From “Professional attire offered free to local collegians” — College students living on a budget now have an opportunity to dress the part when they apply for jobs.

The Revolving Career Closet will be open to all area college students two days only: From 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 31, and Tuesday, April 1, in Room 109 at Moraine Park Technical College.

The closet will offer free professional business attire to students who present a college identification card. Clothing such as suits and ties, sport coats, dress shirts, dresses, blazers, blouses and dress pants will be available in all sizes.

The innovative project was developed by five members of Leadership Fond du Lac, a community based program offered through the Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce.

The group timed the opening of the closet so students planning to attend MPTC’s April 16 Job Fair can dress appropriately. The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Team member Patty Breister, a supervisor at Charter Communications, said the group was looking for a project that would benefit the community and identified there was a need for students in the area to dress more professionally when they went for job interviews.

Back in August 2013, the Leadership Fond du Lac team started brainstorming ideas and contacted key people at Marian University, MPTC and University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac to find out how they group could reach out to students.

“We also spoke to area businesses and surveyed about 15-20 business leaders. They told us that this was definitely something that was needed,” Breister said. “Students need more education on how to come prepared for a job interview.”

More and more young people are applying for jobs dressed in casual jeans and T-shirts, Breister said. The group felt that if it could provide free dress clothes to students it would improve their chances of being hired and teach them how to better promote themselves.

Society Insurance loved the idea so much its employees held an internal clothing drive. Marian University also sponsored a clothing drive.

“We have a large room that is filling with donations — more each day,” Breister said.

Another team member, Caron Daugherty, dean of general education at MPTC, said although the “pop-up” closet will only be offered for two days the intent is to bring it back annually.

“Even people coming in for interviews at the college level, I have seen some not wearing the appropriate dress,” Daugherty said. “And it’s so important to make that first good impression.”

The plan is to have career counselors from the area colleges available at the Revolving Career Closet to counsel students on how they should dress.

“I have heard counselors say that you should dress one step above the position you are applying for. For example, if it is an entry level position, you should dress at the management level,” Daugherty said. “Even if it were a cook position, I would not wear jeans and a polo shirt.”

Mary Hatlen, academic advisor at Marian University, said the collaboration between the three campuses underscores what can be achieved when the focus is on helping all students down the road of success.

Next year Marian will host a job fair and the Revolving Career Closet.

“It takes a team effort to ensure the sustainability of this project moving forward and we are excited about that,” she said.

Other members of the Leadership Fond du Lac Team are Marcus Butts, CitizensFirst Credit Union; Travis Van Dyn Hoven, American Family Insurance; and Sue Toll, from Aurora HealthCare.

From Fond du Lac job searchers enjoy diverse options” — FOND DU LAC — Job seekers are enjoying an uptick in employment opportunities in the Fond du Lac area.

Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce president and CEO Joe Reitemeier says the area is seeing a definite shift in momentum since the first quarter of the year.

“Coming out of the recession we were a little bit behind in gaining any traction in opportunities for employment,” Reitemeier said. “In recent months we’ve literally seen dozens of companies aggressively seeking new employees.”

While large manufacturers in the area — Mercury Marine and Alliance Laundry Systems — have undergone expansions and added to their employee base, Reitemeier says job opportunities are available across a wide spectrum including manufacturing, food service, agriculture production, financial services, insurance and health care.

“Virtually every kind of job is being marketed right now,” he said. “However, one piece consistent within all the job openings is the requirement for advanced skill sets. Those people who are available for work are going to have to come with a skill set that is desired by the employer.”

Top employers in the Fond du Lac area include Brunswick, Agnesian, Alliance Laundry Systems and the Fond du Lac School District.

Success story

Kondex Corp. in Lomira, which produces engineered cutting and high-wear components for the agriculture industry and beyond, has enjoyed job growth over the past year.

Since Kondex moved to its new plant in 2007, the company has grown its employee base by 50 percent — to 280 employees, said Mike Frydryk, vice president of human resources and organizational development.

The 2012 drought hampered plans for hiring last year.

“The drought had a lag effect on our business in 2013,” Frydryk explained. “However, as we plan ahead we do expect 2014 to bring continued growth from what we are expecting from our customer base.”

While Kondex offers entry-level positions in packaging and assembly starting at $10 and $11 an hour, the manufacturer also recruits for positions requiring specific capabilities, education and experience including machine operators, welders and engineers.


Reitemeier said most of the jobs available in the Fond du Lac area fall in the $11 to $13 an hour starting range.

“We’re not really talking about minimum wage positions but positions starting at a considerably higher level. But again, those jobs require skills,” he said.

Many companies offer on-the-job training programs while others provide tuition reimbursement for employees willing to seek additional training, Reitemeier said.

“Moraine Park Technical College offers a wealth of opportunities for developing specific skills in much of the employment arenas that we’re seeing. Oftentimes those programs are available to employees where the employer will actually pay for the instruction,” Reitemeier. “Advanced degrees at institutions like MPTC or a four-year college and experience are needed for the advanced positions being offered out there.”

Late last year, Fond du Lac’s unemployment rate was 5.4 percent, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics released in December 2013.

“Even with a 5 percent unemployment rate we’re virtually experiencing full employment right now,” Reitemeier said. “We’re going to have to figure out creative ways to find the qualified applicants for the positions out there.”

From “Students team with BDACT” — Moraine Park Technical College students are given numerous opportunities to perform service learning projects. MPTC’s Meeting and Event Planning class, along with the Business Practicum class, offered assistance to Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre as it plans its 50th anniversary celebration.

Instructors Mary Vogl-Rauscher and Pam Zander met with Dave Saniter, managing director of BDACT, and Annette Kamps, board member and fundraising co-chair.

Zander’s Meeting and Event Planning class is assisting with the “Roots & Wings: A Golden Tribute to BDACT.” This celebration of talent will be showcased the weekends of April 25, 26 and 27 and May 2, 3 and 4. The students are working on website updates, posters, programs, themes and decorations for the event.

Performers who began their musical or theatrical careers at careers at BDACT will share their talents for this event.

Another service learning opportunity and collaboration activity is taking place with MPTC human resources student Priscilla Trevino. Trevino will coordinate numerous volunteers for theater projects. Trevino will secure volunteers to work the events, coordinate paperwork and information to orient the volunteers, and organize a fundraiser this year.

If interested in volunteering, help is needed with lights, sound, ushering, videography, photography, costumes, set building, set painting and decorating, house management, tickets, librarian, patron chair, afterglows and makeup. To volunteer contact Trevino at

This collaboration gives students the opportunity to participate in a service learning project and to learn valuable skills that they will use in their careers — to provide an organization with assistance to meet organizational goals.

From “2015 Eligible Community Colleges” — The Aspen Institute is pleased to name the following 150 community colleges eligible for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.  We recognize that there are many community colleges around the country that are employing innovative strategies and achieving excellent results for their students.  The bar for the Aspen Prize is intentionally set high in order to identify those institutions that have demonstrated exceptional levels of student success.

In a comprehensive review of the publicly available data, these 150 two-year institutions—from 37 states—have demonstrated strong outcomes considering three areas of student success:

  • student success in persistence, completion, and transfer;
  • consistent improvement in outcomes over time; and
  • equity in outcomes for students of all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

To ensure full representation of the range and diversity of the sector, adjustments were applied with respect to mission, size, and minority representation.


  • Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire, WI
  • Lakeshore Technical College Cleveland, WI
  • Moraine Park Technical College Fond du Lac, WI
  • Northcentral Technical College Wausau, WI
  • Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Shell Lake, WI

From “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.


From “Moraine Park recognizes Ballweg’s efforts to gain additional financial aid” – Moraine Park Technical College recently recognized Wisconsin State Representative Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) for her leadership efforts to secure an additional $2 million in financial aid funds for the Wisconsin Technical College System.

The funds will come from the Wisconsin Higher Education Grants (WHEG) programs and will be available to students during the 2013-15 school years. The additional funds allocated will help to compensate for the shortfall that left over 50,000 eligible students without financial aid.

“This is a great start, but we have a lot more to do to ensure that financial aid is available to eligible students,” Ballweg said. “I urge others to continue to stress the importance of financial aid and help others realize this is a smart investment.”

During the presentation, Richard Zimman, Moraine Park Technical College District Board chairperson, said that in the next decade 54 percent of Wisconsin’s jobs will require a technical education. “Wisconsin’s technical colleges are an essential asset for our state’s future,” Zimman said. “Moraine Park commends Representative Ballweg for her leadership in preparing our state for the future.”

Moraine Park Technical College was established in 1912 and is one of 16 technical college districts that make up the Wisconsin Technical College System. With campuses in Beaver Dam, Fond du Lac and West Bend, Moraine Park offers more than 100 associate of applied science degrees, technical diplomas, apprenticeships and certificates delivered in a variety of formats – classroom, online and blended.


From “Continuing education a must for Ag producers” – More and more, producers are seeking training to stay knowledgeable in the ever-evolving landscape that is the agriculture industry.

Lakeshore and Moraine Park Technical Colleges have been providing continuing education for adult agricultural producers for nearly 40 years. The Farm Business and Production Management Program provides training to emerging managers and seasoned producers in five different areas of continuing education.

A mainstay in Wisconsin agriculture, the program supports Wisconsin’s largest industry — agriculture. Each year, one of five individual courses is offered. The focus this fall/winter will include transferring the farm assets and management to the next generation, interpersonal skills, employee management and creating a safe farm working environment. The new program starts in late October and runs through the end of June 2014.

The Farm Safety section has been added to the course offering for this year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, recently began dairy farm inspections in Wisconsin. Our goal in teaching farm safety is to assist producers to make sure their farms are safe places to work and see that the dairy would pass an OSHA inspection.

As farms in eastern Wisconsin have grown so have the number of employees on these operations. When I started my career as a dairy herdsman in western Pennsylvania, farm employment was one of the least desirable jobs. Today, the work is not nearly as long and physical as it once was.

In fact, these positions are extremely complex and require professional staff with computer skills, mechanical ability, an understanding of livestock physiology, skills with people management, and a full understanding of business management.

In the future, opportunities in agriculture will certainly attract some of the best minds. These jobs range from $30,000 to over $75,000 per year. How many jobs in eastern Wisconsin pay in that range? Our youth will not have to leave their homes to seek great employment opportunities outside of the state.

Participants in the programs range in age from 18 to the late 50s with an average age of 30. Both men and women participate. Enrolling students are employees on large dairies, many are the sons and daughters of the owners of their businesses, some are from Hispanic backgrounds and some are agriculture business professionals. The average size dairy operation of those participating in the program is just over 300 cows and 500 acres.

Because the program is delivered in a variety of methods, participants tend to stay involved for many years. With the rapid change in technology, continuing education becomes a must if an agricultural company is to remain viable from one generation to another. The discussion groups meet at several venues in rural communities.

Farm tours are also part of the way the program is conducted. The classroom sessions are discussion-based and focus on the challenges faced on today’s farms. Classes meet 10 times through the winter months or about every other week at the Boltonville Fire Station, Regional DRR office in Plymouth, Moraine Park Campus in Fond du Lac and the Pizza Ranch in Waupun. The class time is a combination of lecture, discussion, problem solving and application of what has been delivered.

Enrolled students also can attend the cutting-edge seminar series. The Progressive Operators series include daylong seminars held at Lakeshore Technical College and are sponsored by the LTC Farm Business Program and the eastern Wisconsin Extension Service. The 2014 program will be titled “Would you work for you?”

Topics for the Dec. 6 program include business place culture, delegation, empowerment, the importance of standardizing procedures and employee training. Also on the first day, an immigration attorney will share the latest information related to congressional legislation and work visas. The Jan. 31 program will entertain human resource issues such as motivating, retaining and facilitating good communication in your business.

Greg Booher is a Farm Business & Production Management instructor at Lakeshore Technical College working in many counties in eastcentral Wisconsin. Contact him at (920) 960-0551 or emailhim at



From “World Championship Cheese Contest adds first female assistant chief judge” – Masters Gallery Foods, Inc. proudly announced that Sandy Toney was selected as the new Assistant Chief Judge for the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, the first woman to hold the position for the World Championship Cheese Contest since it began in 1957. Responsible for overseeing the contest, Assistant Chief Judges choose the technical expert judges and administer instructions for grading, cheese types and defects. “This is a terrific honor for Sandy. We couldn’t be happier for her,” said Jeff Gentine, the company’s co-owner and Executive Vice President. “She takes her craft very seriously, and it’s gratifying to see that recognized within our industry.”

Toney, Vice President of Corporate Quality and Product Development for Masters Gallery Foods, has been a licensed cheese grader for close to 20 years and has served as an expert technical judge for the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest and the World Championship Cheese Contest for nine years. She also serves on the FDA Advisory Board. Toney holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Silver Lake College and an associate degree in food science from Moraine Park Technical College. 



From “LBD class focuses on education” – In October, Leadership Beaver Dam class of 2013-2014 had its Education Day. They toured the Beaver Dam Middle School, High School and Moraine Park Technical College.

Presenters for the day included Superintendent Steve Vessey. He shared with LBD the importance of testing at the schools to determine students’ progress in order to maximize their opportunities to learn during the school year. He also told the group that evaluation of teachers and setting goals are important components for the school system learning process. In addition he shared the school’s concern for helping students achieve to their potential through advanced placement classes which students can take in order to receive college credits.

Later that morning Leadership Beaver Dam visited the Beaver Dam Middle School where they observed students responding to questions in a multi-media classroom with the use of a remote. LBD also visited the Read 180 lab, which works on reading development and comprehension. In the lab students meet in a small group, do independent reading and work with computers. One student commented that she enjoyed reading 180, because it had helped her increase her scores on reading tests.

LBD’s last stop at the middle school was in the library where we heard from Jenny Vinz the library media specialist and Beth Plier the reading specialist, who talked about how the school is using Barnes and Nobles’ digital reading device “The Nook” to help students with reading skills. Their work has been so successful, they will be presenting at a national education conference in Minnesota in November.

After the middle school tour, LBD went to the high school where they visited Trends class which teaches students about writing, filming, editing and directing videos that tell a story. They also looked in on an engineering class and an honors chemistry class. This year’s LBD class is impressed with the quality of education and the technology being used Beaver Dam’s public schools.

During lunch LBD heard from the principal of St. Stephen’s Elementary and Middle School, Roger Fenner. He told the group that St. Stephen’s School was established in 1886 and currently has nine teachers who work with their 144 students.

LBD finished the day at Moraine Park Technical College, where they toured the welding, Mercury Marine and nursing classrooms. Campus coordinator Karen Coley and Matt Hurtienne, dean of the Beaver Dam Campus, shared with the group that Moraine Park continues to revise their classes based on the needs of employers.

Before finishing the tour the LBD’s class also saw GED classrooms as well as a live time video conferencing room. MPTC’s instructor Mary Vogel-Rauscher shared her passion for preparing students at MPTC to enter the workforce.

Instructor for Leadership Beaver Dam, Kay Stellpfulg, finished off the afternoon by helping the group further process projects that the group will need to develop and carry out in the coming year.


From “MPTC offers business workshops” – Moraine Park Technical College will offer several free entrepreneurship workshops and webinars this fall, open to anyone interested in learning more about business basics.

The workshops will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, at the Fond du Lac campus, and 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, Aug. 29, at the Beaver Dam campus.

During the workshop, participants will learn what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, the anatomy of a business plan, the nuts and bolts of starting a business, types of business entities, regulations and requirements and available resources.

In addition to the entrepreneur workshop, Moraine Park offers classes for aspiring entrepreneurs and existing small business owners including exploring business ideas, conducting research for business, pre-business planning, opportunity analysis, writing a business plan, website design, money management, marketing and human resources.


From “Amerequip donates $10,000 to tech college” – KIEL — Amerequip, a manufacturer of custom equipment for the lawn, landscape, agricultural and construction markets, has donated $10,000 to Moraine Park Technical College Foundation’s Manufacturing Fund.

The fund is aimed at strengthening the appeal of manufacturing-related careers by offering manufacturing programs that reduce the transition time from degree to workforce, while providing manufacturers with direct access to students enrolled in those fields. It focuses on recruitment, retention and workforce readiness; offering students financial assistance as well as incentives to complete their degrees with performance based rewards.

Amerequip provides design and engineering services, along with production and manufacturing, of custom equipment for international and national customers in a variety of industries. The firm operates four Wisconsin facilities, with more than 155 employees.


From “Tech Knowledge College puts kids in career fast lane” – Nearly 200 area middle school students got a glimpse into potential careers at Moraine Park Technical College’s Tech Knowledge College (TKC) held at the Fond du Lac campus.

During the three-day camp, Aug. 6-8, students enjoyed hands-on learning as they participated in course offerings from among almost 20 different sessions. There was something for everyone, and participants left TKC with new skills in a variety of areas, including movie making, yo-yo manufacturing, gourmet baking and hair techniques.

“The camp is great,” said Mohini Kumar of Fond du Lac.“I have learned a lot of new things and I love how the teachers let us use our imaginations and make whatever we want.”

Kumar’s projects had no shortage of imagination. During the Quick Breads course, a new session at TKC this year, she made scones filled with pineapple, cashews and cranberries. She also created a short film about a dance team with her group in the Movie Making session at MPTC.

Moraine Park has been hosting TKC for more than 20 years. Although sessions have changed to complement new and evolving technology, the purpose of the event has remained the same — to give students a chance to get a hands-on, interactive look at the skills and careers needed today and in the future.


From “Boot camps provide technical know how” — By Sarah McCraw - The success of a quickly growing internship program is boosting efforts to create a new generation of workers in the skilled trades industry.

John Crane Orion in Grafton, which manufactures hydrodynamic bearings used in high-speed rotating machinery, was the first company to partner with Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac to launch Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machining Boot Camps in fall 2012.

The program is designed to fast-track CNC machining education and help strengthen an industry few have entered recently, Kristy Reed, operations people development manager for John Crane Orion said. 

“In the future, more people are going to need more than a high school diploma but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree, so these types of certificate programs are filling the gap,” Reed said.

The boot camps are educating people about safe, clean and high-paying careers in skilled trades, breaking the stigma that manufacturing jobs are dirty and dangerous, Reed said.

The program provides students with 72 hours of internship experience that may lead to jobs at area manufacturing companies.

“I absolutely love this internship program, not only because it’s all accredited, but it really gives people three years of on-the-job training in just 16 weeks, so a huge learning curve is cut right there,” Reed said.

The boot camp is also setting a base standard of knowledge for CNC machinists, ending the reputation that they are niche positions within a single company, Reed said.

Businesses are certainly taking note of the level of performance from interns, Anne Lemke, economic and workforce development project manager at Moraine Park Technical College said.

“We’ve had really good feedback on the boot camp from the employers,” Lemke said. “It’s not just about the skilled labor of working the CNC machine. We need people who can work well, can listen well and have problem-solving skills.”

Lemke said John Crane Orion is one of three companies in Ozaukee County accepting interns for the 15-week program.

Students spend one day at an internship and four days in class doing lab work on equipment that is identical to that on shop floors.

“The program is 75% hands-on learning,” Reed said.

Terese Cordova of Jackson is finishing an internship through the boot camp at John Crane Orion, where she is learning how to make hydro-dynamic bearings and seals used in oil and gas-powered generators.

“Being here is really good for me because I can take what I’ve learned in the lab and see it applied in an actual manufacturing environment,” Cordova said.

Lemke said the biggest challenge has been finding people to participate in the program.

Students must pass a basic education, aptitude for learning, spacial recognition and mechanical aptitude tests to be accepted into the program.

“We have more employers waiting for an intern than we have students to fill the positions,” Lemke said.

Experience has shown that students who complete the programs are likely to secure a job, she said.

Of 28 people who completed the program last school year, 22 were hired by area companies, Lemke said.

“Students are so grateful for the opportunity,” she said. “A lot of people are unemployed because they’ve lost their job. This is giving them a great opportunity.

“We’ve also gotten a lot of compliments from the employers who have worked with us that our students are more skilled for the positions.”

Reed said interns at John Crane Orion handle a variety of jobs to get a full understanding of the production process.

Nick Schmidt of Grafton was hired by John Crane Orion in 2011 after he completed a similar boot camp through Waukesha County Technical College.

Schmidt said he was under-employed prior to going through the program.

“You get to learn the machining right away. You don’t have to learn all the little programs and stuff like that,” he said. “You learn how to actually make the part instead of trying to figure out what the machine is trying to do.”

A three-year, $705,000 grant from the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation provides funding for the program, Lemke said.

Students pay $500 for the boot camp, but $375 is reimbursed if they complete the course with a C grade or above and meet the 98% attendance rate.

“We tell students that CNC companies are constantly looking for help so the job security is there for you and you can take that wherever you want to go,” Lemke said.


From “MPTC offers business workshops” – Moraine Park Technical College will offer several free entrepreneurship workshops and webinars this fall, open to anyone interested in learning more about business basics.

The workshops will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, at the Fond du Lac campus, and 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, Aug. 29, at the Beaver Dam campus.

During the workshop, participants will learn what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, the anatomy of a business plan, the nuts and bolts of starting a business, types of business entities, regulations and requirements and available resources.

In addition to the entrepreneur workshop, Moraine Park offers classes for aspiring entrepreneurs and existing small business owners including exploring business ideas, conducting research for business, pre-business planning, opportunity analysis, writing a business plan, website design, money management, marketing and human resources.

More information is available at

From “Employers are picking off skilled students before they graduate” – One of the issues for Pete Rettler and the West Bend campus of Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC) is keeping students through the end of their education programs.

The market is so hot for the skills offered that the students are picked off by employers before they graduate. That’s true for the electricity program, and it’s also true for the CNC/Tool and Die Technologies program.

“Demand is so high (for CNC) that we have a hard time keeping them in the program,” Rettler said.

The CNC (computer numerical control) trainees are often hired at the end of the first year of a two-year program, so Rettler, administrator of the campus, has to try to convince the employers that it’s worthwhile to have the students complete the second year, even if they are working at the same time.

There has been a ton of debate and analysis about the “skills gap” in Wisconsin. The major conclusion of the most recent high-level analysis was that a shortage of high-skill jobs in the state’s most dynamic economic clusters is a major strategic concern. Skill shortages in those sectors, like advanced manufacturing, can hold back the growth the state’s economy.

The Be Bold 2 study conducted last year by Competitive Wisconsin and The Manpower Group showed that one in ten jobs in key economic sectors cannot currently be filled. The projection was based on previous trends for retirements and training. These sectors include critical skill areas such as accounting and finance, IT, mechanical engineering, nursing and related fields, and metal manufacturing. Within a decade, their report said, key industries that now account for over 50 percent of Wisconsin’s GDP will be looking for 60,000 more skilled workers than will be available.

By 2016, for example, metal manufacturing will be short 7,100 jobs and nursing 5,200. By 2021, the shortages grow to about 13,000 each.

Conversely, though, if those jobs, call them the tip of the economic spear, can be filled, Wisconsin should be able to move out of the stagnation of the last decade. Rettler would say that is exactly what the MPTC campuses are doing. For instance:

  • Its CNC classes are full, with the students coming right out of high school or being sent there by employers. Wages for graduates range from about $29,000 to $65,000 or more. Not bad for getting started. Not bad compared with what a lot of four-year graduates make out of college. More than 60 students are now enrolled.
  • It offers welding at three of its campuses and also runs a series of 15-week boot camps that include advanced welding and fabrication. Classes are eight hours daily. That should quiet critics who complain about the short supply of welders.
  • It offers a high-tech simulation room where the plastic patients give nursing students a chance to do hands-on work. One of the dummies simulates giving birth. The two-year West Bend nursing graduates have been scoring the highest in the state on licensing exams.
  • Beyond electricity, an addition on the West Bend facility is now home to a broad program in building trades and HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration). Equipment is up to date. Again, the college can’t keep up with the demand as the construction industry picks up steam in the recovery.

Rettler loves showing off the high-end technology at the West Bend campus, which now rivals the headquarters Fond du Lac campus for numbers of students. He knows that if he can get students to just take a tour and learn about the wages available in the market – right now – he has a good chance of landing them for his programs.

He is working on parents and guidance counselors to visit, too, because they often don’t understand the high level of demand and wages for the kinds of skills MPTC offers.

From “Apache partners with Moraine College to develop skilled trades” – Moraine Park Technical College in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, is helping to develop skilled worker assets in the area by offering Welding Boot Camps. These Boot Camps are entry-level welding courses with on-site welding practice and supervision at Apache. The Boot Camps are part of the manufacturing skills academies funded by the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation and the Department of Labor TAA CCCT Grant. The program helps build a skilled welder pool for area manufacturers, including Apache.

During the program, students are required to complete eight hours per week of welding practice which is conducted at Apache under supervision of Apache’s welding mentors and floor supervisor as well as the instructor. Apache was proud to host several students last month in the Boot Camp Welding Program.

The on-site hands-on welding at Apache helps the students experience a real manufacturing environment with access to different types of equipment, different shapes and thicknesses of stainless steel and TIG welding processes.

A large part of the tuition is funded by the grant, with a small investment from the student. The student investment is refunded if they are selected for an internship.

With an ASME rated welding team, Apache continually promotes training and education in welding, fabrication and over-all manufacturing.

Founded in 1975, Apache Stainless Equipment Corporation consists of five groups: Large Tanks, Portable Vessels, Contract Manufacturing, Carbon Steel and Mepaco. The Mepaco group manufactures food processing equipment. Apache is an employee-owned company and a subsidiary of Dexter Apache Holdings, Inc.

From “Moraine Park hosts Engineering for Girls camp” – Twelve girls from the Fond du Lac area proudly showed off their new engineering skills, learned at Moraine Park Technical College’s first Engineering for Girls camp, to parents and friends on Thursday, June 27, for their final presentation.

Elizabeth Hankins of West Bend (left) and Katherine Behlke of Fond du Lac (right) work together to program and test their robot before the final presentation to parents. Hankins and Behlke were part of Moraine Park’s Engineering for Girls four-day camp held the week of June 24

Elizabeth Hankins of West Bend (left) and Katherine Behlke of Fond du Lac (right) work together to program and test their robot before the final presentation to parents. Hankins and Behlke were part of Moraine Park’s Engineering for Girls four-day camp held the week of June 24.
The four-day camp introduced participants entering grades 6-8 to mechanical, robotic and program engineering by having them work in two-person teams to build and program their robots to complete a variety of challenges.
Craig Habeck, mechatronics instructor at Moraine Park, and three female engineers from John Deere, were there to help the girls troubleshoot issues with their robots and teach them more about engineering.

“The event has been very successful,” Habeck said. “The students participating are very interested in the subject. I am impressed with their motivation to complete the challenges.”

One of the participants, Claire Werch of Berlin, said the camp was the first time she had done any programming.

“I really like programming the robots,” Werch said. “It is really exciting when you get it right and see them do the things they’re supposed to do.”

Amy Nipp, performance and reliability engineering intern at John Deere, said this event is a great way for the girls to get exposure to the field and open up opportunities for their future.

“I went to a camp like this when I was younger, and it really encouraged me to pursue a degree in engineering,” Nipp said. “This is the perfect age group for the girls to get exposure to the different programs they can pursue.”

Moraine Park plans we plan to continue offering the Engineering for Girls camp in the future.  For more information, contact Kathy Hass, trades and manufacturing administrative assistant, at 920-924-6436 or

From “Steering their own course – Innovation drives Mercury Marine’s growth” – Sitting back and relaxing on the water this summer, chances are you’ll see the name “Mercury Marine” zip by.

Headquartered in Fond du Lac, Mercury Marine is the world’s largest developer and manufacturer of marine propulsion systems – the technical name for the motors powering the fishing boats, speed boats and pontoons seen on bodies around the world.

While Mercury Marine is now moving in the right direction, the company – Fond du Lac County’s largest employer with more than 2,000 workers – was admittedly hit hard by the recession. “What’s more discretionary spending than a boat?” says Mercury Marine President Mark Schwabero.

But today, as Mercury Marine engines power boats everywhere from Lake Winnebago and the Great Lakes to the Amazon River and expanding markets in China, its sales are increasing and the company is in expansion mode, building a $20 million testing facility visible to people driving by its massive manufacturing facility along U.S. 41. The new facility will allow the company to test a wider variety of engines, allowing it to develop new products more quickly.

“The expansion going on now is directly related from overall market growth,” Schwabero says. “In the U.S. market, we are seeing a recovery in some segments, such as engines for fishing boats and pontoons.”

With nearly $2 billion in sales, Mercury Marine is not only Fond du Lac’s largest manufacturer with more than 1 million square feet of space, it’s also a global manufacturing powerhouse.

“Their presence in our community is almost immeasurable,” says Joe Reitemeier, president of the Fond du Lac Association of Commerce. “Not only do they have a large employment base, there are several hundred companies that provide services or supplies to Mercury. They’re also active in the community and looking for ways to make a difference.”

Innovation drives growth

Although Mercury Marine plans to celebrate its 75th anniversary next year, there was a time not so long ago that some wondered if the engine maker would maintain its significant Wisconsin footprint.

In 2009 as sales fell, the company decided to consolidate its engine making in either Fond du Lac or Stillwater, Okla., to help save money and right the company’s financial ship. Stillwater leaders brought considerable incentives to the table. It wasn’t until the company’s union agreed to concessions and the city, county and state brought their own incentives to the table that Mercury Marine decided to stay in Fond du Lac. Mercury Marine’s financial package included $70 million from the state in refundable tax credits, a $50 million loan from the county paid for by a 0.5 percent sales tax, and $3 million in financial aid from the city.

At the time, the saga dominated state headlines, especially after union workers voted initially to reject any changes. There was a lot of intensive negotiation before the second vote and the company reversed its decision to consolidate operations in Oklahoma.

Schwabero admits it was a difficult time, “but just as when you have emotional decisions in your personal life, they bring you closer to those around you. The experience left us with closer relationships with the city, county and state. I can’t forget about our employees either. Their hard work has allowed us to get where we are today. They are really great and have a passion for what we’re all about.”

Today, that difficult time is past and the company is adding jobs.

In the past three years, Mercury Marine officials estimate the company has brought an additional 950 jobs to the community – many of them by bringing work from Stillwater to the Fond du Lac plants. Other hiring has come from company growth. Most of the positions created and filled are related to engineering and product development.

“Innovation is an essential component to our company’s growth,” says Schwabero, who has been Mercury’s president since 2008. “We have a lot of technical capabilities that set us apart. Innovation is a fundamental strength.”

In the past few years, Mercury Marine’s greatest success was with its 150-horsepower engine. “It’s been a home run for us. There’s been a lot of acceptance for it in the market,” Schwabero says. “The downturn allowed us to put some focus on it so it hit the market just at the right time as things were starting to come back.”

The new $20 million testing facility will be finished by the end of the year, but engineers and technicians will start some testing this summer, says David Foulkes, vice president of engineering. The facility complements existing on site testing facilities as well as outdoor sites in Oshkosh along the Fox River and in Florida.

“There are several testing stages you go through when developing a new product and this new facility will allow us to do a wider variety of testing, which will help us increase our product development,” he says.

Foulkes says the company needs to keep innovating and developing new products to stay ahead of its competition, namely Yamaha in Asia and Volvo in Europe. “We offer such a broad range of products, including diesel and gasoline engines as well as outboards and stern drives. We need to keep up in all of those areas,” he says. “Engines are also getting more powerful.”

Construction on the 16,000-square-foot facility began last year and includes two 18,000-gallon tanks where engines can be tested, says Dave Kahlow, who is heading up the engineering construction project. “They’re very imposing,” he says.
The building also includes special air exchange systems since the engines emit exhaust during the testing process.

Mercury Marine’s engineering and product development center has about 450 engineers on staff. With so many high-tech employees, Mercury Marine is active with other Fond du Lac County businesses seeking to attract and retain talent in the area. The company has robust co-op programs in place with engineering programs and is a strong supporter of programs at Moraine Park Technical College.

Dropping its focus a bit younger, Mercury Marine is also a sponsor of the Fond du Lac STEM Academy, which currently serves students in grades 3 to 5 this year, but will expand next fall to grades 3 to 8. The students study a full range of subjects, but there’s an extra focus on science and technology. In addition, students do a lot of hands-on, project-based assignments.

Mercury Marine provides the school with technical expertise and technological resources as well as having employees serve as role models, who can talk about real-world science applications of what they’re learning in school.

“We employ a lot of engineers and people with technical expertise, so it’s great we can share some of that knowledge with the community,” Schwabero says.

Students also have access to some of the company’s technical equipment. For example, they were able to use an expensive electron microscope that few schools can afford.

“We really helped the local school district bring that program to reality,” Schwabero says. “We have such a significant product development presence here and anything we can do to help students realize the career opportunities related to the sciences, the better.”

Before the recession hit and Mercury Marine was posting big sales numbers, Schwabero says it was common to “just write a check, but now it’s not as easy to do that. Instead, we’ve become more personally involved with various community organizations and programs through our employees’ time and talent. Today, we have a much more personal relationship with the community.”

That’s something that Reitemeier from the Association of Commerce echoes. “They have senior leader executives involved and active in multiple organizations. They are in there and getting involved with an organization, whether it’s the United Way or the local Red Cross, he says.

Schwabero says that one of the company’s pillars of success outlined in its sustainability report is its relationship with the community. Twenty-five percent of the company’s employees in Fond du Lac volunteer 20 hours or more each year with a local organization, whether it’s a business organization, a non-profit like the United Way or local schools.

Global scale, local impact

Mercury Marine, a division of Illinois-based Brunswick Corp., is truly a global company. With 43 percent of its sales coming from outside of the United States, Schwabero jokes he puts on too many miles to count each year visiting the company’s facilities around the world as well as meeting with salespeople and distributors.

The company is the world’s largest developer and manufacturer of marine propulsion systems for both commercial and residential activities. While Mercury’s main business in the United States is related to engines built for recreational boats, in other places the engines are more focused on the commercial sector, such as engines for water taxis.

While Mercury Marine’s overall market share in Asia is small compared to other regions, that segment is growing, Schwabero says. With people and plants around the world, the company can react more quickly to what’s happening in local markets, he adds. “Those locations help us better meet the needs of our customers.”

In addition to the manufacturing facilities in Fond du Lac, there are facilities in St. Cloud, Fla.; Juarez, Mexico; Belgium; and China. The company has a joint venture in Komagane, Japan.

At all of its locations around the world, sustainability remains a core value – not only being a responsible consumer of energy and caring for the environment, but also quality of life and product stewardship initiatives.

“Much of our marine-engine business is reliant on clean water and a healthy environment,” Schwabero says. “Mercury Marine has been and will remain a leader in the development of marine technologies that minimize the effects on the environment. Sustainable growth is our mission.”

And with Mercury engines powering boats around the globe, it’s something the company is committed to.

“We are cautiously optimistic about Mercury Marine’s future growth,” Schwabero says. “For so many people, being on the water – whether it’s fishing or other recreational activities – is a part of their life and you want to get out there and enjoy it, no matter what.”


A boat engine is a boat engine, right? Wrong. Just as there are multiple engine types for vehicles, the same goes for marine vessels. The two main categories are outboards and stern drives – both of which are made by Mercury Marine.

Outboard engines are the most common way to power small watercraft vessels such as pontoon boats and fishing boats. Outboard engines consist of a self-contained unit that includes the engine, gear box and propeller and is affixed to the outside of the vessel.

Stern drives consist of an engine and drive connected to one another through the transom, or the flat area at the back of a boat. Stern drives are designed so that the engine is inside and enclosed by the boat, while the propulsion system (out drive) is outside of the boat and in the water.

Mercury designs and manufactures engines that run on gas and diesel. The engines also vary in speed from 2 horsepower to 300 horsepower.




From “MPTC hosts engineering camp for girls” – Several middle school girls showed off their new engineering skills to parents and friends on Thursday.

It was the final presentation for participants in the inaugural Moraine Park Technical College Engineering for Girls camp. The four-day program introduced participants entering Grades 6-8 to mechanical, robotic and program engineering.

Students worked in two-person teams to build and program their robots to complete a variety of challenges.

MPTC mechatronics instructor Craig Habeck and three female engineers from John Deere helped the girls troubleshoot issues with their robots and taught them more about engineering.

“The event has been very successful,” Habeck said. “The students participating are very interested in the subject. I am impressed with their motivation to complete the challenges.”

Claire Werch of Berlin said the camp was the first time she had done any programming.

“I really like programming the robots,” she said. “It’s exciting when you get it right and see them do the things they’re supposed to do.”

Amy Nipp, a performance and reliability engineering intern at John Deere, said the event was a great way for the girls to be exposed to the field and open up opportunities for their future.

“I went to a camp like this when I was younger and it really encouraged me to pursue a degree in engineering,” Nipp said. “This is the perfect age group for the girls to get exposure to the different programs they can pursue.”

Moraine Park plans plans to offer the Engineering for Girls camp in the future.

For more information, contact Kathy Hass, trades and manufacturing administrative assistant, at (920) 924-6436 or at


From “MPTC holds GED/HSED graduation ceremony” – Cheers, tears, hugs and applause were all part of Moraine Park Technical College’s GED/HSED June 13 graduation ceremony.

A total of 56 students earned General Education Development (GED) and High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) certificates. Students had to pass five standardized tests in math, reading, writing, social studies and science to earn their GED/HSED.

More than 300 students completed the program at Moraine Park this year.

Angela Long of Hartford, one of two student speakers, delivered a speech sharing her struggle to earn her GED after having a child at age 15.

“I have been waiting for this for a long time,” Long said. “This is a huge achievement for me and it shows that it is so important to follow your dreams and never give up.”

Long also shared that her instructors at Moraine Park, especially Jessica Zappia, had a huge impact on her success.

“There were many times I wanted to give up, especially on math, but one amazing teacher, Jessica Zappia, pushed me to keep going,” Long said.

Angel Cortes of Fond du Lac provided encouraging advice to all graduates. She completed her GED in 2011 and is a May 2013 graduate of the cosmetology program at Moraine Park.

“My journey began after getting my GED. At the end of the tunnel I felt very proud and strong,” Cortes said.

Before presenting their certificates, Sheila Ruhland, president of Moraine Park, commended students for their hard work in completing the program.

“Lifelong education will be part of your journey,” Ruhland said. “Your journey this evening hasn’t ended — it is just the beginning.”

Two students, Christina Bogue of North Fond du Lac and Lisa Gurley of Beaver Dam, were presented with the Moraine Park Foundation Basic Education scholarship, a $500 scholarship for students pursuing further education at MPTC. The annual Friend of Basic Education Award was also presented to Lt. David Weske with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department for his support of education in the Washington County Jail. This is the 13th year this award has been presented.


From “Opinion: A partnership to fill jobs” – An article June 9 by the Journal Sentinel’s John Schmid provided an overview of the debate among researchers about the existence and extent of a skills gap in Wisconsin (“Program’s new approach to skills gap? Talk to employers”). However, the debate misses the immediate need to focus on a tangible solution. With area manufacturers working together with technical schools, we have an opportunity to begin that process.

We are in a manufacturing-rich region poised for growth. That growth is being squeezed by an increasing demand for advanced skills and an impending demographic shift that will mean too few workers to fill the void left by retirees. Time is of the essence to focus on action. Our ability to train, attract and retain talent to career pathways in manufacturing is simply critical to this region.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s Manufacturing Careers Partnership is a collaborative effort in the truest sense of the word. We share a common mission: to give people the skills they need to fill jobs and create a pipeline of talent now and in the future. The only way we can accomplish our mission is to have educational institutions, workforce development agencies and employers at the same table, talking — in detail — about their needs. And that’s exactly what we are doing.

Our first project, Welding 101, is designed to create a baseline of common skill requirements for entry-level welders among a significant number of employers and to improve manufacturers’ ability to attract and retain talent. To date, more than 50 companies have participated in a survey that asks, in great detail, what employers need from their welders on day one. As more employers complete the survey, we can move with confidence toward aligning course competencies across the region’s technical colleges.

We are pleased to be working in alignment with our manufacturers and our technical colleges: Gateway, Milwaukee Area, Moraine Park and Waukesha County, as well as the Wisconsin State Technical College System on this project. Together, we can give an individual employee the skills to succeed in a welding position and give employers a starting point for building a manufacturing career pathway.

Getting clear on what we, as technical colleges can teach, and we as employers, can then train, lays out a progressive and practical path to solving one of our region’s most pressing needs. We recognize that this project is a starting point. Workforce challenges are complex and the issues impacting the entire talent pipeline will not be solved with a single approach. But much like an entry-level position, we need to tackle Welding 101 and gain some experience and tangible success.

How you can help: if you are an employer of welders, please take the Welding 101 survey at

This op-ed was signed by Bryan Albrecht, president, Gateway Technical College; Dave Biddle, manager of technical services, Joy Global (MCP co-chair); Michael Burke, president, Milwaukee Area Technical College; Shelley Jurewicz, vice-president for economic development, MMAC/Milwaukee 7; David Mitchell, president, Monarch (MCP co-chair); Barbara Prindiville, president, Waukesha County Technical College; and Sheila Ruhland, president, Moraine Park Technical College.

From “Madison College finalists to visit Portage” — By Jen McCoy - The next president of Madison College will be one of three finalists who will visit the campuses next week.

After 33 applicants from around the nation, the finalists are: Stephen M. Curtis, president of Community College of Philadelphia; Jack E. Daniels, president of Los Angeles Southwest College; and Ann Valentine, chancellor of the Wabash Valley Region of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana.

“They’re all highly accomplished in a number of areas, and I think it was reflective of Madison College with its national presence reflected in our pool of candidates. We’re very pleased,” said Jon Bales, District Board trustee.

Public forums have been scheduled for each of the MATC regional campuses and at its Truax campus in Madison. For Portage, the open meet-and-greet will be from 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ann Valentine

Valentine will be at the Portage campus on Monday.

“We’re hoping for and open to feedback directly from the public. There will be a chance for questions and answers, people can see what motivates them, how they interact,” Bales said.

Before joining Wabash Valley in 2011, Valentine served for six years as president of Minnesota State Community and Technical College. She has also served as vice president and provost at Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin for five years; as chief academic officer at Independence Community College in Kansas; and dean for general education at Moraine Park Technical College in Wisconsin. She coordinated the Interdisciplinary Health Professions Education Program in the Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Iowa while also developing and delivering curriculum for the program, according to a news release.

Jack E. Daniels

On Tuesday, Daniels will meet the public in Portage.

Prior to Daniels position as president of Los Angeles Southwest College in July 2006, he served for three years as president at Lincoln Land Community College.

Daniels served for five years as president of Central College, one of five community colleges within the Houston Community College System. He also served as a tenured psychology faculty member at Laney College and has held several administrative roles at other community colleges and a baccalaureate/graduate granting institution, according to the release.

Stephen M. Curtis

Curtis will be at the Portage campus on Wednesday.

In 1999, Curtis was named the fifth president of Community College of Philadelphia. He previously served as president of Hudson Valley Community College/SUNY and, in The City University of New York, as acting president of Queens College, acting president of Borough of Manhattan Community College, and as dean of academic affairs at the same institution, according to the release.

Bales said he hopes to have a new president for MATC chosen by the end of next week and installed this summer.

There will be high expectations for the new president Bales said.

“One is to maintain a culture of innovation and really help us with that the commitment the public has given us with the new facilities by turning them into meaningful programs for public, steer that well; Secondly, sustain an environment open to change, the rate of the change of applied fields is pretty dramatic, keep that momentum, and critical to keep community involvement. We want somebody who’s very engaging; and finally somebody who can really capitalize on our biggest asset, which is the faculty and staff,” he said.

Residents are encouraged to provide feedback by contacting Bales at 235-8622.

From “Meeting current, future workforce needs takes priority” – Educational and industry leaders are taking a proactive approach to ensure businesses have the skilled workers they need today and in the future.

From partnerships between technical colleges, K-12 education and business groups to efforts by private firms to groom employees for future leadership roles, numerous efforts are underway to keep workers’ skills current and ensure a steady stream of ready-to-employ people are available tomorrow.

Miller Electric Mfg. Co. in Appleton and its parent, Illinois Tool Works, have been internally discussing workforce needs for years but stepped up efforts the past two years, said Craig Treichel, group human resources manager for Miller.

“It wasn’t something that was just brought up in a memo one day and we started looking at it,” Treichel said.

It involved a cultural change within the company, which makes welding equipment, to get employees and leadership to begin thinking about the future, he said.

One area Miller has focused on is leadership development. Current employees, who are seen by management with leadership potential, are provided opportunities to work for different parts of the business and in different jobs at different locations.

The idea is to give those people exposure to as many aspects of the business as possible to give them an understanding of the entire operation, Treichel said.

“We’re trying to develop a well-thought-out plan to expose our people to different things,” he said. “Mobility also is an important quality as we become more global as a company.”

Grasroots development

The nation is getting older and so are its workers.

The Census Bureau said in 2006 that 14.5 percent of the nation’s labor force consisted of people 65 and older. The bureau projected at that time the number could reach 19.7 percent by 2014.

The Government Accountability Office projects that by 2015, about one-fifth of the nation’s workforce would be made up of people 55 and older.

Higher costs for healthcare, longer life spans and lack of retirement savings are some of reasons cited by the government why people are working longer.

But eventually people do stop working and in some instances take decades of industry knowledge with them.

At Kiel-based Amerequip Corp., a maker of custom equipment for the lawn, landscape, agricultural and construction industries, the company has established partnerships with Fox Valley high schools and regional technical colleges to develop training programs to keep its workers up to date and to introduce teens to manufacturing.

Mike VanderZanden, CEO at Amerequip, said its boot camp, which partners with Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac, is a 16-week program. It’s a combination of classroom work and on site training, which gives students real-world experience and provides opportunities for employees to share their knowledge.

“(The students) are getting paid and getting credits at the same time,” he said. “They’re also getting real experience in a profession they want to get into.”

Partnerships between business and educators are essential to ensure students are learning skills that meet employers’ needs, said David Eckmann, economic development director for the Marathon County Economic Development Corp.

He pointed to Northcentral Technical College in Wausau’s centers for excellence, which addresses workforce issues in advanced manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture and wood technology.

“The centers do more to train the incumbent workforce to keep their skills current,” Eckmann said.

Another Marathon County initiative, “The Heavy Metal Bus Tour,” targets high school students who may be interested in manufacturing careers.

It’s not just a field trip for students to visit businesses, Eckmann said.

“For the companies who participate, they spend time with the students, explain to them the skills needed for specific jobs and what the potential salary could be,” he said. “It gives manufacturers the opportunity to show students what they are about.”

The program has had participants from 10 school districts in the Marathon County area since it launched about two years ago, Eckmann said.

Across the board needs

Chris Matheny, vice president for instructional services at Fox Valley Technical College in Grand Chute, said industries including health care and advanced manufacturing, are in a constant cycle of shortages and hiring booms.

About five years ago more conversation emerged about need for skilled workers and challenges to fill available positions, Matheny said.

“Even during the recession, students from some of our programs still were seeing high rates of placement (after graduation) in the 80 to 90 percent range,” Matheny said.

On FVTC’s website,, the college details program openings for its upcoming fall and spring terms, which have strong employment outlook. In the college’s latest annual graduate employment research report, it shows 89 percent of its graduates find jobs within six months of graduating.

Some of FVTCs high placement programs include automotive and diesel technology, electrical technology, engineering electronics design and manufacturing, truck driving and emergency medical technician.

Matheny said programs offered at the college are based on input from advisory panels, which include business and community leaders. These relationships are important to keep curriculums current and ensure what students are learning meets employers needs, he said.

“Employers come to us say they need skilled workers and students come to us saying they want to know where the jobs are so they can get to work quickly after they graduate,” he said. “It’s been a good way for us to connect (our graduates) with high-demand careers.”


From “Skilled Trades Educators & Employers: We Need to be Better Partners” – At a workforce development meeting last week, manufacturing educators and employers from across the Midwest and elsewhere in the U.S. agreed that much greater collaboration between the private sector and teaching institutions is needed to fix the U.S. industrial labor skills gap.

About 35 community college and technical school educators and human resource managers of manufacturing companies, along with workforce development experts, met at the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International’s (FMA) T.E.A.M. Summit in Anoka, Minn., to tackle the multifaceted and complex manufacturing talent crisis. They concluded that foundational changes must be made in curriculum education in college and high schools, certification and credentialing programs, and internships and apprenticeships.

Moreover, the group discussed different ways to change negative public perceptions about manufacturing, stimulate younger generations into entering the sector, and create greater employee engagement, development, and retention at manufacturing businesses. But the biggest challenge, both teachers and employers acknowledged, is overcoming the disconnect that currently exists between the educational system and the private sector in preparing students with the skills they require to become effective workers.

Despite coming from different areas around the country, skilled trades instructors and program administrators lamented a similar lack of engagement by manufacturing businesses in their student development efforts. Years of under-coordination with employers have resulted in numerous situations where the graduates and would-be employees they produce do not match up with job competencies.

Larry Clark, who teaches welding and metal fabrication at Moraine Park Technical College, in Fond du Lac, Wis., said that while several local manufacturers are members of the school’s manufacturing program advisory committee, they meet with faculty just twice per year. “We need an engaged faculty working with employers,” he said.

Today’s shop floor skills in advanced manufacturing facilities can be highly specialized, but employers have not been defining them specifically enough to educators, according to Dave Stotelmyre, machine shop instructor at Kirkwood Community College, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That problem is magnified because of the rapid pace of manufacturing technology advances. He said the school has had difficulties placing the right candidates into area manufacturers, as a result.

“Companies need to have some forethought and identify what their needs are,” Stotelmyre said. “When the [employees] are not what they expected, now the specifics start flowing out.” He said companies “need to be involved right up front” with schools, working together as partners in developing the right manufacturing employees.

“Manufacturers, in general, don’t think that educating their future workforce is their job,” said Pat Lee of the FMA.

Educators Larry Clark (left), of Moraine Park Technical College in Fond Du Lac, Wisc., talks shop with Dennis Ringgenberg (middle) and Dave Stotelmyre of Kirkwood Community College, of Cedar Rapids, Ia.

Larry Clark (left), of Moraine Park Technical College in Fond Du Lac, Wis., talks shop with Dennis Ringgenberg (middle) and Dave Stotelmyre (right), both from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Credit: William Ng

“This problem has been around for a long time,” said John Calver, director of the Advanced Manufacturing Excellence Center at Thomas Nelson Community College, in Hampton, Va. “It was ignored because their immediate needs were still being met – until now.”

He equated talent development to a supply chain whose design, long-range planning, and execution require private-sector commitment. “Employers don’t see educators in the supply-chain light,” said Calver, who added that when businesses look to schools for people, they “expect to have it tomorrow.” He described those expectations as being “unrealistic.”

Clark of Moraine Park Technical College said that when manufacturers call the school, “they’re desperate.”

Manufacturers, likewise, have struggled with alignment issues with education institutions. In southwest Louisiana, Begneaud Manufacturing Inc., a precision sheet metal fabrication shop based in Lafayette, has had trouble finding workers skilled in TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding due partly to local schools teaching only stick (arc) welding. “There are seven welding programs and five machining programs in my area, but no TIG welding,” said Andree Begneaud, employee relations director and co-owner of the 55-employee company, who spoke on a panel at the FMA T.E.A.M. Summit.

The manufacturer therefore began internships that offer locally enrolled welding students opportunities to add TIG welding to their skill sets. “We are doing the TIG welding component of local education programs, where students spend three days a week at Begneaud,” she said. Yet in Louisiana, internships are not considered a part of the state’s educational system, but, still, they must be approved and sanctioned before they can be implemented.

Wilson Tool International, headquartered in White Bear Lake, Minn., is another business that had difficulties with schools. Its internship programs are aimed at nurturing high school students to become CNC machinists, as well as mechanical designers and mechanical maintenance operators. “We were looking to partner with high schools, but it was difficult,” said Amanda Kehoe, director of human resources at the company, which makes tooling systems for punch presses and press brakes, and punch and die components for sheet metal stamping equipment. “I couldn’t get [any school official] to talk to me. And schools didn’t allow kids out of their buildings.”

“Make friends with instructors, and bring schools to your company,” Laura Elsner, workforce development manager for DeWys Manufacturing, a machine shop and metal fabricator based in Marne, Mich., advised other manufacturers during a presentation at the FMA event. “You have to build the relationship, and work with educators, not against them. Get to know the right people at schools.”

Although DeWys initially began a 12-week educational curriculum and training course that was just internal for its own manufacturing operations, the 140-person company has struck partnerships with both area post-secondary educational institutions and high schools. It is now collaborating with Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University, and Grand Rapids Community College in the areas of weld engineering, manufacturing engineering, and machining. The company is also involved in Coopersville High School’s Manufacturing Engineering Partnership Program, and with Kenowa Hills High School on conducting hands-on manufacturing camps for teenagers.

That proactive approach ensures that manufacturing employers have a talent pipeline that possesses the particular skills they need, said Gabrielle Caputo, Americas product manager for the manufacturing and logistics markets for global staffing company Kelly Services, headquartered in Troy, Mich. A keynote speaker at the FMA meeting, Caputo, who has 15 years of experience in workforce development and talent acquisition, said to the summit’s participants, “Look at your internal talent and develop your own talent supply chain.”

The manufacturing labor pool is aging. Before 2018, 78.5 million baby boomers will have left the workforce, Caputo said, citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. At Wilson Tool, the average employee age is 45. “We have a very senior workforce,” Kehoe said. There is a sense of urgency now to make sure huge chunks of the labor pool are refilled. And that will drive greater cooperation between educators and employers, they expect.

“We have to get better at matching faculty teaching to real-world employer needs,” said Katherine Whelchel, a project manager for Bio-Link, a National Advanced Technological Education Center, part of the National Science Foundation.

That sentiment was echoed by Matthew Salo, biomedical market development manager and program advisor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, in Coon Rapids, Minn., who said private-public partnerships must have a sense of “matching employer-needed outcomes with what the schools are capable of delivering.”

Jeff Stapel, human resources manager at Schickel Corp., a metal fabricator and machine shop in Bridgewater, Va., noted, “I want to focus on doing more for my people, exploring the new welding program at my local community college.” He added, “I appreciate having new contacts who can help me.”

“I know I need to get a good relationship going with my local technical college,” said Dan Bushman, human resources and safety manager for Northern Metal Fab Inc., in Baldwin, Wis. “I need to overcome the awkward formality dance we’re doing, and I know I need to take responsibility for making this happen.”

From “Mike Staral is named MPTC 2013 Distinguished Alumnus” – Mike Staral of West Bend has been named Moraine Park Technical College’s 2013 Distinguished Alumnus.

A 1978 graduate of Moraine Park’s Tool and Die Technologies Apprenticeship program, Staral serves as vice president at Willer Tool Corp., in Jackson.

A total of 65 percent of Willer Tool Corp.’s 60 employees are Moraine Park graduates.

“I’m Moraine Park’s biggest fan,” said Staral, who has three family members who are graduates of Wisconsin technical colleges.

He believes MPTC graduates are ready for immediate employment.

“They receive hands-on experience, learn to deal with others outside the classroom and are well prepared for the job field,” Staral said.

For 35 years Staral has helped grow Willer Tool Corp. from the six-person operation he originally joined to one of 60.

“We have three to six Moraine Park graduates going through the apprenticeship program,” Staral observed. “The industry is really strong. Right now I could place 20 graduates in the tool and die field within Washington County.”

Staral is also a member of the Moraine Park CNC/Tool and Die Technologies Advisory Committee and will become one of two new members on Moraine Park’s District Board in July.

As a CNC/Tool and Die Technologies Advisory Committee member, Staral and other industry experts, work with Moraine Park instructors to ensure students learn the industry’s most critical skills and use the latest technologies. Similarly, as a Moraine Park District Board member Staral works to make decisions about the budget and new program implementation.

“Manufacturing is big in Wisconsin, so we have to continue investment in programs, machines and tools,” he said.

A lifelong West Bend resident, Staral is president of Friends of West Bend Parks and serves on the West Bend Baseball Association Board of Directors and the West Bend Park and Recreation Commission.


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