For some workers, job outlook is bright

June 25, 2012

From “For some workers, job outlook is bright” — Career outlooks are sunny for those with skills in nursing or metalworking and fabrication.

Unlike other industries still recuperating from the Great Recession, there remains a high demand for the skilled professions in Northeastern Wisconsin.

In manufacturing, a historically strong manufacturing base has been buoyed in part by large government contracts to companies such as Oshkosh Corp. and Marinette Marine. Companies in the 18 counties that make up Northeastern Wisconsin are projected to need to fill 10,000 production and manufacturing jobs by 2016, according to a 2010 survey of the region.

Meanwhile, an aging population is driving the growing need for an array of skilled health care workers. A New North survey found that numbers are expected to trend upward in health care, too, expanding by almost 4,000 jobs by 2016.


Even in a time of relatively high unemployment, manufacturing companies struggle to find enough skilled metal workers. And the need for welders is expected to increase 26 percent by 2015, according to the New North survey.

For instance, Muza Metal Products in Oshkosh, which last month completed a 47,000-square-foot plant addition, continues its growth in the metals manufacturing industry that leans heavily on Oshkosh Corp. Muza employs 260 workers over four shifts, but are still short workers.

“Skilled labor for fabrication is in high demand, especially in this area,” Muza Metal Products President Dan Hietpas said. “It’s a very competitive area, and we are still looking for 10 to 15 workers.”

The challenge is filling the night and weekend shifts at the plant that runs 24 hours a day, Hietpas said. Even paying a premium over Muza’s normal $14- to $22-per-hour wage hasn’t helped them fill the positions.

“We pay a 75 cents to $1.50 premium, depending on the shift,” Hietpas said. “That can be quite the bump in salary, but it’s still a challenge.”

In Marinette, the shipbuilding company Marinette Marine is equally hard up for skilled welders, pipefitters and electricians.

The company has added 600 jobs in the past 12 months, and now has 1,400 employees, but is struggling to fill vacancies for skilled trades jobs. It’s even having a hard time recruiting people to sign on to train and work for them. The company held open 40 spots for entry-level workers, reaching out to nine schools in the process; it landed seven graduates.

A typical employee at the shipyard can earn $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

Right now, the future looks “pretty rosy for us,” Marinette Marine President and CEO Charles Goddard said. “We can easily handle 100 or more hires out of high schools in a year.”

The welding/metal fabrication program at Fox Valley Technical College, which works with Muza Metal and Marinette Marine, has a very high job placement rate after graduation. Ninety percent of last year’s graduates found jobs. Some of the students in the program even were hired before they finished their degrees.

Health care

Though perhaps not as in demand as metal workers, Aurora Health Care can attest to the steady need to fill open positions from Milwaukee to Green Bay.

“There is always a need,” said Gwen Baumel, vice president of human resources at Aurora.

Aurora gets a lot of applicants for positions from those in the Fox Cities and Green Bay, and starts working with potential future health care workers while they are still in school.

“We have a very good relationship with the local schools, which really helps,” Baumel said. “We talk with them so the school stays in tune with employers and what sort of challenges there are.”

Back at FVTC, students in the nursing program find a hot job market upon graduation. The college graduates about 40 associated degree nurses and 25 licensed practical nurses per semester and roughly 800 nursing assistants per year.

The majority of graduates find work quickly. According to Assistant Dean of Health Division Carrie Thompson, all of the college’s 2011 associated degree graduates were working within six months of graduation. Ninety-three percent of new LPNs were hired within six months of graduation, and nursing assistants placed at 69 percent.

“They are everywhere and in lots of different companies, most of which are in the area,” Thompson said of the graduates.


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