,” Cochart said.
Algoma School District invested more than $250,000 in Wolf Tech and tech ed, but it’s not alone in supporting the program. The CNC metal lathe is courtesy of NWTC. Algoma, which is a certified Haas Automation Inc. technical training center, will provide its facilities for public classes in CNC training and in return get the $70,000 lathe free of charge.
“Those machines have opened the door to so many things,” Cochart said.
Working with their hands
Sophomore Austin Stoller, 15, is hoping the lathe will open the door to a career as a gunsmith. He’s also fond of welding.
“I like working with my hands and making stuff. I don’t like sitting in a classroom all day,” Stoller said. “It’s just not my thing.”
Stoller is the kind of student that the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance and, increasingly, educators are trying to accommodate by providing options to a four-year college degree.
“There are so many opportunities for kids now,” Cochart said. “If they just follow their passion, there’s not just good jobs, there’s great jobs.”
Tech ed instructors Matt Abel and Russ Nockerts can teach students how to operate the machines, but that’s not really the point.
“I try to teach kids useful employability skills,” Abel said. “It’s not running a machine. It’s how is this going to affect the consumer? How’s this going to affect people down the chain?”
That’s an approach seconded and abetted by Jamie Spitzer, owner of Precision Machine, to say nothing of most manufacturing employers. It’s the so-called soft skills — problem solving, communications, teamwork, high-quality work — that employers are looking for.
“We are actually asking you to contribute. We are asking you to use your mind more and your back less,” Spitzer said. “It’s crazy how you can hire someone for their hard skills, but most likely fire them for their soft skills.”
Algoma High School and Precision Machine were each honored last fall during N.E.W. Manufacturing Alliance’s Excellence in Manufacturing/K-12 Partnership Awards. The school and the company work closely. The goal is to produce employable manufacturing workers, of course, but it’s also about students’ aspirations.
“I was one of those kids at one time,” Spitzer said. “Not everyone wants to go to a four-year school and it’s a great thing when kids can do things with their hands.”
Work has to be perfect
Precision Machine serves clients in the aerospace and timber industries, among others, and has contracted Wolf Tech for parts. They are basic pieces, but require a professional level of quality. If the product doesn’t measure up, someone from Precision Machine makes the trek around the block to the high school to explain why.
“It’s got to be perfect,” Nockerts said.
The students have to deal directly with customers, which Cochart said provides a learning moment, again, focused on those soft skills.
Abel and Nockerts are nontraditional teachers in that they have business backgrounds. Able has a degree in construction management from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
“They have to have skills sets that can cut across multiple disciplines,” Cochart said. “I think they have some of the most engaging classroom activities.”
About 70 of Algoma’s 250 students are in tech ed classes. Of those, 15 are in Wolf Tech, which requires after-school participation.
“My core group are sophomores right now. From that group, it’s grown,” Able said. “They talk to their friends; ‘Hey, this is cool stuff.’ I have kids who just want to be down here. They don’t even have a class.”
Students ‘actually learning’
Cochart said what they are doing requires a different approach to teaching. Abel said it may seem like chaos at times, though it’s not.
“Each student is on a different path,” Abel said. “Everybody is working at their own speed, trying something out and actually learning.”
Other teachers are getting involved as well, Abel said.
“Our core teachers are realizing how it relates and, for example, bringing the math into here,” he said. “In machining, we use a lot of trigonometry and some students can’t even pass algebra. They don’t even know they are doing it.”
Wolf Tech is one or two customers away from being self-sustaining, Cochart said.
Among its customers is Algoma Long-Term Care nursing home, for which it is providing new cabinets. Junior Kevin Sperber, 17, designed them and CTI Hospitality of Algoma manufactured the pieces.
“This is actually going to be used by people every day,” Sperber said, explaining what sets the project apart from traditional “shop.”
Sperber is interested in design or engineering as a career. He expects to attend NWTC, but is undecided about whether to get a four-year degree.
“I was a little interested my freshman year. I had no idea what I was going to go into, then I got interested in all of this,” he said.
There are immediate benefits, including college credits while still in high school.
“For the past two years, Precision Machine pretty much offered jobs to anyone on the machining side,” Able said.
The goal is for Wolf Tech to be a completely student-run business, from front office to factory floor. Getting students to run the machines has been the easy part, so far, but manufacturing includes jobs well beyond the factory floor. Abel said Wolf Tech needs accountants, salespeople and more.
“When we started this, I said we are four years out from hitting full stride,” Cochart said. “Some of our most talented kids are freshmen and sophomores. I’d love to see a kid start his own business within a business. I think it’s right there.”
February 14, 2014
From leadertelegram.com: “Candidate tours tech: Democrat running for governor discusses worker education, jobs” – By Joe Knight Leader-Telegram staff – Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Thursday she supports a proposal by her opponent, Gov. Scott Walker, to spend $35 million to help the state’s technical colleges provide additional training for high-demand jobs.
She also supports the governor’s initiative to find work for people with developmental disabilities.
However, Burke said the proposal would require future funding for technical colleges to keep those efforts ongoing.
Burke spoke briefly with reporters during a tour of high-tech industrial programs at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Gateway Campus. She criticized Walker for cutting $71 million from technical colleges in the first budget he oversaw as governor “just at the time when our technical colleges needed a boost.”
At the time Walker said budget cuts were needed because of a $3 billion state budget shortfall.
Burke said the types of high-tech manufacturing skills being taught at CVTC would help the middle class and would help grow the state’s economy. She spent time speaking with CVTC students, asking them about their career aspirations.
Jamie Rasmussen, a 35-year-old CVTC welding student, said more funding for CVTC programs will help more of them receive the training they need to find jobs.
Asked whether the process she observed Thursday could help build bicycles, Burke, a former Trek Bicycle executive and a former commerce secretary under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, said she wasn’t sure but noted Trek works closely with technical colleges in southern Wisconsin.
February 12, 2014
From jsonline.com: “Eaton expanding, upgrading its Cooper Power Systems plants in Waukesha” — Every time someone turns on a light or fires up their office computer, there’s a good chance that a Cooper Power Systems electrical transformer or another of the company’s products was part of the process.
Since 2012, Cooper has been part of Eaton Corp., a power management company with $22 billion in sales in 2013.
Eaton, based in Dublin, Ireland, has 102,000 employees and sells products in more than 175 countries. This week, the company said it was expanding and upgrading its Cooper Power Systems plants in Waukesha that make electrical equipment including power transformers and voltage regulators.
The $54 million project will create up to 200 jobs over the next two years, according to Eaton, as the company expands its Badger Drive plant and upgrades its North St. and Lincoln Ave. plants.
“The reason we are investing in the expansion in our facilities is to help meet the growing demand we are seeing, not only from our utility customers, but also from the commercial and industrial customer base,” said Clayton Tychkowsky, president of the Cooper Power Systems division.
Eaton has a wide range of products including truck transmissions, aircraft fuel systems and electrical systems.
Last week, the company said its fourth-quarter revenue rose 28%, boosted by higher demand for electrical products and systems.
Electrical product sales jumped 57% to $1.8 billion in the recent quarter ended Dec. 31.
Demand picked up in multiple areas including data processing centers, commercial construction and the oil and gas industry.
“One thing all those fields have in common is they require products to help transmit power to a usable point in their electrical system,” Tychkowsky said.
Eaton also stands to benefit from an increase in residential construction because the utility companies that provide power to homes use Cooper products.
“We see long-term potential growth for the products we manufacture here, which is why we feel this is a good investment,” Tychkowsky said about the plant expansion and upgrades.
Last April, Eaton announced it was cutting nearly two-thirds of its 260 jobs in Pewaukee.
The reductions included 130 production and 33 salaried positions as the company said it was moving molded rubber manufacturing from Pewaukee to a plant in Querétaro, Mexico, this year.
The job cuts were unrelated to the Waukesha plants, and the Pewaukee employees will get first preference in the Waukesha hiring, according to Eaton.
As part of the hiring, the company has partnered with Waukesha County Technical College to provide job training.
“We are taking a proactive approach as opposed to sitting back and waiting for talent to be available for us,” Tychkowsky said.
The expansion on Badger Drive will include 55,000 square feet of new manufacturing space.
Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is providing up to $1.36 million in tax credits for the expansion and plant upgrades, which are tied to the new jobs.
“Retention of sound businesses like this is something we all need to pay attention to. There are other opportunities in the nation for a company like Eaton to move out of state,” said Reed Hall, WEDC secretary and chief executive officer.
Wisconsin also benefits from the electrical products, according to Hall.
“Safe, reliable electrical power is critical to growth. It’s like broadband. There are a couple of things businesses absolutely have to have to consider expanding in our state,” Hall said.
January 31, 2014
From chippewa.com: “Manufacturing still drives area, state economy” – by Ross Evavold – This question was once posed to me: Where would Wisconsin be without manufacturing?
It’s basically a rhetorical one, since the answer is quite obvious. Consider these facts:
- Wisconsin leads the entire U.S. in manufacturing jobs per capita.
- Ten percent of the state’s pool of workers 16 and over are employed in manufacturing. That’s twice the national average.
- Manufacturing is the state’s single largest employment sector.
- We have more than 9,000 manufacturers in the state, and more than 400,000 workers in that area.
- All but one of Wisconsin’s 37 largest industries are in manufacturing.
- It provides jobs for a majority of Wisconsin workers who do not have a college degree.
So as you can see, manufacturing is still the driver of the Badger state’s economy, for now and the foreseeable future.
Manufacturing is responsible for about 20 percent of the gross state product, and that figure translates to roughly the same percentage in the Chippewa Valley.
Our heavy reliance on manufacturing also comes with some risks. Wisconsin has many fewer manufacturing jobs than it did in 2000, but it has also retained more jobs than other manufacturing-heavy states, while manufacturing has also weathered the Great Recession of our lifetimes better than other job sectors.
Not that there won’t be challenges. Charlie Walker, director of the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation, said that in trying to stay ahead of the curve, this area has been very proactive in identifying long-range issues that will impact growth.
He cited three major criteria for this area’s manufacturing success: the talent level of the workforce; accessibility to the marketplace through rail and highway infrastructure; and reliability of power. Walker says we stack up well in all three categories.
The Chippewa Valley also ranks well when it comes to advanced manufacturing, encompassing the high-tech assembly industry like the one we feature on the cover.
SGI has roots here dating back to when Silicon Graphics bought Cray Research in the mid-’90s. And now Jabil Circuits will become the latest worldwide player to land here, with its purchase of SGI’s manufacturing facility.
Jabil’s success story is impressive: Since its start nearly 50 years ago in Detroit, the company has expanded relentlessly through acquisitions and by evolving to serve numerous industries. In 2012 it ranked 157th in Fortune magazine’s list of the 500 most admired companies.
Oh, and SGI is very much sticking around here, as so many other related businesses have also done once they come to the area. TTM Technologies still produces circuit boards with about 1,000 workers in Chippewa Falls, and Cray, Inc., just installed and filled more supercomputer orders than any quarter in its history, sending its stock price soaring.
They have all found workers in this area to be among the best in the nation, which supports Walker’s contention as to the talent level.
Helping produce those workers with specific skill sets for our manufacturing companies are UW-Stout and Chippewa Valley Technical College, which have forged relationships with many area firms. The schools have been so successful that some graduates have actually had to turn down job offers.
Our winter issue also takes a look at why Five Star Plastics in Eau Claire’s Sky Park Industrial Center is undertaking its second large expansion in five years, and Nanospark, a young spinoff company in Altoona with a bright future.
A key area with manufacturers is often exports, and Momentum West, an economic development group representing 10 area counties, is expanding its horizons this year by going beyond our borders. It is targeting two international trade shows with hopes of landing businesses for this area.
From wausaudailyherald.com: “Walker focuses on jobs during Stratford stop” – STRATFORD — Personal income growth in Wisconsin in 2013 shows more people across the state are working, but job statistics could improve with worker training and encouraging more young people to enter the manufacturing workforce, Gov. Scott Walker said during a visit to A&B Process Systems on Wednesday.
“I hear so many businesses say not only do we have positions open, but we’ve got business waiting … if only we could fill the positions we have,” Walker said.
He said the roughly 50,000 jobs currently posted on the Job Center of Wisconsin website indicate a skills gap in the state.
Walker said he put $100 million of the current state budget toward workforce training, including short-term training and investments in technical colleges, to prepare workers for manufacturing, information technology and health care careers.
“Each of those key industries has the ability to hire more people if we have enough people with the skills to fill the positions,” he said.
Walker said parents and guidance counselors who encourage young people to consider careers in manufacturing will play a role in filling open positions.
“Guidance counselors still have the mindset you have to have a four-year college degree to have a good career, and that’s just not true,” Walker said. He said manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin pay an average of about $52,000 a year, are more likely to offer benefits and have higher retention rates than many other jobs.
Companies such as A&B Process Systems often work with the same customers, but manufacturing different equipment for those customers keeps the job interesting, he said.
Walker said state investment of $6.4 billion in infrastructure and tax incentives for businesses such as A&B Process Systems to invest in capital also will encourage job growth.
A&B Process Systems, which designs, fabricates and installs equipment and accessories for processing liquids, celebrated 40 years in business in 2013. The company employs 425 people, and annual sales exceed $100 million.
Paul Kinate, CEO of A&B Process Systems, credited the company’s success to dedicated employees, the leadership of founder Ajay Hilgemann and a commitment to customer service.
“Our employees are dedicated, innovative, embrace technology and automation and strive to improve every day,” he said.
Kinate called Walker a friend to business who has made a difference in Wisconsin’s economic growth.
Walker will deliver his annual State of the State address Jan. 22. He said he will address jobs, as well as property tax cuts and changes to the state income withholding tax, which will put more money in employers’ and workers’ hands.
January 7, 2014
From biztimes.com: “State program to boost worker training: $15 million in grants available to businesses” – The need to improve worker training in Wisconsin is so significant that even Democrats and Republicans are in agreement. It’s a rare occurrence lately for the Wisconsin State Senate to pass a bill unanimously with bipartisan support. But the Wisconsin Fast Forward bill became that rare occurrence last March when all 33 Wisconsin senators and 94 of 98 state Assembly representatives voted to approve the workforce initiative.
Gov. Scott Walker and Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development Reggie Newson at a recent press event for Wisconsin Fast Forward at Northcentral Technical College.
The legislation was the first to pass in Gov. Walker’s $100 million workforce agenda over the 2013-15 biennial budget period, passing even before the budget did.
“(Wisconsin Fast Forward) is the cornerstone of the state’s workforce investment strategy,” said Reggie Newson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
“It’s the most proactive and most aggressive investment in worker training that I can remember,” said Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical College.
Wisconsin Fast Forward is a $15 million worker training grant program and it’s kicking into gear in 2014.
“The ultimate goal is to develop talent to fill existing jobs and create new ones,” Newson said.
Applications for the first round of worker training grants were due in mid-December, and DWD – and its new Office of Skills Development that was also created as a part of the Fast Forward initiative – is currently in the process of evaluating those grants, which are set to be announced in January.
The first round of grants amounts to $2.7 million, and focuses on worker training in three areas – manufacturing, construction and customer service.
Scott Jansen, director of the Office of Skills Development, said $400,000 of the grant money will go to customer service, $300,000 to small manufacturers (with less than 50 full-time employees), $1 million to manufacturers of any size and the remainder will go toward construction. The grants are set to be announced in late January, and the earliest training grant implementations could be up and running as soon as March 2014, Jansen said.
A key aspect of Wisconsin Fast Forward, Jansen said, is the program’s requirement to hire the employees being trained.
“We don’t just want to throw public money at additional training,” Jansen said. “We want (businesses) to be able to make the hire at the end of the program.”
Jansen said businesses applying for these grants must prove a commitment to hire.
Newson said that with this program using “demand-driven” requirements, it is focusing on “underemployed, unemployed and incumbent workers.”
The $12 million that remains after the first round will be allocated each quarter, as the DWD will announce a new round every three to four months until June 2015, Newson said.
The Office of Skills Development is currently analyzing which occupations and sectors to focus on for the program’s second round, which will be announced in late January, Jansen said.
Wisconsin Fast Forward is built to be an inclusive, collaborative process, Jansen said, with input and expertise from strategic partners, including the Wisconsin Fast Forward Grant Evaluation Committee, which includes panel members from the DWD, the Wisconsin Technical College System, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, as well as the employers applying for the grants.
“This whole process allows us to be nimble and flexible to be able to meet employers’ needs and incentivize and develop talent in high demand areas of the state,” Newson said. “It also does something impactful that goes along with what the governor wants to do, which is aligning education, workforce development and economic development to create an economic development outcome.”
Newson said the Wisconsin Fast Forward grant programs will be “employer-driven,” “demand-driven” and “customized based on their specific needs.”
In the grant applications themselves, Jansen said, “employers need to identify what the curriculum is, and they’re the ones writing the curriculum.”
“Wisconsin Fast Forward is based on models from other states – Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, Minnesota – creating a demand-driven program that employers can access…to do customized worker training to be able to meet the skills gap,” Newson said.
Pat O’Brien, president of the Milwaukee Development Corporation and the Milwaukee 7, said there’s been a lot of discussion on the issue of the skills gap, noting that many companies complain that they can’t find employees while at the same time the unemployment rate is 7 to 8 percent, and higher for people of color. It is a challenge to the region, he said, with companies getting pickier to compete in a world economy and lower-skills jobs going to Mexico and overseas.
Albrecht said the issue of a “skills gap” is more of a moving target because of rapid changes in new technology.
“There is a skills gap, but there is probably a larger skills mismatch, where (current) skills may not align with new skills that are necessary,” he said, giving automated manufacturing and other computer-related skills as examples. “That second-tier skills training is where we see the gap. The effort now is to close a higher-level skills gap.”
“We need to make sure people are wired into the jobs of the future,” O’Brien said.
The Office of Skills Development was created as a part of this initiative to oversee the grants and programs and to be a collaborative, convening force to align the efforts of the state’s education, workforce development and economic development, Newson said.
“It’s been a very good resource because it provides a communication network,” Albrecht said. “The Office of Skills Development pulled several offices together so it can have a greater impact on the dollars that are invested.”
O’Brien said Jansen, who’s most recent job before becoming the director of the Office of Skills Development was with the Greater Milwaukee Committee, is the right person to be leading this initiative, citing previous workforce development initiatives with the GMC.
“I have a lot of faith in Scott Jansen,” O’Brien said. “He’s been a cornerstone of this project. I really respect Reggie (Newson) for putting this together.”
Jansen said the office currently has four employees, and completes tasks like writing administration rules, designing the grant process, building the website (Wisconsinfastforward.com), marketing the initiative, managing the grant application process and auditing the training program.
It was through the new office’s efforts that DWD was able to identify construction, manufacturing and customer service as the fields for the first round of grants.
“We saw from our strategic partners, from technical colleges and from our employer inquiry that those three are in high demand right now,” Jansen said.
“This is all strategic,” Newson said. “At the Job Center of Wisconsin website, there is somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 available jobs listed at any given time. At any one point in time, there’s between 100,000 and 150,000 jobs going unfilled in the state of Wisconsin. These programs will help us fill those jobs.”
Jansen said that 1,200 to 1,400 customer service jobs are available on the Job Center’s website on a weekly basis.
“Customer service is the number one requested job position in the state,” Newson said.
Any specific connections from this program to the Milwaukee area remain to be seen, but Jansen said there have been many applicants within the Milwaukee area for Fast Forward grants, and that there will be a regional focus.
“You’ll see in grant program announcements that employers will validate request with places like the M7,” said Jansen. “(They) need to validate that those are legitimate skill needs.”
Jansen said one area in Milwaukee where a need for skills development has been identified is in automated manufacturing.
“Population-wise, we’re 36 percent of the state in the M7 region, and we’re 38 to 40 percent of the state’s gross product,” O’Brien said. “On any measure, we’re 35-40 percent of the state’s economy. Any program the state does that’s statewide has a big impact on us. On average, (the Milwaukee 7 region) should get 35 to 40 percent of those dollars.”
Albrecht said his greatest hope for the program is for it to put people back to work.
“In southeastern Wisconsin, with new job areas coming to be available – like the 2,100 new jobs in Kenosha County – we’re going to have to find a way to invest in training to meet that demand,” he said.
December 23, 2013
From wjjq.com: “Nicolet offering new Electromechanical Technology Degree” – Continuing to work with area manufacturers, Nicolet College has announced a new degree in Electromechanical Technology.
The new associate degree focuses on the electronics and computers that control the systems to operate a production line. The college surveyed area employers such as Printpack, Foster and Smith and PCA to gauge demand for the skill set.
Brigette Kumbier, dean of Trade and Industry at Nicolet says the manufactures were excited to hear the college was looking at starting the program and strongly supported Nicolet in the effort.
Graduates with the degree are able to install, troubleshoot, repair and upgrade electronic and computer-controlled mechanical systems.
This raises the number of manufacturing credentials at Nicolet to 12, ranging from certificates to associate degrees. Often credits earned in the certificate programs can also be applied to the degree programs.
Classes in the new Electromechanical Technology program are expected to start in the Fall Semester of 2014.
December 20, 2013
From wxpr.org: “Gov. Walker signs Youth Apprenticeship bill in Rhinelander” – Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill in Rhinelander that he says will help employers get more skilled workers to companies. Youth Apprenticeship integrates high school-based and work-based learning to instruct students in skills defined by Wisconsin industries. It works with local school districts and the area technical colleges.
Stopping at Nicolet College to sign the Youth Apprenticeship Walker says the bill passed both legislative chambers with just one “no” vote, showing broad bi-partisan support. The program is already in action, but the new funding enlarges the program. 1900 students went through the program last year Walker says…
“….many of our employers across the state, particularly our small and mid-sized employers would add more work but they’re a little bit resistant to do that right now until they know they can fill the positions they have for things like high-skilled welders, CNC operators, machinists, tool-and-dye operators….”
Walker says manufacturing jobs pay more, have more benefits and workers stay longer than many other jobs.
December 13, 2013
From huffingtonpost.com: “Community Colleges and the Manufacturing Sector” – For decades the manufacturing sector provided jobs with good wages. Today, however, the Manufacturing Institute states that 82% of manufacturers report a moderate or serious skills gap in skilled production, and 74% of manufacturers report that the skills gap has hurt their company’s ability to expand operations.
But what is most alarming is that an estimated 2.7 million U.S. manufacturing employees, nearly a fourth of the total, are 55 or over. According to a 2010 article in The Financial Times, 40% of Boeing workers, and nearly half of Rockwell Collins’ workers will be eligible for retirement by 2016. We cannot afford to have these jobs shipped overseas because we don’t have the skilled workers to fill them.
The Manufacturing Institute was one of the first organizations to address the lack of skilled workers. The Institute launched the NAM-Endorsed Skills Certification System to address the skills gap challenge and to promote a renaissance of manufacturing education across the country. What this system does is provide a set of the industry-recognized credentials that workers need to be successful in entry-level positions in any manufacturing environment.
Community colleges were among the first to embrace these new standards by creating certification programs that train students for jobs as varied as the manufacturing of orthopedic devices to repairing wind turbines. Local manufacturers began reaching out to community colleges asking them to train their future workforce. Often these students were displaced workers or had lost their jobs through outsourcing. This cohort, many over the age of 50, presented a new challenge – how to train students who hadn’t been a classroom for more than 20 years.
Partnerships between community colleges and manufacturing companies have been remarkably successful largely because they have been in the forefront of providing customized training that leads directly to a well-paying job.
For example, Siemens developed the Design Technology Program associate degree at Iowa Western Community College, providing students with the skills to “effectively translate ideas from inventors, engineers, planner and designers into visual graphic form.”
Connecticut Community College’s College of Technology developed the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, which places educators with advanced manufacturing companies for 4 week externships. These instructors received hands-on training that they then brought back to the classroom.
When St. Louis lost 10,000 jobs in the auto industry, St. Louis Community College offered training in new technologies that enabled many of the displaced workers to get jobs at Boeing assembling jets.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College worked with the North Coast Marine Manufacturing Alliance to train skilled workers capable of producing the best ships in the world. One of the member companies was awarded a contract to build 10 Littoral Combat ships for the U.S. Navy. This contract created 1,000 news jobs, jobs that might not have come to Wisconsin if there weren’t trained workers waiting to fill them.
As the former CEO of Delco Remy International, a manufacturing company, I know first hand how vital it is to have a highly-skilled workforce. Indiana is a leader in manufacturing, and Ivy Tech, its community college system, works closely with corporations like Cummings to ensure we are providing our students with the training they need to fill jobs in the manufacturing sector. These jobs pay an average of $45,000 a year and offer opportunity for advancement.
In January, we will launch a unique academic-industry-blended 75 hour co-op Advanced Manufacturing degree program. Our students will gain valuable on-the-job experience with some of Indiana’s top manufacturing and logistics companies, working as interns two days a week. Upon graduation, they will have received training in the most current and relevant industry technology as well as having real world experience. Our goal is to have them work for the companies where they interned.
Through the generosity of Alcoa Foundation, we also recently launched “Get Skills to Work,” a program that provides free manufacturing training for veterans. Graduates will receive interviews with area manufacturers through the Tri-State Manufacturers’ Alliance. The Get Skills to Work coalition includes more than 500 manufacturers and focuses on training for veterans, translating the skills they learned in the military into manufacturing careers.
Flexibility, vision and commitment are all-important factors in working with the nation’s manufacturers. Community colleges are in the vanguard of insuring that well-paying manufacturing jobs are not shipped overseas but stay in the community.
December 9, 2013
From postcrescent.com: “Workers needed, but manufacturing healthy in region” - There is a lot of good manufacturing news in Northeastern Wisconsin, but long-term challenges remain.
Manufacturing companies report they are healthy, modernizing and expecting growth in sales in 2014. They also continue to struggle to find qualified workers, a problem that will remain critical as baby boomers retire and employers add new machines that require better-trained operators.
Those are the findings of the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance’s 2014 Manufacturing Vitality Index, released Friday during the annual NEW North Summit in Ashwaubenon.
Fifty-one percent of the surveyed companies reported increased sales in 2013 and 66 percent are expecting more increases next year. Fifty percent are planning plant modernization, as was the case last year, and three out of four expect to hire. But there’s the rub. Sixty percent report having difficulty finding qualified workers.
“The skills shortage hasn’t changed a dramatic amount year to year,” said Scott Kettler, general manager of Fox Cities manufacturing sites for Plexus Corp. and incoming president of the Manufacturing Alliance. “We see people are hiring and we have that growth. What the index says to me is we are not out-pacing our growth.”
The five most difficult-to-fill positions include machinist/CNC machinist, machine operator, truck driver, team assembler and engineering technician. Welders remain in the top 10, though progress has been made in this region in supplying them.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay is turning out 140 welding graduates a year, up from a handful five years ago. It also will train 100 CNC graduates this year and hopes to increase that to 130 next year, said Mark Weber, dean of training and engineering technologies at NWTC.
The Manufacturing Alliance was formed to get educators, students and parents thinking differently about manufacturing.
“I think that the tide has turned,” Weber said. “I’ve seen that in a relatively short time in the discussions I’ve had with K-12s. Before, you couldn’t get them to talk about manufacturing. Now they are calling us to talk about manufacturing.”
Manufacturing accounts for 23 percent of Northeastern Wisconsin’s jobs, and Wisconsin ranks second in the nation in with 19 percent of jobs in manufacturing.
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s “Industrial Cities Initiative” called Green Bay a “resurgent city.” It said the region had four areas that predict economic strength: leadership, regionalism, workforce development and economic development finance.
But the alliance report says long-term demographics are not favorable. Some companies are losing 10 percent or more of their workforce annually to retirement and more people turn 65 each year than turn 18.
A key to mitigating the problem is to get more people interested in manufacturing, Kettler said.
“We have to solve our own problem. We have to continue to work with the education system,” he said. “I want to continue to focus on working with our manufacturers to continue to get involved. Our focus needs to be on that 8-12 (grade) range and we need to turn parents’ minds around that manufacturing is a viable career.”
Many efforts are underway. Some companies are working directly with local high schools, such as Ariens Co. in Brillion and Precision Machine in Algoma. Others are sending workers into classrooms to talk about manufacturing, and NWTC, in collaboration with the Bay Area Workforce Development Board, is sending a classroom — it’s mobile CNC lab — to the students.
“It’s no one thing that’s helping. It’s all of those things; working with high schools, working with manufacturers themselves,” Weber said.
Kettler said companies are taking workers with lesser skills and trying to grow them internally.
“It’s slower and more expensive and it’s not hiring for the future as much,” he said.
The good news, though, shouldn’t be overlooked, he said. Ninety-two percent of companies said they expect to be healthier next year. Half are planning modernization projects in 2014, compared to 46 percent last year and 36 percent in 2012.
“We are seeing companies invest,” he said.
The survey was based on the telephone responses of 111 companies with $3 million or more in annual revenue and 25 or more employees. It had a 28 percent response rate and 95 percent level of confidence. It was conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Business Success Center.
November 26, 2013
From jsonline.com: “Mayville Engineering plans to expand, hire 100 workers” – Mayville Engineering Co. is planning to expand five of its plants in Wisconsin, resulting in 100 new manufacturing jobs, the company said Monday.
The expansion is the result of orders from existing customers as well as new work the company has landed, said Mayville marketing manager Brian Johnson.
Mayville Engineering Co., is an employee-owned firm based in the Dodge County community that shares its name. Mayville is about 55 miles northwest of Milwaukee.
Nationwide, the company employs about 2,000 people and generates more than $300 million in sales.
“We’re putting in some pretty significant equipment and we have to hire a bunch of people, so we’re trying to get the word out,” Johnson said.
“We’ve been successful at getting really good people in here and we’re in one of those situations right now where we need to get some more,” Johnson added. “It’s a good place to be.”
The new jobs will be primarily at the company’s two plants in Mayville, two plants in Beaver Dam and a plant in Wautoma. The company also has two plants in Neillsville in west-central Wisconsin, as well as plants in Michigan, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia.
“We have a number of new products that we are launching with some key customers in the agriculture, construction and power sports industries,” Johnson said.
Mayville Engineering specializes in making the parts used to build equipment ranging from large trucks to agricultural equipment to all-terrain vehicles. It does prototyping, production manufacturing, fabricating, tube forming, coating and assembly services in a variety of markets.
“We’re a key supply chain partner for a number of the large original equipment manufacturers,” Johnson said.
Company leaders realize they are hiring in a marketplace where demand is high for skilled labor. “That is something that we hear a lot,” Johnson said. “It’s no small challenge.”
The company’s position as an employee-owned business gives it an advantage when seeking to attract workers, he said.
“When they are looking at opportunities, we find that a lot of people are interested that they have a chance to earn stock in the company,” Johnson said. “That’s kind of a compelling advantage that we have.”
The company also has successfully entered into partnerships and apprenticeship programs with Moraine Park Technical College and Mayville High School.
The company is hiring for skilled manufacturing positions, including robotic and manual welders, laser operators, brake press operators, CNC machinists, punch press operators, tool and die makers, painters and material coordinators.
But the company also wants to hear from folks who might not have significant manufacturing experience. “Even if it’s not a long one, if they have a good work history that they can show us, we’re looking for good people who are going to fit into our culture,” Johnson said.
Growth and expansion at Mayville Engineering is an example of the positive part of what is proving to be an up-and-down performance of manufacturing in recent times. Manufacturing is a key sector of Wisconsin’s economy.
Diversification is key
“The recovery has been so uneven,” said David J. Ward, CEO of NorthStar Consulting Group, a private economic consulting and research firm in Madison. “There’s no pattern.
“We’ve had nothing out there that would say to manufacturers or anybody else, ‘Hey we’re on a roll,’” he said.
An important aspect for manufacturers is to have business across sectors, Ward said.
“Certain sectors are doing OK. Others, they’re not contracting or anything, they’re just kind of bumping along,” he said.
Having a diversity in business is exactly the strategy that Mayville has pursued.
“We really transcend a lot of different markets,” Johnson said. “So, if one market might be having a hard time, we have other markets that are growing.”
Job fair Dec. 7
Mayville Engineering will hold a job fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 7 at its Dodge County headquarters, 715 South St., Mayville, to recruit for manufacturing positions, including robotic and manual welders, laser operators, brake press operators, CNC machinists, punch press operators, tool and die makers, painters, and material coordinators.
November 18, 2013
From beloitdailynews.com: “Technical training key to successful manufacturing careers” – Good news for people concerned about employment in America today: Well-paying jobs in the manufacturing sector—actually, more than 600,000 of them—are waiting for workers who have been properly trained.
That’s why now may be the time to take a second look at a career in manufacturing.
Why are so many skilled labor jobs unfilled? Part of it has to do with perception. Many people, especially young people, think a career in manufacturing involves working in noisy, dirty surroundings in a job that gathers little respect and less attention. Those stereotypes may have been more accurate decades ago, but are really not today.
Manufacturing plants and facilities are now highly automated, and it takes a great deal of training and knowledge to operate the machinery and equipment. People can’t simply walk in off the street and get those jobs.
As high school students think about plans following graduation, a career in a skilled labor field isn’t top of mind with most. In fact, a recent poll found that while 70 percent of Americans think manufacturing is the most important industry as far as effect on the national economy goes, only 30 percent say they’d encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career.
While conventional four-year college programs are a good fit for some, many students would thrive in a technical education program if given the chance. Often in only two years, a young man or woman can get a technical degree, start working a meaningful job that offers career advancement, and make a decent living doing so. The average hourly wage for manufacturing jobs is about $24, according to Businessweek.com.
The private sector is doing its part to encourage manufacturing careers. Many technical schools and community colleges are partnering with Snap-on Incorporated to teach specific disciplines designed to give students added skills to make them more employable. The company is a leading manufacturer of tools, equipment and diagnostics for the transportation, aviation, aerospace and manufacturing sectors, and has developed certification programs for students to receive extra training in certain technical disciplines.
The goal of the Snap-on certifications is not to teach how machinery operates or how an aircraft flies, but rather, to show students the proper and best way to use specific tools and equipment to become more productive in their jobs.
Most Snap-on certification courses comprise 16 hours of instruction and are blended into the school’s existing technical course program. More than 100 technical schools across the country offer certifications as part of their curriculum. To facilitate the certifications in the partnering schools, Snap-on works with the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3), an organization that validates and oversees the certification assessment standards.
For more information on the certification program or to see a list of participating schools, visit www1.snapon.com/Education.
November 8, 2013
From chippewa.com: “Manufacturing a new image” – Baldwin-Woodville High School student McKenzie Kohls asked Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and a panel of manufacturing experts for some reassurance about the field.
“My grandfather was a welder who came home looking like a coal miner every day,” Kohls said. “How has manufacturing changed?
It was a good time to ask. Dispelling the myths of manufacturing was the theme of panel discussion during a Women in Manufacturing event held at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire Tuesday to mark October as national Manufacturing Month. The event, sponsored by Wisconsin Gold Collar Careers Manufacturing Works Group, included a tour of CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center and a public-private speed networking session.
Students from Eleva-Strum and Baldwin-Woodville schools attended the panel discussion in person, and students in Bloomer, Cumberland, Gilmanton, Pepin, Shell Lake, Turtle Lake, Shell Lake and Webster schools followed via video conferencing.
In answering Kohls’ question, Mary Isbister, president of GenMet, a metal fabricator in Mequon, Wis., dispelled the notion that welding was a dirty job in modern manufacturing.
“You can’t have smoke and dust and dirt in places that have advanced manufacturing equipment,” Isbister said. “The equipment that we use, and the processes that we use, have advanced light years. It doesn’t look like it used to.”
Changing the image
Both manufacturing professionals and educators have been working for years to change the image of the sector.
“We still have people who view manufacturing as a dirty place, with things lying all over,” said Craig Simingson, superintendent of the Eleva-Strum School District, which received much praise at the event for having one of the best manufacturing education programs in the state. “But these are professional places where you’re not going to wear your Metallica t-shirt to work every day.”
Dawn Tabat, COO of Generac Power Systems, a Wisconsin home generator manufacturer with facilities in Whitewater, Waukesha and Eagle, acknowledged there was some truth to manufacturing’s poor image in years past.
“There were a lot of people making good money in manufacturing for what were pretty low-skilled jobs,” Tabat said. “But those unskilled jobs are gone. U.S. manufacturing got smart. These are jobs that are going to require a lot of special skills. There’s a whole new world in manufacturing.”
“These are ‘smart jobs,’” said Kleefisch. “We need your brains. We need your bright ideas in manufacturing.”
“I always use the term ‘advanced manufacturing.’ We won’t hire you unless you go to school after high school,” said Dan Conroy, vice president of human resources at Nexen, a manufacturer of power transmission and other products with a plant in Webster, Wis.
Conroy said about 12 percent of jobs in his company require only a high school education, but those positions are never open. Another 70 percent require a technical college education, and 18 percent require a university degree. Kleefisch added that over the next decade, between 54 and 72 percent of jobs will require more than a high school education, but less than a university degree.
Some of the students present asked questions about job opportunities available and the courses they should be taking to prepare themselves for the jobs available. The panelists explained that there are a wide variety of careers available, from operation of sophisticated equipment, to the design and maintenance of that equipment, improvement of manufacturing processes, and many levels of support positions.
“You can do almost anything within manufacturing, but you have to understand how manufacturing works. Today’s manufacturing operates very complex equipment,” Isbister said. She urged students to have an understanding of mathematics and how it is applied, but a broad education is valuable. “There probably aren’t too many classes that wouldn’t be advantageous to you.”
Women were particularly encouraged to explore careers in what is still a heavily male-dominated field. Tabat shared her story of a 42-year rise from production and secretarial work at Generac Power Systems to human resources and eventually chief operating officer.
“I started out with a small company and the company grew bigger and bigger, and I grew with it,” Tabat said. She added only six percent of her type of position is held by women nationally.
Isbister noted that a woman who started in customer service at GenMet eight years ago, “basically runs the place when I’m not there.”
“There are no other places that have a greater opportunity for women to compete on a level playing field than manufacturing,” Tabat said.
“You can use a laser cutter to break the glass ceiling,” Kleefisch said.
Gold Collar Careers are high tech manufacturing jobs that are pushing the limits of technology by demanding bright individuals who understand and embrace the latest machining, electronic, computer, and other technologies; and creative thinkers with applied/hands-on abilities to solve problems and get things done.
November 7, 2013
From wsau.com: “Governor Walker talks about jobs grants, casinos and more at appearance in Wausau” – Governor Walker made an appearance in Wausau at Northcentral Technical College today to discuss a new grant project called Wisconsin Fast Forward.
“Workers need to have access to the most up-to-date employment information,” Governor Walker said. “By providing quality worker training and cutting-edge labor market information, our workers will be best equipped to re-enter the workforce in places where opportunities are available.”
The funding will work to create new jobs and training in manufacturing and small manufacturing businesses with 50 or fewer employees, construction, and customer service representatives. Walker says business leaders tell him Wisconsin is a great place to place customer service positions. “It’s easy to understand folks in the Midwest. The people in the Midwest he found to be overwhelmingly pleasant and easy to get along with.”
The state is looking at continued growth in the customer service industry and Walker says they want to help that grow. “The Department of Workforce Development estimates that through 2020 there’s going to be a 15% growth in customer service jobs, and an annual basis, that means 2200 new jobs each year.”
During questions after the speech, Governor Walker says he’s not in a big hurry to make a decision on the casino project in Kenosha. “This project has been before the Bureau of Indian affairs at the federal government for 20 years. And I’ve got considerable time as governor to take this matter up and fully consider the implications on it.”
Walker also said he’d be in favor of tougher OWI laws if they make it to his desk. “Ways we can toughen up, particularly penalties for repeat drunk drivers is something I’ve been in the past supportive of. And presumably, I’d have to look at the individual bills, but would be open to consider.”
He also addressed the continuing issues with the new federal health care law. Walker says the state is stepping up to make sure residents in need will be covered before the enrollment period is up on the Affordable Care Act. “Under our plan, everyone in poverty will covered. In the past, under my predecessor, there was a wait list for some on poverty, going forward everyone will be covered under Medicaid in the state of Wisconsin.” He says state officials are putting together training for insurance agents in Wisconsin in order to help them get people signed up for the exchanges and for insurance before the enrollment period is up.
November 7, 2013
From fox6now.com: “Gov. Scott Walker visits Lakeshore Tech. College on Wednesday” – Governor Scott Walker toured Lakeshore Technical College on Wednesday, November 6th to learn about their apprenticeship program and mobile training lab. Lakeshore Technical College is hosting a two-week public open house of its facilities and lab to celebrate Manufacturing Month.
“Lakeshore Technical College is providing critical, high-quality training to students, employees, and high school teachers,” Governor Walker said. “We need partners in the technical college system and business community to make our commitment to worker training a success. Manufacturing Month was about more than just touring technical colleges and manufacturing companies. We wanted to take the opportunity to emphasize how a job in manufacturing is a great family-supporting career and one that is full of highly skilled and innovative workers.”
Lakeshore Technical College offers training to high school students, summer training for high school teachers, and assessments of workers’ skills and competencies.
Their mobile lab allows the college to provide on-site training in industrial maintenance and programmable logic controls.
The lab also helps high school students earn up to five credits in the electro-mechanical technology program; these credits help students enter the workforce quickly after graduation.
The fall legislative agenda includes additional investments in apprenticeship training, incentives for high school students who graduate with job ready credentials, and scholarships for students at technical colleges.
Additionally, the budget provided funding for career planning beginning in 6th grade.
Many times our students do not understand the potential a career in manufacturing can have for them. These investments are part of our commitment to growing the manufacturing industry and ensuring our students are ready for a career as soon as they enter the workforce.
November 4, 2013
From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Thriving manufacturing sector shows it stuff at Expo” – The breadth and depth of Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector was on display at the Manufacturing First Expo & Conference.
Clintonville’s Specialized Products Ltd., Middleton’s Meridian Laboratory, Green Bay’s The Lake Companies and many others demonstrated why Wisconsin is the nation’s second-largest manufacturing state. More than 16 percent of the state’s economy is tied to manufacturing, and to hear business representatives tell it Thursday at the KI Convention Center in downtown Green Bay, business is good.
Gina Webster of Specialized Products said a statement that Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector grew 35 percent during the last four years seems right.
“That sounds pretty consistent with what we experienced,” she said. “This year has been down a little, but last year we had a fantastic year.”
The positive attitude among Wisconsin manufacturers also reflects a national trend. U.S. factory activity expanded in October at the fastest pace in 2½ years. Overseas demand and healthy U.S. auto sales appear to be supporting factory output. The housing recovery is also lifting the furniture and wood products industry despite a recent slowing in home sales.
The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index for October rose to 56.4 from 56.2 in September. A reading above 50 indicates growth.
U.S. factory activity has now risen at an increasingly fast pace for five straight months, according to the ISM’s index. In October, a measure of new orders rose slightly. And a gauge of production fell but remained at a high level. Factories added jobs, though more slowly than in September.
Factories also expanded in Europe this month, though at a slightly slower pace, according to surveys in that region. Manufacturing indexes have all picked up in China, Japan, and South Korea.
The overseas strength is boosting demand for U.S. factories. A measure of export orders jumped to its highest level in nearly a year and a half in October, the ISM report said.
Meridian Laboratory in Middleton is representative of many small Wisconsin businesses that do precision work for global distribution. A quarter of its rotary-electrical products go to Korea and 20 percent to Japan. It has a growing presence in China, and the rest goes to customers throughout the United States. The company has 11 employees. Most of them have been with the company for 20 years or more.
The company’s willingness to do small precision orders fills a niche, said Sven Krause, new business development manager.
“We are small, specialized and specific,” he said.
Specialized of Clintonville specializes in wire-harness assembly, electromechanical assemblies, soldering, mold production and prototyping, among other things. The company has 130 employees.
“Probably our biggest problem is we’ve grown so fast in 20 years,” Webster said.
For The Lake Companies, the challenge is finding workers with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software and manufacturing experience. The software services vendor has 35 employees.
“We have always been challenged at that,” said Karen Sikorski, senior account manager.
One solution has been to hire former employees of customers — they don’t go after current workers — or find people with ERP experience in other industries.
Sikorski said a number of their customers are expanding, adding either work areas or employees.
Creating new manufacturing workers was one theme of Thursday’s event. Northeast Wisconsin Technical College of Green Bay and Lakeshore Technical College of Cleveland were on-site with mobile training labs, and groups of high school students toured the exhibit hall, which had more than 130 vendors.
The mobile labs allow the college to expose high school students to up-to-date equipment.
“As you drive down to the high school level, the biggest challenge you have is facilities,” said Peter Thillman, dean of workforce and economic development at Lakeshore. “That’s the big thing, to get the equipment in their hands.”
Kevin Grabian, instructor for NWTC, said jobs are available to those who want and prepare for them.
“You can come out of TC with an electromechanical degree and have your pick,” he said. “You can’t be just an electrical guy or just a mechanical guy. They want both.”
The expo was sponsored by First Business Bank-Northeast, Insight magazine and NEW Manufacturing Alliance.
October 23, 2013
From weau.com: “Lt. Gov. Kleefisch talks women in manufacturing” – The state’s lieutenant governor was in Eau Claire Tuesday to talk about women in manufacturing.
Republican Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch moderated the “Dispelling the Myths of Manufacturing” event Tuesday afternoon at the Chippewa Valley Technical College.
The event, which was hosted by the Wisconsin Gold Collar Careers Manufacturing Works Group, brought together a panel of leaders in manufacturing to discuss women finding success in the manufacturing field.
Kleefisch says “…and today we got to meet the future of manufacturing, which was pretty cool.”
The panel included Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce Foundation President Jim Morgan, GenMet President Mary Isbister, and Generac COO Dawn Tabat.
October 23, 2013
From iwantthenews.com: “Manufacturing Mobile Lab to visit High School” – Lakeshore Technical College will celebrate Wisconsin Manufacturing Month by conducting a two-week public tour of its Advanced Manufacturing Mobile Lab to local high schools and job centers in October.
Anyone interested in learning more about today’s high tech and high demand careers in manufacturing will have an opportunity to talk to LTC staff and participate in demonstrations of the same type of equipment that manufacturers use on a daily basis.
The Advanced Manufacturing Mobile Lab will visit Kiel High School on Oct. 24 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. and will also make six other stops in Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties in the last half of October for the public to learn more about today’s high tech and high demand careers in manufacturing.
October 18, 2013
From canadianmanufacturing.com: “Bridging the Skills Gap” – New Richmond, WI—A new partnership has been forged between industry and education, with Bosch Packaging Technology, Inc., and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC), both in New Richmond, Wisconsin forming a joint apprenticeship venture.
“We’ve been working together on this project since last spring,” says Nancy Cerritos, WITC academic dean of trade and technology. “Bosch is very proactive and realizes it will lose a significant portion of its skilled work force in New Richmond and Shell Lake over the next five to seven years. They wanted to create apprenticeships – which we have available and can develop — to create a better skilled work force for the future.”
Adds Mark Hanson, manager, continuous improvement coordination and technical functions at Bosch Packaging Technology: “We tried to hire local workers, but it’s not a densely populated area, and we have a need for highly skilled workers, so we had to come up with a new approach.
“By utilizing our strong relationship with WITC and the state we were able to custom-design a program that gives us the skilled workers we need.”
The program includes electro-mechanical technician and machinist apprentices. The electro-mechanic apprenticeship—the combination of an electrician and mechanic—is the first of its kind in the state and is now considered a new trade in Wisconsin.
Two WITC programs participate in this flagship effort: the Automated Packaging Systems program and theMachine Tooling Technics program, as these two WITC programs are best represented in the work at Packaging Technology.
The opportunity to become an apprentice was opened to Bosch employees, and four stepped up. Machinist apprentices are Josh Marquand and Brant Couch. Electro mechanical technician apprentices enrolled in the Automated Packaging Systems program are Philip Taylor and Paul Petty. These four apprentices will complete their respective program over a four or five year time span, while also working at Bosch.
What makes the program unique is what the participant receives at the completion of the apprenticeship – five years for an electro-mechanical technician and four years for a machinist – an Associate’s degree in technical studies, a technical diploma and a State of Wisconsin Certificate of Apprenticeship, commonly known as a journeyman card. A traditional apprenticeship usually results in only the journeyman card.
Upon acceptance in the program, the apprentice signs a contract with the State of Wisconsin that they will meet the obligations required for a journeyman card. During the apprenticeship, Bosch is responsible for ensuring the apprentices meet the minimum requirements, as well as assigning a shop-floor trainer and mentor to each apprentice.
The apprenticeship program works very closely with Wisconsin’s Workforce Development Department through Travis Ludvigson, Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards, who produced the contract the apprentices signed. At WITC, Randy Deli, divisional dean of trade and technology, coordinates the college’s apprenticeship opportunities.
Once accepted in the program, apprentices receive a salary and benefits for their 40-hour-a-week schedule, during which they split time between on-the-job-training and classroom work. In addition, the program covers the cost for tuition and tools needed for coursework. Outside of the program, the normal curriculum requires classroom attendance for 30 hours a week, leaving little time for job training.
“This was a great opportunity for me,” says Taylor, one of the new apprentices. “It’s a perfect scenario, I get to continue working at Bosch, and in five years I’ll have a degree, diploma and journeyman card that will benefit my career and family.”
October 17, 2013
From iwantthenews.com: “Amerequip earns regional youth award” — Amerequip, a manufacturer of custom equipment for the lawn, landscape, agricultural and construction markets, will receive the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance’s Youth Apprenticeship Award at the Excellence in Manufacturing Partnership Awards on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay.
The award is one of several to be given out at the event, which will spotlight best practices of manufacturing/education partnerships throughout the New North region.
Amerequip has a long standing commitment to ongoing educational programs. in particular, Amerequip has been an active participant in several innovative internship and apprenticeship programs offered through the State of Wisconsin and several of Wisconsin’s technical colleges.
Lakeshore Technical College nominated Amerequip for the award for its partnershp with the Sheboygan Youth Apprenticeship program, which provides training and job skills while students are in high school. The firm currently has five high school apprentice students training with them in the areas of welding, quality assurance, engineering, assembly and machining, with the goal of growing the program to 10 students annually going through the Amerequip program. As a result of Amerequip’s lead in the YA program, other small local manufacturers have joined the effort, with 65 students now participating in the program.
From lacrossetribune.com: “Walker ‘still focused’ on jobs” — By Patrick B. Anderson - Training programs and new businesses will drive Wisconsin job growth, Gov. Scott Walker said Monday during a tour of Western Technical College.
The governor and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch visited with educators and students at the local technical college. Wisconsin is not on pace to add 250,000 private sector jobs by 2015 as Walker promised when he was elected. However, new businesses and schools such as Western will help more Wisconsin residents find work, Walker said.
“We’re still focused on that,” Walker said. “New jobs are going to come from small businesses, not big corporations.”
The governor toured Western and local offices for the Job Center of Wisconsin. The visit followed Walker’s proclamation of October as Manufacturing Month.
Kyle Larson, 21, took a break from his work at a vertical milling machine to talk to the governor. He started at Western’s machine tool program after struggling to find a job working on cars. Manufacturing work seemed to offer more opportunities to find work and move up the ladder, Larson said.
“I didn’t want to waste my time,” Larson said.
Lukas Bright, 19, saw the same type of job opportunities in welding. That’s partly what drew him to the field, the Western student said. He’s still in his first year, but already he’s already got work prospects.
“There’s hundreds of jobs available,” Bright said.
Western president Lee Rasch shared with the governor the local campus’ plans to add new facilities and take on more students. Voters passed an $80 million referendum last year for Western building upgrades, and work has already begun on some of the projects. Remodels and additions will create new learning opportunities for students who want to land a manufacturing job out of college, Rasch said.
“They’re looking for skilled workers,” Rasch said. “They want to know what we’re doing.”
Wisconsin added 24,305 jobs between March 2012 and March 2013, ranking 34th in the nation in job creation, according to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state added 72,710 jobs from when Walker took office until March, according to the bureau.
However, the state has added 11,000 new businesses under his leadership, and new businesses will help add more opportunities for Wisconsin workers, Walker said.
“We want to build off of our positive foundation and move the state forward,” Walker said.
Walker said his office has poured $100 million into workforce development. But direct state aid to Wisconsin’s technical colleges was held flat this year, and will increase by about $5 million next year. Western will also have more flexibility next year to use categorical grants from an existing $22 million pot of funding for worker training programs.
Worker training programs are a major focus for Wisconsin lawmakers, Walker said.
“As employers tell us as we go around the state, they have jobs,” Walker said. “We want to make sure we’re putting our money where it has the biggest impact.”
October 11, 2013
From leadertelegram.com: “CVTC lab launch nears” – A new tool is being developed at CVTC that will help narrow a skills gap in the manufacturing industry.
The Mobile Simulation Lab is a three-year project that began Aug. 1. A federal grant of nearly $800,000 is providing funding for a semi-truck trailer that will promote manufacturing skills in rural areas.
“We can provide high schools with more of the manufacturing skills employers need,” said Mark Hendrickson, a machine tool instructor at the college.
CVTC staff demonstrated a 3-D printer, laser engraver and virtual training equipment. The latter is a Realityworks product that trains students to weld in a virtual environment. Participants are graded and shown areas in need of improvement.
Training on the welding and machining curriculum is being planned for late summer/early fall of next year to prepare high school teachers to use the Mobile Simulation Lab resources, Hendrickson said.
The lab will be deployed at partner high schools – Alma Center Lincoln, Eleva-Strum, Greenwood, Neillsville and Owen-Withee – during the 2014-15 school year. It will stay at each location for nine weeks.
During summers and school breaks, the MSL will make appearances at local career fairs and other regional events.
“The overall goal of the laboratory is to provide educational resources and outreach to our rural high schools linked to manufacturing technology and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career pathways,” Hendrickson said.
Bruce Barker, CVTC president, announced that the remodeling of a conference center that once served as an auditorium had been finished over the summer.
Seating capacity in the area, which is near the commons in CVTC’s Business Education Center, was increased to 380 from 220. A stage was removed, the floor leveled and audio-visual equipment installed.
It’s expected that the conference center, pending final approval, will be named after William and Gertrude Casper, whose foundation has a history of supporting CVTC.
“This was a public way for us to thank them and do it in a visual spot,” Barker said.
CVTC staff also provided presentations Thursday on two summer programs for youth: STEM Race Camps and Girls on Fire Camp. The former allows campers to work with radio-controlled cars in an effort to teach skills in areas such as data collection, problem solving, conflict resolution, and marketing and promotion.
Girls on Fire is a firefighter and emergency medical service career exploration camp for girls entering the seventh through 12th grades. Building confidence is one goal of the program, said Marcy Bruflat, a fire service instructor and program director.
“It’s important for them to know you can be whatever you want to be,” she said.