From “Job fair in Wisconsin Rapids full of employers” — Hundreds of job seekers headed to Mid State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids.

The school held its annual job fair Thursday and coordinators say the turnout was better than expected.

According to the latest jobs report, businesses across the country continued to hire new workers in August.

Employers from all over Wisconsin attended the job fair.

From Madison to Green Bay, employers were looking for workers.

The job seekers included students and people of all ages.

57 employers set up booths in the gymnasium on Mid State Tech’s campus.

Organizers tell Newsline 9 that it’s the most booths they’ve had for the fall fair in several years.

“This past spring we had 58, this time we have 57, which is very encouraging and I’ve done this for a number of years and in the fall it’s usually pretty small, but this is our best fall in over seven years,” said Stephany Hartman, Career Services employee with Mid State Technical College.

Mid State Technical College holds two job fairs per year.

School leaders say the next one is in April of 2014.


From “Job training program moving forward in Wisconsin” — The state is moving forward with a new job training program.

Leaders from the Department of Workforce Development, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Technical College System signed an agreement to team up for the “Wisconsin Fast Forward” initiative.

It’s a $15 million grant program designed to help workers with job training.

“The Wisconsin Fast Forward initiative is quickly moving forward to provide workers with the training they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Governor Walker said.  “These grants will be used help Wisconsin workers gain new skills, connect workers with jobs, and foster job creation and expansion by offering innovative training solutions that match employers’ current needs.”

Officials hope to get it off the ground by the end of the year.


From “Findind success after college rooted in the practical” — By Kyle Jones – We understand that college degrees are a necessity when venturing into today’s job market. Though, all degrees are not made equal. The phrase, “a college degree shows employers that you have the ability and capacity to learn,” may be obsolete in the trying times of our troubled economy. It may not be about what you can learn, but what you already know and what you can do.

The Ashland area is surrounded by institutions of higher learning such as Northland College, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, The University of Wisconsin-Superior and Michigan Tech University. The question is, when planning for your educational future, what schools and what fields of study are going to be the most prosperous?

Annual placement and graduate follow up reports are in for students who graduated between 2011-2012.

At Michigan Tech, of 1,220 graduates contacted, 896 responded, 662 of them have full-time employment, with students who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree accounting for 564 of those who have full-time jobs. Now, take into account others, a total of 126 people, went on to pursue higher education and are attending a graduate school full-time.

By industry, graduates are reporting that they are finding work in manufacturing and energy/utilities/minerals, with automotive and consulting being tied for third. The lowest being the entertainment industry and contracting.

This type of focus in primary areas of work and industry is to be expected from a technological university, but how are others fairing at different institutes of higher learning?

Over at UW-Superior a total of 500 2011-2012 graduates were contacted, with 370 of them responding. UW-Superior’s numbers show that 75-percent of those contacted are employed and 20-percent are continuing their education. Some of the highest average salaries based on department come from business and economics ($42,401), Math and Computer Science ($40,654) and Natural Sciences ($34,000). Other career paths that fall into the category of arts make a considerably lower average salary – just over $20,000 in some cases.

This theme is not unique to large traditional four-year colleges. What does an associate or technical degree get you?

The Ashland campus of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) surveyed 187 graduates, with 164 responding, 116 are employed and 85 of them are working in fields relative to their training.

On average, graduates from the Ashland campus make $33,408, note that those with an associate degree make considerably more than those with a one-year degree or short-term training. The highest paid fields are those who work in trade and technical professions, allied health and business, with these fields all making at least the campus annual salary average.

At this moment Northland College could not submit their placement reports.

What we’re finding is that it seems, to no surprise, those students studying hard sciences or practical fields of study are graduating and going on to find financially rewarding careers compared to their colleagues who studied disciplines in liberal arts or fine arts.

UW-Superior’s data also shows that 61.3-percent of students are finding jobs in Minnesota, 54-percent in the Duluth/Superior area and 34-percent throughout Wisconsin.

Collectively, this data leads us to believe that students looking for work in the Great Lakes area should focus in areas such as manufacturing, industry, business and healthcare.

From “Secretary of Workforce Development calls for more state businesses to partner with schools” — WAUSAU – Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson traveled to Wausau’s North Central Technical College. Newson called on more state businesses to get involved in apprenticeship programs to bridge a skills gap and meet employers needs.

Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to have an apprenticeship program. It dates back to 1911. As  the business climate has changed, Newson says business and schools must partner to meet changing workforce needs.

He says technical schools provide the training programs business leaders need and employers can provide high paying jobs that can move workers into the middle class.

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From “Manpower survey says manufacturing expected to see boost in hiring” — A Manpower survey released Tuesday, March 12th named Wisconsin one of the best states to find a career with growth — particularly in the Milwaukee area.

The jobs report was encouraging for Lawrence Heyn, who was excited to hear manufacturing is one of the few industries expected to see a boost in hiring. It is one of several trades named in the Manpower Group Employment Outlook Survey.

Jorge Perez is the Senior Vice President of Manpower. The organization asks companies about their hiring intentions. The latest survey found companies intend to hire.

“It`s going to be in construction, transportation and logistics, so those are some of the industries are going up. Second quarter of 2013 has a positive trend across the U.S. 11% of the companies net number based on the survey they say they will increase their workforce in the next three months,” Perez said.

Perez says the numbers are much better than the first quarter and second quarter of last year, which hopefully means a steady upswing since the recession.

“Against the nation number the hiring intentions are 18% for the state of Wisconsin and same for the city of Milwaukee which are pretty positive,” Perez said.

The challenge may be finding the right talent for the openings. Kathleen Hohl says that’s where Milwaukee Area Technical College comes in.

“One of the most important things we do is work with representatives of manufacturing and construction companies in the area to learn what careers are going to have openings so we can appropriately educate and train our students so they are job ready when they graduate from MATC,” Hohl said.

The students learn manufacturing skills, combined with the latest skills in technology.

The poll of 18,000 employers was done before sequestration took effect. Perez believes the upward trend will continue, but of course, he’s not sure how sequestration will have an impact.

That will be reflected in the third quarter report, which comes out in June.


From “Paul Freiberg: We need all sorts of workers” — Several years ago, after my car skidded into a ditch during a snowstorm, I called the auto club for roadside assistance. After a short wait, a mechanic drove out in a wrecker. He knew his trade and he pulled my car from the side of the road.

I reminded myself never to take people for granted. I also reminded myself that not everyone needs to go to college. A four-year college degree wouldn’t necessarily provide the skills to that young man who pulled my car from the ditch.

We often read about the importance of a college degree. We read about the skills gap — the relative scarcity of experienced workers despite a relatively high unemployment rate. There’s little doubt that we need employees with the requisite skills and education for the competitive arena.

However, we should think about what are appropriate goals for people. We live in a diverse economy and need workers with the appropriate experience to service their respective clients. Some of those skills are best learned in college; some skills are taught elsewhere.

For instance, we need workers who have the ability to solve problems with their customers, the demanding consumer. For others, a two-year technical degree would be beneficial and indeed preferable to accommodate the requirements of local businesses and trades. For some people, working one’s way up the organization makes sense. We should never forget that everyone who works contributes to the economy.

The trick is to match the skills with the job. We need baristas who can multitask during the morning rush. We need wait staff, probably one of the more demanding jobs, to serve our food in a pleasant manner. These are the valued workers who serve me coffee and food as I travel throughout the Fox Valley.

We need retail workers who understand the merchandise and help us make good decisions. We appreciate those who can tell us what style tie goes with what color shirt. We need advice from the home improvement workers and recommendations from the associates at the book store. In the same manner, we rely on those who provide other advice, such as where the fish are biting and what bait to use. Some of us may need help on what type of wine goes with a Wisconsin brat.

Moreover, we need employees who understand how to repair the computers that operate modern equipment. We need auto mechanics who can troubleshoot and diagnose our automobiles and keep our families safe. We need truck drivers who can handle 40,000-pound loads on our crowded highways.

Again, we need the varied skills necessary for our diverse economy. As such, some workers will build their respective skills working their way up through the organization. Some people will be better off taking routes such as trade schools or two-year technical colleges. Not everyone needs to go to college and, let’s face the facts — we don’t have the capacity to accommodate everyone anyway.

Let’s also agree that the experience gained in these service jobs has provided many people with the foundation for other roles in their lives. The communication and interpersonal skills we learn while serving customers are invaluable as we progress through our respective organizations.

We depend on all of these employees such as restaurant staff, store associates, shuttle drivers and so on. Despite the occasional poor service, I see many of these employees work with urgency and pride.

In short, we’re dealing with paradox. We need employees with college educations, we need skilled workers with technical expertise and we need employees with the wherewithal to provide the necessary services, such as those individuals who serve burgers, wash cars and stock shelves.

These employees are important. Let’s not take anyone for granted.

From “Column: Student achievement high at MSTC” — By Sue Budjac, president of Mid-State Technical College —  As Mid-State Technical College nears the midpoint of spring semester, I pause to reflect on 100 years of student achievement in the Wisconsin Technical College System, or WTCS.

After all of these years, the basic premise remains the same: MSTC provides our students with the hands-on skills and real-world knowledge they need to be successful in central Wisconsin business and industry. All 16 colleges of the WTCS stand united in this commitment to student success.

The technical college model responds and evolves as employer needs and local economics change. That’s why MSTC graduates are in such high demand year after year. Nine out of 10 (88 percent) WTCS graduates are employed within six months of graduation. And not just any job — more than seven in 10 graduates are employed in a field related to their education and training. Who else can measure up to that?

While it’s important that our graduates attain employment, it is also vital that graduates employ their newly acquired skills here in Wisconsin. In fact, 86 percent of WTCS graduates remain in Wisconsin, and two-thirds don’t even leave their technical college district. Community and state appropriations for Wisconsin’s technical colleges are solid investments in our local and state economy.

Family sustaining wages are also a vital ingredient in a healthy local economy. WTCS associate degree graduates working full-time in a field related to their training earn an average of $36,000 within six months of graduation. A recent study showed this median salary increases to $44,000 within five years of graduation.

Student success is an integral part of everything we do at MSTC, because our graduates are central Wisconsin’s workforce of today and tomorrow. We measure our success in many ways. For example, 95 percent of graduates are satisfied with the education and training they receive at MSTC. A ready supply of employers want to hire MSTC graduates: 95 percent of surveyed employers said the education MSTC graduates receive meets or exceeds their expectations.

While I can go on about the many great benefits of a technical college education, seeing is believing. I invite you to attend the second annual Technical & Industrial Division Education Fair from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 12 where you will encounter hands-on activities and learn more about some of MSTC’s educational programs that lead to great careers with excellent pay in organizations seeking skilled employees.

Enjoy free pizza, enter a drawing for great prizes, visit with faculty, ask about scholarships and learn about financial aid. During this free event, you can preview all of our Technical & Industrial Division programs, including Industrial Mechanical Technician, Civil Engineering Technology-Highway Technician, Diesel & Heavy Equipment Technician, Urban Forestry Technician, Electrical Power Engineering Technology, Welding, our unique renewable energy programs, and many more. For more information or to register, call Mary at 715-422-5400.


From “Upgrading employee education” — Eau Claire  – An area technical college is teaming up with private companies looking to make the most out of their employees.

The skills upgrade is paid for through state grants and these taxpayer dollars are pumping up productivity.

“It allows employers to partner with their local technical college to train their current workforce,” says Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Roxann Vanderwyst.

This partnership has the goal of transforming tax funded grants into more skilled and productive workers.

“Everything we do with our business and industry training is really geared and customized to what the needs are for these employers,” says Vanderwyst.

“Our company signed us up just to send out a better employee to the customers,” says student and electrician Bill Lansin.

Employers can request specific classes from the college, like this electromechanical training program.

“So there is a lot of different areas that they are trying to hit so it’s not just one thing,” says Lansin.

“The focus again is to really upgrade the skill level of employees and overall provide productivity for companies,” says Vanderwyst.

Because increased productivity can save money for more than the employer.

“It’s saving everybody money because you’re sending out a better qualified person.  So the people that are paying the taxes or whatever for the program are getting a better person to come out and fix their equipment later too,” says Lansin.

Investing in Wisconsin, one employee at a time.

Chippewa Valley Technical College is currently seeking businesses who want to develop their employee’s skills in the 2013 to 2014 sessions.

The workforce advancement training grants are specific to certain skills sets, so the college does need to hear businesses needs to decide which classes to provide in the Chippewa Valley.

From “Refresh, renew getting reboot: Demand for interior designers growing as homebuilding, remodeling recovers” — Sixteen years working in retail was enough for Ross Proulx.

When he was considering a new career, he wanted a job that centered around his interest in design work and architecture. Proulx found it in interior design.

“Many years ago I had considered going to architectural school, but didn’t,” said Proulx, 39, of Appleton. While working full time, he reviewed programs at Fox Valley Technical College and was one of the first graduates of the school’s commercial design program in 2011.

Today, Prolux works as a facilities planner for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans in Appleton, where he has done everything from helping new employees set up ergonomic work stations to reconfiguring meeting spaces.

The work varies daily, which appeals to Proulx.

“What I like about the job is it’s a different challenge every day because there’s always different things to do and at times it can be like figuring out a puzzle,” he said. “Helping people make sure they have the resources they need to do their work is what I enjoy doing.”

Proulx may have entered the field at the right time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected available jobs for interior designers would grow 19 percent between 2010 and 2020.

There were 56,500 interior designer jobs in the country in 2010, the bureau estimated. That number was expected to increase another 10,900 by 2020.

The recovering home new home construction and commercial building markets as well as heightened activity in home remodeling is increasing demand for people with interior design skills, said Kathy McDonald, chairwoman of the interior design department at FVTC.

She said FVTC has offered general interior design programs since the 1970s but in 2011 launched an associate degree program in commercial design and kitchen and bath design.

The timing to launch the degree program was right since it was apparent job growth appeared promising, McDonald said.

“Even during the recession, there still was a lot of work for companies that did kitchen and bathroom remodeling,” she said. “And now we’re just starting to see new construction, both residential and commercial construction, increasing.”

McDonald said she is in contact with about 200 businesses around northeastern Wisconsin that need people with interior design skills. FVTC interior design students have had little trouble finding internships or work after graduation, she said.

FVTC said about 94 percent of its 60 interior design graduates the past two years are employed in the field.

Joey Wilinski, one of the owners of Wilco Cabinets in Green Bay, serves as an adviser for FVTC’s interior design program.

Her company, which employs 72, not only builds cabinets, but works with residential and commercial customers on layouts and installation.

Wilinski said the recession was challenging for her industry, especially as new residential and commercial construction slowed.

“We do a little bit of everything, but about 70 percent of our business is on the residential side,” Wilinksi said. “There was a major effect on our business during the housing downturn because there just weren’t as many new homes going up.”

Many home custom builders and related industries found opportunities in home and office remodeling.

“When the market was down, remodeling work helped keep the doors open for us and other companies like ours,” Wilinski said. “During the downturn, there still seemed to be a steady stream of business in people looking to replace counters and cabinets.”

Homeowners also turned to remodeling to revitalize kitchens or other areas of their homes if buying a new house was not an option, she said.

Reconfiguring existing spaces takes someone with the skills to redefine a room and make it flow, Wilinski said.

Her real-world experiences has been helpful to shape FVTC’s interior design program.

“The interest will be in people who have skills to plan a new layout for a bathroom or kitchen,” Wilinski said.

Proulx said he learned the intricacies of computer-aided design and time management at FVTC.

“Auto CAD was a huge skill and I couldn’t do my job without it,” he said.

While the new home building market still is recovering, Wilinski is optimistic of the future.

In terms of job prospects, interior designers who left the profession for other fields during the recession created some demand. She said job growth is not there yet but there is potential.

“When the market does really pick up again, there will be great potential,” Wilinski said. “The opportunities I see will be for the students entering the (interior design) program now.”

From WBAY-TV: “Skilled worker shortage continues”  — GRANT CHUTE — Job creation was a big part of the Governor’s State of the State Address Tuesday night. It came as many of the companies hiring in the state are seeking skilled workers.  As one of many non-traditional students at Fox Valley Tech, Jason Westberg is hoping to take advantage of a growing list of help wanted postings upon graduation as a machine tool technician.  He went back to school last August after a decision to change careers.

“Machine tool is a huge opportunity for re-training and advancement, so that’s why I chose this career path,” said Westberg.

The college says it’s aware of at least 200 openings.  It’s the same story in the package and label printing industry, where a job board at FVTC is now covered.  Instructor Scott Gehrt says the industry in Wisconsin is growing at a rate of 8 percent.

Gehrt said, “There was a time this fall when we had almost a hundred jobs postings on that board at one time, so the industry is real strong.”

Not only are technical colleges taking up the task of filling this employment gap, but they’re also having to train existing workers who must continuously keep up their knowledge.  Fox Valley Tech Vice President of Instruction Chris Matheny said, “The average age of our student is about 30 or 32. So, these are individuals that had life experiences, had other educational experiences, had work experiences, and are coming back or continuing their education in a way that they see a direct need in industry.”

As a skilled worker, Westberg hopes to have his pick of employers.

“Even at this point, at my early stages in this, it’s still, job opportunities are out there and available,” said Westberg.

From “WITC points workers toward their goals” — In a tough economy, finding a good job probably ranks higher than gathering free advice, but if the latter leads to the former it’s all good.

And that’s why the free career seminar from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College-Ashland (WITC) might be a good way to spend a couple of hours for anyone interested in selecting the right field, as well as the appropriate educational options.

Dan Miller, WITC’s career specialist, will facilitate the seminar, which is designed to be fun as well as informative. The seminar will focus on the broad spectrum of the workforce, including recent high school graduates considering choices for a first career, those thinking of changing careers, and those who want to get ahead in their present working environment.

“In health careers, there are so many openings right now with the growth due to the Baby Boomers,” Miller said of one prime career opportunity. “But you still want to match them up, you just don’t want to force them into something they don’t like.”

The free career seminars have been an ongoing feature at WITC for three years, Miller said, held on the first Tuesday of each month in Room 208 at WITC-Ashland, 2100 Beaser Ave.

To help match people with the proper career, Miller said he opens the seminars with personality and career assessments.

“We try to find something that matches up with what they like to do and what their talents and strengths are,” said Miller, who has been with WITC for 18 months. “I even talk about things they were interested in when they were a child and they kind of forgot about.”

A priority, Miller said, is finding careers for people that will allow them to remain in the Chequamegon Bay area.

“Without a doubt,” Miller said. “But it depends on the person. A lot of people do not want to move, or have a family or are working right now and they either want to enhance what they have or are changing careers with the loss of a job.”

Miller said medical careers, thanks to Memorial Medical Center, nursing homes and other health care facilities, provide many jobs for those wishing to remain in the area.

“Health sciences right now is booming,” Miller said. “The Baby Boomers, we call them ‘Golden Boomers,’ their health care needs are huge. And there is a shortage of nurses right now. It’s just amazing. The growth there is hard to comprehend. There is a gap we’re tying to fill.”

Miller said there are also careers linked to the health-care industry, such as information technology, coding and business management and administration.

He said there is also a pressing need for tool and die makers and welders.

“There is definitely a gap that needs to be filled in the manufacturing industry,” Miller said. “The industry is screaming for skilled laborers right now. So we’re trying to bridge that gap from the high schools to the tech colleges because there is such a high demand for it.”

For those already employed and looking to enhance their current positions and pay, Miller said WITC has classes and technical degrees to help reach those goals.

“When we add programs to our college we don’t just do it based on what we think.” Miller said. “We do a lot of research with area employers. They’re on our panel. So we kind of see what’s out there and what the demand is.”

Miller said the seminars have room for 12 people, but have been averaging about five for each session.

“It depends on the weather, to be honest with you,” Miller said. “Sometimes it’s intimidating for middle-aged people walking into any college. What’s nice about getting them in the door here is to feel how comfortable it is.”

Miller said after a career seminar he often will meet one-on-one with the attendees to determine the pros and cons of pursuing a chosen field of endeavor.

“When people leave a seminar they have a different outlook,” Miller said. “And it’s real positive. There’s nothing better than actually finding something that matches up with them and actually seeing them enroll to one of those programs. So it’s pretty neat to see.”

From “Clintonville company, employee honored” — CLINTONVILLE – October is Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The state is honoring a company in Clintonville, for rehiring a former employee who is now wheelchair bound.

Operating the press brake at Walker Forge is a job Jake Dudzik loved to do.

“It was definitely a fun job out there that’s for sure,” said Dudzik.

It was until 2007. That’s when Dudzik was partially paralyzed in a diving accident. But being wheelchair bound doesn’t mean he’s out of work.

“It was Jake’s initiative to go to school and be successful at school that allows him to work here. We didn’t take his classes or get his degree for him, he did all of that himself,” said company president Richard Recktenwald.

Three years and a drafting degree later, Dudzik returned to Walker Forge full-time in March.

“I was never one who wanted to go back to school before this that’s for sure, but I had a good group of classmates and teachers and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be,” said Dudzik.

Dudzik now works in front of a computer analyzing projects and preparing cost estimates. While Jake no longer works on the factory floor he says he enjoys his new position and most of all, he says he appreciates being treated like everyone else.

“Just another guy in the shop pretty much is all it is and that’s the way I want it,” he said.

Dudzik’s father Brian also works at the company. He says the state recognition is well deserved.

“It was a long road to go down and today is a proud day for all of us; I mean he had a lot of hard work today.”

Recktenwald says Jake is still a valuable member of the company.

“All we did was give a job to a person with the right skills at a time we had an opening,” said Recktenwald.

And that was all Jake was looking for.

The state gave both the company and Dudzik plaques Tuesday. Walker Forge employs more than 400 people in Clintonville, including several others with various disabilities.


From “Q & A Lindquist Machine Corp. CEO hypes jobs in manufacturing” — ASHWAUBENON — Each week, the Green Bay Press-Gazette talks to business leaders about their industries, the economy and other business issues.

Today, Mark Kaiser, president and CEO of Lindquist Machine Corp. and chairman of the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance, talks about the alliance’s efforts to increase interest in manufacturing careers.

Q. Is NEW Manufacturing Alliance making progress in it efforts to promote manufacturing careers?

A. The Alliance has found an increased interest from K-12 in promoting manufacturing careers. The Green Bay and Howard-Suamico school districts worked with the Alliance this past year in having more than 100 educators tour manufacturing plants. Dialogue centered on understanding what a 21st century manufacturing company looks like compared to past stereotypes.

We heard comments from educators who taught math, science and social studies that they had no idea of the extent technology is used in manufacturing, and the clean, organized, well-lighted environment people work in.

This is one example of the Alliance’s efforts to develop relationships with educators to help them understand the opportunities available to students.

Q. The Manufacturing/Education Partnership Awards kickoff event seemed a success. What was your view of it and where does it go from here?

A. The dinner is another example of showcasing these careers to educators. The Alliance invited educators from throughout the region. There was time to network — another opportunity to build the relationships between educators and manufacturers. In addition, the event spotlighted education best practices, showcasing Brillion High School, where a significant number of students enroll in a tech-ed classes.

The primary goal of the event was to bring manufacturers and educators together to develop professional relationships. Manufacturers in the past have worked in “silos” and have not been engaged with our local schools. That is a mistake that the Alliance is attempting to change.

The awards spotlighted the 2013 All-Stars, who are the best and brightest manufacturing employees in the region between the ages of 18 and 35. The winners love their jobs, are proud of their work, and are examples for educators to see that these careers are rewarding.

We are hearing that local tech colleges are seeing increased enrollment in manufacturing-related courses, compared with other industry sectors. Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, for example, had to add second-shift machining classes to meet the demand.

There are so many examples of great partnerships between manufacturers and educators that we can learn from. This event provided a vehicle to encourage those in attendance that are not engaged to become engaged with their local school district.

Next year, we plan to continue to spotlight best practices and have time in the program for further relationship development.

Q. Manufacturing employers have been concerned about lack of skilled workers for several years. Is that situation improving?

A. I believe that our message is getting out regarding the skills shortage; we see this at a local, state and national level.

This is the first step in solving the problem. The media has had numerous stories on the skills shortage. The public — and government — are starting to understand that there is a disconnect between people seeking employment and the jobs available.

Job seekers need to be retrained to have the skills required by industry. Technology and innovation will continue to rapidly advance, driving the skills gap as we move forward. The best way to continuously narrow the skills gap is for our region to adopt a ‘life-long learning’ strategy for all: students and workers, even when they are employed.

Many companies offer tuition reimbursement, however, not enough employees utilize this employer benefit.

The Alliance will be conducting the third annual Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Vitality Index study in November 2012. One of the questions asked is “are you anticipating having difficulty finding people to fill your open jobs?” In the 2011 study, 29 percent of companies replied “yes” and the 2012 study had 45 percent replying “yes.”

The next study will be released in December and we are very interested to see what the results will show. This will give us some indication if we are making progress.

Q. What are the skills most in need and what are employers doing to improve that situation?

A. Technical skills are extremely important, but we are hearing from employers a real need exists for soft skills.

The Alliance commissioned a study by UW-Oshkosh’s Business Success Center to better understand the skill gaps of the current production work force. The study found five main gaps: conflict resolution, problem solving/critical thinking, computer skills, leadership and working in an effective team.

Note that only one of the five is a technical skill.

The Alliance has been working with member manufacturers and Lakeshore Technical College in developing a Leadership Academy for front-line production workers addressing these specific skills. The six-month program — a pilot will begin in January — will bring employees from a variety of companies to work together on these skills.

The Alliance membership employs 30 percent of the work force in Northeastern Wisconsin. We believe that improving the soft skills of our members’ production workers will have a significant positive impact on our region’s workforce, which will make our companies more productive, competitive, and successful.

Q. This is Manufacturing Month. Why is manufacturing important to Wisconsin and the United States?

A. Number one is jobs. There has been a lot of discussion during the election season regarding jobs. Twenty-three percent of all of the jobs in Northeastern Wisconsin are manufacturing – one of the highest percentages in the country for a specific region.

Manufacturing jobs and companies provide a strong tax base that directly impacts schools and government, helping provide the financial resources they need. More importantly, these jobs are good-paying jobs with great benefits. Wages/benefits in manufacturing are in the top three for all industry sectors in each county of Northeastern Wisconsin.

Our country needs to have strong manufacturing to ensure we are not overly reliant on other countries for many (not all) of the items we consume in this country. We have experienced firsthand the problems associated with importing large quantities of oil from other countries. Most people don’t know that the United States is still the largest manufacturer in the world. Manufacturing has been a large part of providing our high standard of living as compared to other countries.

From “DWD Secretary Reggie Newson visits MPTC” –  October is Manufacturing Month, and Moraine Park Technical College kicked off the celebration of awareness with a visit from Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Reggie Newson on October 5. Newson’s visit coincided  with Moraine Park’s Manufacturing Day event, where educators, students and companies were welcomed to Moraine Park’s Fond du Lac campus for tours of manufacturing facilities throughout the day.

Manufacturing Day was celebrated in Wisconsin and other states around the country to address lingering misperceptions about current-day manufacturing operations. During his visit, Newson spoke with Moraine Park students, instructors and leaders on how the collaboration between workforce development and Wisconsin’s Technical Colleges is integral to supporting manufacturing employers.

“Celebrating Manufacturing Day is one way to thank manufacturing employers and workforce partners for their contributions to Wisconsin’s economy and support for working families,” said Secretary Newson. “I look forward to continuing to work closely with Moraine Park and our state’s technical college system to highlight manufacturing as a high-quality career option and develop a pipeline that will enable employers to access the skilled workers they need for Wisconsin to continue to prosper.”

Newson toured Moraine Park’s fabrication, welding and integrated manufacturing facilities, getting an in-depth look at the programs and many career pathways for current and future students. He even learned how to work a plate shear, thanks to Dustin Meyer, a first-year welding student from Chilton.

“Moraine Park was honored to welcome Secretary Newson to campus as we celebrated Manufacturing Day,” said Moraine Park President Sheila Ruhland. “We work closely with area manufacturing employers so our students are workforce ready upon completing their program. The average wage in manufacturing is approximately 20 percent higher than the state’s average weekly wage, and Moraine Park is grateful to Secretary Newson for further promoting the many opportunities a manufacturing career can provide.”

To learn more about Manufacturing Month in the State of Wisconsin, visit or


From “Milwaukee manufacturing partnership has aided nearly 200 job seekers” — The Mayor’s Manufacturing Partnership training and placement program has helped nearly 200 people since its launch in April, city and work force development officials said Wednesday.

The partnership between the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (MAWIB), city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP/BIG STEP) and the Milwaukee Area Technical College seeks to address the shortage of skilled workers for open manufacturing jobs.

It initially received $500,000 in federal work force investment funds with the goal of placing 150 people in manufacturing jobs and connecting another 500 job seekers to employment or career pathways within the sector. The Milwaukee Common Council in July also designated $207,000 from the Milwaukee Jobs Act to grow the program.

Thus far, the program has helped 38 job seekers gain employment through employer-driven training, made 17 on-the-job placements and 81 direct employment placements. Another 61 people have completed customized manufacturing training programs, officials said.

The additional $207,000 is expected to fund employer-driven training for 36 more job seekers and cover placement and support services for dozens more.

“We’re being able to take people who are looking for work and train them for specific jobs, which gives employers a much higher level of confidence,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in an interview. “The first signs (of the program) are very positive. We want it to grow. We want more employers involved.”

Barrett will discuss the program’s progress on Friday at C&D Milwaukee Manufacturing, 900 E. Keefe Ave., in conjunction with Oct. 5 being designated the first national Manufacturing Day by industry groups.

Don Sykes, MAWIB president and CEO, said he believes the program has a good return on investment, though it can get discouraging when there’s still thousands more trying to find jobs.

“We’re trying to keep a focus on manufacturing,” Sykes said. “It’s kind of hard because there’s a lot of kids nowadays that don’t think of manufacturing as attractive.”

The Milwaukee region is second in the nation in manufacturing jobs per capita, program officials said. There’s currently 757 positions open in welding and machining, the most in-demand manufacturing positions, with projections reaching 1,860 by 2018.

“There’s a lot more to be done” to address the skills gap, Barrett said. “That’s where we have to put a lot of our effort. But we’re very encouraged by the (program’s) initial results.”


From “A century of collaboration” — A hundred years ago, brand new technical colleges in Wisconsin started welcoming fresh-faced, knicker-wearing boys who hoped to obtain training that would lead to a good career.

The students (and the clothes) have changed, but the basic mission of Wisconsin technical colleges has remained the same.

Read more from Insight on Business

From the Northwestern: “Q&A: Jobseekers helps people chart new path, gain employment” — “How’s sending out letters and resumes working for you?” Chris Czarnik asked a Job Seekers student in late April.

“I’m here,” the student replied.

“You cannot get hired in the traditional way. If you could, you’d be working right now,” Czarnik said, turning his attention back to the group of nearly a dozen people in a Fox Valley Technical College classroom. “But there’s another way.”

Every Thursday afternoon, a regularly-changing group of people stop at FVTC’s Riverside campus to hear a short, engaging lecture from Czarnik on his “new way” to find a job and to update the group on the status of their efforts.

The process he teaches and, to an extent preaches, requires a person to begin with a self-evaluation aimed at assessing their skills and determining what industries interest them. From there, students craft a core message about the skills they have and the benefits that can provide before setting out to extensively network with anyone and everyone related to the markets and companies your search focuses on.


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