Workforce Board helps launch metal manufacturing alliance

August 20, 2013

From “Board helps launch metal manufacturing alliance” — In late May, the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board received a request from a manufacturing employer requesting current data and projections for two occupations in our region: welders and machinists. In response, we ran an initial report using Economic Modeling Services Inc., or EMSI, a labor market analysis software to which we subscribe.

EMSI uses U.S. Bureau of Workforce Information, U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Education Statistics and Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development labor data among other sources for compiling occupation reports. Based on those sources, the occupational data is not “real time,” but is based upon precise sampling, generally with a six- to 12-month lag time. Educational output data is closer to “real time.”

To augment the EMSI-generated data, the board was asked by several employers to conduct a survey of 22 regional metal fabricators. The survey results revealed that the growth rate in the welding and machinist occupations was significantly greater than that projected by EMSI. That result is to be expected with any “real time” survey of employers (precisely why you see the disparity in unemployment numbers as the real survey of household reports is compiled).

The results prompted the board’s Business Services team to convene a meeting of the respondents to the survey and explore potential solutions to the demand for these and other manufacturing occupations.

Fifteen manufacturing company representatives met to discuss opportunities and partnerships that could help meet this identified occupation demand. Out of these discussions, the group formed the Central Wisconsin Metal Manufacturing Alliance.

Six representatives stepped forward to lead the steering committee of the alliance. Kathy Drengler of Greenheck and John Peterson of Schuette Metals were elected steering committee co-chairs. Other steering committee members are Tom Felch of J & D Tube Benders; Bill Wenzel of Northland Stainless; Julie Mahr of Sulzeer Machine; and Jim Frings of G3 Industries.

The new group identified the following key objectives to help build the pipeline of qualified workers:

• Promote metal manufacturing careers — get youths informed and excited about these occupations.

• Advocate for the necessary educational infrastructure to meet demand.

• Work collaboratively with other partners in the region already engaged in addressing the issues.

• Strengthen PK-16 relationship/partnerships, including further development of apprenticeships, internships, job shadowing.

• Inventory current initiatives to avoid duplication.

The group is working on two initiatives to increase capacity in the region. Both initiatives include Northcentral Technical College and methods to assist NTC in increasing its capacity to serve students and increasing interest in metal manufacturing careers.

For more information about NCWWDB’s Employer Services, call me at 715-204-1647 or email


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