U.S. Senator Baldwin impressed by what she sees at Gateway Technical College

May 30, 2013

From kenoshanews.com: “Baldwin gets crash course in latest manufacturing technology in Kenosha” — U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin had an industrious day in the Kenosha area Wednesday. The freshman Democrat from Madison operated a laser engraver, carving her office’s slogan, “Fighting for Wisconsin!” into a refrigerator magnet, and she tried her hand at precision torque wrench use. And that was all before she co-piloted a simulated plane flight. Baldwin took in these demonstrations and more during tours of two Gateway Technical College facilities and a Kenosha manufacturing plant.

The senator visited Gateway’s SC Johnson integrated Manufacturing and Engineering Technology Center in Sturtevant and the Horizon Center for Transportation Technology in Kenosha — the latest stops in a survey of such facilities across the state, as part of an effort to study and promote workforce training and manufacturing job creation efforts.

“I don’t think you can have an economy built to last that doesn’t make things,” Baldwin said while at the iMET Center, a recently dedicated facility that includes a flexible manufacturing lab and training centers for computerized machining, welding and fabrication and other skills.

While Baldwin said manufacturing has taken some hits that cannot be controlled — not the least of which being the changing global marketplace — the senator said there are areas, such as worker training and education, where constructive action can be taken.

“We can, we must,” Baldwin said.

Impressed by GTC

Baldwin said she was impressed by what she saw at the Gateway facilities, where she heard about partnerships between the technical college and companies including Snap-on and Xten Industries, the latter of which she toured at the end of the day. She also joined a student for a cruise over Kenosha in a flight simulator and rubbed elbows with a dozen or so members of a welding/fabrication boot camp — a 15-week, full-time program that resulted in a 92 percent job placement rate for its last batch of graduates, said Mark Mundl of the Racine County Workforce Development Center.

“And that one guy who’s not working is lazy and has decided to sit on his couch,” Mundl told Baldwin.

Baldwin said she recently toured a similar, though more established manufacturing lab at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, which, she said, has brought significant benefits to that region.

“So this is a really great investment in this area,” Baldwin said, of iMET.

Baldwin’s on-the-ground research comes as she is serving on a Senate committee that, this summer, will likely study the reauthorization of the federal Workforce Investment Act, a 15-year-old law that serves as the framework through which federal dollars are delivered to local workforce programs.

Partnerships powerful

Among the things Baldwin said she’s learned is the power of public-private partnerships.

“We have to think more creatively these days, because of the financial picture that we’re in,” Baldwin said.

An example Baldwin saw firsthand Wednesday was the mutually satisfying agreement between Gateway and Snap-on. Gateway needed to replace aging automotive education facilities in Kenosha and Racine, and Snap-on needed training programs for the high-tech diagnostic tools it now produces, explained Matt Janisin, an instructor at the center and coordinator for the National Coalition of Certification Centers, an international network of educators and corporations that supports training efforts.

“What started with one company and one school is now up to multiple companies and we’re up to 120, 125 schools across the country and one in Morocco,” Janisin said.

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