From “WCTC to offer program for high-in-demand careers” — PEWAUKEE – Waukesha County Technical College will offer a new program this fall with training opportunities for high-in-demand careers in information technology.

The Network Enterprise Administrator-INTERFACE Accelerated Pathway program is designed for veterans, their spouses and students eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance programs, Workforce Investment Act programs, and Workforce Development Vocational Rehabilitation programs. It will also be offered to unemployed individuals and qualified adults seeking the next career step.

The program could potentially help fill the skills gap by offering a special pathway for network enterprise administrator-cyber security education, according to a WCTC press release.

Network enterprise administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operations and security of computer networks that are a critical part of almost every organization, and the program will provide students with the skills and experience to support current industry technology implementations.

The program will consist of multiple credential opportunities in certificate form, including enterprise support technician, IT network support specialist, storage and virtualization administrator, and IT security administrator – all leading toward the final credential, the technical diploma.

“The program’s greatest benefits lie in the additional services of in-class tutors to support students throughout the accelerated/hybrid courses, and the four semesters of work-based service learning projects integrated into the curriculum,” said Danielle Hoffman, WCTC’s IT skills and placement coordinator.

“Embedded industry-recognized certificates earned each semester lead to possible job opportunities. Combined with enhanced job search assistance, we expect many students will be working in their chosen field well before graduation.”

Hoffman said INTERFACE is a two-year program and students will earn the certificates along the way, one certificate for each semester. She said the program is designed for students to complete all four semesters, but expects some students will find careers after receiving certificates in their desired field.

The program is funded through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant program, which provided a $23.1 million grant to be shared among Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges.

From “Fill the skills gap” — by Cary Silverstein – A question constantly asked by business people and the unemployed is: “What are we doing to close the skillset gap in Wisconsin?”

The answer lies in businesses and the community getting together to solve this “gap.” According to Competitive Wisconsin Inc.’s Be Bold 2 study by ManpowerGroup, the unmet demand for metal workers, including welders, is expected to reach 7,101 by 2016. Should these positions remain unfilled, it is estimated that state and local government lost revenues could amount to $265,410,915 over a 10-year job lifecycle.

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Wisconsin, a non-profit 501(c)(3) established more than 40 years ago, has developed a new generation training solution that addresses the growing skilled worker shortage in the greater Milwaukee, Wausau, Fox Valley and Green Bay regions. It is called the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

The HCCW has developed this partnership with Miller Electric Mfg. Co., Monarch Corp., Joy Global, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, technical colleges, government agencies and private foundations with the intent of solving the critical shortage of skilled welders in Wisconsin. Together, they have created a unique employer-approved education and training program, which addresses this shortage in a manner that benefits the underserved low to moderate income (LMI) workers who are often unemployed/underemployed and who are often constituents of the HCCW. This program is not exclusive to any ethnicity, and is open to any state resident.

This HCCW Training Initiative is an anti-poverty solution that connects unemployed and under employed workers with accredited welding skills development and training at no cost to trainees. This program offers a pathway to a higher paying career in welding at an accelerated pace. The median starting pay for skilled welding positions is $35,450 a year. This is a paid training program that takes up to 16 weeks to complete. The participants are immediately job eligible upon completion of the program. This is followed by ongoing on-the-job training to enhance their newly acquired skills.

This initiative differentiates itself by including essential life skills training for participants, including time management and punctuality, critical thinking and problem solving, financial education and communication skills. This program is designed to supply workforce-ready candidates who are able to step into entry-level welding positions. Participants will complete essential life skills training in a mentorship-based support group setting before advancing to the employer-approved welder training course provided by the tech colleges.

What makes this program different?

Solving the skilled welder shortage isn’t just providing technical training. A true solution involves addressing those issues (substance abuse and a lack of essential life skills) which ultimately disqualify someone from employment. This unique program has three primary components: a support system program with trainee mentorship, essential life skills training and technical skills training via technical college partners.

The HCCW provides employer-approved essential life skills training to each candidate including:

  • Time management and punctuality
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • First impressions/building relationships
  • Computer literacy
  • Maintaining a household budget
  • Communication skills (may include English language instruction)

Technical training is provided by area technical colleges via an employer-approved training curriculum. The 14 to 16 week curriculum includes basic welding, blueprint reading and weld symbols, math, and manufacturing techniques.

Projected results of the initiative

This initiative produces an individual that is responsible, punctual, accountable and reliable, with a strong work ethic and a drive to succeed. These candidates are ready to enter the job market with all the skills necessary for entry level welding positions. The technical college credentials earned in this program are transferable and can be used to attain further, more complex welding credentials. This initiative simplifies and eases the rigors of the traditional hiring process, which permits the employers to review a candidate’s metrics and a trainee’s video profile. Also, they can hire an employee with a proven track record, worthy of further training investment.

The HCCW Training Initiative is a real solution to the shortage of skilled welders. By providing essential life skills and technical training, candidates are able to obtain well-paying jobs. This initiative facilitates upward economic mobility for the LMI constituents served by the program. Once employed in an entry level position, these new employees have the opportunity for further employer training and tuition reimbursement programs. The result is they strengthen themselves and their employers through the adoption of life-long earning skills. The dual nature of this program will help the unemployed/underemployed while providing sorely needed skilled workers, keeping Wisconsin’s manufacturers strong. This training initiative recently received national recognition and substantial funding by the American Welding Society after their review of the program. The HCCW Training Initiative is now considered to be the top AWS skills development program in the nation.

The next step

If this pilot project proves successful, we as business communities should duplicate it across the board in our state. Closing the skillset gap in this and other vocational areas will strengthen our economy and bring new jobs to our communities, while reducing unemployment in areas where few opportunities exist. The resources, both educational and technical, exist in our community. We need to leverage these resources and provide the unemployed with new skills so they can rejoin the workforce and provide a better standard of living for themselves and their families.

The HCCW says its partners report that in the Racine-Kenosha manufacturing sector there are more than 1,000 skilled worker vacancies. Filling the local manufacturing sector’s jobs would contribute to the state and local economy year after year.

Companies interested in joining this program should contact the Hispanic Chamber at


From “Employers claim they can’t find workers who are job-ready” — Manufacturing jobs that pay well, but there’s no one to fill them. Employers call it the skills gap.

WISN 12 News Kent Wainscott investigates the millions of dollars taxpayers are pouring into technical colleges to close the gap.

“The skills gap, does it still exist in Milwaukee?” WISN 12 News reporter Kent Wainscott asked.

“In a word, yes,” said Chris Layden of Manpower Group.

Layden said that’s what Milwaukee-based Manpower Group, a world leader in employment issues, is seeing across the Milwaukee area.

More than one-third of employers, he said, claim they can’t find enough workers who are job-ready.

“Do they really have the right skills to perform the jobs that employers are needing? And what we are consistently hearing from clients in the Milwaukee area is, no,” Layden said.

“For the last four to five years, we’ve kind of beat that horse to death about the skills gap, and now everybody said, ‘OK, how do we fix it?'” said Dorothy Walker, interim dean of MATC’s School of Technical and Applies Sciences.

Milwaukee Area Technical College is Wisconsin’s largest tech school.

Much of the more than $140 million taxpayer dollars it gets each year is spent trying to address the skills gap.

“What (we) needed to do as a tech college, as MATC, was to sit with the employers and say, ‘What skill sets to you need?’ Now that took some changing around of curriculum and some traditional stuff we were doing,” Walker said.

“And that wasn’t happening before?” Wainscott asked.

“That wasn’t happening before to that extent,” Walker said.

One way MATC has tried to address the skills gap is to expand and renovate and build new facilities, but that means an investment of taxpayer dollars.

“It costs money to build a place like this,” Wainscott said.

“It does,” Walker said.

“Is it money well spent?” Wainscott asked.

“I think the money is well spent, not only the money from the college, but again, we partner with industry,” Walker said.

The result? Enrollment is up. More courses are offered. In fact, MATC will offer 71 welding or machining courses next school year.

Still, WISN 12 News found nearly 1,000 open welder or machinist job postings on

What’s the explanation?

WISN 12 News asked the head of UW-Milwaukee’s Center for Economic Development and got a surprising answer.

“Everybody says it exists, but nobody can really find it in the data,” Marc Levine said.

Levine said if there was a shortage of skilled workers, demand for them would increase and so would wages.

“When we look at the basic economic indicators, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence about a skills gap,” Levine said.

Instead, he believes employers may find it hard to fill jobs because they’re paying low wages or expecting too much pre-job training.

Or a lack of transportation may keep workers from connecting with the jobs that aren’t nearby.

“There’s a disconnect between MATC creating these programs, MATC basically creating our supply of skilled workers, and the fact that manufacturers in Milwaukee are not hiring more workers than they have in the past,” Levine said.

Whatever the reason, Manpower’s Layden, said things have to improve.

“Is this skills gap going to close over the next few years?” Wainscott asked.

“I think it needs to. I think for Milwaukee it needs to. For our employers it needs to. It’s keeping people up at night,” Layden said.

Manufacturing is changing to a more computerized, IT-based workforce. So schools like MATC are adjusting to that. But critics said schools and manufacturers have to do a better job of spreading that message.

STEM programs are on the rise, and those are laying a foundation for the type of skills required for the next generation of manufacturing jobs.

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From “Labor shortage looming” — We’ve advocated in this space for greater support from the Legislature for Wisconsin’s technical college system. Technical colleges are uniquely positioned to address the persistently high unemployment in the state’s urban areas, including Racine; they can address the shortage of qualified workers for manufacturing jobs, aka the skills gap. They also provide opportunity for people who want a job, or a better job, and know that a four-year college isn’t the right choice for them.

A May 5 report by the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team underlines this point: There is a looming labor shortage in the Badger State, meaning we need to get moving on increasing the number of young, skilled workers.

One of the biggest reasons is the retirement of the baby boomers, those born between 1945 and the mid-1960s. State demographers say the number of residents age 65 or older will more than double by 2040, rising from 14 percent of the state population to 24 percent.

In that time, the state’s population will increase 14 percent to about 6.5 million, but the working-age population (ages 20-64) will be essentially unchanged, dropping a quarter of a percent. This means that for every retiring worker, there is less than one young person entering the labor force. In other words, a labor shortage.

Job numbers have historically mirrored changes in the working-age population, so a stagnant pool of workers means Wisconsin is expected to see virtually no job growth through 2040, according to a report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

“Employers really haven’t experienced labor shortages to the degree that we’re expecting,” said Jeff Sachse, an economist with the state Department of Workforce Development. “The labor force is essentially going to be flat, and basically what we’re going to see is an employer base that’s going to struggle to find a sufficient amount of workers to remain in operation, much less to expand.”

This is unlike the Great Recession and its aftermath, during which employers weren’t hiring at all, or saw far more applicants than job openings. What Sachse is describing is lengthy periods of Help Wanted signs in windows because employers have openings but not qualified applicants.

The jobs are going to be out there. But they’re also going to require people willing to help themselves to a better life, people like Tykia Norris.

As detailed in an April 27 Journal Times report, Norris, 33, wanted to do better for herself than the $9.50 an hour she was making as a certified nursing assistant.

“They say money brings problems, but not having any brings more,” said Norris, who has a 14-year-old son.

She entered a construction training program through Racine’s Human Capital Development Corp., which runs First Choice Pre-Apprenticeship. The nonprofit trains people for construction jobs such as preparing them to work on the Interstate 94 project.

About 122 of the program’s 475 graduates have reported getting jobs in construction. Norris is one of them, and she’s now making more than $25 an hour.

Tykia Norris learned that it takes a desire to do better, to help yourself — individual initiative, in other words — to address your personal skills gap. But the combination of the skills gap and Wisconsin’s looming labor shortage is about to become everybody’s problem. Let’s get to work on that.

From “Businesses in Wis. eligible for $15 million in grants to close skills gap” — Wisconsin businesses are now eligible to apply for a grant to help close the workforce skills gap.

The Fast Forward worker training grant program is providing $15 million worth of funding to help businesses address the need for skilled workers.

On Tuesday, Shelly Harkins from the State Department of Workforce Development spoke about the program at Wisconsin Indian Head Technical College in Superior.

The grants enable businesses to deliver customized training to workers and local job seekers.

Bob Meyer, president of WITC, says this new program will help address the shortage of skilled labor which many businesses in the state are facing.

“It has been estimated that if we can match the right skills and talent with vacant jobs, we can actually reduce unemployment by 2.5 percent in the Minnesota, Wisconsin region,” said Meyer.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed the program into law last March.

Walker is proposing to add another $34 million to the program.

So far, two rounds of grants have been given out.

In round one, $2.6 million was awarded to 32 grantees in the targeted training sector.

Almost half of the grants partnered with a technical college to provide training in their area.

In round two, $7.5 million will be awarded to seven areas of Wisconsin.

From “Could be a shortage of manufacturing workers in Wisconsin” — Skilled workers may be hard to come by in the state of Wisconsin over the next 20 years. The Wisconsin Manufacturing Commerce Foundation was in La Crosse Tuesday to highlight its 20-year plan to combat the issue.

Western Technical College is one of 16 stops the Manufacturing Commerce Foundation is making in Wisconsin. Technical colleges play a big role in giving students the education needed to become skilled employees in manufacturing.

With the baby-boomer generation coming to retirement age, there could be a higher number of job openings in Wisconsin.

“Well this is an aging state. We expect about 800,000 additional people in this state over the next 30 years but 95 percent of those are going to be over the age of 65,” Wisconsin Manufacturing Commerce Foundation President, Jim Morgan said.

According to the Wisconsin Manufacturing Commerce Foundation, skilled laborers are a dying breed.

“We’ve got some challenges coming down the road around talent attraction, around business competitiveness, that we’ve really got to start that conversation right now,” Morgan said.

The WMC Foundation wants to establish a 20-year plan called Future Wisconsin.

“The things that were outlined here today are trying to get people to think more about manufacturing careers as viable options,” Western Technical College President Lee Rasch said.

Schools like Western Technical College are big contributors to the plan.

“We’re key players because we do a couple things. We work very closely with area manufacturers, we have an existing network, we provide a lot of education and training for the next generation of the workforce in manufacturing and we also represent this region,” Rasch said.

Training the next generation may be tough. The WMC Foundation says keeping that age group in Wisconsin is not easy.

“Unless we do something to keep our young people here and figure out a way to attract more people here we’re not going to have the people available for the jobs that we’re going to have,” Morgan said.

The president of Western said he was glad that the foundation stopped in La Crosse. It allowed for more of the manufacturers in our area to take part in the discussion.

The Wisconsin Manufacturing Commerce Foundation will be working with colleges and universities throughout the year.


From “Increasing demand for apprenticeships as aging workers retire” — Want to get paid to go to school? With an apprenticeship — you can do just that! Through an apprenticeship, an individual has access to on-the-job training and related classroom instruction. A participating employer teaches the skills of the trade on the job. The classroom instruction is theoretical and practical knowledge pertaining to the given trade. It’s an option more and more students in Wisconsin are taking — with the growing need for skilled manufacturing workers in the state.

“The student works 32 hours a week and goes to class eight hours a week, but they’re paid for 40 hours a week,” Debbie Davidson with Gateway Technical College said.

In a nutshell, that’s how an apprenticeship works. Students get hands-on and in-classroom training in a service, construction or industrial field. Typically, the programs run anywhere from three to five years.

“Apprenticeship is really unique in that you start with an employer with a need and match them with an individual to go through the training,” Davidson said.

Officials with Gateway Technical College say the demand for apprenticeship opportunities has grown, as has the number of students enrolling in programs at the school.

“In 2012, we had a total of 49 apprentices. Then, a year later, we had 80 apprentices. Now we have 140,” Davidson said.

“We’ve already started plans on four brand new programs coming up and we know that we’re going to be doubling our numbers within a very short time,” Wisconsin Apprentice Training Representative Sandy Briezman said.

So what’s driving the renewed interest in apprenticeships? We’re told it’s a skills gap, fueled at least in part by soon-to-retire workers.

“The skills gap that we’re seeing now is what was projected even before the downturn in 2009 because people were planning to retire at that point. They stayed a little bit longer, but they kept aging, so now we’re seeing people are actually at that point of retirement and companies are seeing that we need to fill that gap — and before our people leave and retire how can we utilize them to train that next generation of worker?” Davidson said.

Davidson says the late 90s were really kind of the high point for apprenticeship programs.

The Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards says statewide, there were more than 15,000 apprentices in 2001. By 2012, they had dropped to about 9,700.

From “As trades rebound, demand for apprentices grows” — By Dennis Punzel – If Donald Trump hosted “Apprentice Wisconsin,” he’d have to change his catchphrase from “You’re fired” to “You’re hired.”

As the economy slowly pulls out of its funk, the dormant construction industry is starting to experience a revival. And as construction cranes sprout up in the skyline, the demand for skilled workers across the spectrum of construction trades also is ascending.

“The problem the last several years has been a shortage of work for contractors in the construction industry,” said Wayne Belanger of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin. “Now, it’s a shortage of workers. It’s critical.”

And when construction companies need skilled workers, they turn to the state’s venerable apprenticeship program to fill the void.

Wisconsin’s apprenticeship program, founded in 1911, was the first of its kind in the nation and led to the creation of the state’s technical school system.

“Wisconsin apprenticeship is still considered the leading model in the country,” said Jim Cook, apprenticeship manager at Madison Area Technical College. “In Wisconsin, everybody is at the table — employers, colleges, state government, labor organizations, employer associations.

“Apprenticeship here has survived all the economic and social upheavals of the last century. And because it’s done that, it’s going to survive for a long time.”

The most recent economic downturn, however, did take a toll on the system. As construction projects dried up, many firms had trouble finding jobs for their established journeyman workers and had no need to take on apprentices.

ABC’s apprentice numbers around the state plummeted from around 1,200 in 2006 to just a few hundred. The group sponsors apprenticeships in 12 trades, including electrical, carpentry, plumbing and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning).

“I don’t want to even think about how low it was,” Belanger said. “We’re back to 850 now. We’re on the rebound. It seems like there’s a pent-up demand, and people are putting projects together again.

“The trouble is that a lot of people in the trades have either retired or gone on to something else, and they’re not coming back. That leaves a huge void pretty much at all levels because they haven’t hired new people in the last five years.”

Statewide, the number of apprentices in all trades has dropped from 15,767 in 2001 to 9,793 in 2013, according to the state Department of Workforce Development Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards (DWD-BAS). In the construction trades, the numbers have fallen from 8,890 in 2001 to 4,843 last year.

Belanger said the recovery has yet to hit many parts of the state, but that Madison is booming and the Fox Valley and Milwaukee are showing signs of life.

“In Dane County, there’s going to be a construction boom this year,” said Cook, noting that apprenticeships are up about 10 percent with 600 in the program at MATC. “The drive right now for economic development is fever pitch. The only other time we’ve seen this was around World War II, where you had this incredible need and a skilled worker shortage.”

One of the biggest challenges is convincing young people to look into apprenticeships after being pointed toward the four-year college route most of their lives.

“We do a lot of outreach to schools around the area and have more success at some than others,” said Mike Pohlman, president of Nickles Electric. “Some schools don’t seem to want to point kids to the trades.

“We certainly don’t dissuade kids from going to college. We always tell them the trades are another option after you graduate. We’re open to getting a kid into our program that has a four-year college degree.”

One who took that route is Pohlman’s son, Kaleb. After graduating from Marshall High School, he studied electrical engineering at UW-Milwaukee for two years before transferring to UW-Madison, where he earned a degree in civil engineering in 2009.

But with the job market dried up, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue an electrical apprenticeship. He’s finishing up the fifth year of the program and just took the state exam with the hope of gaining journeyman status.

“They’re both gratifying,” Kaleb Pohlman, 28, said of his dual accomplishments. “When I got done with college I was like, ‘Wow, I did it.’ It was a long time and a lot of hard work and when I got done I felt great. Learning this and getting through this apprenticeship is just as much, if not more gratifying.

“I feel like I can do almost anything in the electrical trade. I can bend that conduit, I can run that wire, I can put that piece of switch gear up. You start feeling like you can do anything.”

Kaleb Pohlman’s goal is to use both parts of his education by working about five years in the field and then moving into project management.

“I went to school for a reason, and I did this for a reason,” he said. “I’ve put myself in a pretty unique situation that I think makes me a little more valuable.

“There’s a need for people who can do this stuff. In the next couple years as the baby boomers start retiring, the workforce is going to drop like crazy. There’s not as many people who do trades. That should bode well for people of my generation. If people want to do this, there should be a future in it.”

Apprenticeships, of course, are nothing new, as they date back to the middle ages. Ben Franklin was a printing apprentice; Henry Ford a machinist apprentice.

The state program offers apprenticeships in three broadly defined areas — construction trades, industrial/manufacturing trades and service trades.

Unlike their college-bound brethren, who frequently build up huge debts going to school, apprentices earn while they learn. Employer sponsors are required to pay their apprentices, starting at half the journeyman worker rate for that trade, with scheduled raises as they continue through the program.

Apprenticeships last three to five years with apprentices spending about 90 percent of the time on the job and 10 percent in the classroom. In addition to paying apprentices, many sponsors will also pick up all or part of the costs of tuition and books for the classroom part of the deal.

Upon completion of the apprenticeship and any licensing requirements, the apprentice receives a state certificate and a journeyman license and goes to work for the sponsoring firm. The construction trades tend to pay the highest, with the base pay for a construction worker at just under $33 per hour.

“It’s a great program,” said Greg Jones, CEO of Dave Jones Inc. “As a plumber, after a five-year program you can be making $70,000 a year with no student debt.”

Jones, 32, completed his apprenticeship in 2004. His father, Dave Jones, also went through the apprenticeship program and founded the company in 1977. The company now has 220 employees and 34 apprentices.

Phil Klahn, 23, got a head start on the five-year apprenticeship he is now finishing up when he started working at Dave Jones Plumbing part-time through a school-work program at Oregon High School.

“The trades were something I was always looking into,” Klahn said. “I wanted to work with my hands. I didn’t really think I could sit behind a desk my entire life.”

Klahn said that, like most high school graduates, he felt the pressure to go to college, but the work-study program opened his eyes to other options. And unlike many of his former classmates, he’s finishing his education with no student loans.

“I was lucky because I knew right away this was what I wanted to do,” said Klahn, who hopes to someday become a project manager or field superintendent. “Everybody thinks that plumbing is backed-up sewers and leaky faucets and leaky pipes. There is a service end to it, but right now I’m working on a 12-story apartment building in downtown Madison. There’s a lot more to it than people understand.”

Klahn’s advice to young people pondering their future?

“I just say keep your mind open to the apprenticeship program,” he said. “It might not be for everybody, but I tell people to at least look into it.”

Mike Pohlman of Nickles Electric thinks that message is spreading, and he emphasizes that the trades are actively recruiting a diverse workforce.

“This whole industry is changing,” said Pohlman, who began his apprenticeship in 1979 and rose through the ranks to become company president. “People are understanding that the trades are a pretty good option these days.

“Our city’s going to keep growing, and we’re going to need people to build it.”

From “Walker focuses on jobs during Stratford stop” — STRATFORD — Personal income growth in Wisconsin in 2013 shows more people across the state are working, but job statistics could improve with worker training and encouraging more young people to enter the manufacturing workforce, Gov. Scott Walker said during a visit to A&B Process Systems on Wednesday.

“I hear so many businesses say not only do we have positions open, but we’ve got business waiting … if only we could fill the positions we have,” Walker said.

He said the roughly 50,000 jobs currently posted on the Job Center of Wisconsin website indicate a skills gap in the state.

Walker said he put $100 million of the current state budget toward workforce training, including short-term training and investments in technical colleges, to prepare workers for manufacturing, information technology and health care careers.

“Each of those key industries has the ability to hire more people if we have enough people with the skills to fill the positions,” he said.

Walker said parents and guidance counselors who encourage young people to consider careers in manufacturing will play a role in filling open positions.

“Guidance counselors still have the mindset you have to have a four-year college degree to have a good career, and that’s just not true,” Walker said. He said manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin pay an average of about $52,000 a year, are more likely to offer benefits and have higher retention rates than many other jobs.

Companies such as A&B Process Systems often work with the same customers, but manufacturing different equipment for those customers keeps the job interesting, he said.

Walker said state investment of $6.4 billion in infrastructure and tax incentives for businesses such as A&B Process Systems to invest in capital also will encourage job growth.

A&B Process Systems, which designs, fabricates and installs equipment and accessories for processing liquids, celebrated 40 years in business in 2013. The company employs 425 people, and annual sales exceed $100 million.

Paul Kinate, CEO of A&B Process Systems, credited the company’s success to dedicated employees, the leadership of founder Ajay Hilgemann and a commitment to customer service.

“Our employees are dedicated, innovative, embrace technology and automation and strive to improve every day,” he said.

Kinate called Walker a friend to business who has made a difference in Wisconsin’s economic growth.

Walker will deliver his annual State of the State address Jan. 22. He said he will address jobs, as well as property tax cuts and changes to the state income withholding tax, which will put more money in employers’ and workers’ hands.

From “Madison College works to close job training gap” — A survey of 341 Wisconsin CEOs reveals a growing concern about finding enough skilled employees to fill job vacancies and facilitate growth.

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From “Community Colleges and the Manufacturing Sector” — For decades the manufacturing sector provided jobs with good wages. Today, however, the Manufacturing Institute states that 82% of manufacturers report a moderate or serious skills gap in skilled production, and 74% of manufacturers report that the skills gap has hurt their company’s ability to expand operations.

But what is most alarming is that an estimated 2.7 million U.S. manufacturing employees, nearly a fourth of the total, are 55 or over. According to a 2010 article in The Financial Times, 40% of Boeing workers, and nearly half of Rockwell Collins’ workers will be eligible for retirement by 2016. We cannot afford to have these jobs shipped overseas because we don’t have the skilled workers to fill them.

The Manufacturing Institute was one of the first organizations to address the lack of skilled workers. The Institute launched the NAM-Endorsed Skills Certification System to address the skills gap challenge and to promote a renaissance of manufacturing education across the country. What this system does is provide a set of the industry-recognized credentials that workers need to be successful in entry-level positions in any manufacturing environment.

Community colleges were among the first to embrace these new standards by creating certification programs that train students for jobs as varied as the manufacturing of orthopedic devices to repairing wind turbines. Local manufacturers began reaching out to community colleges asking them to train their future workforce. Often these students were displaced workers or had lost their jobs through outsourcing. This cohort, many over the age of 50, presented a new challenge – how to train students who hadn’t been a classroom for more than 20 years.

Partnerships between community colleges and manufacturing companies have been remarkably successful largely because they have been in the forefront of providing customized training that leads directly to a well-paying job.

For example, Siemens developed the Design Technology Program associate degree at Iowa Western Community College, providing students with the skills to “effectively translate ideas from inventors, engineers, planner and designers into visual graphic form.”

Connecticut Community College’s College of Technology developed the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, which places educators with advanced manufacturing companies for 4 week externships. These instructors received hands-on training that they then brought back to the classroom.

When St. Louis lost 10,000 jobs in the auto industry, St. Louis Community College offered training in new technologies that enabled many of the displaced workers to get jobs at Boeing assembling jets.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College worked with the North Coast Marine Manufacturing Alliance to train skilled workers capable of producing the best ships in the world. One of the member companies was awarded a contract to build 10 Littoral Combat ships for the U.S. Navy. This contract created 1,000 news jobs, jobs that might not have come to Wisconsin if there weren’t trained workers waiting to fill them.

As the former CEO of Delco Remy International, a manufacturing company, I know first hand how vital it is to have a highly-skilled workforce. Indiana is a leader in manufacturing, and Ivy Tech, its community college system, works closely with corporations like Cummings to ensure we are providing our students with the training they need to fill jobs in the manufacturing sector. These jobs pay an average of $45,000 a year and offer opportunity for advancement.

In January, we will launch a unique academic-industry-blended 75 hour co-op Advanced Manufacturing degree program. Our students will gain valuable on-the-job experience with some of Indiana’s top manufacturing and logistics companies, working as interns two days a week. Upon graduation, they will have received training in the most current and relevant industry technology as well as having real world experience. Our goal is to have them work for the companies where they interned.

Through the generosity of Alcoa Foundation, we also recently launched “Get Skills to Work,” a program that provides free manufacturing training for veterans. Graduates will receive interviews with area manufacturers through the Tri-State Manufacturers’ Alliance. The Get Skills to Work coalition includes more than 500 manufacturers and focuses on training for veterans, translating the skills they learned in the military into manufacturing careers.

Flexibility, vision and commitment are all-important factors in working with the nation’s manufacturers. Community colleges are in the vanguard of insuring that well-paying manufacturing jobs are not shipped overseas but stay in the community.

From “Workers needed, but manufacturing healthy in region” – There is a lot of good manufacturing news in Northeastern Wisconsin, but long-term challenges remain.

Manufacturing companies report they are healthy, modernizing and expecting growth in sales in 2014. They also continue to struggle to find qualified workers, a problem that will remain critical as baby boomers retire and employers add new machines that require better-trained operators.

Those are the findings of the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance’s 2014 Manufacturing Vitality Index, released Friday during the annual NEW North Summit in Ashwaubenon.

Fifty-one percent of the surveyed companies reported increased sales in 2013 and 66 percent are expecting more increases next year. Fifty percent are planning plant modernization, as was the case last year, and three out of four expect to hire. But there’s the rub. Sixty percent report having difficulty finding qualified workers.

“The skills shortage hasn’t changed a dramatic amount year to year,” said Scott Kettler, general manager of Fox Cities manufacturing sites for Plexus Corp. and incoming president of the Manufacturing Alliance. “We see people are hiring and we have that growth. What the index says to me is we are not out-pacing our growth.”

The five most difficult-to-fill positions include machinist/CNC machinist, machine operator, truck driver, team assembler and engineering technician. Welders remain in the top 10, though progress has been made in this region in supplying them.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay is turning out 140 welding graduates a year, up from a handful five years ago. It also will train 100 CNC graduates this year and hopes to increase that to 130 next year, said Mark Weber, dean of training and engineering technologies at NWTC.

The Manufacturing Alliance was formed to get educators, students and parents thinking differently about manufacturing.

“I think that the tide has turned,” Weber said. “I’ve seen that in a relatively short time in the discussions I’ve had with K-12s. Before, you couldn’t get them to talk about manufacturing. Now they are calling us to talk about manufacturing.”

Manufacturing accounts for 23 percent of Northeastern Wisconsin’s jobs, and Wisconsin ranks second in the nation in with 19 percent of jobs in manufacturing.

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s “Industrial Cities Initiative” called Green Bay a “resurgent city.” It said the region had four areas that predict economic strength: leadership, regionalism, workforce development and economic development finance.

But the alliance report says long-term demographics are not favorable. Some companies are losing 10 percent or more of their workforce annually to retirement and more people turn 65 each year than turn 18.

A key to mitigating the problem is to get more people interested in manufacturing, Kettler said.

“We have to solve our own problem. We have to continue to work with the education system,” he said. “I want to continue to focus on working with our manufacturers to continue to get involved. Our focus needs to be on that 8-12 (grade) range and we need to turn parents’ minds around that manufacturing is a viable career.”

Many efforts are underway. Some companies are working directly with local high schools, such as Ariens Co. in Brillion and Precision Machine in Algoma. Others are sending workers into classrooms to talk about manufacturing, and NWTC, in collaboration with the Bay Area Workforce Development Board, is sending a classroom — it’s mobile CNC lab — to the students.

“It’s no one thing that’s helping. It’s all of those things; working with high schools, working with manufacturers themselves,” Weber said.

Kettler said companies are taking workers with lesser skills and trying to grow them internally.

“It’s slower and more expensive and it’s not hiring for the future as much,” he said.

The good news, though, shouldn’t be overlooked, he said. Ninety-two percent of companies said they expect to be healthier next year. Half are planning modernization projects in 2014, compared to 46 percent last year and 36 percent in 2012.

“We are seeing companies invest,” he said.

The survey was based on the telephone responses of 111 companies with $3 million or more in annual revenue and 25 or more employees. It had a 28 percent response rate and 95 percent level of confidence. It was conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Business Success Center.


From “Bridging the Skills Gap” — New Richmond, WI—A new partnership has been forged between industry and education, with Bosch Packaging Technology, Inc., and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC), both in New Richmond, Wisconsin forming a joint apprenticeship venture.

“We’ve been working together on this project since last spring,” says Nancy Cerritos, WITC academic dean of trade and technology. “Bosch is very proactive and realizes it will lose a significant portion of its skilled work force in New Richmond and Shell Lake over the next five to seven years. They wanted to create apprenticeships – which we have available and can develop — to create a better skilled work force for the future.”

Adds Mark Hanson, manager, continuous improvement coordination and technical functions at Bosch Packaging Technology: “We tried to hire local workers, but it’s not a densely populated area, and we have a need for highly skilled workers, so we had to come up with a new approach.

“By utilizing our strong relationship with WITC and the state we were able to custom-design a program that gives us the skilled workers we need.”

The program includes electro-mechanical technician and machinist apprentices. The electro-mechanic apprenticeship—the combination of an electrician and mechanic—is the first of its kind in the state and is now considered a new trade in Wisconsin.

Two WITC programs participate in this flagship effort: the Automated Packaging Systems program and theMachine Tooling Technics program, as these two WITC programs are best represented in the work at Packaging Technology.

The opportunity to become an apprentice was opened to Bosch employees, and four stepped up. Machinist apprentices are Josh Marquand and Brant Couch. Electro mechanical technician apprentices enrolled in the Automated Packaging Systems program are Philip Taylor and Paul Petty. These four apprentices will complete their respective program over a four or five year time span, while also working at Bosch.

What makes the program unique is what the participant receives at the completion of the apprenticeship – five years for an electro-mechanical technician and four years for a machinist – an Associate’s degree in technical studies, a technical diploma and a State of Wisconsin Certificate of Apprenticeship, commonly known as a journeyman card. A traditional apprenticeship usually results in only the journeyman card.

Upon acceptance in the program, the apprentice signs a contract with the State of Wisconsin that they will meet the obligations required for a journeyman card. During the apprenticeship, Bosch is responsible for ensuring the apprentices meet the minimum requirements, as well as assigning a shop-floor trainer and mentor to each apprentice.

The apprenticeship program works very closely with Wisconsin’s Workforce Development Department through Travis Ludvigson, Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards, who produced the contract the apprentices signed. At WITC, Randy Deli, divisional dean of trade and technology, coordinates the college’s apprenticeship opportunities.

Once accepted in the program, apprentices receive a salary and benefits for their 40-hour-a-week schedule, during which they split time between on-the-job-training and classroom work. In addition, the program covers the cost for tuition and tools needed for coursework. Outside of the program, the normal curriculum requires classroom attendance for 30 hours a week, leaving little time for job training.

“This was a great opportunity for me,” says Taylor, one of the new apprentices. “It’s a perfect scenario, I get to continue working at Bosch, and in five years I’ll have a degree, diploma and journeyman card that will benefit my career and family.”


From “Central Wisconsin lawmakers support workforce grants” — A proposed state grant program would allow Wisconsin Technical College System schools to obtain funding to work with businesses and economic development agencies to help address documented skills gaps or high workforce shortages in their regions.

Introduced and cosponsored by state Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and Rep. Scott Krug, R-Rome, the Workforce Growth Program would allocate $10 million to the Technical College System to offer rapids response grants for job training scholarships; building or infrastructure construction; equipment and material purchases; faculty hiring; curriculum development; or student career support services, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.

“What we’ve been hearing from local businesses all across the state is that there really is a skills gap, and they’re having difficulty finding workers with the right skills,” Lassa said in a Central Wisconsin Sunday interview. “The workforce growth plan is designed to be flexible to address those needs.

“It really has a holistic approach, and it builds off the model of the successful (Workforce Advancement Training) program, which is wildly popular all across the state.”

For organizations such as the North Central Workforce Development Board, which serves nine counties in central and northern Wisconsin, the grant program would make more resources available to help potential workers gain skills employers are looking for in applicants, said Jane Spencer, workforce services director for the Stevens Point-based organization, which is one of 11 such boards throughout the state that closely partners with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and local technical colleges.

“We have good working relationships with them,” Spencer said. “All those partners are coming to the table to determine what is best and how we can deliver (worker training) in a flexible way.”

A grant program would allow all entities involved to refine their efforts even more on individuals who need it the most, she said.

Mid-State Technical College is among local post-secondary institutions the board has worked with to create several training programs, including a food science certificate, a machine tool training program and others, said Ann Krause-Hanson, vice president of academic affairs for the college, which has campuses in Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield and Stevens Point, as well as a learning center in the city of Adams.

“Any opportunity or any support that we can have for doing customized training or training for business and industry is totally appreciated,” she said. “We do a lot of customized training for business and industry already, so we have a good reputation.”

From “Jobs not filled due to skills gap” — Unemployment numbers in the country are still high, but a recent report says many jobs are being left unfilled.

Express Employment Professionals say 3.9 million jobs in the U.S. are not filled because there aren’t enough qualified workers.
The Eau Clair’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average, but the skill gap is still a big issue.

Eau Claire’s unemployment rate is at 5.6%. Right now we’re number four on that list with 220 jobs that could be filed. But employment experts say people in the area just don’t have the skill set to get them. The Eau Claire Workforce Center says in this economy, there’s always a skills gap of some sort, but in the recent years it’s been getting worse.

“There are certain occupations that just have a ton of openings, it’s getting people in those that’s the difficult part,” explained Labor Market Economist Scott Hodek.

Across the state of Wisconsin there are around 45,000 job openings, most look for manufacturing engineers, welders, machinists, accountants and medical professionals.

“They are definitely occupations where we hear employers saying we could really use welders, but we can’t find enough,” said Hodek.

“Sometimes when you come in with prior experience it’s unfortunately not very helpful,” said Jeff Peterson.

Peterson has a master’s degree in public administration, and has tough college-level economics for years. But after looking for a full time job for nearly a year, he found he was overqualified.

“I’m whiling to trained in on something else, whether it happens to be for example a truck driver, it’s just I don’t have the finances to go back and take additional classes,” said explained Peterson.

Doug Olson with the Executive Marketing Director with Chippewa Valley Technical College says they’re seeing many people being underemployed.

Some programs to get those high-demand jobs don’t take much time or money, but for some it still could be a stretch.

“One that would seem fairy easy is truck driver for example; our graduates have an average starting wage of 47,000 a year after ten-week training program, costing roughly $1,400. That’s certainty worth the investment but does somebody have the money to make that investment,” explained Olson.

The Workforce Center says there are many efforts at the state and local level to help underemployed workers by offering scholarships and grants to go advance their skills.

Olson says he doesn’t believe the gap can ever be completely closed, because of changes in technology. He says on average an individual switches eight to 12 jobs in a lifetime, and going forward most workers will have to consistently learn new skills to keep up with technological changes.


From “Industry-Driven Training Aims at Skills Gap” — The skilled workforce is a big concern for all companies. In the IBM midrange community, you won’t find many people who believe it isn’t a problem. Potential entry-level employees with IBM i skills are scarce. And companies that are hiring tend to be particular about that. In most instances, organizations are not looking for one-dimensional individuals. Broad-based skills, including multiple languages and operating systems, are more the norm.

What’s being done to address this?

Some companies have found success when the IT and HR departments work together on a recruitment strategy that has close ties to colleges where IBM i skills are part of the computer science curriculum. They are on advisory boards that help determine the classroom subjects. It’s an effective strategy, but it’s not one in widespread use.

Replicating success is not difficult when you have a good template. That’s the thinking of Jim Buck, who is in the process of applying for a grant to do just that. Buck, who heads up one of the most successful IBM i educational tracks at the collegiate level for Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin, hopes the Department of Labor grant will allow Gateway to begin a program to train instructors at other colleges and universities. Among his priorities is helping other institutions set up advisory councils with IBM i shops.

At Gateway, Buck has an advisory council with 12 members representing IBM i shops. They help establish the curriculum and specific skills they view as important for the entry level jobs they hope to be filling now and in the years ahead. It’s the connection and collaboration between companies that need to replenish their workforces and the colleges that can best provide the skilled people that is critically (and I don’t use that word lightly) important.

Buck describes this as “industry-driven training” and he is emphasizing the role of IBM i shops in the preparation of training and the job placement support following the completion of training. The curriculum roadmap consists of three core classes: an introduction to programming, enterprise system concepts, and DB2 programming. The colleges and their advisory boards can select educational tracks to best fit business requirements and employment opportunities.

Gateway is relying on a consortium of community colleges across the U.S. (the 125-member National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers), as well as schools that participate in the IBM Academic Initiative. The initial group of colleges that are expected to prove the program is viable includes: Muskegon Community College in Michigan, Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina, the Community College of Baltimore County in Maryland, Metropolitan Community College in Nebraska, and Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois. Each of these schools will be developing partnerships with IBM i-based companies, including software vendors and IBM business partners.

The targeted student population includes college students as well as dislocated workers, the unemployed, veterans, and other adults. Those who complete the training will earn industry-recognized certifications, which will be spearheaded by COMMON.

There are a lot of companies in the IBM i community who could help themselves, help the IBM i community, and help their local communities by lending a hand to this. If your organization isn’t involved in an advisory council relationship with a tech school, the question needs to be asked, “Why not?” Is it because there is no plan for investment in IT personnel for the future? Is it because there’s no investment in IT infrastructure? For all the companies who say they can’t find people with the right skills, are there companies that believe in taking an active role to change that outcome?

“If this consortium of schools gets this grant–and they are asking for up to $25 million to build these centers of excellence–it will be the biggest step forward in teaching Power skills in the 17-year history of the Academic Initiative. This is an enormous step,” says Pete Glass, program manager of the Power Systems Academic Initiative. “But we need to have names to give the grant application strength.”

Companies that are interested in getting involved with this project can take the first step by completing a brief survey that, when compiled, will identify the severity of the skills gaps and rank their importance. Participation in the survey will result in follow up from the project coordinators who can help determine ways in which your company can benefit from this collaboration and how an effective skills pipeline can be hooked into your company.


From “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.

Educators Larry Clark (left), of Moraine Park Technical College in Fond Du Lac, Wisc., talks shop with Dennis Ringgenberg (middle) and Dave Stotelmyre of Kirkwood Community College, of Cedar Rapids, Ia.

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.”

From “Program’s new approach to bridge skills gap? Talk to employers” — To some, it’s the scourge of the industrial Midwest. To others, it’s an economic mystery.

Why does it remain difficult to find workers to fill job openings at a time of persistently high unemployment? The phenomenon defies logic, not to mention Economics 101. Many manufacturers say they’d hire more people, and create more employment in the process, if only they could find qualified candidates.

The “skills gap,” as the issue is known, has not gone away in Wisconsin, even after years of debate, theories, white papers and innumerable complaints from frustrated plant managers.

Recent weeks have produced a flurry of fresh research and initiatives, showing that the disconnect continues to touch a raw nerve in a state known for its machine shops and metalworkers.

“Some people don’t think that it’s a reality,” said David Mitchell, president of Monarch Corp., a privately held Milwaukee machining and metal fabrication company. “But the skills gap is real. I live it every day. There’s not enough skilled labor out there. It really is my number one impediment to growth. I can find new customers. I can find new industries.”

Mitchell co-chairs a newly launched initiative, sponsored by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, called the Manufacturing Careers Partnership. The MMAC program aims to systematically learn the exact needs of local industry, based on surveys of employers in southeastern Wisconsin, and then share the findings with the leading technical training colleges, such as the Milwaukee Area Technical College, so they can adjust their curriculum to the needs of the economy.

It will develop a pilot program for welders, which is the best known example of industrial skills shortages. Once the pilot program for welders is up and running, the partnership wants to adapt that pilot model to other areas of the economy, with machinists next in line, said Shelley Jurewicz, who is overseeing the MMAC effort.

The notion of canvassing employers on their needs seems long overdue, Jurewicz said.

“It sounds like something that should have been done already, but it wasn’t,” she said.

“People are holding back on investment, because they don’t know if they should expand, because they don’t know if they have ready talent,” said Scott Jansen, director of the newly created Office of Skills Development, an arm of the state Department of Workforce Development.

Jansen’s job will be to build a new agency within the agency, with its own $15 million budget for 2014-’15. The funding is earmarked for customized job-training programs, tailored for the specific needs of Wisconsin-based employers.

At the same time, the state workforce agency last month said it plans to hire a Boston-based web development firm to build an automated online system to connect “job seekers with openings that employers need to fill.”

The issue is hardly limited to Wisconsin. The competition to find talent has become a global pursuit that vexes many industries, as California’s high-tech industries recruit engineers from India and Wisconsin’s welding shops cede work to Texas, according to research at ManpowerGroup Inc., the global recruitment and placement company based in Milwaukee.

Manpower, which studies talent shortage issues around the globe, says Wisconsin ranks as the No. 5 state in terms of demand for welders, behind Texas, Ohio, California and Pennsylvania. But Wisconsin does not even make it into the top 10 states in terms of the supply of welders.

Separately, Manpower used data from the CareerBuilder Internet-based job placement database to search for job advertisements for welders in metro Milwaukee between March 2012 and February 2013. It found 861 postings but only 183 active candidates for the positions.

A training disconnect?

There is broad consensus on a few of the main causes. One of the most-often cited is the perception that manufacturing is dumb, dirty, dangerous and declining. Kids who saw their parents’ generation endure layoffs, furloughs and plant shutdowns shun manufacturing careers.

Another problem, which has been cited for years, is that the main tech schools haven’t bothered to align their teaching curriculum with present-day needs, focusing on graduation rates instead of job placement rates, Jurewicz said.

“The tech colleges are crazy that they don’t talk with employers enough,” Jurewicz said. “Do I get frustrated? Of course I do.”

MATC spokeswoman Kathleen Hohl said the school has established advisory committees for each of its associate degrees and technical diploma programs, meant to give input on the curriculum. “It’s a valuable part of our process,” Hohl said.

The MATC welding program, which has come under heavy outside criticism in recent years, currently has an adviser from GenMet Corp. in Mequon, one of the companies that have complained loudest about the inability to hire skilled metalworkers. It also has representatives from the two big metro Milwaukee mining equipment companies, Joy Global Inc. and Caterpillar Inc.

In addition, others in the region’s academic community strongly dispute that Wisconsin lacks skilled workers. One recent report referred to the notion as a “myth.”

That report by the Center for Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found “no statistical evidence of a skills shortage.” One of its key findings was that wages in those trades, such as welding, have not increased in Wisconsin, as one would expect if those skills were in demand.

“If Wisconsin employers were encountering a shortage of skilled labor, wages would be going up, but in Wisconsin real wages have declined since 2000,” the report found. Nor is there evidence that Wisconsin employers added hours to their existing workforce to compensate for an alleged skilled labor shortage, it said.

However, others have expressed concerns not only that there is a real skills gap, but that it could get worse before it gets better.

Among the concerns: demographics and the looming retirement of the “baby boom” generation. Economists at the Department of Workforce Development project that roughly 1 million jobs will have opened up in Wisconsin between 2010 and 2020, including about 680,000 to replace workers leaving the workforce. Roughly 340,000 are growth positions.

Right now, it’s unclear whether enough replacement workers are in the pipeline.

State feels global wage pressure

And then there’s another issue: globalization-driven pressure on wages.

Wages in the United States have come under unprecedented pressure, partly from the last recession but also from low-wage foreign competition. In the most recent 12-month period, private-sector wages fell 1.1% across the entire U.S. economy.

Wisconsin feels wage pressure more acutely. In the most recent period with comparable data, Wisconsin’s wages were under twice as much pressure, falling 2.2% in the private sector.

At the same time, wages are rising in developing nations such as China in what amounts to a global leveling of wages.

For any industry that feels low-wage foreign competition, the phenomenon of wage equalization puts factory managers in a Catch-22: They can’t increase pay without becoming uncompetitive, but they can’t fill the jobs with uncompetitive wages, said Jonas Prising, a senior executive at Manpower.

The more closely a Wisconsin company competes with China, the less latitude that employer has to lure a worker with higher wages.

Globalization radically changes what used to be a textbook rule-of-thumb in the pre-global age: When there’s a shortage of labor, wages will rise to attract the talent. That is no longer a reliable expectation, Prising said.

Never before have companies and managers had such instant access to prevailing wage rates around the world, he said.

In its 2012 survey of U.S. employers who have trouble filling job openings, Manpower found that 54% said candidates turned down the work because they expected higher pay.

“The big difference today, compared to almost every other recession, is our understanding and transparency of wages and who we compete with and where,” Prising said. “This is a very new phenomenon.”


From “Walker names Council on Workforce Investment” — Gov. Scott Walker has named the new membership of the Council on Workforce Investment, a federally mandated panel that will advise Walker and the Department of Workforce Development on the allocation of federal workforce development funds.

The council will be responsible for approving the Workforce Investment Act plan each state is required to create each year. It coordinates the efforts of Wisconsin’s 12 regional workforce investment boards.

“As we look to target substantial investments to develop the workforce and help Wisconsinites successfully pursue family-supporting careers and find true independence, the Council on Workforce Investment will provide valuable input with representatives from business, education, legislative and other key groups,” Walker said.  “My administration’s continued focus on creating jobs will guide the work of the Council as we look to address the skills gap and fill employers’ current and future labor market needs.”

Mary Isbister, president of General Metalworks Corporation in Mequon, will serve as chair of the council. She has experience service on the boards of several organizations, including the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and was formerly the vice chair of the Council on Workforce Investment.

Mike Laszkiewicz, vice president and general manager of Power Controls at Rockwell Automation, will be vice chair. He is currently the chair of the national Manufacturing Council, which advises the secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce on manufacturing issues.

Reggie Newson, secretary of the DWD, will serve as executive director.

The other members are:

  • David Brukardt, associate vice president for economic development, University of Wisconsin System, Madison
  • Alan Petelinsek, president and CEO, Power Test Inc., Sussex
  • County Executive Allen Buechel, Fond du Lac County
  • Rep. Warren Petryk, Wisconsin State Assembly, 93rd District
  • Jeffrey Clark, president and CEO, Waukesha Metal Products, Sussex
  • Dawn Pratt, human resources and EEO officer, Payne & Dolan, Fitchburg
  • Morna Foy, president, Wisconsin Technical College System, Madison
  • Mark Reihl, executive director, Wisconsin State Council of Carpenters, Madison
  • Sarit Singhal, president and CEO, Superior Support Resources Inc., Milwaukee
  • Grailing Jones, director of owner/operator small business development, Schneider Finance Inc., Green Bay
  • Howard Teeter, president and managing partner, Anteco Pharma LLC, Lodi
  • Theresa Jones, vice president of diversity and inclusion strategies, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Brookfield
  • Sen. Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin State Senate, 12th District
  • Sen. Julie Lassa, Wisconsin State Senate, 24th District
  • Rep. Robin Vos, Wisconsin State Assembly, 63rd District
  • County Executive Daniel Vrakas, Waukesha County
  • Terrance McGowan, president, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139, Milwaukee
  • Brian White, president, General Electric-Waukesha Gas Engines, Waukesha
  • Dan Mella, principal, Plymouth High School, Plymouth
  • Wyman Winston, executive director, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, Madison
  • David Mitchell, president/COO, Monarch Corp., Milwaukee
  • Rep. Josh Zepnick, Wisconsin State Assembly, 9th District
  • Alan “Kent” Olson, president, Olson Tire and Auto Services Inc., Wausau


From Corporate Leaders at Harper Event Urge Community College Presidents to “Talk to Us” — Executives representing some of the largest manufacturers in the U.S. urged community college presidents to reach out and form partnerships to help them train desperately needed middle skills workers.

Middle skills workers fill positions that typically require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree.

The recent resurgence in American manufacturing has created steep demand for middle skills workers with math, communication and problem-solving skills, especially in today’s high-tech manufacturing environment. Some middle skills jobs pay more than jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree, with median salaries often eclipsing $50,000.

“Assembly and manufacturing positions are among the toughest roles to fill,” said Alan May, Vice President, Human Resources at Boeing Defense, Space and Security. “Finding this talent is key to meeting increasing customer demand for our products while helping to improve the U.S. economy and bring down unemployment.”

The call for closer college and corporate partnerships came at a skills summit at Harper College in Palatine, which brought together human resources executives from Fortune 500 companies and community college leaders from across the country. In addition to manufacturing, the summit attracted human resources executives from other sectors, including retail, health care, logistics/supply chain and information technology, who also reported difficulties in filling middle skills jobs. The conference was sponsored by The HR Policy Association’s Workforce Development Roundtable, Motorola Solutions, Harper College and the Community College Auto Communities Consortium.

Corporate leaders said part of the disconnect between employers and colleges may stem from the difference between their fast-changing business environment and, what they say is the often slow pace of changing curricula and programs to meet their needs.

“Frequently we talk about our speed and education’s speed,” said Molly Steffen, Recruiting Manager at Caterpillar. “We’ll have a [training] program, then suddenly the technology changes and the job is different.”

Community college presidents acknowledge cumbersome academic processes can be frustrating for both sides, but they say working to close the time gap and collaborating closely with corporate partners to stay ahead of the technology curve can pay off for everyone.

“The stronger the relationship and the communication is between community colleges and employers, and the more we struggle though this journey together, the better opportunity we have to be the right side of the curve.” said Dr. Steven Ender, President of Grand Rapids Community College.

Bruce Brda, Senior Vice President of Motorola Solutions, said the explosive growth of high-tech communications and mobile applications and platforms means he can’t predict what his workforce needs will look like in the next five years, but said active communication with community colleges is critical to make sure new employees have skill sets they need to be successful.

“Work is changing drastically and at an even faster pace than previously seen in business,” said Brda. “The skills for future employees continue to evolve, and the only way to stay aligned is to communicate our needs with educators.”

Employers say finding workers with the right technical skills is only half the battle. They say they often find newly hired employees can’t pass a drug test or turn out to have a poor work ethic.

You can be the best welder we have, but if you don’t show up every day, obviously that’s inefficient for us,” said Steffen. “Especially people new to their careers, they have the world in front of them but they may lose that opportunity if they are unable to fulfill their commitment to work.”

To help combat the problem, community colleges such as Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin have begun emphasizing soft skills including interviewing, personal presentation and communication skills along with technical training.

“We tell our students they’re not applying for a job when they graduate from college, they’re applying for a job when they enroll in college,” said Bryan Albrecht, President and CEO of Gateway Technical College. “They have to be constantly thinking about what it takes to be successful, and that starts with professionalism, the way you respond to your teachers, businesses on campus and the community.”

To help close the skills gap and evaluate a student’s work ethic, companies are looking at supporting more paid internships similar to those offered through Harper’s advanced manufacturing program, which promises a paid internship with local manufacturing partners after a student completes four classes. The program recently was awarded a $12.9 million federal grant to replicate the partnership throughout Illinois.

Executives and college presidents say finding and training middle skills workers of the future cannot be ignored any longer. A recent report by Georgetown University predicts the U.S. will be short at least 3 million high-tech workers by 2018. Summit attendees say the need to find solutions and act quickly has never been more urgent.

“One of the messages of the summit is this: if we are to have a real partnership and a real relationship with corporations, we have to deliver,” said Harper College President Dr. Kenneth Ender. “We can’t over-promise, but whatever we take on, we have to deliver.”

From “Dual-credit program benefits students” — Tuesday was a dual-credit day at technical colleges across the state as they promote the kind of program four-year universities have long used.

Schools like Fox Valley Technical College in Grand Chute highlighted programs to help high school students earn college credits.

The initiative is meant to foster better partnerships between tech schools and high schools.

“I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how I’m only 19 years old but yet things are really starting to come together,” said Fox Valley Technical College student Ryan Geiger.

Geiger graduated from Brillion High School and was hired as a machinist by the Ariens Company. He says thanks to dual-credit courses, he’s working on two different degrees.

“I was really surprised how you can be a machinist and have the mindset you do and love what you do and being paid what you are. It’s just awesome.”

FVTC officials say Geiger is just one example of what educators hope becomes a trend of successful students taking dual-credit courses and filling in-demand jobs.

“It’s going to give them an opportunity to get an understanding of whether or not they would like to pursue this as their main field,” said Fox Valley Technical College Dean of Technologies Steve Straub.

The dual-credit classes are also free to high school students, meaning they are getting more specialized training and paying less for it.

“I really feel like we needed to be more aggressive in helping our students get one foot into post-secondary education,” said Appleton West High School Principal Greg Hartjes.

To do that, Appleton West hopes to start a machine technology charter school in the fall of 2014. Students could earn 24 credits toward a degree at Fox Valley Tech.

“These are high need areas that the community has said we don’t have enough employees, we don’t have enough people going into these areas and that is what we are trying to fill,” said Hartjes.

“I just love doing technology stuff, I just knew that’s what I always wanted to be,” said Geiger.

Providing students an open door to a bright future.

The number of high school students throughout the state taking college credits in high school has doubled in the last five years.

Fox Valley Tech says 21,000 Wisconsin students have an average of at least six college credits before graduating high school.

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From “New FVTC program helps trucking companies fill skills gap” — Appleton – Instead of working against one another, a group of local trucking companies is teaming up to create a training program that will benefit all of them. The new program is believed to be the only one of its kind in the country.

Appleton West students are some of the first to hear about a new program being created at Fox Valley Technical College. After several local trucking companies found themselves trying to steal trailer tech employees from one other, because there’s a shortage of workers with the necessary skills, those companies decided to team up to create a curriculum to specifically teach trailer technician skills.

“It was a way for us to try and get more technicians in the field that we could all benefit from and ultimately the customer does,” says Margo Kane from Master Fleet, one of the participating companies.

The 18-week trailer tech program will cover a range of skills, everything from welding and electrical work to brake work and accident repair. With a 99% job placement rate, anyone who enters the program is pretty much guaranteed a job upon completion.

“For about $2200 somebody can come in for 18 weeks and go out in the industry and start at a good wage,” says Dan Poeschel from FVTC.

While high schoolers are being targeted for the trailer tech program, Fox Valley Tech officials tell us those who already work in the trades industry can easily transition into this program.

Says Poeschel, “The people that really transition well are somebody that may be a carpenter and they’re having a hard time finding work there. They could go right into, come on with a lot of skills and really excel at this.”

Registration for the new trailer tech program will begin in November. Classes are scheduled to start in January.


From “Tech school expands to meet skills gap” — The training labs at Lakeshore Technical College have been booked solid, up to 18 hours a day, and the waiting lists are nearly 30 people deep.

“The waiting list for example, machine tool and especially our welding program, are such that we can have a program filled and before the start of the program, we already have almost the next program filled,” explained Executive Dean of Manufacturing Richard Hoerth.

With a changing job market, some employers have been dealing with what they call a skills gap.

They say they are willing to hire, but can’t find qualified people to fill the spots.

And it seems more people are beginning to understand the gap in skilled labor in the state. And so the college decided there’s only one way to address the growing need and interest, expand.

The more than $6 million project includes doubling the size of LTC’s Flexible Training Arena and modernizing the Trade and Industry building.

The expansion project is one of the largest of its kind for the nearly century old school. Officials expect the expansion will increase the number of graduates by 50 each year.

“The manufacturing sector in Manitowoc County and the lakeshore in general is extremely important. It’s about 37% of our employment,” explained Connie Loden, Executive Director of the Manitowoc County Economic Development Corporation.

Economic development officials feel the expansion is coming at the right time, but the skills gap stretches beyond Wisconsin.

According to an annual survey by ManpowerGroup, skilled trades was the hardest job to fill last year in the U.S, and it’s topped the charts since 2010.

“As the economy grows, we’re part of that solution and our employers need a skilled workforce to grow and that’s where we come in, is working with them and working with the students in the area,” explained LTC President Michael Lanser.

The college plans to break ground on the project in June. Officials say grants, loans and private investments will cover the costs.

In addition to this milestone, the college will celebrate its 100th anniversary on May 8th.

From “Technical college graduates find jobs by filling skills gap” — Tabetha Moore was a year away from earning her associate’s degree in human resources when a local manufacturing company gave her a full-time job in her field and agreed to pay for her last two semesters of school.

The 21-year-old hasn’t yet negotiated the salary she’ll earn after obtaining her diploma from Fox Valley Technical College in May, but that fact she secured a job so quickly reflects a new era of opportunity for graduates of two-year college programs.

“What surprised me most was that they would hire a 20-year-old without a degree to work in their human resources department,” Moore said.

She’s one of a new generation of graduates defying a stereotype that technical colleges offer a “second-to-best” option for those who don’t attend a university. Demand for technically-trained, skilled workers has driven up wages and employment opportunities for associate degree holders with highly-sought skill sets.

Analysts and educators refer to the situation as a skills gap. A wave of new jobs in a changing, high-tech economy is rolling in just as a mass of baby boomers retires. The end result is a glut of vacant positions with too few workers with desired skills.

“I think the simple economic theory about supply and demand is going to drive, locally and regionally, what’s driving up those associate’s degree wages. Employers are obviously very conscious about how some individuals joining their organization can add value to their customers and operations,” said Chris Matheny, vice president of instruction services for FVTC.

The competition for skilled workers is blurring the line between two- and four-year degree holders’ career opportunities. Nationwide, nearly 30 percent of Americans with associate’s degrees now make more than those with bachelor’s degrees, according to a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

About 89 percent of 2012 graduates from FVTC were employed within six months of earning their degree, according to a survey of graduates. Three-out-of-four grads found work related to their field of study and earned an average starting salary of $33,000.

Many saw much higher wages. Graduates from the web site development program reported earning as much as $104,000; human resources grads reported earning up to $90,000; business management grads saw up to $80,000; and electrical engineers found jobs paying as high as $59,900, according to the graduate survey.

Not all these salaries are for entry level work. A growing number of adults are returning to college to learn additional skills to either find new work or stay relevant in their current field. More employers are also paying for their employees’ continuing education.

“Once you get in house, we often have to put students through $10,000-$20,000 of aircraft-specific training. Each individual we consider a huge investment for the company,” said Greg Laabs, vice president and general manager of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation in Appleton.

Laabs spoke during a recent forum about the skills gap hosted by FVTC, where a number of employers said they’ve become more competitive with wages, hired younger people into higher-level positions and paid for schooling.

Nearly 55 percent of Wisconsin manufacturing companies reported offering collaborative training programs through local technical colleges and 46 percent reported increasing wages for difficult to fill positions, according a December 2012 survey by Schnenck SC, an Appleton-based accounting and business consulting firm.

“We offer competitive wages… The insurance packages offered are a huge bonus as well as the camaraderie and family values that go into a small to mid-sized business,” said Tony Robinson, vice president of manufacturing for Jay Manufacturing Oshkosh Inc. “Every employee at Jay Manufacturing is offered formal or on-the-job training experiences.”

Some employers are also beginning to hire people with associate’s degrees into management positions that previously required a four-year degree.

Paul Werth, 36, was among the first three people to graduate from FVTC’s new construction management program in 2011. Within nine months he was hired by Neenah-based Miron Construction Co. as a project manager, and he is now overseeing some of the construction related to FVTC’s expansion in Appleton.

“We’ve broke into this very traditional market where pretty much all the time it required a bachelor’s degree. Now, talking with students here (at FVTC), I know some have had job offers a month ago already,” Werth said.

The Georgetown center estimates 29 million jobs paying middle class wages today require no more than an associate’s degree. Similarly, the center estimates associate’s degree holders earn, on average, about $500,000 more over their careers than people with only high school diplomas, but $500,000 less than people with bachelor’s degrees. Those figures vary widely by profession.

A survey of graduates from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh indicates that most local bachelor’s degree holders still find a better starting wage than associate’s degree recipients. A UWO survey of 2011 graduates, which is the most recent available, shows 85 percent found jobs related to their majors within nine months of graduation. They earned starting salaries averaging $45,300.

The UWO survey had a 53 percent response rate, and the FVTC survey had a 78 percent response rate.

UWO Chancellor Richard Wells said a four-year education remains relevant and valuable to employers.

“A general education and the ability of a person to think critically, analytically and communicate effectively” — skills traditionally associated with a baccalaureate education — “is more important than a particular major. In the end, that’s what employers are looking for because you hopefully have someone who is passionate about life long learning,” Wells said.

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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