From thomasnet.com: “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.
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.”
April 23, 2013
From reliableplant.com: “Welding Boot Camp creates skilled workers” – There’s a boot camp taking place in Fond du Lac, Wis. – one that doesn’t require boot shining, marching and bivouacs, though you do have to wear a helmet and other gear and follow instructions.
This particular group of “recruits” is firing welding torches. Along with Brenner Tank LLC of Fond du Lac, Moraine Park Technical College developed a Welding Boot Camp to train individuals for entry-level work in the welding profession. The first eight-week camp began June 18 and ran through August 15; a second seven-week round will start in September. All participants earn four college credits that articulate into Moraine Park’s welding program.
“Brenner Tank formed the partnership with Moraine Park in an effort to maintain our competitive edge,” said Dawn Marie Polakoski, PHR, Brenner Tank’s human resources manager. “ Moraine Park’s custom training program is providing the skilled welders we need to support our continued growth. As a local manufacturer, we are very pleased with the creation of the Welding Boot Camp.”
While built in conjunction with Brenner Tank, the program was designed with the broader purpose of helping manufacturers address a serious shortage of skilled welders and is open to any manufacturing employer who may have similar workforce development needs. The program works to connect energetic, dedicated individuals with a sincere interest in a welding career with employers by helping those individuals develop the foundational skills needed to be successful. Ten candidates were selected by Brenner Tank for the first boot camp. Their ages varied but their passion for welding is the same.
Sara Buechel, 18, of New Holstein, Wis., applied because she enjoys welding and wanted to get further education in the profession. Joel Grier of Fond du Lac, also 18, also wanted to learn more about welding and be able to get a good job. Daniel O’Connor, 36, of Fond du Lac sees the Welding Boot Camp as an opportunity to better himself and have a shot at a new career move. And, the camp is a chance to expand job opportunities at Brenner for Forrest Brunet, 42, of North Fond du Lac.
Brenner Tank interns are paid to train three days per week at the welding lab on Moraine Park’s Fond du Lac campus under the instruction of adjunct faculty member Jonathan Thill. For the remaining two days of the week, they work at Brenner, where they apply the skills they learn in the classroom. Tuition is employer-paid. The Brenner Tank interns who successfully complete the program are given priority consideration for a permanent position with Brenner.
“We’re very excited to be partnering with Brenner Tank,” said Kathy Schlieve, Moraine Park economic and workforce development sales representative. “They have been instrumental in helping Moraine Park develop this program and are actively working with area high schools to educate students about career opportunities in manufacturing. Welding interns who successfully complete the boot camp are filling open or new positions and are earning a better wage. Moraine Park’s goal is to provide the type of rapid response that companies need to develop and maintain a competitive advantage and grow their business, and the Welding Boot Camp delivers on that goal.”
Polakoski concurs, “This program is a win-win that meets our needs as an employer but also helps the individuals being trained to begin earning a good wage while developing lifelong career skills that they can build on for future career advancement.”
With additional training, the opportunities that exist for these individuals abound.
“Manufacturing has become very high-tech and offers a variety of career opportunities,” said Marcia Arndt, Moraine Park dean of manufacturing technology. “The future workforce has to be technologically savvy to handle the competitive climate of the global market. In addition to technical skills, employers are looking for people who can problem-solve, work in teams and adapt to change quickly. Moraine Park’s manufacturing program helps individuals develop these skills for future success.”
For more information about upcoming welding boot camps in Fond du Lac, call Moraine Park at 920-924-3449 or e-mail email@example.com.
April 19, 2013
From fox11online.com: “Students compete in Tech Challenge” – GREEN BAY – More than 600 students from 26 area high schools showed off their talent Thursday at the annual Tech Challenge at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.
Categories included architectural design, woodworking and welding. Students made the entries at school, and brought them to NWTC to be judged.
Organizers say the competition fits well with the programs offered at the technical college.
“It’s another way for us to promote trades, promote awareness, and to promote those careers where we’ve got demand,” said Todd Kiel, NWTC apprenticeship manager.
Prizes included scholarships to NWTC for winning team members.
April 11, 2013
From lacrossetribune.com: “Welding institute launching bigger lab” – A local initiative to train skilled welders has received monetary boosts and will have a bigger lab and more participants when its first regular session begins next month.
The Welding Skills Institute is using a combined $80,000 it received from Jackson County and the Black River Falls School District to expand its BRF High School-based lab and, in turn, welcome more participants.
The initiative, started last year in an effort to fill a growing local need for skilled welders, will begin its first regular session May 13 with nearly double the number of participants it had in each of its two pilot sessions.
“I’m super excited about it,” said BRF High School Principal Tom Chambers, who helped launch the institute. “I think it’s a great example of collaboration between the school, county, businesses and the community.
“The project is, by far, the biggest collaborative project I’ve worked on.”
The effort to launch the Welding Skills Institute began when Nelson Global Products welding engineer Paul Schulz approached Chambers to use high school welding lab space to test new company applicants.
That push showed there weren’t many qualified applicants for welding jobs in the area, and soon representatives from local businesses, Western Technical College, Jackson County Treatment Court and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections began collaborating to launch the institute to fill the local need.
The institute trains participants in basic wire feed welding skills through welding, blueprint reading and math curriculum that are necessary for jobs at manufacturing companies like Nelson Global Products and D&S Manufacturing.
“I think it’s an excellent start. It’s a real short-term, high-intensity program that hopefully someday will expand into longer terms and more technical topics,” said Schulz, who will accept a 2013 Business Friends of Education award from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for Nelson’s work on the institute.
“I think we’re off to a really excellent start.”
The Welding Skills Institute received $50,000 in Ho-Chunk Nation funds through Jackson County last fall and $30,000 from the BRF School District to allow it to update the lab. Nelson and D&S Manufacturing also have donated materials and equipment throughout the program’s tenure.
Work on the BRF High School technical education classrooms spurred by the monetary contributions has allowed the institute to expand from seven welding booths to 13, which are about one-third bigger than their original size.
That will allow more students to enroll in the first regular 10-week session next month, including five spots for high school students interested in higher-level welding, three spots for Ho-Chunk Nation participants and the rest for Jackson County Treatment Court participants and placements through the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
Officials hope to hold four 10-week sessions a year now that the expansion is taking place and the pilot period is complete. They are pursuing a grant to create a mobile classroom equipped for computerized numerical control training, a skill in demand and a natural extension of basic welding, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Lister said.
They also hope the institute will remain a presence in the community for the indefinite future.
“I’ve been impressed with the collaborative effort by Western Technical College, (the Department of Corrections), principal Tom Chambers at Black River Falls High School, as well as the willingness of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors and the Black River Falls School Board to fund substantial expansions and improvements of the welding institute,” said Lister, who also assisted in the program’s launch.
Chambers said community collaboration has been an integral part of the program and commended the work of Nelson, D&S and other local entities.
He said it’s appropriate Nelson was recognized through the Department of Public Instruction award.
“Nelson has been very supportive of the whole process,” Chambers said. “They’ve been good partners to work with.”
April 10, 2013
From jsonline.com: “Few employers show up to recruit MATC students” – Employers who have said there’s a shortage of welders in Wisconsin – and that it’s serious enough to threaten their business prospects – didn’t turn out in large numbers Tuesday for a Milwaukee Area Technical College job fair that could have introduced them to 50 job candidates.
Eight companies attended the event at the college’s campus in Oak Creek, which was intended to help recent and upcoming welding program graduates find employment.
For years, companies have lamented a lack of welders, especially for work that requires a high level of skill and knowledge. In some cases, they’ve said, the shortage has created production bottlenecks at their manufacturing plants.
MATC has ramped up its welding programs to help address the need, and college officials said they expected more businesses to be at the job fair.
“I think there is some fair criticism” for employers who complain about a shortage but didn’t show up for the fair, said David Dull, president and CEO of Allis-Roller LLC, a metal fabricator in Franklin that was at the event.
“It’s easy to complain,” said Dull, who is also a MATC board member.
Some companies have started welding classes in their factories, and some have said MATC’s programs haven’t met their needs for highly specialized and demanding jobs.
“I would say it’s challenging to find skilled help,” Dull said, adding that some companies might be turned off by a job fair that doesn’t have experienced candidates for them.
Area business leaders have said the welder shortage is going to get worse as thousands of older workers retire and there aren’t enough young people willing to take their place.
“Welding is more than just grabbing a stick and going to work. There’s a lot of science and knowledge involved,” said Mike Kuehnl, manager of student employment services at MATC.
“I was hoping for more employers” at the job fair, Kuehnl said. “I can’t speak to the reasons why more didn’t show up. Maybe they don’t need people right now, and it’s quite possible we might be catching up a little bit with the demand.”
Welding has been a sensitive subject at the technical college.
A labor union, for instance, has asked the college to stop training nonunion employees who could step in as replacement workers at Caterpillar Inc.’s South Milwaukee plant in the event of a strike.
Labor officials also have questioned whether there is a welder shortage.
“If there is one, we shouldn’t have to be pulling teeth to get companies at a job fair,” said Michael Rosen, faculty union president at MATC and economics instructor at the college.
“I think some employers want to keep flooding the market with job candidates so they can keep wages down,” Rosen said. “In a market where companies are looking for welders, the only way to attract them is to pay a higher wage.”
Some research, though, suggests these shortages are real and can be expected to worsen.
Wisconsin will have fewer than half the metal manufacturing professionals it needs by 2021, according to a recent report from ManpowerGroup. Demand for these skilled tradesmen will grow by nearly 50%, but the supply will decrease about 12% as the industry gets slapped by a wave of retirements, the report said.
The U.S. Department of Labor projects that two-thirds of the fastest-growing occupations from 2012 to 2018 will be in apprentice-based fields. More apprenticeships could help fill some of the skills gap. But many young adults, especially, don’t realize they could earn a good living in a manufacturing career, Dull said.
“More than half of the jobs in the state don’t require a four-year degree, but nearly 100% of the students are being told to go to college. To me, that’s the biggest disconnect,” Dull said.
But Marc Levine, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor of history, economic development and urban studies, says the skills gap is a myth.
“All of the data suggests that companies that have been crying the loudest about a shortage of skilled workers have exaggerated the claims,” said Levine, who last month published a research update titled “The Myth of the Skills Gap in Wisconsin.”
There are about 2,000 unemployed welders in Wisconsin and about 500 job openings here a year for them, according to Levine.
In Wisconsin and surrounding states, there are about 17,000 unemployed welders, he said.
Levine says the only welder shortage he’s aware of is in places like North Dakota and Wyoming, where a boom in the oil and gas industry has resulted in a widespread lack of skilled help.
“The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If there really were a shortage of welders here, you would expect employers to be lining up for them at the MATC job fair,” Levine said.
March 15, 2013
From wdio.com: “Empowering high school girls with welding” – While the students of Wisconsin’s Indianhead Technical College are on Spring Break, some high school girls are taking over their welding shop.
The high school students are from Denfeld High and are in the “Girls Restorative Program,” which is ultimately part of “Men as Peacekeepers.” The after-school program is about building resiliency and fostering community among young women.
As part of their program, the girls are learning the basics of welding at WITC in Superior. Holding a torch to steel isn’t something any of the girls thought they’d ever do.
“At first I didn’t want to do it because I thought it was too boyish,” said Donisha, a sophomore at Denfeld High.
But after learning the basics, the girls said they loved the process of getting their hands dirty.
“We’re strong!” said Cynthia, also a sophomore at Denfeld High.
The “Girls Restorative Program” aims to empower young women. Elena Bantle, the program’s coordinator, said working with fire and cutting apart steel is the ultimate form of female empowerment.
Bantle added that welding opens the high school girls’ eyes to a field many people consider a male-dominated skill.
“In a tangible way, you can make a lot of money welding,” said Bantle.
The girls all created their own designs of what it means to be a woman.
“I chose Lady Liberty because I think she is a person for girls to stand up for,” said Donisha.
They will then cut out their designs and weld all of their pieces together to make a large piece of artwork.
No matter the end product, Bantle said there is just one goal.
“I hope they can themselves as strong women who can do anything,” said Bantle.
March 12, 2013
From todaystmj.com: “Future welders look to Wisconsin’s new mining law for jobs” – PEWAUKEE – In the confines of a hot, cramped workspace, student Eric Defries practices his craft. Defries is studying at Waukesha County Technical College to become a welder.
“Before this, I was doing windows and doors, and everybody and their uncle thinks they can do windows and doors. That market’s flooded, but welders, that takes skill,” Defries said.
Defries—and other students may soon have their chance to prove themselves. Future welders see Wisconsin’s new mining law as a way to build a career at home, instead of leaving Wisconsin for work.
“A lot of people have moved out of the state, because there’s not enough jobs here, so it’s excellent,” said student Gary Kender.
The news means a potential boost for the hiring pool, and colleges are already taking notice. WCTC recently doubled its lab space for welders ahead of the bill becoming a law.
“We just hope that parents as well as students see these are great jobs with great career opportunities,” said Mike Shiels, dean of the college’s Industrial and Engineering Technologies division.
Though the sparks aren’t flying on any projects just yet, Defries and fellow students have high hopes and are already thinking about the years ahead.
“I’m trying to contribute to the cause. Gives me a job. Gives me benefits. Gives me something to do,” Defries explained.
March 8, 2013
From chippewa.com: “Chi-Hi students turn scrap metal into school mascot” –
Dan Hietpas can tell his welding students to build a trailer hitch and it easily gets done. They eye the details, draw a design and build to the specs.
Ask them to build a metal sculpture of a cardinal out of random material, and that takes a bit more effort.
“This is very abstract,” Hietpas said. “They had to dig around a little bit; it takes that creative art side of these kids to pull something together from garbage.”
About 10 students in Hietpas’ advanced welding class at Chi-Hi are competing in the Chippewa Valley Technical College’s “Junk Yard Wars.”
Area schools participating in the competition are required to build replicas of their school’s mascot out of scrap metal. The students will then present their projects to a panel of judges at CVTC.
“It’s a neat way for them to keep in contact with CVTC,” Hietpas said. “It’s a real nice tie-in to Chippewa Valley Tech.”
Sophomore Steven Schmidt, 16, said the most difficult part was fitting the satellite, which functions as the breast and abdomen of the cardinal.
He said the project calls for more spot welding, since students are handling smaller pieces, which can pose additional challenges.
“You can’t just go to town on it,” Schmidt said.
The cardinal’s feet are made from old rotors, and the beak, wings and rest of the frame are built from old scrap metal left over from projects that didn’t turn out.
Hietpas said 80 percent of the resources used to build the cardinal are required to be recyclable.
The class scurried to finish the project Wednesday, which Schmidt said might not be painted.
“I don’t think we’re going to win,” he said. “We started late.”
Thorp’s class is also building a cardinal.
“We’ll see who has the best cardinal out of the two,” Schmidt said.
The first-place group will be awarded a mini-welder, which Hietpas estimated at $1,000. The cardinal will probably be displayed in the welding classroom after the competition. The project serves as a mid-term for students.
Advanced welding classes have participated in the Junk Yard Wars in previous years, but this is Hietpas’ first year teaching at Chi-Hi.
“These kids are sharp; they’re good welders,” he said. “I had to take a lot of classes to catch up to them.”
After the project, the class will begin work on a flip-flop chicken grill that they will donate as a door prize for STEM night, which teaches students about careers available in science, math and technology fields.
March 6, 2013
From bizjournals.com: “Gateway Technical College schedules referendum for $49M in capital spending” – A referendum on $49 million in capital projects for Gateway Technical College has been scheduled for April 2, according to public documents.
The initial resolution for the proposed spending in the three counties Gateway serves — Kenosha, Racine and Walworth — was adopted by the Gateway Technical College District Board in January.
College district leaders have proposed issuing general obligation bonds or promissory notes to cover the cost of the projects, according to the election notice published Tuesday.
The projects include $13.6 million to renovate and expand Gateway’s Elkhorn campus to accommodate program enhancements, including expanding that site’s welding lab and building a new CNC automated manufacturing lab, a veterinary technician lab, a cosmetology lab and a culinary arts lab, Gateway has said.
The largest project in the proposal is a $15.6 million plan to build a public safety and training center that would serve all Gateway campuses.
The plans also call for building a new Fresh Water Resources lab and other renovations at Gateway’s Racine campus for $2.5 million.
Other proposed projects include expanding and renovating the Kenosha campus Student Services Center and general infrastructure and energy efficiency upgrades.
February 28, 2013
From wjfw.com: “Nicolet College expands welding program” – Rhinelander – Hearing about jobs on the rise can be comforting.
A program expansion at Nicolet College in Rhinelander highlights one of those growing job markets.
They’re expanding their welding program to bring in more students and meet the needs of a growing workforce.
“The need for welders, not only in our district here, but nationwide, is phenomenal,” said welding instructor Chuck Kopp.
Expanding the welding program at Nicolet College is the result of two grants totaling 1.2 million dollars.
“We have accelerated our series of classes so that we can get our students out into jobs sooner, we have upgraded equipment, and hired some new instructors and we’ve re-vamped the curriculum to better meet employer’s needs,” said Elizabeth Burmaster, President of Nicolet College.
Part of that expansion means going from 17 to 23 work stations.
“What they’ll be able to do with them is the same thing they’re doing here now with the booths that are existing, which is all the different processes,” said Kopp.
Kopp says this one year program is helping students get jobs in the Northwoods.
“So this is a response to our manufacturers, to try to satisfy their need for welders and give them the ability to grow their businesses,” said Kopp.
February 25, 2013
From wearegreenbay.com: “Hortonville student gets head start on welding career” – While most of his peers are still figuring out their lives –a local high school junior is working on a career. He’s taking advantage of a special program that helps him train to be a welder.
Welding anything together takes a lot of skill and know-how and for a 16-year-old high school junior to do it – it’s pretty impressive. Bo Huss, “I took a class at Hortonville High School and it really interested me.”
Because of that, Huss got involved with the state’s Youth Options program through his school that pays for 18 credits of technical education. Those credits can be counted toward high school graduation and college credit for approved classes.
Huss is on the fast track to getting a degree in welding from Fox Valley Technical College. Says Huss, “I already have a job at Tom-Cin Metals, so I’m really waiting to turn 18 so that I can start welding.”
Tom-Cin Metals has hired five high school students over the last couple of years. There’s a large need for welders across the country. Welders make on average 17 dollars an hour.
February 20, 2013
From superiortelegram.com: “Busting manufacturing myths” – From robots to equations, high school students stepped behind the scenes to view manufacturing in Superior last week. “Mythbusting Manufacturing” sent 35 students on a fact-gathering expedition. They toured four Superior businesses — Genesis, Field Logic, Charter Films and Superior Lidgerwod-Mundy — and looked in on manufacturing-related classes at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Superior.
“The tour’s goal is to help break myths about manufacturing and expose youth to manufacturing career opportunities in the region,” said Suzannah Crandall, youth services specialist with Northwest CEP. “What better way to interest youth in future career opportunities than to get them a first-hand look at the options that exist?”
The Genesis tour group got to see two robotic welders on the job, creating pieces to be assembled into massive shears, pulverizers and grapples for heavy machinery. Northwestern High School junior Jeff Priem said they were the coolest things he saw at Genesis. The controls for the high-tech machines were built around the gamers of today, according to Tom Cavallin, operations manager at the Genesis plant on Connors Point.
“It turns out video games might help them out,” Crandall said. She was quick to ask Cavallin to repeat himself when he mentioned that Genesis has a hard time finding skilled workers. Three years ago, he told the students, the company interviewed 120 people for jobs. Only 15 passed the welding test and were hired. He outlined the different positions at the business as well as pay scales.
“I didn’t know they had that many jobs open,” Priem said.
Another set of students toured Field Logic, which specializes in archery targets.
“Field Logic was, it was different from what I thought it was going to be,” said Nate Van Ert, a junior from Superior High School. “Because there are way more departments and categories instead of just making targets.”
As they toured the machine tool, industrial maintenance, welding and Heat, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) classes, high school students solved an equation for electrical resistance and met students who were passionate about their career paths.
“I absolutely love welding,” said Ashley McDonald, a 2012 graduate of the welding program. “I was hooked the first time I struck an arc.”
She’s part of a local union and said the field is ripe with job opportunities.
“If you want work, overnight you have it,” McDonald said, so long as you’re serious about it and not afraid to work hard. The program has had a 100 percent placement rate for the past five years, according to welding instructor John Palmer.
WITC will be launching a second session of welding classes this fall, funded through a federal Trades Adjustment Act grant. The program will include career pathways to get students working sooner, according to Diane Vertin, campus administrator. This new evening session of welding classes is aimed at retraining displaced workers for high-demand, high-wage jobs. Another part of the funding will be used to expand, bringing WITC’s mechanical design technology program to the Superior campus.
Along with Superior and Maple, students from Solon Springs and Hayward high schools also participated. Dale Van Ert, curriculum pathways coordinator for the Superior School District, said more such events are needed.
“Manufacturing jobs are in our community and there are going to be many more,” he said. The key is to provide local people to fill them.
“Jobs in manufacturing range from basic line-workers to advanced positions as CNC machinists and mechanical engineers,” Crandall said. “It’s an industry where everyone is a fit.”
February 14, 2013
From bizjournals.com/milwaukee: “WCTC doubles welding lab space to address worker shortage” – Waukesha County Technical College recently completed an expansion of its Pewaukee welding lab that doubled the square footage and training capacity, the college said Friday.
The expansion also allows for heavy plate welding training, which will begin this summer.
“This expansion was necessary because we did not have the ability to do heavy plate welding in our current lab and there has been a considerable demand for welders from employers in our area,” said Mike Shiels, dean of WCTC’s School of Applied Technologies, in a prepared statement. “We needed to expand capacity to graduate more students from our welding programs and deliver more short-term training programs.”
The project in the college’s Advanced Manufacturing Center began in October 2012 and was completed in late January. The expansion doubled lab space from about 5,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet and added 19 new welding stations, upping the lab’s total to 44.
Shiels said the expansion improves the logistics of safely moving heavy plate material around the lab and improves material handling and processing for welding training. A jib crane will also be installed this summer.
“This expansion allows us to bring people off the waiting list and double the number of students we train every year to help meet the current demand for employees in the welding field,” Shiels said.
WCTC’s welding programs now have 200 students enrolled.
The lab expansion is an important step that will help feed the worker pipeline at Joy Global Inc. and other area manufacturers, said Dave Biddle, manager of technical services at the Milwaukee-based manufacturer of surface and underground mining equipment.
“The shortage of skilled workers is a real issue that many companies are struggling with,” Biddle said in a phone interview. “Between supporting our own internal needs as well as other local companies that we work with, (the WCTC expansion) is very important.”
Joy Global has an internal advanced welder training program that prepares workers for the company’s specific needs. About 20 percent of its 52 program graduates took welding classes at WCTC, said Bryan Hackbarth, Joy Global manager of weld engineering.
Hackbarth, who sits on an advisory board at WCTC, believes the area is making progress in addressing the skilled labor shortage.
He said local employers had a say in the curriculum for WCTC’s welding program.
“WCTC was very open and responsive to those requests,” Hackbarth said. “They took it upon themselves to be proactive and develop a heavy plate welding training program to meet the needs (of local employers).”
December 3, 2012
From areadevelopment.com: “Department of Labor grants to help fill skilled labor gap” – Will it work? Mark Tushar, marketing manager at Derby Molded Products in Neenah and Oshkosh Marine Supply in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, hopes so. “We’ve been looking for some skilled labor, but we’ve been unable to find it,” he reports. His companies, contract manufacturers of injection-molded plastic and of metal parts, need machinists and programmers, but lately has had little luck finding them. He blames a cultural push away from skilled trades. “Kids are pushed toward a four-year college and they’re not given the opportunity, I believe, to try something else that may require going to a technical college or a trade.”
Just seven miles from his plant, however, is Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) in Appleton. Through the second installment of the $2 billion, four-year initiative, FVTC received $3 million to develop the Advanced Manufacturing Pathways PLUS project, a program that focuses on developing skills in electronics/automation, welding and metal fabrication, printing and publishing, and machine tooling. Part of the federal grant dollars are going toward changing that cultural perception says Chris Jossart, spokesperson for Fox Valley Tech. On National Manufacturing Day, the technical college that serves about 53,000 students each year, organized a bus tour of its Oshkosh facility and three area manufacturers. “Immediately,” says Jossart, “when these students come into our Advanced Manufacturing Center, they’re looking at digital, high-tech welding resources that totally change their perception of welding and fabrication as a career.”
Twenty-three-year-old Valarie Wocjik is one of Fox Valley Tech’s success stories. She graduated from the welding program in 2009, transferred to Ferris State University in Michigan through an articulation agreement, and obtained a bachelor’s degree in welding engineering technology. Wocjik is now a project engineer at Hirotec America in Auburn Hills, Michigan, an assembly line fabricator for the automotive industry. “She goes into these manufacturing settings,” says Jossart, “and blows people’s minds when they find out she can weld.”
The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grants are awarded to partnerships between colleges and employers to promote skills development in fields like advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and transportation. They are targeted, at least in part, at workers who have been displaced by trade policies and outsourcing. The programming developed by the colleges will not remain those schools’ exclusive property. To accept the funding, the partners agree to make all educational materials they develop available for use by the public and other education providers through a “Creative Commons” license.
Every state in the nation has received some level of funding, but more is available with two more rounds to go. Applications for the next round will be reviewed in the spring of 2013. A complete listing of grants awarded to date is available at www.doleta.gov/taaccct.
November 30, 2012
From fox11online.com: “Welding boot camp preps new workers” – FOND DU LAC – If you’re looking for work or a career change Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac might have the job for you.
That is, if you’re willing to go through boot camp.
The college is offering an intense, 10-week training program for already available manufacturing jobs.
Students will learn the basics of welding and other machine work businesses say could lead to one of those jobs.
It starts with welding 101 and then some at Moraine Park Technical College.
“When I first started I thought you just welded two pieces of metal together and that was basically what you did,” said Chad Krebsbach of Green Lake.
But as Krebsbach quickly found out, welding jobs today require much more skill.
“I wanted to get better in stainless steel welding and TIG welding and I accomplished that I think.”
It’s that kind of success story that led Moraine Park Technical College to seek $1.3 million in grant money to create two separate boot camp programs in high demand manufacturing jobs. A 10-week training program in welding or a 15-week program in CNC machining.
“It will get them basic entry level skills to get them into these manufacturers so they can continue to gain wages and have jobs and then hopefully come back and finish their degree,” said JoAnn Hall, dean of workforce and economic development at Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac.
For companies like Brenner Tank in Fond du Lac the program helps them find skilled workers with the specific training they are looking for.
“There is a huge skills gap and we need to get that message out that there are good jobs paying jobs available in the manufacturing community and this is just another way to make that happen,” said Dave Hodorff, vice president of operations for Brenner.
Roughly a dozen local companies are partnering with the school with the expectation of hiring the boot camp grads. Many will need further training, but school officials say the boot camp is a way for them to get their foot in the door for in-demand jobs.
“Almost all of the employers we are working with provide tuition reimbursement, they are committed to the long-term growth of their staff, but they need people in and doing these jobs so they can service their customers,” said Hall.
Sparking interest in a new generation of manufacturing workers.
The first boot camp is already underway and a second will begin in February. The school says it can churn out 90 students a year under the three year grant program.
The school is holding two informational sessions about the boot camps next week.
November 20, 2012
From biztimes.com: “MATC to expand welding facilities” – Milwaukee Area Technical College plans to expand the welding facilities at three of its locations in the next three years to extend its training capacity.
The Oak Creek campus will have its exhaust system updated so 10 more welding booths can be added to increase capacity, said Sue Silverstein, a welding instructor at the Oak Creek campus.
“We just realized that the space we have needs to be reorganized,” Silverstein said. “We’re sort of trying to make each campus specialized.”
Employers in each area have different needs, which is why the welding programs will be focused on different tasks, she said. The West Allis campus will offer an associate degree in robotics and inspection and a new heavy plate welding curriculum, while Mequon will be fabrication focused. Oak Creek will be multifunctional, with a welding diploma program, apprenticeship classes and individual classes.
A welding advisory committee that includes members of the business community will provide input on the curriculum.
“We’ve always had these reports of the shortage of welders—we’ve known that,” she said. “We’ve known that this has been an issue—it was just making it a reality.”
November 12, 2012
From chippewa.com: “Pink collar careers: Women find manufacturing a pathway to opportunity, better pay” – EAU CLAIRE — Charlene Montanye of Menomonie got her start in welding a couple of years ago, when her family was building a wheelchair ramp for her grandmother. He father gave her a couple of pieces of metal frame and told her to go weld them together.
The request surprised her, but it wasn’t as if the task were totally foreign to her. Montanye, 24, had watched her father and uncles weld things many times. She was able to do it, and now she is in her third semester of the Welding program at Chippewa Valley Technical College, aiming for a career as a professional welder. Her dad thinks it’s a good choice.
“My dad pushed me to become something. It didn’t matter what, but something that I liked,” she said. “I think it’s a great field, and I enjoy competing with the boys.”
Yes, Montanye realizes it’s a very much male-dominated industry, but she also realizes there’s more money to be made in manufacturing than in some traditional female-dominated fields.
Plenty of manufacturing jobs go unfilled because of the lack of trained workers. Pay for such jobs is rising and opportunities abound, including opportunities for women who have the training.
Chrystal Reidt realized that years ago. She went through the Welding program at Chippewa Valley Technical College, where graduates today earn on average $16.21 an hour to start. Reidt’s training led her to a career that included three years at PDM Bridge and four years at McDonough Manufacturing, both in Eau Claire.
“I never worked with another woman,” said Reidt, who today is a Welding instructor at CVTC.
That’s a reflection of women being slow to pursue careers in manufacturing jobs.
“It’s not really put out there for them, so they don’t consider it as an option,” said Reidt. “An effort should be made to encourage them. They don’t know what’s out there.”
Welding and other manufacturing jobs may be non-traditional for women, but the field can be an imminently practical choice.
Robin Butts has a 5-year-old daughter to raise. Fortunately, she has the help of the girl’s father, works for a cooperative employer and has a plan to help her meet the challenges young families face in today’s economy.
Her plan involves furthering a career in manufacturing.
Butts, 25, of Augusta, works on the manufacturing floor at Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) in Osseo.
Butts has proven her worth at GFS. She works in an area that makes lighting equipment. “There’re a lot of women in the office and in the area where I work there are five women, but in the rest of the plant I don’t think there are any on the manufacturing floor,” she said.
In her area, Butts became a go-to person. When some equipment broke down, she could get it going again. However, she didn’t have any formal training or degree, so to open the possibility of advancement, she sought more training.
Butts is enrolled in the Electromechnical Technology program at CVTC and is working reduced hours while going to school. The company is helping pay for her education.
“I’m very thankful to my supervisors at Global for allowing me to go back to school and for being so understanding,” she said.
Electromechanical Technology graduates from CVTC make an average starting wage of over $20 an hour, according to a survey of 2010-11 graduates.
Butts says she likes being active all day, even if the work is more strenuous than a desk job.
Montanye isn’t worried about the physical work, or the fact that she’ll be working with men.
“I was never a girly-girl. I liked to hang out with the boys,” Montanye said.
“I can help them out with things, and that makes a world of difference to me,” she said. “I don’t rub it in to them, but I feel that little bit of a sense of accomplishment. Every woman wants to show up the men, in one way or another.”
Montanye has her eye on a job at Thomas and Betts Corporation (Meyer Industries) in Hager City, which has a great demand for welders to manufacture those huge metal poles for power lines.
“I think it would be cool to drive by one of those and say, ‘I built that,’” Montanye said. “But my ultimate goal is to open my own welding shop.”
Jennifer Sorenson, 24, of Eau Claire looked into other fields, but decided they weren’t for her. She developed an interest in welding, following in the footsteps of her father.
“It kind of excites me,” the first-semester Welding student at CVTC said about going into a male-dominated field. “There are very few women in the welding industry.”
Sorenson enjoys the work.
“I like the hands-on work, finishing something and being able to show something physical from your work,” she said.
Sorenson is considering completing CVTC’s new two-year welding program, which would send her to the workforce with a higher level of skill. She’s looking into work in a pipeline field, or perhaps in aluminum welding. There are plenty of opportunities.
“You pretty much have a job waiting when you walk out the door,” she said.
These future manufacturing workers aren’t letting the image of traditional gender roles limit them, and aren’t listening to the “that’s a man’s job” attitude.
“You can’t let anybody hold you back,” said Montanye.
But it will also take encouragement to get more women to choose higher paying manufacturing jobs.
“A lot of this has to do with the high school level,” said Reidt. “High schools tend to push university education. They could do more exploratory things with workshops for girls.”
Part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), Chippewa Valley Technical College serves an 11-county area and has campuses located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls.
October 24, 2012
From nbc26.com: “Fox Valley Tech Welding Donation” – Fox Valley Technical College received a donation Monday that will help welding students further their careers. Walker-Forge and Precision Thermal Processing donated a large piece of heat treating and testing equipment to the college’s welding program.
October 2, 2012
From insightdigital.biz: “Filling the Gap” — Holly Putterlik of Fond du Lac realizes she is in rare company. Starting her third semester in the welding program at Moraine Park Technical College, Putterlik isn’t worried about being one of 11 females in the school’s welding program, which has nearly 120 students, or that once she graduates and lands a job, it’s likely she’ll be surrounded by men.
Read the full story from Insight on Manufacturing
September 24, 2012
From thenorthwestern.com: “Regional job picture stabilizing: Skilled manufacturing, healthcare tops career bets” – Mass layoffs have eased at northeastern Wisconsin businesses and the demand for skilled workers is soaring.
Despite growing concerns about an overall global slowdown, business leaders say the region’s diverse economy continues to find markets for its goods and services, which means they need people to meet demand, making competition fierce for skilled workers.
Statewide, the jobless rate in July stood at 7.3 percent and around the region, unemployment rates ranged between 5.6 percent in Calumet County to 8.2 percent in Marinette County.
Jeff Sachse, a labor market analyst for the state Department of Workforce Development, does not anticipate jobless numbers will change dramatically in the short term but expects continued, gradual improvement for a variety of business sectors, particularly in manufacturing, health care and construction services.
“Clearly, welding and CNC (computer numerical control) machinists positions are what we hear about all the time,” said Sachse, who monitors employment activity for northeastern Wisconsin.
Large government contracts secured by shipbuilder Marinette Marine and Oshkosh Corp., a maker of military vehicles, are behind rising demand for those workers.
“Between Marinette (Marine) and Oshkosh (Corp.) they are pulling from the surrounding labor market, which has created a need throughout the system,” Sachse said.
Manufacturing still represents about a quarter of all employment in the region. However, the health care and construction industries also have seen steady job growth in recent months, Sachse said.
“The (federal) stimulus helped larger-scale projects. Roadwork, including (U.S. Highway) 41 is an example,” Sachse said. “But we’ve also seen some resurgence on the residential side.”
Sachse said the growing number of nursing homes and assisted living facilities around the region and expansion by the health insurance industry, particularly by insurance giants Humana and United Healthcare, is driving job creation in the health sector.
“The steady growth we’ve seen in health care has not necessarily been with the hospital systems,” he said. “Services tied to health care, particularly health insurance, have seen significant numbers and also demands from the aging population will put more demand on providers.”
Finding, retaining workers
Sachse said the regional manufacturing sector’s strength is the role it plays in the overall global supply chain. He said manufacturers have weathered economic downturns mostly because a majority of them supply components and parts to companies that make a variety of machinery worldwide.
This is the situation for Fox Valley Tool & Die, which has about 180 workers, spread across two plants in Kaukauna.
“We make the parts that make the parts,” said Mark Dennis, one of the owners of Fox Valley Tool & Die.
He recognizes there is heated competition for his workers, most of whom are machinists with specialized skills who can create custom parts and components.
Dennis said an aging workforce, especially in skilled areas, is a problem for regional manufacturers. As a part of a state effort to shore up future workers for manufacturers, Dennis has worked with high schools from Shiocton to Little Chute and other Fox Cities communities to introduce students to manufacturing.
He also works with Fox Valley Technical College on training programs for people interested in careers as machinists.
Getting to people early in their career planning is essential, Dennis said.
“It gives us a chance to show young people that the machine shops today may not be the ones their grandfathers worked in,” he said.
Dennis said many jobs, especially those requiring specialized skills, require a two-year degree.
His son, John, the CEO of Gardan, which employs about 50 workers at in Hortonville and Brillion, said he’s been fortunate to find qualified workers when his company needed to fill openings.
“I think because of the region’s strong farming and manufacturing tradition, people here just have a strong work ethic and many of those people settle in the region,” John Dennis said.
Health care outlook
The health care industry has been working with colleges and nursing schools over the past several years to ensure a steady flow of nurses will come into the system to replace those retiring.
Tom Veeser, chief nursing officer for Affinity Health System in Menasha and vice president of patient care at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, said the health care industry recognizes that demands for services will increase as the nation ages.
Hospital operators also face competition for workers from an increasing number of care facilities for the elderly, which also are in need of registered nurses, certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses.
Traditionally, registered nurses tend to have an easier time finding work, Veeser said. But there also is a growing demand for certified nursing assistants.
“At least for us, it’s getting harder to recruit CNAs because they’re getting more lucrative salaries from nursing homes and sometimes from physician offices,” Veeser said. “We may not be able to compete on salary in some situations but we try to offer a better benefits package.”
September 24, 2012
From marshfieldnewsherald.com: “Key to good work: train, train, train” – Workers are faced with two choices in today’s job market — adapt to the rapid changes in their industries or get left behind.
John Cichon, 44, of Stratford was on the verge of being one of those left behind when he was laid off in 2008 after a 15-year career building windows at SNE in Mosinee.
“I was worried about being in my 40s and only having window-building skills,” Cichon said.
With jobs scarce and money tight, Cichon decided to change careers. He never had welded before in his life, but after researching local job openings, salaries and other information, that’s what he decided to do.
He went back to school, worked jobs to gain some experience and now is employed by Schuette Metals in Rothschild after completing the company’s revolutionary in-house, welding academy training program. Today, he spends his days welding parts for military vehicles as part of the company’s government contract.
Cichon is among the thousands of workers who have taken advantage of training and other programs to adapt to changes in central Wisconsin’s economy. Shrinking budgets and increased expenses have forced many local employers to become more efficient. Employees have had to learn new skills after their employers eliminated positions or brought new technology into the workplace. Workers who lost their jobs learned they needed to refresh or learn new skills in order to be attractive to prospective employers.
Tom Younger, Department of Workforce Development area manager for the Job Center of Wisconsin in Marathon County, said the Great Recession has been a life-altering event for many workers.
“A lot of them have gone on to school and they are saying, ‘I am just lost. The technology is so beyond what I’m used to,’” Younger said.
Classes on computer skills as basic as sending emails and uploading resumes are available at local libraries, and workers who haven’t been in school since before computers entered the workplace often need such remedial lessons. More complex computer skills such as Web design and accounting software are available at technical colleges.
Technical colleges play an important role in central Wisconsin for both students fresh from high school and veteran workers. Mid-State Technical College Vice President of Academic Affairs Ann Krause-Hanson said 63 percent of MSTC students are ages 25 and older, many of whom are seeking real-world skills to use in local businesses and industries. The college has campuses in Marshfield, Wisconsin Rapids, Stevens Point and Adams.
The partnerships between technical schools and businesses provide an avenue for workers to get additional training even while still on the job. One example is the short-term contract training MSTC provides for local businesses. About 90 workers at Domtar in Nekoosa received updated training on hydraulics through the program this summer, Krause-Hanson said.
Some workers, such as those who lost their jobs after plant closures at SNE, Federal Mogul in Schofield, or Wausau Paper in Brokaw, had to find new careers quickly.
The North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board based in Plover is a partnership between government and business that plans, administers and coordinates the federal Workforce Investment Act employment and training programs in nine counties. NCWWDB has partnered with technical colleges and the DWD to create a short-term specialized training in fields such as food service, machine-tooling and welding. The workers get training in a matter of weeks, instead of enrolling in a yearlong course at a technical college, and are back into the workforce as soon as they graduate. The training includes face-to-face time with local business leaders who evaluate the participants’ work in the program.
Bruce Trimble, employer services director for NCWWDB, said that 95 percent of participants found jobs after completing the program.
“We had people getting job offers before they were done,” Trimble said.
Schuette Metals created its welding academy nearly a year ago. New hires spend up to three weeks learning the math, blueprint-reading and welding skills needed at the company and then work under the eyes of mentors. Even veteran employees undergo constant training to sharpen their skills, said Tony Schmidt, the company’s director of education.
Russ Weis, 37, of the town of Emmet, has welded for 18 years, but said he didn’t learn nearly as much about the trade until he went to work at Schuette three years ago. Now, he is mentoring new employees after they complete the welding academy.
“It’s huge having a company do this for you instead of having to go to the tech (school) on your own time,” Weis said of the continuing education.
September 4, 2012
From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Partnership lets high school students try hand at tech careers” – As most local students head back to the classroom today, some are gearing up to earn community college credits without leaving their high school.
The Green Bay School District partnered with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College this year to offer several technical-college level courses at Southwest High School. The students will earn dual high school and college credit, with hopes that they will continue studies at NWTC and move into a technical career.
Students can learn welding, blueprint reading and graphic-design computer programs as a way to explore careers in fields with a shortage of qualified workers, educators say.
NWTC President Jeff Rafn has said most jobs will require some sort of post-secondary training, noting that he has worked with local businesses and schools to promote partnerships.
A national study shows that by 2018, 63 percent of all U.S. job openings will require some sort of post-secondary education. A 2010 study by the Georgetown University Center of Education and the Workforce estimated that businesses will need nearly 22 million workers with post-secondary degrees in another decade, but colleges will fall short by about 3 million graduates.
Local educators hope working with students while still in high school or even middle and elementary school, will help them think about and prepare for education after high school graduation.
As part of that effort, Green Bay high school students visited NWTC to survey careers they were interested in.
“They showed an interest in health care, as well as the trades, especially the technical and engineering trades,” said Brooke Holbrook, career prep specialist for NWTC. “So we decided to start there.”
The college and district also looked at labor market trends before setting up the Southwest High School program, she said.
“Advanced manufacturing is in high demand in Green Bay and in Wisconsin,” Holbrook said.. “An example we use is welding. Those graduates end up hired right away, sometimes before they graduate. If high school students get started learning that, it puts them that much further ahead.”
The new program aims to help students think about the types and availability of jobs, as well as the training they would need to be qualified, Holbrook said.
“What high school student is thinking about that?” she said. “Many just think, ‘What interests me’ or ‘Who teaches that?’ We want them to really consider how they can prepare for their post-secondary education.”
“We’ve really been thinking about things we can do to bridge the gap.”
The Southwest program replicates the NWTC curriculum and Southwest teachers are certified to teach the technical college courses, Holbrook said.
The Green Bay district installed needed equipment at Southwest. NWTC is not charging the district for anything, and students will earn college credits without paying tuition.
Fall classes include blueprint reading and welding. Spring will provide a second blueprinting class, a metal fabricating class and an introduction to MacIntosh class.
Many other of Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges offer similar programs, she said. NWTC also likely will eventually offer classes that would require high school students to attend class on the college campus. For example, NWTC houses expensive engineering equipment too costly to replicate at a high school, Holbrook said.
But she expects the program to grow, and to be something of interest to students in private schools or other school districts.
“When you are looking at advanced manufacturing, it is different than the past,” Holbrook said. “In the past, manufacturers would hire people and do on site training. Now they expect them to have skills, not just technical skills, but soft skills.”
Soft skills include social traits such as communication or negotiation in the workplace.
“Our work force is aging,” Holbrook said. “We need to replace them. Manufacturers really look at high schools as a pipeline.”
Green Bay also expects programming to expand.
“In my previous life as a school counselor, I realized not everybody is four-year university bound,” said Kim Pahlow,associate superintendent for the Green Bay district. “We need to find a way to meet the needs of all students.”
The new program “gives students an engagement opportunity,” Pahlow said. “It opens up an avenue for if they want to go on to private or public colleges. By earning college credits, students reduce the time from high school into a skilled-labor position.”
The district worked to provide classes students were interested in, as well as ones that lead to in-demand jobs, she said.
The Green Bay School District is divided into four quadrants, each anchored by one of four high schools — East, West, Preble and Southwest. The Southwest quadrant eventually could be designated as the quadrant that focuses on technical education, becoming a draw for students from other schools interested in that programming, Pahlow said.
“This is something that won’t end here,” Holbrook said.
July 31, 2012
From greenbaypressgazette.com: “NWTC seals Miller Electric welding training deal” – Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and Miller Electric Manufacturing Co. have finalized an agreement that will see $1.3 million in new welding equipment going to the college and training credits going back to Miller employees.
The three-year agreement brings updated welding and plasma cutting equipment to NWTC campuses in Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay and Wausaukee High School.
Miller and NWTC have worked together for more than a decade, and Monday’s announcement comes at a time when welders are in demand, officials said.
“There is a projection there is going to be a shortage in North America of more than 250,000 welders … within the next couple of years, and that is vital to the manufacturing economy that is a mainstay of the overall gross domestic product,” said Mike Weller, president of Appleton-based Miller Electric. “There are many small employers out there that are the backbone of this economy that are hurting for those kinds of skilled employees.”
A few years ago NWTC was graduating about 75 welding students a year. That number has increased to about 200 a year, and the institution has increased its instruction staff from three or four staff members to 11, said NWTC President Jeffrey Rafn.
“Most of these jobs that are in these industries are highly skilled and need people that come out of our college with at least one or two years of education,” he said. “You used to be able to go into manufacturing with a high school diploma. That’s not really the case anymore; you need to have some high skills.”
Joseph Draves, associate dean of trades and technologies at the college, said they anticipate demand for welding instruction to remain strong.
“We’re running out of lab space, and we expect it to continue to grow,” he said. “We’re looking at a section yet this year in Sturgeon Bay.”
The college is also looking for other places it can add welding courses for high school students, similar to a program in Wausaukee. Green Bay Southwest High School is adding a welding lab, he said.
The college is removing its 3-year-old welding equipment and will start installing the new gear next week.
“Students are getting training on the latest technology available. That’s what they’re going to see when they get into the workforce,” Draves said. “We’re preparing them to go out into the work force and be ready to hit the ground running.”
July 24, 2012
From WisBusiness.com: “Clancy interview: Outgoing WTCS president reflects on state tech school needs” – Dan Clancy, the retiring head of Wisconsin’s technical colleges, says his successor will need to advocate for greater funding as the system’s 16 campuses push to close the so-called skills gap between what graduates know and what employers are demanding.
Still, Clancy, whose last day is Sept. 14, said he thinks his colleges are doing a good job of adapting to changing needs and preparing some students to go on to four-year colleges, including those in the University of Wisconsin system.
Right now Clancy said he’s busy drafting a budget proposal for the 2013-2015 biennium.
“Our board will definitely be requesting additional funds,” he said. “I’ll have it to the point of being approved by the board, but my successor will have to shepherd it through the Legislature and governor.”
The 2011-13 budget cut state aid to the tech schools by 30 percent, or $71.6 million, over two years.
Clancy is optimistic funding will increase, but he said legislators need to understand that for every dollar invested in tech schools, there is a return of $6.
“I think this coming budget will be better than the last, now that the state is in better fiscal shape,” he said. “My guess is there will be funds for some priority areas, including workforce development … and solving the skills gap.”
Clancy said he also hopes to get increased support for scholarships from the state Higher Education Aids Board.
“We’ve made that a high priority, too,” he said. “That’s been a significant issue for our students, the ability to afford a technical college education.”
Clancy, 57, became president of the tech schools in 2004. Before that, he was the system’s vice president for finance and policy, directing budget development, legislative relations and policy analysis, among other things. A native of Detroit, he worked for the state of Wisconsin for more than three decades, including 17 years with the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
Clancy said the “workforce paradox” — where companies have jobs available but can’t find the workers to fill them — is a national issue. He said the guv and other state leaders have made solving this problem a top priority.
“All states are facing a similar dilemma,” he said. “There are jobs to be filled, but employers say there is a mismatch between what they need and what people are bringing to the table.”
He said this is most common at Wisconsin’s advanced manufacturing companies. For example, they are demanding workers with high-tech skills to run numeric-controlled machines and do sophisticated welding.
“They are finding they have to do extra training,” he said. “They would like to have candidates go through a tech college program, either one or two years. But we are having difficulty attracting people to those fields.”
He said many prospective employees do not understand how modern manufacturing has changed and have an image of an industry that may not have a strong economic future.
“It’s not the old industrial work setting that it was 30 years ago,” Clancy said. “It’s cleaner, more comfortable and it’s high-tech. But parents and students may not understand that.”
He said tech schools and employers need to explain today’s manufacturing environment and the salaries those jobs have. In addition, he said today’s students need to have a stronger background in math and science in high school and a better understanding of how to use technology, as well as so-called “soft skills” needed for employment in the modern workplace.
To meet employers’ demands, he said tech colleges have changed curricula, breaking down courses into shorter components so students can, for example, attend a “boot camp” in which they get a certificate in the basics of modern welding.
This gets workers on the “first rung” of the employment ladder without needing to be in school for a long time, he said.
“Then they’ll need to come back and get additional training so they can advance on the job,” Clancy said. “We call that career pathways. It really helps people who have lost their jobs, especially older workers who want get employed again fast. It helps on the employers’ side, too, because they need workers quickly, too.”
In many cases, he said manufacturers are willing to pay to train those workers.
“So we are very flexible on when we offer that kind of training, at night and on weekends and online,” he said, noting that some companies are doing their own advanced training after tech schools have taught them the basics.
Looking back, Clancy said he is proud of the work he’s done to foster increased cooperation between tech school and the UW System, with greater opportunities for students to transfer credits into upper division programs.
He said Wisconsin’s vocational colleges have handled significant growth well, with the population now at more than 400,000 – an increase of roughly 40 percent in full-time-equivalent students.
“Based on who we have been serving the last four or five years, we have helped thousands and thousands of people who lost their jobs get retrained. They want to have a family-sustaining job and career.
“And for students, especially in rural areas, tech school training can be life changing,” he said. “That’s pretty amazing.”