Column: SWTC responds to manufacturer needs

October 3, 2013

From  “Community Corner: SWTC and Manufacturing” — By Duane Ford, president Southwest Wisconsin Technical College – As our economy rebounded the last few years, regional manufacturers requested help addressing workforce shortages and skills gaps.

In celebration of October being Manufacturing Month, I am reporting Southwest Tech’s response since 2011. The accomplishments that follow were made possible by numerous conversations and partnerships with area manufacturers as well as more than $3.93 million in total support from 27 different private, state, and federal grants.

Manufacturers reported a shortage of people with the interest and skills needed for manufacturing jobs. In response, Southwest Tech beefed up marketing, student recruitment, and youth programming; developed a Business and Manufacturing Bridge Program to help adult students lacking basic literacy skills to prepare for admission into one of our manufacturing related diploma or degree programs; and developed Gold Collar Certification, a short program that provides entry-level manufacturing competencies to unskilled and low-skilled people.

Manufacturers reported a shortage of maintenance technicians, welders, and CNC setup/operators. In response, Southwest Tech is increasing the number of students we can serve in our electromechanical technology program from 24 to 48 per year and in welding from 40 to 60; growing student numbers in CNC setup/operator; developing “flex-degree-like” learning systems for our supervisory management, welding, and CNC setup/operator programs; and creating new programs in logistics and supply chain management.

Manufacturers reported a need for more customized, incumbent worker training. In response, Southwest Tech increased the number of workers we train per year by more than 63% since 2009 and developed two new programs. One is helping maintenance technicians understand how the machines they work on network with computer systems. The other is helping electricians work in the specialized environments of dairy and food manufacturing plants.

Southwest Tech appreciates this region’s manufacturers and their workers. We are proud of our service to this sector. Manufacturing offers fantastic career opportunities. Happy Manufacturing Month!


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