October 10, 2013
From wxpr.org: “Heavy Metal” Appeals to Students” – WXPR’s Ken Krall took a look at the future with some Northwoods 8th graders at Nicolet College in Rhinelander. He took the “Heavy Metal Tour.”
Not a rock band, but a job fair of sorts: the “Heavy Metal Tour” is sponsored by Nicolet College, Northcentral Technical College, 27 manufacturing employers, and boards and alliances.
Rene Daniels from North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board says the goal is to give 8th graders a look at careers they might not have considered.
“We’re trying to catch students at a point in their lives -these are eighth graders – when they’re starting to think about those careers and what they could possibly do. And we want to keep as many of our students here in the Northwoods as we can. And so we want to expose them to an industry and occupations that are in their own backyard. It really is eye-opening.”
Olivia from Minocqua said she had thought about a job in sports but saw other possibilities…
“I’m excited to find out more about the industry, cause I hadn’t really thought about a job there. So it’ll be nice to see what’s out there.”
Nate from Mercer wants to fly, but realizes people need to build the planes.
“I wanted to be a pilot – so I was thinking there would be some stuff, maybe making things for airplanes or how things are made.”
The students toured Rhinelander-area manufacturers and heard about training at the two technical colleges. Promoters say manufacturing jobs have changed a lot over the last decades, requiring computer and math skills. October is Manufacturing Month.
October 8, 2013
From nbc26.com: “Students Use Mobile Tech Lab” – HOWARD-SUAMICO — Technology is on the move today at one local school.
Students at Bay Port High School in Howard-Suamico got a visit from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s Mobile Tech Lab today. It features state-of-the-art equipment and programs used in the manufacturing industry. The goal of the visit is to spark interest in the field while at the same time, getting students familiar with the equipment.
“We’ve gained some additional enrollments within the program and these enrollments will eventually lead to these students going out and working in the industry,” says CNC Lab Technician Jerry Bronkhorst.
AT&T also made a donation that would allow students to get a semester of training in the mobile lab this fall.
October 3, 2013
From swnews4u.com: ”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!
October 3, 2013
From northlandsnewscenter.com: “Manufacturers revealed at WITC” – October is manufacturing awareness month which gave local businesses the perfect opportunity to show what they have to offer.
WITC hosted several businesses from around the Twin Ports.
The event gave people a better understanding of the partnership between industry and the college to educate the future work force.
WITC students have the opportunity to get hands on experience that will transfer directly to many of the careers highlighted at the event.
“Over 70 percent of high school graduates don’t want to go to a four year school but they are not sure what else to do. So our hope here tonight is to just start that process and getting the community to understand the manufacturers that are here,” said David Minor, president of the Superior and Douglas County Chamber of Commerce.
Ten businesses were at the event including Amsoil, Kestrel, and Field Logic.
September 25, 2013
From thenorthwestern.com: “Robotic welding program brings Walker to FVTC” – Learning to weld is normally a hands-on experience, but 14 Fox Valley Technical College students are taking a very hands-off approach to a new course.
Fox Valley Tech has introduced a course in robotic welding at its Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center on Oshkosh’s south side this semester as it responds to changing demands of area manufacturers.
The new program, and the eight robots mounted with MIG welding guns, caught the attention of Gov. Scott Walker, who toured the manufacturing campus Tuesday afternoon.
“We can compete with anybody in the world, anywhere around the world, but we’re not going to compete the way we used to,” Walker said. “Advanced manufacturing means people who have multiple skills that can be applied using not only crafts they’ve learned here, but also all the technology that goes with it.”
FVTC Metal Fabrication and Welding Instructor Ben Cebery said the college was able to use a portion of a three-year, $3 million Advanced Manufacturing Pathways Plus grant the U.S. Department of Labor awarded FVTC earlier this year to develop the robotic welding course’s curriculum.
“We’re seeing more automation in manufacturing,” Cebery said. “Surveys with local companies suggested it was a good idea for students to be exposed to automation. This program prepares students for what we’re seeing and the demands of industry.”
Jay Manufacturing CEO Matt Jameson said the company has six robotic welding stations and a lot more manual welding stations at its west side fabrication shop. He said the company has hired several welders recently, and needs to hire as many as 20 more. He said the company views robotic welding training as a definite plus.
“The more versatile a person is, the more we can do with them,” Jameson said. “If they know manual and robotic welding, that’s just a bonus. In addition, the people we have interviewed who tested well almost all had some form of technical college training.”
Joe Serio, of Menominee Falls, and Austin Kopplin, of Oshkosh, both said they’re excited to learn how to program the robots and get them to execute precision welds. Serio said he knows welders are in high demand, but learning more advanced skills like computer programming is vital to finding a good job.
“Usually, we don’t get to deal with computers much while welding, but there’s always someone who needs to run the robot in case something happens,” Serio said. “This comes easy and it’s a pretty nice skill to learn.”
Kopplin said he’s been impressed by the amount of programming required to get the robots to work and the precision with which they execute commands.
“It’s consistent and perfect every time,” Kopplin said. “You get jittery welding for six hours at a time, but these things can run all night.”
Cebery said the college reached out to companies who said students need to be familiar with robotic welding and asked them to provide one or two robots they use. He said Ariens Co., in Brillion, and Muza Metal Products, in Oshkosh, are just two of the companies that stepped up to help out.
“Getting eight robots on the floor would have cost an astounding amount of money,” Cebery said. “Finding another way was vital. Fortunately, we were able to find a way via donations and gifted equipment that exposes students to the different types of robotic welders. They get to learn on each of them.”
September 6, 2013
From htrnews.com: “Lakeshore Technical College building expansion begins” – CLEVELAND — Lakeshore Technical College’s building expansion and renovation project, announced in late April, began when ground was broken on July 25. By expanding the college’s Flexible Training Arena and renovating the Trade and Industry building on the Cleveland campus, LTC will help fill local manufacturers’ pressing need for welders, machine tool and industrial maintenance workers while alleviating waiting lists, according to a news release from LTC.
The project will be completed in two phases, the first of which is expanding the 18,000-square-foot Flexible Training Arena to 32,400 square feet. Remodeling of the Trade and Industry building will begin in January. The project will allow for more graduates, and updated equipment will train workers with the machining, welding and robotic skills that manufacturers need.
“Thanks to the support of local business and individuals, we’ve been successful in raising enough private funds to break ground,” LTC President Michael Lanser said in the news release. “Our first additional class will graduate and be employment ready by August 2014.”
Nearly $900,000 has been raised thus far as part of the first capital campaign in the college’s 100-year history. LTC hopes to raise $2.1 million in private funds to help offset the $6.1 million project, and it now will broaden its reach to local communities for support.
“By collaborating with local business and philanthropic organizations to help fund the project, we are able to reduce public funding to the point of not requiring a referendum,” Lanser said. “It allows us to address our local manufacturers’ employment needs more quickly.”
A recent report from the U.S. Commerce Department shows Wisconsin ranks second among all states in manufacturing earnings. Manitowoc County derives 29 percent of all earnings from manufacturing. According to a report prepared for Gov. Scott Walker by former Bucyrus Erie CEO Tim Sullivan, the manufacturing worker shortage will reach a critical stage in 2018 as Wisconsin must fill 925,000 jobs, many of them in the skilled trade area, due to growth and baby boomer retirements. In the Lakeshore area alone, an annual average of 293 openings exists for machinists, welders, millwrights, industrial and maintenance mechanics, electricians and electromechanical workers.
LTC currently has capacity to provide an average of fewer than 100 graduates for those positions, and the lack of facilities further limits LTC’s ability to address the incumbent worker training needs of local manufacturers and creates waiting lists that thwart student interest, the news release states.
“We know that 87 percent of LTC grads live and work in the Lakeshore area,” Lanser said. “Our local manufacturers will benefit from that, and the family-supporting wages they pay to our first group of graduates will add nearly $9.5 million to the local economy in just five years. It may also attract new employers looking for a skilled workforce. It’s a great value.”
August 26, 2013
From htrnews.com: “Project Mini Chopper” – It’s hard to believe it has been six years since the inception of Project Mini Chopper.
What started as a casual conversation in 2007 among local employers about the impending worker shortage has grown into an exciting collaboration among The Chamber of Manitowoc County, the Economic Development Corporation of Manitowoc County, Lakeshore Technical College, Manitowoc County school districts and area businesses.
It has been said that the true legacy of a good idea is in its sustainability. Although the economic conditions have changed considerably since 2007, one thing remains the same today as it did six years ago: the concern of having an adequately skilled workforce to sustain the needs of area employers.
This concern makes Project Mini Chopper just as relevant today as it was during its planning stages.
So what is the risk: a worker shortage or a skills gap?
Both. We all know that manufacturing has evolved from its repetitive and often low-skilled roots, to a highly-skilled and technically-agile workforce able to think strategically, solve problems, and work as a team.
The brawn-powered processes of yesteryear are replaced with brain-powered 21st century manufacturing methods with innovative, creative and adaptive prowess.
Gone are the days that a high school diploma (or even the lack of one) is ample qualification for a “factory job,” where you were all but guaranteed a lifetime of employment at a livable wage.
Today, without a post-secondary credential (ranging from an occupational certificate to an advanced degree), career options are severely limited. More than ever, postsecondary training is necessary to acquire the skills necessary to thrive in today’s efficiency-driven manufacturing world.
Project Mini Chopper exists, and continues to flourish, because of the skills gap (the gap between the skills possessed by the workforce and the skills needed by manufacturers).
Its mission is to convey to our youth, parents, and community the importance of acquiring the technical and soft skills needed by area employers, in addition to promoting the challenging opportunities awaiting them in 21st Century manufacturing careers.
Last year, four area companies invested both time and money in the development of our future workforce by sponsoring a Project Mini Chopper team: HMF Finishing sponsoring Two Rivers, Miller Ag-Bag sponsoring Lincoln, LTC sponsoring Valders, and Manitowoc Motor Machining, Eis Implement Inc., School District of Mishicot and Dowco co-sponsoring Mishicot.
Sponsoring companies make more than just a financial investment in their high school team. A company liaison is designated to collaborate on all aspects of the bike, from design to final build, in the process providing valuable professional mentoring throughout the project.
As mentioned earlier, through interaction with the company, school instructor and project committee members students learn important technical skills (mechanical design, welding, painting, electro-mechanical, materials management and procurement, and quality control), as well as the increasingly-important soft skills and management skills (budget, project and time management, teamwork, safety, problem-solving and public speaking).
Thus, Project Mini Chopper provides a well-rounded learning experience that will benefit students regardless of their post-graduation career track.
If you are interested in investing in this project and our future workforce, please call The Chamber, (920) 684-5575.
August 20, 2013
From marshfieldnewsherald.com: “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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 15, 2013
From postcrescent.com: “Amerequip donates $10,000 to tech college” – KIEL — Amerequip, a manufacturer of custom equipment for the lawn, landscape, agricultural and construction markets, has donated $10,000 to Moraine Park Technical College Foundation’s Manufacturing Fund.
The fund is aimed at strengthening the appeal of manufacturing-related careers by offering manufacturing programs that reduce the transition time from degree to workforce, while providing manufacturers with direct access to students enrolled in those fields. It focuses on recruitment, retention and workforce readiness; offering students financial assistance as well as incentives to complete their degrees with performance based rewards.
Amerequip provides design and engineering services, along with production and manufacturing, of custom equipment for international and national customers in a variety of industries. The firm operates four Wisconsin facilities, with more than 155 employees.
August 14, 2013
From bizjournals.com: “Wisconsin manufacturing apprentices increase” — By Jeff Engel - A wide-ranging marketing campaign by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development aimed at drumming up interest in manufacturing apprenticeships has apparently shown results.
In April, DWD began promoting apprenticeships through billboards, public service announcements on TV, videos on its website, flyers and brochures for workers and advertisements on the Packers Radio Network, the state agency said. It worked with ad agency Laughlin Constable to develop the outreach effort.
Through the first half of the year, new apprentices increased 30 percent year-over-year to 1,383, according to the DWD Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards. From April 1 through June 30, the number of manufacturers participating in the state program increased by 67 companies compared with the same period last year, DWD said.
One of those additions to the program is Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., now a registered apprenticeship employer. DWD Secretary Reggie Newson visited Ocean Spray’s Kenosha plant on Monday.
With the agreement, Ocean Spray will start by sponsoring three apprentices in maintenance technician apprenticeship training. The Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass.-based company produces canned and bottled juices and juice drinks.
“Ocean Spray’s ability to expand our markets and products is directly tied to our ability to find employees with the right skills,” said Tim Peoples, Ocean Spray’s Kenosha plant director. “We chose to start an apprenticeship program at our Kenosha plant to develop our work force while providing growth opportunities.”
The program combines on-the-job training with a journey worker and classroom learning, often at a technical college. Apprentices are enrolled for four to five years, with wages increasing along the way. They graduate from the program with a nationally recognized certification.
The average annual wage in manufacturing is about $51,400, more than $10,000 above the average annual wage for all occupations in Wisconsin, DWD said.
August 12, 2013
From starjournalnow.com: “Industrial manufacturing skills training info session Aug. 15 at Nicolet College” – With high local demand for workers with solid industrial manufacturing skills, Nicolet College will be holding an information session will be held Thursday, Aug. 15, for anyone interested in learning about the skills and training necessary to enter the field.
The Industrial Mechanical Information Event will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. in the college’s Manufacturing Lab in Art Tech Center 108 on the Nicolet Campus.
Anyone interested can drop in any time that is convenient for them to tour the lab and meet with instructors.
At 5:30 p.m., area manufacturing employers will take part in a panel discussion to talk about the specific skills they need in employees, how people can get these skills, and how an individual can go about applying for a job at the various manufacturing facilities.
Grants to cover all tuition costs are available to qualifying individuals. Nicolet staff will be on hand to help people fill out the grant applications as well as fill out the application for admission to Nicolet College.
Nicolet staff will also be on hand to give tips on how to write a good resume as well as what it takes to perform well in a job interview.
Nicolet offers a manufacturing skills training program that starts with students earning the short-term Industrial Maintenance Fundamentals certificate. Credits earned can then be applied to the one-year Industrial Electronics Maintenance technical diploma which then ladders into the two-year Industrial Mechanical Technician associate degree.
Wages in the Northwoods range from $12 to $24 an hour, depending on experience.
For more information about industrial manufacturing training at Nicolet, visit nicoletcollege.edu or call the college at 715-365-4451, 800-544-3039, ext. 4451; TDD 715-365-4448.
August 8, 2013
From ozaukeepress.com: “Boot camps provide technical know how” — By Sarah McCraw - The success of a quickly growing internship program is boosting efforts to create a new generation of workers in the skilled trades industry.
John Crane Orion in Grafton, which manufactures hydrodynamic bearings used in high-speed rotating machinery, was the first company to partner with Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac to launch Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machining Boot Camps in fall 2012.
The program is designed to fast-track CNC machining education and help strengthen an industry few have entered recently, Kristy Reed, operations people development manager for John Crane Orion said.
“In the future, more people are going to need more than a high school diploma but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree, so these types of certificate programs are filling the gap,” Reed said.
The boot camps are educating people about safe, clean and high-paying careers in skilled trades, breaking the stigma that manufacturing jobs are dirty and dangerous, Reed said.
The program provides students with 72 hours of internship experience that may lead to jobs at area manufacturing companies.
“I absolutely love this internship program, not only because it’s all accredited, but it really gives people three years of on-the-job training in just 16 weeks, so a huge learning curve is cut right there,” Reed said.
The boot camp is also setting a base standard of knowledge for CNC machinists, ending the reputation that they are niche positions within a single company, Reed said.
Businesses are certainly taking note of the level of performance from interns, Anne Lemke, economic and workforce development project manager at Moraine Park Technical College said.
“We’ve had really good feedback on the boot camp from the employers,” Lemke said. “It’s not just about the skilled labor of working the CNC machine. We need people who can work well, can listen well and have problem-solving skills.”
Lemke said John Crane Orion is one of three companies in Ozaukee County accepting interns for the 15-week program.
Students spend one day at an internship and four days in class doing lab work on equipment that is identical to that on shop floors.
“The program is 75% hands-on learning,” Reed said.
Terese Cordova of Jackson is finishing an internship through the boot camp at John Crane Orion, where she is learning how to make hydro-dynamic bearings and seals used in oil and gas-powered generators.
“Being here is really good for me because I can take what I’ve learned in the lab and see it applied in an actual manufacturing environment,” Cordova said.
Lemke said the biggest challenge has been finding people to participate in the program.
Students must pass a basic education, aptitude for learning, spacial recognition and mechanical aptitude tests to be accepted into the program.
“We have more employers waiting for an intern than we have students to fill the positions,” Lemke said.
Experience has shown that students who complete the programs are likely to secure a job, she said.
Of 28 people who completed the program last school year, 22 were hired by area companies, Lemke said.
“Students are so grateful for the opportunity,” she said. “A lot of people are unemployed because they’ve lost their job. This is giving them a great opportunity.
“We’ve also gotten a lot of compliments from the employers who have worked with us that our students are more skilled for the positions.”
Reed said interns at John Crane Orion handle a variety of jobs to get a full understanding of the production process.
Nick Schmidt of Grafton was hired by John Crane Orion in 2011 after he completed a similar boot camp through Waukesha County Technical College.
Schmidt said he was under-employed prior to going through the program.
“You get to learn the machining right away. You don’t have to learn all the little programs and stuff like that,” he said. “You learn how to actually make the part instead of trying to figure out what the machine is trying to do.”
A three-year, $705,000 grant from the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation provides funding for the program, Lemke said.
Students pay $500 for the boot camp, but $375 is reimbursed if they complete the course with a C grade or above and meet the 98% attendance rate.
“We tell students that CNC companies are constantly looking for help so the job security is there for you and you can take that wherever you want to go,” Lemke said.
August 6, 2013
From starjournalnow.com: “Industrial manufacturing skills training info session Aug. 15 at Nicolet College” – With high local demand for workers with solid industrial manufacturing skills, Nicolet College will be holding an information session Thursday, Aug. 15, for anyone interested in learning about the skills and training necessary to enter the field.
August 6, 2013
From sheboyganpress.com: “Baldwin encouraged about jobs by LTC visit” – Sen. Tammy Baldwin says she worries about the middle class and the people whose lives have been irreversibly changed by the recession and job loss.
On Monday, she met some of those people at Lakeshore Technical College and was heartened by what she learned.
“Their enthusiasm inspired me,” said Baldwin after touring the campus and its public safety, robotics and advanced manufacturing programs. “They’re really excited about the challenge they have either just tackled or are about to tackle. I know going back to school in one’s 40s or early 50s has got to be incredibly intimidating but again, it really inspired me.”
Baldwin, who has made manufacturing jobs one of the centerpieces of her work on Capitol Hill since she was elected in November, serves on a variety of Senate committees that have an interest in the work LTC is doing.
They include the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and its work with the Workforce Investment Act, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Baldwin has traveled across the state visiting technical colleges to learn about how they are training students for high-skilled positions, growing their manufacturing programs, and partnering with local businesses and organizations to address local employment and skill-training needs.
“Advanced manufacturing in the 21st century is different than it was last century,” she said. “A lot of folks who were displaced in the deep recession and for other reasons from manufacturing jobs, you would think they are ripe for the picking for advanced manufacturing industries, but (that is) not so much the case. Really, many have had to go back mid-career to get advanced skills. That’s exciting and an opportunity.”
Alan Michaels is one of those people.
Now 51, Michaels enrolled in the LTC’s electromechanical program after his first career in dairy farming ended.
Talking with Baldwin outside LTC’s mobile advanced manufacturing lab, Michaels said his opportunities are already better than they would be if he’d gone for a liberal arts bachelor’s degree.
“The demand for electromechanical graduates is greater than the supply,” said Michaels, 51, of Glenbeulah. “Everybody’s getting two, three, four job offers.”
Michaels and Rich Hoerth, the executive dean of manufacturing, trades and agriculture, also talked briefly about the stigma that still keeps high school graduates out of technical schools like LTC in favor of four-year colleges.
“The problem is, (parents and high schools) are sending them to college and not to a tech school, where the jobs are and the pay is,” Michaels said.
After touring the public safety program facilities, including the props used to teach aspiring firefighters how to handle fires in buildings, train cars, trash bins and vehicles, Baldwin checked out the robotics lab and machine tool lab.
“The reason I ran for the U.S. Senate in the very first place is I want to see Wisconsin manufacturing thrive, I want to see the middle class grow and become strong again,” she said. “We’re a state that historically has grown things and made things and I think we can’t get ahead in a globally competitive future without a strong investment and strong attention to our manufacturing and industrial sector.”
Baldwin said the students she met, including Monica Larson and Michael Nelson, are symbols of what technical education and public-private cooperation can mean in the lives of families and communities.
“As they are trying to improve themselves, improve the future prospects for their families, their children, they’re living the American dream,” Baldwin said. “I want to make sure there’s adequate public support for what they’re doing. Whatever that form takes, I want to be there supporting what they’re doing to improve their communities, their families and their lives.”
July 29, 2013
From sheboyganpress.com: “LTC advanced manufacturing expansion begins” – The Lakeshore Technical College building expansion and renovation project officially began when ground was broken on Thursday.
By expanding the college Flexible Training Arena and renovating the Trade and Industry building on the Cleveland campus, LTC will help fill local manufacturers’ pressing need for welders, machine tool and industrial maintenance workers while alleviating waiting lists, officials say.
The project will be completed in two phases, with Sheboygan contractor Jos. Schmitt and Sons managing the first phase. The current 18,000-square-foot Flexible Training Arena will be expanded to 32,400 square feet.
By January of 2014, the remodeling of the Trade and Industry building will begin.
Not only will the project allow for more graduates but updated equipment will train workers with the machining, welding and robotic skills that manufacturers need.
“Thanks to the support of local business and individuals, we’ve been successful in raising enough private funds to break ground,” said LTC President Michael Lanser in a news release. “Our first additional class will graduate and be employment ready by August 2014.”
Nearly $900,000 has been raised thus far as part of the first capital campaign in the college’s 100 year history. LTC hopes to raise $2.1 million in private funds to help offset the $6.1 million project and will now broaden its reach to local communities for support.
LTC announced the project in April.
“By collaborating with local business and philanthropic organizations to help fund the project, we are able to reduce public funding to the point of not requiring a referendum,” Lanser said. “It allows us to address our local manufacturers’ employment needs more quickly.”
July 25, 2013
From insightdigital.biz: “Chopping it up” — An innovative project in Manitowoc County aims to rev up an interest in manufacturing among young people — helping to propel them toward the technical careers that need skilled people.
The Mini-Chopper program currently operates in four Manitowoc County schools with help from the local Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) and local company sponsors.
From prweb.com: “Apache partners with Moraine College to develop skilled trades” – Moraine Park Technical College in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, is helping to develop skilled worker assets in the area by offering Welding Boot Camps. These Boot Camps are entry-level welding courses with on-site welding practice and supervision at Apache. The Boot Camps are part of the manufacturing skills academies funded by the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation and the Department of Labor TAA CCCT Grant. The program helps build a skilled welder pool for area manufacturers, including Apache.
During the program, students are required to complete eight hours per week of welding practice which is conducted at Apache under supervision of Apache’s welding mentors and floor supervisor as well as the instructor. Apache was proud to host several students last month in the Boot Camp Welding Program.
The on-site hands-on welding at Apache helps the students experience a real manufacturing environment with access to different types of equipment, different shapes and thicknesses of stainless steel and TIG welding processes.
A large part of the tuition is funded by the grant, with a small investment from the student. The student investment is refunded if they are selected for an internship.
With an ASME rated welding team, Apache continually promotes training and education in welding, fabrication and over-all manufacturing.
Founded in 1975, Apache Stainless Equipment Corporation consists of five groups: Large Tanks, Portable Vessels, Contract Manufacturing, Carbon Steel and Mepaco. The Mepaco group manufactures food processing equipment. Apache is an employee-owned company and a subsidiary of Dexter Apache Holdings, Inc.
From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “WRPS implements new programs to help promote manufacturing” – A grass-roots group of local business leaders and school officials has worked to help incite change in the Wisconsin Rapids School District — all in the name of helping to improve the job climate in south Wood County.
The Business-Education Partnership Committee, which formed nearly a year ago and consists of representatives from five south Wood County school systems — Wisconsin Rapids, Nekoosa, Port Edwards, Assumption Catholic and Immanuel Lutheran — and is facilitated by Incourage Community Foundation, has met monthly to figure out how to address what local workforce and economic development leaders call a widening skills gap when it comes to manufacturing.
As a result, the Wisconsin Rapids School District has enacted several new programs and initiatives to help address the issue, said Kathi Stebbins-Hintz, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction.
“It’s been really a great partnership, and we’ve been able to better understand each other,” Stebbins-Hintz said.
Through a connection at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Engineering Department, the district has been able to facilitate trips for members of the Wisconsin Rapids Area Middle School and East Junior High School engineering clubs to visit the department and learn more about the field, Stebbins-Hintz said. In addition, the district has created more required courses that deal with science, technology, engineering and math topics at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels, and it recently began offering a science credit to high school students who take animal science and principles of engineering courses.
More than 200 Wisconsin Rapids School District students also have earned more than 700 college credits through a partnership with Mid-State Technical College, which also has partnered with local schools and the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce to launch the Heavy Metal Bus Tour, she said. The semi-annual event gives middle school students the opportunity to tour various local manufacturers to learn about their role in the local economy.
n addition, this fall the district plans to send two elementary teachers and one high school science teacher to Engineering is Elementary training through the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Stebbins-Hintz said.
School Board President John Krings praised the district’s involvement in the partnership and its efforts to promote manufacturing to younger students.
“Manufacturing doesn’t seem to be a very sexy job anymore,” said Krings, who works in the paper industry, within which companies are seeking workers but are unable to find individuals who are qualified enough to fill the positions. “It’s sad; these are really good jobs.”
As an increasing number of workers approach retirement, the number of available jobs will only increase, creating a so-called “silver tsunami,” said Jennifer Riggenbach, chief collaboration officer for Incourage.
It is vital for workforce and economic development leaders to continue to work together with school officials to address the issue before it’s too late, Krings said.
“We’re going to be losing a lot of people,” he said. “We need these people ready today. … We don’t have time wait.”
July 12, 2013
From wjfw.com: “Grant helps Nicolet College manufacturing” – Rhinelander - Rhinelander - Paying for college can be hard.
New grants can help Northwoods manufacturing students get a head start.
Nicolet College got together with five employers to offer assistance grants.
Wausau Paper, P-C-A, Foster and Smith, Hypro and Printpack want workers.
The companies endorsed the Industrial Mechanical Technician Program as a way for students to get a foot in the door. “It’s a great career path. It can be rewarding,” said Trade and Industry Dean, Brigitte Parsons
“It can allow someone to stay in Northern Wisconsin, stay close to family to resources they grew up around. It’s pretty exciting.”
The average starting wages in manufacturing here range from 14 dollars to 24 dollars an hour.
Parsons has high hopes for the manufacturing industry.
“Regionally employers have identified a need for individuals with maintenance repair type of skills to work in manufacturing sector,” Parson said.
“So we can expect to see many jobs in the very near future with our grant partners.”
Fall semester classes will start August 26th.
July 8, 2013
From insightonbusiness.com: “Steering their own course – Innovation drives Mercury Marine’s growth” – Sitting back and relaxing on the water this summer, chances are you’ll see the name “Mercury Marine” zip by.
Headquartered in Fond du Lac, Mercury Marine is the world’s largest developer and manufacturer of marine propulsion systems – the technical name for the motors powering the fishing boats, speed boats and pontoons seen on bodies around the world.
While Mercury Marine is now moving in the right direction, the company – Fond du Lac County’s largest employer with more than 2,000 workers – was admittedly hit hard by the recession. “What’s more discretionary spending than a boat?” says Mercury Marine President Mark Schwabero.
But today, as Mercury Marine engines power boats everywhere from Lake Winnebago and the Great Lakes to the Amazon River and expanding markets in China, its sales are increasing and the company is in expansion mode, building a $20 million testing facility visible to people driving by its massive manufacturing facility along U.S. 41. The new facility will allow the company to test a wider variety of engines, allowing it to develop new products more quickly.
“The expansion going on now is directly related from overall market growth,” Schwabero says. “In the U.S. market, we are seeing a recovery in some segments, such as engines for fishing boats and pontoons.”
With nearly $2 billion in sales, Mercury Marine is not only Fond du Lac’s largest manufacturer with more than 1 million square feet of space, it’s also a global manufacturing powerhouse.
“Their presence in our community is almost immeasurable,” says Joe Reitemeier, president of the Fond du Lac Association of Commerce. “Not only do they have a large employment base, there are several hundred companies that provide services or supplies to Mercury. They’re also active in the community and looking for ways to make a difference.”
Innovation drives growth
Although Mercury Marine plans to celebrate its 75th anniversary next year, there was a time not so long ago that some wondered if the engine maker would maintain its significant Wisconsin footprint.
In 2009 as sales fell, the company decided to consolidate its engine making in either Fond du Lac or Stillwater, Okla., to help save money and right the company’s financial ship. Stillwater leaders brought considerable incentives to the table. It wasn’t until the company’s union agreed to concessions and the city, county and state brought their own incentives to the table that Mercury Marine decided to stay in Fond du Lac. Mercury Marine’s financial package included $70 million from the state in refundable tax credits, a $50 million loan from the county paid for by a 0.5 percent sales tax, and $3 million in financial aid from the city.
At the time, the saga dominated state headlines, especially after union workers voted initially to reject any changes. There was a lot of intensive negotiation before the second vote and the company reversed its decision to consolidate operations in Oklahoma.
Schwabero admits it was a difficult time, “but just as when you have emotional decisions in your personal life, they bring you closer to those around you. The experience left us with closer relationships with the city, county and state. I can’t forget about our employees either. Their hard work has allowed us to get where we are today. They are really great and have a passion for what we’re all about.”
Today, that difficult time is past and the company is adding jobs.
In the past three years, Mercury Marine officials estimate the company has brought an additional 950 jobs to the community – many of them by bringing work from Stillwater to the Fond du Lac plants. Other hiring has come from company growth. Most of the positions created and filled are related to engineering and product development.
“Innovation is an essential component to our company’s growth,” says Schwabero, who has been Mercury’s president since 2008. “We have a lot of technical capabilities that set us apart. Innovation is a fundamental strength.”
In the past few years, Mercury Marine’s greatest success was with its 150-horsepower engine. “It’s been a home run for us. There’s been a lot of acceptance for it in the market,” Schwabero says. “The downturn allowed us to put some focus on it so it hit the market just at the right time as things were starting to come back.”
The new $20 million testing facility will be finished by the end of the year, but engineers and technicians will start some testing this summer, says David Foulkes, vice president of engineering. The facility complements existing on site testing facilities as well as outdoor sites in Oshkosh along the Fox River and in Florida.
“There are several testing stages you go through when developing a new product and this new facility will allow us to do a wider variety of testing, which will help us increase our product development,” he says.
Foulkes says the company needs to keep innovating and developing new products to stay ahead of its competition, namely Yamaha in Asia and Volvo in Europe. “We offer such a broad range of products, including diesel and gasoline engines as well as outboards and stern drives. We need to keep up in all of those areas,” he says. “Engines are also getting more powerful.”
Construction on the 16,000-square-foot facility began last year and includes two 18,000-gallon tanks where engines can be tested, says Dave Kahlow, who is heading up the engineering construction project. “They’re very imposing,” he says.
The building also includes special air exchange systems since the engines emit exhaust during the testing process.
Mercury Marine’s engineering and product development center has about 450 engineers on staff. With so many high-tech employees, Mercury Marine is active with other Fond du Lac County businesses seeking to attract and retain talent in the area. The company has robust co-op programs in place with engineering programs and is a strong supporter of programs at Moraine Park Technical College.
Dropping its focus a bit younger, Mercury Marine is also a sponsor of the Fond du Lac STEM Academy, which currently serves students in grades 3 to 5 this year, but will expand next fall to grades 3 to 8. The students study a full range of subjects, but there’s an extra focus on science and technology. In addition, students do a lot of hands-on, project-based assignments.
Mercury Marine provides the school with technical expertise and technological resources as well as having employees serve as role models, who can talk about real-world science applications of what they’re learning in school.
“We employ a lot of engineers and people with technical expertise, so it’s great we can share some of that knowledge with the community,” Schwabero says.
Students also have access to some of the company’s technical equipment. For example, they were able to use an expensive electron microscope that few schools can afford.
“We really helped the local school district bring that program to reality,” Schwabero says. “We have such a significant product development presence here and anything we can do to help students realize the career opportunities related to the sciences, the better.”
Before the recession hit and Mercury Marine was posting big sales numbers, Schwabero says it was common to “just write a check, but now it’s not as easy to do that. Instead, we’ve become more personally involved with various community organizations and programs through our employees’ time and talent. Today, we have a much more personal relationship with the community.”
That’s something that Reitemeier from the Association of Commerce echoes. “They have senior leader executives involved and active in multiple organizations. They are in there and getting involved with an organization, whether it’s the United Way or the local Red Cross, he says.
Schwabero says that one of the company’s pillars of success outlined in its sustainability report is its relationship with the community. Twenty-five percent of the company’s employees in Fond du Lac volunteer 20 hours or more each year with a local organization, whether it’s a business organization, a non-profit like the United Way or local schools.
Global scale, local impact
Mercury Marine, a division of Illinois-based Brunswick Corp., is truly a global company. With 43 percent of its sales coming from outside of the United States, Schwabero jokes he puts on too many miles to count each year visiting the company’s facilities around the world as well as meeting with salespeople and distributors.
The company is the world’s largest developer and manufacturer of marine propulsion systems for both commercial and residential activities. While Mercury’s main business in the United States is related to engines built for recreational boats, in other places the engines are more focused on the commercial sector, such as engines for water taxis.
While Mercury Marine’s overall market share in Asia is small compared to other regions, that segment is growing, Schwabero says. With people and plants around the world, the company can react more quickly to what’s happening in local markets, he adds. “Those locations help us better meet the needs of our customers.”
In addition to the manufacturing facilities in Fond du Lac, there are facilities in St. Cloud, Fla.; Juarez, Mexico; Belgium; and China. The company has a joint venture in Komagane, Japan.
At all of its locations around the world, sustainability remains a core value – not only being a responsible consumer of energy and caring for the environment, but also quality of life and product stewardship initiatives.
“Much of our marine-engine business is reliant on clean water and a healthy environment,” Schwabero says. “Mercury Marine has been and will remain a leader in the development of marine technologies that minimize the effects on the environment. Sustainable growth is our mission.”
And with Mercury engines powering boats around the globe, it’s something the company is committed to.
“We are cautiously optimistic about Mercury Marine’s future growth,” Schwabero says. “For so many people, being on the water – whether it’s fishing or other recreational activities – is a part of their life and you want to get out there and enjoy it, no matter what.”
DIFFERENCES ON THE WATER
A boat engine is a boat engine, right? Wrong. Just as there are multiple engine types for vehicles, the same goes for marine vessels. The two main categories are outboards and stern drives – both of which are made by Mercury Marine.
Outboard engines are the most common way to power small watercraft vessels such as pontoon boats and fishing boats. Outboard engines consist of a self-contained unit that includes the engine, gear box and propeller and is affixed to the outside of the vessel.
Stern drives consist of an engine and drive connected to one another through the transom, or the flat area at the back of a boat. Stern drives are designed so that the engine is inside and enclosed by the boat, while the propulsion system (out drive) is outside of the boat and in the water.
Mercury designs and manufactures engines that run on gas and diesel. The engines also vary in speed from 2 horsepower to 300 horsepower.
July 1, 2013
From wisbusiness.com: “Development division help provide grants for 3 area manufacturers” – JANESVILLE, WI – Blackhawk Technical College’s Business and Community Development (BCD) division has helped arrange nearly $244,000 in Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) grants for three area manufacturers.
BCD will provide training in a wide variety of topics in advanced manufacturing and leadership development including electro-mechanical, MSSC, Six Sigma, soldering, metallurgy, statistical process control, project management, problem solving and team building for employees of Regal Beloit, SSI Technologies, Inc., and Hufcor, Inc. The grant money is provided by the WTCS’s Workforce Advancement Training Grant program. Regal Beloit is one of the world’s largest producers of electric motors, generators and power transmission equipment. SSI, based in Janesville, designs and manufactures a variety of sensors, control systems and powdered metal components for worldwide automotive, heavy vehicle and industrial markets. Hufcor, Inc., also based in Janesville, is the world’s leading supplier of movable walls and folding doors.
Grant applications are just a part of BCD’s mission, which is to provide a wide array of training and consulting programs for businesses in Rock and Green counties. In addition to customized training for businesses, BCD will offer more than 20 different professional development workshops and seminars open to the public this fall. Registration begins July 16.
“This is just one of the many great ways Blackhawk Technical College continues to demonstrate its partnership with area businesses”, said Doug Holmes, BCD’s Training and Consulting Services manager.
June 27, 2013
From hngnews.com: “Blackhawk Tech’s Milton facility on track” – “I think we’re on a good roll.”
Blackhawk Technical College President Tom Eckert was upbeat on June 19 as he talked about the college’s plans to open a new manufacturing education center in Milton.
He appeared at the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly general membership meeting in Newville to give a presentation on the proposed BTC Advanced Manufacturing Training Center.
The Wisconsin Technical College Board in March gave approval for Blackhawk to lease the former Burdick/ANGI Energy System building at 15 Plumb St. to serve as the new facility. Eckert said last week the lease on the property had been secured and engineers were beginning to look at the building to evaluate needs.
The Milton Plan Commission will also hold a public hearing on July 9 at 5 p.m. to consider a conditional use permit (CUP) request for the facility. The meeting will be held in the City Council chambers at 430 E. High St.
Eckert said he anticipates the college’s big manufacturing programs – precision machining (CNC), industrial maintenance, electromechanical technology, welding and metal fabrication – to begin classes in the new facility in the fall of 2014. The remaining manufacturing programs would relocate to Milton in the fall of 2015.
He said modern manufacturing is “no longer dirty and dark” and manufacturers are using more automation. The manufacturers are in need of employees who can master the new technology.
“It’s good for our economy to make things,” he said, touting the importance of keeping manufacturing in the United States.
The Advanced Manufacturing Training Center will be designed to allow more cross-training, creating well-rounded graduates, Eckert said. There will be double the number of welding booths compared to current setup at the central campus in Janesville and more space to take on bigger projects.
Eckert said the “capstone” project for students will be to create a manufacturing line that makes a product.
Moving the manufacturing program to Milton will also free up much-needed space at the central campus for other programs.
June 21, 2013
From jsonline.com: “Opinion: A partnership to fill jobs” – An article June 9 by the Journal Sentinel’s John Schmid provided an overview of the debate among researchers about the existence and extent of a skills gap in Wisconsin (“Program’s new approach to skills gap? Talk to employers”). However, the debate misses the immediate need to focus on a tangible solution. With area manufacturers working together with technical schools, we have an opportunity to begin that process.
We are in a manufacturing-rich region poised for growth. That growth is being squeezed by an increasing demand for advanced skills and an impending demographic shift that will mean too few workers to fill the void left by retirees. Time is of the essence to focus on action. Our ability to train, attract and retain talent to career pathways in manufacturing is simply critical to this region.
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s Manufacturing Careers Partnership is a collaborative effort in the truest sense of the word. We share a common mission: to give people the skills they need to fill jobs and create a pipeline of talent now and in the future. The only way we can accomplish our mission is to have educational institutions, workforce development agencies and employers at the same table, talking — in detail — about their needs. And that’s exactly what we are doing.
Our first project, Welding 101, is designed to create a baseline of common skill requirements for entry-level welders among a significant number of employers and to improve manufacturers’ ability to attract and retain talent. To date, more than 50 companies have participated in a survey that asks, in great detail, what employers need from their welders on day one. As more employers complete the survey, we can move with confidence toward aligning course competencies across the region’s technical colleges.
We are pleased to be working in alignment with our manufacturers and our technical colleges: Gateway, Milwaukee Area, Moraine Park and Waukesha County, as well as the Wisconsin State Technical College System on this project. Together, we can give an individual employee the skills to succeed in a welding position and give employers a starting point for building a manufacturing career pathway.
Getting clear on what we, as technical colleges can teach, and we as employers, can then train, lays out a progressive and practical path to solving one of our region’s most pressing needs. We recognize that this project is a starting point. Workforce challenges are complex and the issues impacting the entire talent pipeline will not be solved with a single approach. But much like an entry-level position, we need to tackle Welding 101 and gain some experience and tangible success.
How you can help: if you are an employer of welders, please take the Welding 101 survey at www.mmac.org.
This op-ed was signed by Bryan Albrecht, president, Gateway Technical College; Dave Biddle, manager of technical services, Joy Global (MCP co-chair); Michael Burke, president, Milwaukee Area Technical College; Shelley Jurewicz, vice-president for economic development, MMAC/Milwaukee 7; David Mitchell, president, Monarch (MCP co-chair); Barbara Prindiville, president, Waukesha County Technical College; and Sheila Ruhland, president, Moraine Park Technical College.
June 14, 2013
From witc.edu: “WITC kisses the Blarney Stone” – It is said that kissing the Blarney stone at Blarney Castle near Cork, Ireland, will endow the kisser with great skill at verbal flattery. A delegation from Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College hopes that’s true as they recently returned from an 11-day cultural exchange experience with Waterford Institute of Technology in Waterford, Ireland.
WITC students toured manufacturing facilities in Ireland and participated in a variety of seminars at Waterford on the topics of international business and Irish culture. In a closing ceremony, WITC students received a certificate of achievement.
Student participant, Bea Valadez, described the experience as “a trip of a lifetime. The faculty at Waterford were engaging.”
According to Dr. Alex Birkholz of WITC, “The students experienced both work and academic life in Ireland. Ireland and Wisconsin share many industry sectors and degree programs. In a global economy, it is important that WITC students see how even small Western Wisconsin companies can benefit from alliances with economies like Ireland.”
WITC has offered international learning opportunities to its students for the past three years, with this being the first trip to Ireland. The students paid their own way through fundraising activities. An agreement between the Wisconsin Technical College System and Irish Institutes of Technology fosters collaboration between the two educational systems.
From thomasnet.com: “Skilled Trades Educators & Employers: We Need to be Better Partners” – At a workforce development meeting last week, manufacturing educators and employers from across the Midwest and elsewhere in the U.S. agreed that much greater collaboration between the private sector and teaching institutions is needed to fix the U.S. industrial labor skills gap.
About 35 community college and technical school educators and human resource managers of manufacturing companies, along with workforce development experts, met at the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International’s (FMA) T.E.A.M. Summit in Anoka, Minn., to tackle the multifaceted and complex manufacturing talent crisis. They concluded that foundational changes must be made in curriculum education in college and high schools, certification and credentialing programs, and internships and apprenticeships.
Moreover, the group discussed different ways to change negative public perceptions about manufacturing, stimulate younger generations into entering the sector, and create greater employee engagement, development, and retention at manufacturing businesses. But the biggest challenge, both teachers and employers acknowledged, is overcoming the disconnect that currently exists between the educational system and the private sector in preparing students with the skills they require to become effective workers.
Despite coming from different areas around the country, skilled trades instructors and program administrators lamented a similar lack of engagement by manufacturing businesses in their student development efforts. Years of under-coordination with employers have resulted in numerous situations where the graduates and would-be employees they produce do not match up with job competencies.
Larry Clark, who teaches welding and metal fabrication at Moraine Park Technical College, in Fond du Lac, Wis., said that while several local manufacturers are members of the school’s manufacturing program advisory committee, they meet with faculty just twice per year. “We need an engaged faculty working with employers,” he said.
Today’s shop floor skills in advanced manufacturing facilities can be highly specialized, but employers have not been defining them specifically enough to educators, according to Dave Stotelmyre, machine shop instructor at Kirkwood Community College, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That problem is magnified because of the rapid pace of manufacturing technology advances. He said the school has had difficulties placing the right candidates into area manufacturers, as a result.
“Companies need to have some forethought and identify what their needs are,” Stotelmyre said. “When the [employees] are not what they expected, now the specifics start flowing out.” He said companies “need to be involved right up front” with schools, working together as partners in developing the right manufacturing employees.
“Manufacturers, in general, don’t think that educating their future workforce is their job,” said Pat Lee of the FMA.
Larry Clark (left), of Moraine Park Technical College in Fond Du Lac, Wis., talks shop with Dennis Ringgenberg (middle) and Dave Stotelmyre (right), both from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Credit: William Ng
“This problem has been around for a long time,” said John Calver, director of the Advanced Manufacturing Excellence Center at Thomas Nelson Community College, in Hampton, Va. “It was ignored because their immediate needs were still being met – until now.”
He equated talent development to a supply chain whose design, long-range planning, and execution require private-sector commitment. “Employers don’t see educators in the supply-chain light,” said Calver, who added that when businesses look to schools for people, they “expect to have it tomorrow.” He described those expectations as being “unrealistic.”
Clark of Moraine Park Technical College said that when manufacturers call the school, “they’re desperate.”
Manufacturers, likewise, have struggled with alignment issues with education institutions. In southwest Louisiana, Begneaud Manufacturing Inc., a precision sheet metal fabrication shop based in Lafayette, has had trouble finding workers skilled in TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding due partly to local schools teaching only stick (arc) welding. “There are seven welding programs and five machining programs in my area, but no TIG welding,” said Andree Begneaud, employee relations director and co-owner of the 55-employee company, who spoke on a panel at the FMA T.E.A.M. Summit.
The manufacturer therefore began internships that offer locally enrolled welding students opportunities to add TIG welding to their skill sets. “We are doing the TIG welding component of local education programs, where students spend three days a week at Begneaud,” she said. Yet in Louisiana, internships are not considered a part of the state’s educational system, but, still, they must be approved and sanctioned before they can be implemented.
Wilson Tool International, headquartered in White Bear Lake, Minn., is another business that had difficulties with schools. Its internship programs are aimed at nurturing high school students to become CNC machinists, as well as mechanical designers and mechanical maintenance operators. “We were looking to partner with high schools, but it was difficult,” said Amanda Kehoe, director of human resources at the company, which makes tooling systems for punch presses and press brakes, and punch and die components for sheet metal stamping equipment. “I couldn’t get [any school official] to talk to me. And schools didn’t allow kids out of their buildings.”
“Make friends with instructors, and bring schools to your company,” Laura Elsner, workforce development manager for DeWys Manufacturing, a machine shop and metal fabricator based in Marne, Mich., advised other manufacturers during a presentation at the FMA event. “You have to build the relationship, and work with educators, not against them. Get to know the right people at schools.”
Although DeWys initially began a 12-week educational curriculum and training course that was just internal for its own manufacturing operations, the 140-person company has struck partnerships with both area post-secondary educational institutions and high schools. It is now collaborating with Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University, and Grand Rapids Community College in the areas of weld engineering, manufacturing engineering, and machining. The company is also involved in Coopersville High School’s Manufacturing Engineering Partnership Program, and with Kenowa Hills High School on conducting hands-on manufacturing camps for teenagers.
That proactive approach ensures that manufacturing employers have a talent pipeline that possesses the particular skills they need, said Gabrielle Caputo, Americas product manager for the manufacturing and logistics markets for global staffing company Kelly Services, headquartered in Troy, Mich. A keynote speaker at the FMA meeting, Caputo, who has 15 years of experience in workforce development and talent acquisition, said to the summit’s participants, “Look at your internal talent and develop your own talent supply chain.”
The manufacturing labor pool is aging. Before 2018, 78.5 million baby boomers will have left the workforce, Caputo said, citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. At Wilson Tool, the average employee age is 45. “We have a very senior workforce,” Kehoe said. There is a sense of urgency now to make sure huge chunks of the labor pool are refilled. And that will drive greater cooperation between educators and employers, they expect.
“We have to get better at matching faculty teaching to real-world employer needs,” said Katherine Whelchel, a project manager for Bio-Link, a National Advanced Technological Education Center, part of the National Science Foundation.
That sentiment was echoed by Matthew Salo, biomedical market development manager and program advisor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, in Coon Rapids, Minn., who said private-public partnerships must have a sense of “matching employer-needed outcomes with what the schools are capable of delivering.”
Jeff Stapel, human resources manager at Schickel Corp., a metal fabricator and machine shop in Bridgewater, Va., noted, “I want to focus on doing more for my people, exploring the new welding program at my local community college.” He added, “I appreciate having new contacts who can help me.”
“I know I need to get a good relationship going with my local technical college,” said Dan Bushman, human resources and safety manager for Northern Metal Fab Inc., in Baldwin, Wis. “I need to overcome the awkward formality dance we’re doing, and I know I need to take responsibility for making this happen.”