Busting manufacturing myths

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.”

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