FVTC will help workers displaced by Oshkosh Corp.

April 11, 2013

From thenorthwestern.com: “Community braces for Oshkosh Corp. job cuts” — At some point Patti Jorgensen knows she’ll be getting a call seeking help for hundreds of people who will lose their jobs at Oshkosh Corp. by mid-June.

“We always have to be prepared for situations like this,” Jorgensen, vice president of student and community development at Fox Valley Technical College, said Wednesday.

She’s referring to mass layoff announcements including those made Tuesday by the Oshkosh-based maker of military vehicles. The company said a 30 percent decline for military trucks was behind its decision to lay off 900 people, including 700 production workers and 200 salaried employees.

Its latest cuts follows 450 production worker layoffs announced in the fall.

Jorgensen said Wednesday the college was contacted by the company or other organizations asked to offer aid to displaced workers after a layoff announcement but is expecting to be notified.

FVTC has faced similar situations, Jorgensen said. When Ohio-based NewPage closed its Kimberly mill in 2008, displacing 600 workers, FVTC was among the many organizations asked to offer job retraining assistance.

In mass layoff situations, displaced workers get priority consideration for classes and programs at the college, she said.

“If services are required quickly, we can do things like get new students into classes midsemester if necessary,” Jorgensen said.

She said the college also works with nontraditional students to help acclimate them to a classroom setting.

“We have to test students for their college readiness because in some cases, they haven’t been a classroom for more than 20 years,” Jorgensen said.

Workers forced into new careers often seek new professions, she said. These students go through career workshops to help them determine their interests.

“Some students elect to go through a two-year degree program while others may want to learn a new skill faster,” Jorgensen said. One popular choice is the college’s truck driving program, which can be completed in 13 weeks and has a high placement rate for graduates thanks to relations with regional trucking firms including Schneider National in Ashwaubenon.

Besides lost jobs, production cuts also will impact Oshkosh Corp.’s numerous vendors. It annually works with more than 1,400 Wisconsin-based vendors who provide more than $1.4 billion in goods and services to the company.

John Dennis, president and CEO of Gardan Inc., a Hortonville-based contract assembly services company, said his firm has done work for Oshkosh Corp. previously but none of its components were used in military vehicles.

Dennis said the work his company did with Oshkosh Corp. represented “a small piece” of his business.

Dennis said when Oshkosh Corp. landed some of its large military contracts in recent years, many businesses around the region sought opportunities with the company.

“During the recession, we tried to change gears and didn’t want to put all of our eggs in the military basket,” Dennis said. “Everyone was trying to look for something they could do and we just never got involved with it.”

As government contracts at Oshkosh Corp. concluded, Gardan wasn’t affected, he said.

Dan Neufelder, president and CEO of Affinity Health System in Menasha and senior vice president for Ministry Health Care, said he is concerned for the affected employees at Oshkosh Corp.

He recognizes the economic factors behind the company’s decision and said the job cuts will be felt in the community. Affinity operates St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton and Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh.

“Any time 900 people in the community lose their positions, it’s not a good thing and it’s not a good at all for the communities where they live or the health care system,” Neufelder said. “Individuals currently employed with insurance may end up without (health) coverage and we are concerned about that.”


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