Employers can’t wait for students to graduate

July 26, 2013

From biztimes.com: “Employers are picking off skilled students before they graduate” — One of the issues for Pete Rettler and the West Bend campus of Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC) is keeping students through the end of their education programs.

The market is so hot for the skills offered that the students are picked off by employers before they graduate. That’s true for the electricity program, and it’s also true for the CNC/Tool and Die Technologies program.

“Demand is so high (for CNC) that we have a hard time keeping them in the program,” Rettler said.

The CNC (computer numerical control) trainees are often hired at the end of the first year of a two-year program, so Rettler, administrator of the campus, has to try to convince the employers that it’s worthwhile to have the students complete the second year, even if they are working at the same time.

There has been a ton of debate and analysis about the “skills gap” in Wisconsin. The major conclusion of the most recent high-level analysis was that a shortage of high-skill jobs in the state’s most dynamic economic clusters is a major strategic concern. Skill shortages in those sectors, like advanced manufacturing, can hold back the growth the state’s economy.

The Be Bold 2 study conducted last year by Competitive Wisconsin and The Manpower Group showed that one in ten jobs in key economic sectors cannot currently be filled. The projection was based on previous trends for retirements and training. These sectors include critical skill areas such as accounting and finance, IT, mechanical engineering, nursing and related fields, and metal manufacturing. Within a decade, their report said, key industries that now account for over 50 percent of Wisconsin’s GDP will be looking for 60,000 more skilled workers than will be available.

By 2016, for example, metal manufacturing will be short 7,100 jobs and nursing 5,200. By 2021, the shortages grow to about 13,000 each.

Conversely, though, if those jobs, call them the tip of the economic spear, can be filled, Wisconsin should be able to move out of the stagnation of the last decade. Rettler would say that is exactly what the MPTC campuses are doing. For instance:

  • Its CNC classes are full, with the students coming right out of high school or being sent there by employers. Wages for graduates range from about $29,000 to $65,000 or more. Not bad for getting started. Not bad compared with what a lot of four-year graduates make out of college. More than 60 students are now enrolled.
  • It offers welding at three of its campuses and also runs a series of 15-week boot camps that include advanced welding and fabrication. Classes are eight hours daily. That should quiet critics who complain about the short supply of welders.
  • It offers a high-tech simulation room where the plastic patients give nursing students a chance to do hands-on work. One of the dummies simulates giving birth. The two-year West Bend nursing graduates have been scoring the highest in the state on licensing exams.
  • Beyond electricity, an addition on the West Bend facility is now home to a broad program in building trades and HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration). Equipment is up to date. Again, the college can’t keep up with the demand as the construction industry picks up steam in the recovery.

Rettler loves showing off the high-end technology at the West Bend campus, which now rivals the headquarters Fond du Lac campus for numbers of students. He knows that if he can get students to just take a tour and learn about the wages available in the market – right now – he has a good chance of landing them for his programs.

He is working on parents and guidance counselors to visit, too, because they often don’t understand the high level of demand and wages for the kinds of skills MPTC offers.

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