FVTC offers career guidance and job training options to displaced workers

June 5, 2013

From jsonline.com: “Oshkosh Corp. cuts, linked to military spending decline” — About 535 employees at Oshkosh Corp.’s defense division are scheduled to lose their jobs June 14, fewer than an earlier estimate of 700, as some people have found other jobs or have taken early retirements, the company said Tuesday.

On Thursday, the 535 employees will get a chance to find other employment through a career fair exclusively for them at the Oshkosh Convention Center.

“This is for Oshkosh defense division production employees only,” said company spokesman John Daggett.

The all-day event, sponsored by the company, is expected to attract 14 area companies that have a total of 542 job openings — most of them in manufacturing.

The list includes Mercury Marine Inc., which is seeking to hire about 50 people in Fond du Lac.

Mercury has openings for maintenance mechanics and maintenance electricians. The company has a unique “sixth shift,” where employees work 36 hours Friday, Saturday and Sunday and get paid for 40 hours.

The long-weekend shift is sought by people who want to do other things during the week, such as attend school or pursue another career.

Other companies expected at Thursday’s career fair include defense contractor Oldenburg Group, Quad/Graphics, Schneider National, The Manitowoc Co., Bemis Co., Alliance Laundry and Pioneer Metal Finishing.

Oldenburg Group’s plant in Rhinelander has openings for welders, machinists, a weld-shop supervisor and a production manager. Among other things, the plant works on material-handling equipment for the U.S. Navy.

“If we spend the day in Oshkosh and hire a couple of people, it’s worth it,” said Gayle Rutlin, a human resources generalist for the company.

Tuesday, Fox Valley Technical College staff met with Oshkosh Corp. employees to offer career guidance and job training options.

A couple of employees said they wanted to get out of manufacturing and pursue careers such as physical therapy, said Denise Martinez, the college’s director of counseling services.

“Probably a bigger share of people stay in manufacturing of some type, but they want additional skills for greater job security,” Martinez said.

The Oshkosh Corp. job cuts were announced in April, ending a four-year hiring spree in the company’s defense division and slowing what former Defense Secretary Robert Gates once said was one of the most impressive military-vehicle production runs in decades.

Only two years ago, 2,500 people attended a two-day job fair for the company, with some waiting more than nine hours to be interviewed for roughly 750 job openings.

Including those who applied online and at other times, more than 5,000 people sought jobs as the specialty vehicle-maker added staff to fulfill a $3 billion defense contract.

Now, the people losing their jobs from a slowdown in defense spending are entering an improved job market in the Fox Valley and Northeast Wisconsin, according to the state Department of Workforce Development.

There are more than 1,000 job orders posted for production occupations in northeast Wisconsin, including orders with multiple positions, Workforce Development records show.

“The bottom line is the job market is pretty healthy right now. And the Oshkosh employees have been in the defense industry, so their certifications are top notch,” said Jim Golembeski, executive director of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board in Green Bay.

Replacing the defense contractor’s wages, including some of the highest pay in the area for manufacturing jobs, could be more difficult for many people.

“You may have to take two steps back before you start moving ahead again,” Golembeski said.

“I suspect we are going to see the same thing with the Kewaunee power plant employees, in that these men and women also are at the top of the pay scale, so they may not be able to maintain the wage level they’ve been at,” he added.

A dozen of the Oshkosh employees subject to the cutback took early retirements. About 150 other people won’t be included in the layoffs at the end of next week because they’ve already found other work or they were contract employees.

The employees losing their jobs, represented by United Auto Workers Local 578, will have hiring recall rights for up to three years. They will receive severance pay based on their unused or accrued vacation time, according to the company.

After the layoffs, the company will still have about 2,800 employees in its defense division in Oshkosh and 5,500 employees companywide in Wisconsin. But military vehicle production will drop 30%, and jobs tied to the lost work aren’t expected to come back anytime soon.

The pullback in military spending, largely from the war in Afghanistan winding down, is certain to ripple through the Fox Valley where the military-vehicle boom has supported dozens of businesses, including parts suppliers, metal fabricators, foundries and machine shops.


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