March 10, 2014
From beloitdailynews.com: “BTC’s manufacturing facility takes shape quickly in Milton” – By Shaun Zinck – MILTON — The new Blackhawk Technical College advanced manufacturing facility in Milton is on schedule and on budget, said college President Tom Eckert.
A year ago in February the college announced it had leased a building at 15 N. Plumb St. in Milton to house several of its advanced manufacturing programs.
Work began on half of the building in the fall with plans to move three programs by the 2014-15 academic year. Eckert said about 50,000 square feet of the 105,000-square-foot building is currently being remodeled.
“We are putting in general classroom in the front of the building for general education course. Also that is where the office complex will be located for staff,” he said. “Each of the labs will also have their own specialized classrooms.”
Once work is complete this summer, equipment will be transferred over to the building just in time for students in the welding, industrial maintenance and precision machining (CNC) to occupy that half of the building this fall. Work on the second half will continue during the academic year, Eckert said.
The other programs — heating, ventilation, air conditioning/refrigeration technician, mechanical design technology, industrial engineering technician and computer systems technology — will start holding classes in the 2015-16 academic year.
Gary Kohn, marketing and communications manager for the college, said the new space will bring all the programs closer together to allow for more collaborative projects between the students.
“So you might have a CNC student working with a welding student working with an industrial maintenance student,” he said.
Kohn said a lab station will be built as a connection between another building during the second phase of construction and renovation.
The entire renovation cost will be about $12 million, Eckert said. He said nothing unexpected has come up during the first phase of renovations.
“They did a really great job predicting exactly what it would take to do the job,” he said.
The welding program at BTC has been in high demand as of late. The college had to add a third welding section in order to increase the number of students it could admit into the program. The college currently has about 105 welding students in three different sections. The new facility will double the capacity for the programs, however, that doesn’t mean double the students just yet, Eckert said.
“We don’t know how many students (the building will hold),” he said. “We are still in decision-mode on what shifts we will have for each program.”
The college entered into a 10-year lease at the location, and can exercise two five-year renewals. Last year, the college said it would pay about $1.47 per square foot for the lease space or about $155,125 for the first year. The second year the rate increases to about $2.88 per square foot or about $302,688 per year.
Prior to choosing the Milton location the college looked into locating the facility at the Ironworks campus in Beloit. Funding the project proved too costly, Eckert said at the time.
March 3, 2014
From leadertelegram.com: “Manufacturing in the spotlight” — A group of high school students stood wide-eyed as a Chippewa Valley Technical College student dropped a metal ball that seemed to defy gravity as it fell through a simple copper tube. It fell slowly through the tube as if moving in molasses, never touching the sides.
The demonstration of electromagnetic forces took place in the Nano Engineering Technology area of CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center last March at the annual Manufacturing Show, which returns for a third year Thursday.
That simple ball-and-tube trick will have to take a distant back seat to other high-end demonstrations this year. For instance, CVTC now has equipment that uses streams of water under extremely high pressure to cut metal in precise detail, without the harmful effects heat-based metal cutting can leave behind.
Manufacturing Show demonstrations also will include a three-dimensional printer that doesn’t use ink. Instead, it produces, layer after layer, at high speed, a 3-D plastic model of items drawn up with paper and numbers.
“It gives us an ability to replicate a concept or design, showing the working parts,” said CVTC Associate Dean of Manufacturing Jeff Sullivan. “The printers are being used a lot in the medical field.”
New machine tool program equipment that will be on display is capable of speeds up to 12,000 rpm. “The purpose of the high speed is higher accuracy and tighter tolerances,” Sullivan said.
And the purpose of students working on such a machine is to prepare them for the kind of equipment being used in the industry today, important given the prevalence of the machine tool industry in the Eau Claire area.
Welcome to the world of modern manufacturing. People who still picture manufacturing as taking place in dark, dingy places with low-skilled workers doing simple repetitive work will have their minds changed by attending the show, people affiliated with the event said.
“The entire show will present a good overview of manufacturing careers in western Wisconsin,” said Roger Stanford, CVTC vice president of instruction. “We have a great diversity of manufacturing companies in this area, many of them producing products that are getting attention worldwide. Attendees can learn more about these companies at the Manufacturing Show and how CVTC prepares workers for lucrative careers in manufacturing.”
About 20 manufacturing companies will have displays about their role in their industries and in the Chippewa Valley economy. They will use the show to recruit new workers as well.
Joining those companies will be representatives of CVTC’s manufacturing programs: electromechanical technology, industrial mechanic, industrial mechanical technician, machine tooling technics, welding and welding fabrication. Some of the physical science programs, such as nano engineering technology, manufacturing engineering technologist and industrial engineering technician also will be involved.
Students play a vital role in the show. As part of regular course work, they have constructed and programmed robotic equipment that performs such tasks as playing a guitar, making a golf putt or resetting bowling pins.
Area high school students also will be heavily involved in this year’s show. Back again will be the Junkyard Battle, in which high school welding students will compete with their creations made of scrap metal. Last year the contest featured student-made sculptures of their school mascots. This year’s show will feature several more competitions.
Machine tool students will compete in the Amazing Maze event, creating complicated mazes in competition for the best design. Engineering students will use computer-aided design programs to draw up plans for devices. The top design will be reproduced on the 3D printer.
In the electromechanical area, students will create robots that work through a maze without human intervention. The industrial mechanics program is working on a competition involving development of miniature cannons.
“We are reaching out to our K-12 school district partners to develop agreements and programs that expose younger students to manufacturing and prepare high school students for entry into CVTC’s manufacturing programs,” Sullivan said.
The event has been well-attended by the general public since its inception, and area school districts take advantage by using it as an educational experience for students. Some parents bring their children who are starting to think about careers.
The show offers plenty for attendees to do, such as trying out simulators, watching robotic welders, learning what local manufacturers are producing and witnessing student creativity.
January 22, 2014
From postcrescent.com: “Referendum would add space, new equipment to Appleton technical education department” – APPLETON – About a dozen people braved the cold temperatures Tuesday to see firsthand how the upcoming referendum would impact technical education at Appleton West.
The referendum consists of two questions: One for $25 million to purchase technology and complete capital projects. The other question would allow officials to borrow up to $5 million outside the budget each year. The money would be used to replace outdated technology, perform maintenance projects and cover the salaries and benefits for five instructional technology integrators.
If both questions pass on Feb. 18, people who own homes valued at $150,000 would see the school portion of their property taxes rise $118.50.
Paul Lindberg teaches metals, welding and graphic arts at West. Lindberg showed those in attendance how referendum dollars would expand the technical education area, and allow all the department’s classes to be centrally located.
“Right now we have some of our classes upstairs and some of them downstairs, but if we’re all in one area the kids can move through the classes easier,” Lindberg said.
The lack of updated equipment is keeping Lindberg from training students in additional areas. Lindberg worked with instructors at Fox Valley Technical College over the summer to align three of his courses with their curriculum. Students who take those courses would earn credit through FVTC, but because not all of his equipment is up to industry standards, Lindberg can only teach one of the three classes. That would change if the referendum passes.
Equipment would be updated in the cabinetry/construction lab and the automotive shop as well. The construction space would be expanded and the auto shop would have additional storage, which would give students more space to work.
Julie Painting attended the information session because she has three children who attend West High School and she wanted to learn more.
“It was very helpful,” Painting said. “I’m very impressed that the teachers, the staff want to do what’s best for the students, for the community, and we’re not talking about extravagant spending. We’re talking about just what’s needed to keep up with our economy.”
Other than the technical education areas, West High would receive a secure entrance area and see the kitchen, cafeteria and outside common space remodeled and repurposed. Students who attend West and the district’s other two high schools would be given a mobile device to use — one for every student.
January 6, 2014
From yourdailyglobe.com: “Nicolet College names welding student of the year” – Three weeks after starting Nicolet College’s welding program, Chad Lawfer, of Minocqua, was ready to quit.
Learning the tig welding process was proving to be more than a challenge.
“I have to say, there was one point where I had just had it,” Lawfer said. “I was ready to walk.”
But he didn’t, digging deep to persevere.
On Dec. 17, Lawfer was named Nicolet’s Welding Student of the Year.
“Lawfer definitely deserves it,” welding instructor Warren Krause said. “He could have taken the easy way out and just quit, but he didn’t. He stuck with it and one day everything just clicked for him and he was able to do all of welds.”
Not only was he able to do the welds, he did them to a very high standard, earning straight As.
As good of a student as he is technically and academically, he also has other talents called soft skills which employers seek out, according to Chuck Kopp, adjunct welding instructor.
“Lawfer always comes in with a positive attitude and is always willing to help other students,” Kopp said. “He has a strong work ethic, knows how to communicate well, and is just a great guy to be around. Manufacturers today want new employees with these traits and skills.”
Lawfer said his instructors deserve the credit for his success. “They’ve just been fantastic,” he said. “They take the time to work with you until you really understand what they are teaching. I owe it all to them.”
December 26, 2013
From northlandsnewscenter.com: “WITC’s welding program helps inmates find work after incarceration” – School may not be in session at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Superior, but learning through WITC’s welding program is still sparking.
The welding room at WITC was filled with the bright flicker of flames as people on probation, parole, or currently incarcerated, took advantage of the Accelerated Welding Program being offered through the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Employment Program.
“We’ve been doing these for about five or six years,” said welding instructor Dan Wilkinson.
Years of teaching valuable skills that can make all the difference in the lives of participating inmates.
“It’s great that they’re giving us an opportunity to learn something, because a lot of us don’t have skills,” said Matthew Sanford, an inmate at the Gordon Correctional Facility.
The intense learning program involves many different styles of welding, to prepare inmates for possible careers after the completion of their sentence.
“We’ll bring these guys in for three weeks and there’s an employer at the end of it that’s agreed to interview them… so that’s the big piece of this program… that there’s an opportunity,” said Wilkinson.
…an opportunity that is paying off for many.
49% of the program’s 59 past participants are now working in the area either in a welding capacity or as a general laborer.
“A lot of us never had the opportunity for this and the fact that they’re giving us the opportunity means so much,” said Sanford.
Accelerated Welding Programs like these are among the most successful community corrections employment programs in the state, providing the spark for success after incarceration.
The current welding class is the fifth Accelerated Welding Program that WITC, NW-CEP, and Wisconsin DOC have partnered on.
December 23, 2013
From host.madison.com: “Northeast Wisconsin Technical College plays key role for Marinette Marine” – MARINETTE – Northeast Wisconsin Technical College is playing a key role in preparing workers for the Marinette Marine shipyard.
The school operates the North Coast Marine Manufacturing Training Center, where workers are taught a variety of skills including welding and electrical work, as well as leadership, communications and conflict resolution skills. In the last two years, more than 1,800 students have gone through the training center.
The facility is within walking distance of the shipyard and includes computer labs, classrooms and shops, one filled with welding booths, another with electrical components like those used on the littoral combat ship (LCS). There are also programs for pipe fitters and metal fabricators.
“We were written right into the LCS contract because they needed to show that they had the ability to train thousands of people,” said Brian Lancour, coordinator of the training center. “We’ve become experts on the shipyard.”
Aaron Short, 26, a native of Escanaba, Mich., had been working as a welder at Miller Tractor Supply in Green Bay and in June applied to work at the shipyard. He started in October and began welding training at NWTC. He makes $16.50 an hour compared to the $11.50 he was making at Miller. But he’s also in a more physically demanding job, performing welding tasks while on his knees, crouched down or in some cases using mirrors to weld in tight spots.
“It’s nothing like I’ve ever done before,” said Short, who will soon be married. “It’s definitely testing my skills and getting me better at a lot of things.”
Wade Smoot, 41, of Madison, is a Lancaster High School graduate who most recently was an iron worker for a Stoughton company that did work on Camp Randall and at Epic Systems in Verona. He was attracted to the shipyard by the pay, benefits and community.
“I just wanted something different and this is really neat to build ships,” said Smoot, who was learning how to weld aluminum.
December 9, 2013
From wausaudailyherald.com: “Local high school girls learn about male-dominated fields” – More than 50 girls from nine central Wisconsin highschools learned Friday what it would be like to be welders, mechanical designers, machinists and other professionals in the manufacturing and technical fields.
They were taking part in a program called Females in Technology & Trades at Northcentral Technical College. The idea was to expose the girls to professions that are in what have been traditionally male-dominated fields to ensure that they know of all the career opportunities available to them.
The program was organized by Laurie Schulz, a mechanical design instructor at NTC. Schulz worked as a designer for years and said she had no problems working in a male-dominated field, but not all young women know that such careers are even possible.
The F.I.T.T. program, Schulz said, was meant to change that by both exposing the girls to all of the programs NTC has to offer and giving them a chance to do some hands-on activities, such as welding.
Maddy Krueger and Katherine Russell, both juniors at Tomahawk High School, participated in the program to find out what they might do after graduation.
“I think this is really interesting,” Krueger said. “I’m in a shop class at school, and I’m interested in mechanical comprehension and design. So I thought that would interesting to learn.”
Russell wants to become a materials sciences engineer, designing materials that can do new things.
“There’s a need for more women in engineering fields, so I wanted to learn more about that. And I’ve never welded before, so I’m really nervous,” Russell said. “I really learned a lot today about what NTC had to offer. I didn’t know we had an engineering and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school so close as Wausau.”
The program was beneficial for female students, Schulz said, so that “they can see what types of options are out there for them that are nontraditional, compared to what they may normally do.”
December 9, 2013
From postcrescent.com: “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.
November 14, 2013
From chippewa.com: “Latest equipment helps prepare students for job market” – Instructor assistant Corey Wegner proudly shows off a steel cutout in the shape of an elk, done in such fine detail that the texture of the hairs on the elk’s neck is apparent. The metal was cut on the latest piece of equipment in the welding shop at Chippewa Valley Technical College.
Amazingly, the metal was cut without applying any heat, and in fact, it is specifically because no heat was used that the detail was so fine.
A Flow waterjet cutter did the job, and students enrolled for the fall term will be learning how to use it. It’s another example of how CVTC continues to stay on the “cutting edge” of manufacturing equipment. It’s rare indeed for the graduate of a CVTC manufacturing program to enter the workforce and be baffled by the technology. The college is generally ahead of the curve.
“We are constantly talking to companies, and they are very good about telling us what the new trends are. The college is very good at keeping up with that,” says Jeff Sullivan, associate dean of manufacturing.
A case in point is the waterjet cutter, which uses a high pressure fine stream of water to cut metal in fine detail.
“It’s cutting using the erosion process instead of heat, so you don’t get the heat-affected areas you do from heat cutting,” says Walter Quaschnick, head of the welding program. Intense heat can affect the properties of the metal being cut.
“And because we use water, we can cut through other things like ceramic, wood and rubber,” Quaschnick continues. “It’s a unique type of cutting process.”
One of the biggest applications is in cutting stainless steel, which is susceptible to rusting if cut with a torch. One local company, Midwest Stainless in Menomonie, uses a waterjet and appreciates that CVTC manufacturing graduates are familiar with this technology.
CVTC’s strategy works two ways. Students are better prepared to enter the workforce by having training on the latest equipment, and the fact that trained workers are available encourages industry to modernize. It’s how education can drive economic development.
Also new at CVTC this year is a Haas VM-2 unit in the machine tool area. Sullivan notes it is capable of a 1,000-rpm spindle speed. “If you make an analogy, it would be like a standard computer compared to a high-speed computer,” Sullivan said.
Examples of such high-technology capability at CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center area abound:
- The welding program has a computer interface so students can evaluate their techniques with a computer program.
- The machine tool program has the capability of micro-machining.
- The industrial mechanic program has an assembly line simulator in which students can troubleshoot problems.
- The nanoengineering technology program has a Class 100 cleanroom, unique in the state.
CVTC’s manufacturing technology is so sophisticated that the college receives requests from private industry to use it, which is possible through the college’s Equipment Access Program.
Chippewa Valley Technical College campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west-central Wisconsin. It is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.
October 21, 2013
From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Alliance works to change state’s manufacturing image, increase education” – When Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s 44-foot mobile CNC lab made an appearance at Bonduel High School, the pieces fell into place for junior Race McClone.
McClone, 16, is planning a career in manufacturing. If he becomes a mechanical engineer and welder as he proposes, it will be another in an increasing number of successes for NEW Manufacturing Alliance, NWTC and other supporters of manufacturing.
October is Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin, and that’s more than just another in a rotisserie of months with special names. Indiana and Wisconsin regularly trade positions as the top manufacturing states in the nation. Statewide, 16.1 percent of Wisconsin jobs are manufacturing related. In the 14-county NEW North region, one in every four jobs is in manufacturing.
“That is one of the largest concentrations of manufacturing in the country,” said Ann Franz, NEW Manufacturing Alliance coordinator.
The Alliance was founded in 2006 to foster collaboration between manufacturers and educators in the promotion of manufacturing and development of a future workforce.
The Manufacturing Institute, affiliated with the National Association of Manufacturers, says that workforce is growing older at a greater rate than the economy as a whole, and the lack of qualified workers is beginning to impact manufacturers’ ability to compete in the global market. It says schools are not equipping students with the appropriate skills and in the necessary disciplines to contribute to the manufacturing economy.
The Institute says U.S. schools are not producing enough engineers, and the manufacturing workforce is growing older and is not as well educated as other sectors.
The Alliance is working to change that in Northeastern Wisconsin. It arranges tours of manufacturing plants — it sponsored 11 visits for students and teachers in October — and sends manufacturing representatives into classrooms. It is developing manufacturing-related math problems for use in middle schools, provided $20,000 in college scholarships last year, publishes a magazine, produces videos and hosts the annual Manufacturing First Expo & Conference, to which 200 students are invited.
Franz’s salary is paid by the Bay Area Workforce Development Board, which also helped pay for creation of NWTC’s Computer Integrated Manufacturing mobile lab. Much of the rest of the work is done by volunteers on five Alliance task forces.
Manufacturing jobs pay well, but an enduring image of workers standing on assembly lines doing the same things over and over again is discouraging to digital-age students, not to mention their parents. It doesn’t help that the image is totally inaccurate.
Nels Lawrence, technology education instructor at Kaukauna High School, said plant tours dispel notions of manufacturing as “dumb, dull and dirty.”
Northeast Wisconsin Chambers Coalition’s 2012-13 Fox Valley Wage & Benefits Study found that intermediate-level electrical engineers in Brown County earned an average $62,766 per year and electrical engineers at Fox Valley companies earned an average annual wage of $71,109. Again, the number of responding companies was not large (six in one case, seven in the other) and the respondents were self-selected. The average wage for senior electrical engineers was $91,028.
“One employer said to me, ‘You want to recruit kids. Take a look at what’s parked out in are parking lot,’” Lawrence said.
Franz and Lawrence said manufacturers are desperate to grow the workforce.
“More and more human resources directors are contacting me directly, looking to contact 16- and 17-year-olds,” Lawrence said. “If I had more students, I could find more openings.”
Franz said the increase in engagement between employers and schools is significant. Schools are calling the alliance — a 180-degree turnaround from seven years ago — and asking how they can partner.
As a sign of progress, Franz said NWTC graduated 19 welders in 2000, 28 welders in 2005 and 119 welders in 2010. It has more than 200 people enrolled in welding classes now, and last year enrollment in its manufacturing classes was up 19 percent.
Welding is just a tiny slice of manufacturing jobs, though in considerable demand in the region. Surveys by NWTC also identified electrical engineers, among others, in high demand.
“The message is resonating,” Franz said. “NWTC graduates more manufacturing degree holders than any other technical college in the state.”
Bonduel High School’s McClone had taken computer-aided-design and civil engineering classes in tech ed, but the arrival of NWTC’s mobile lab took his interest to a new level. The school also has a new welding lab.
“I’m really interested in the CNC program. If Bonduel didn’t have the trailer here, I probably wouldn’t have known about the CNC at all,” he said, talking on his cellphone from the lab.
He said Bonduel’s tech ed teachers themselves are enthusiastic about manufacturing, and promotional efforts are beginning to make an impact.
“People are starting to see this as a great opportunity,” he said. “There are all kinds of jobs. It can be pretty much anything.”
October 15, 2013
From northlandsnewscenter.com: “WITC receives grant to expand welding program” – Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College recently acquired a grant to bulk up its welding program.
The money is being used to buy new equipment and get students to work more quickly.
WITC in Superior was one college of 16 to receive part of a 14.9 million dollar grant that was recently awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant. The grant is intended to assist students entering into the welding field. WITC has already put some of the money to good use.
The grant was also used to purchase welding equipment, including a robotic welder and to expand the college’s capacity to provide short–term training to meet immediate needs of employers.
The expansion will grow the adult manufacturing career pathways program.
“What it allows us to do is block our classes, which was really actually a pretty smooth transition for the welding program because we already teach that way, where one class builds on the class before it,” said Welding Instructor Aleasha Hladilek.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration has funded 55 percent of the career pathways project which totals just over 600–thousand dollars. The program supports dislocated workers.
“Going back to school, it’s given me a future for me and my kids, where I can go out and get a decent paying job.” said Student Jacob Hochstetler.
WITC hopes to train more than 25–hundred students during the next two years and connect them to manufacturing business.
October 4, 2013
From wbay.com: “Middle School Girls Take on “Man’s Work” – Green Bay - Middle school girls got the chance Tuesday to learn about welding and robotics at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.
It’s called “Women at Work,” and it’s an effort to get more young women interested in typically male-dominated fields.
More than 100 girls from middle schools in the area spent the morning learning about trades like welding with a simulator.
“It gives feedback electronically to the instructor and to the student. It’s actually mechanical movement, so they get that effect,” NWTC welding instructor Jon Russell explained.
In another session, the students use robots to learn about animation.
“We took a robot and we were picking up garbage and deciding if it was trash or recyclable,” Bayview Middle School student Madelyn Jorgensen described.
The goal is to give young women the opportunity to explore careers in these types of trades which typically attract men.
The girls also had the chance to meet with employers to learn about the different trades.
“There are lots of job opportunities for these women in these different trades areas. They’re able to get paid pretty well at some really hands-on type jobs that are really kind of fun,” Angie Arneson, a technology and engineering teacher in Denmark Middle School said.
According to NWTC, only three to five percent of students in the welding program are women.
But these students say they’re inspired by Tuesday’s workshop.
“Girls can definitely do these jobs. Girls have better hand-eye coordination I’ve heard. So things like welding where you have to be very specific would probably be better for girls,” Denmark Middle School student Ellie Babiash said.
September 25, 2013
From thenorthwestern.com: “Robotic welding program brings Walker to FVTC” – Learning to weld is normally a hands-on experience, but 14 Fox Valley Technical College students are taking a very hands-off approach to a new course.
Fox Valley Tech has introduced a course in robotic welding at its Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center on Oshkosh’s south side this semester as it responds to changing demands of area manufacturers.
The new program, and the eight robots mounted with MIG welding guns, caught the attention of Gov. Scott Walker, who toured the manufacturing campus Tuesday afternoon.
“We can compete with anybody in the world, anywhere around the world, but we’re not going to compete the way we used to,” Walker said. “Advanced manufacturing means people who have multiple skills that can be applied using not only crafts they’ve learned here, but also all the technology that goes with it.”
FVTC Metal Fabrication and Welding Instructor Ben Cebery said the college was able to use a portion of a three-year, $3 million Advanced Manufacturing Pathways Plus grant the U.S. Department of Labor awarded FVTC earlier this year to develop the robotic welding course’s curriculum.
“We’re seeing more automation in manufacturing,” Cebery said. “Surveys with local companies suggested it was a good idea for students to be exposed to automation. This program prepares students for what we’re seeing and the demands of industry.”
Jay Manufacturing CEO Matt Jameson said the company has six robotic welding stations and a lot more manual welding stations at its west side fabrication shop. He said the company has hired several welders recently, and needs to hire as many as 20 more. He said the company views robotic welding training as a definite plus.
“The more versatile a person is, the more we can do with them,” Jameson said. “If they know manual and robotic welding, that’s just a bonus. In addition, the people we have interviewed who tested well almost all had some form of technical college training.”
Joe Serio, of Menominee Falls, and Austin Kopplin, of Oshkosh, both said they’re excited to learn how to program the robots and get them to execute precision welds. Serio said he knows welders are in high demand, but learning more advanced skills like computer programming is vital to finding a good job.
“Usually, we don’t get to deal with computers much while welding, but there’s always someone who needs to run the robot in case something happens,” Serio said. “This comes easy and it’s a pretty nice skill to learn.”
Kopplin said he’s been impressed by the amount of programming required to get the robots to work and the precision with which they execute commands.
“It’s consistent and perfect every time,” Kopplin said. “You get jittery welding for six hours at a time, but these things can run all night.”
Cebery said the college reached out to companies who said students need to be familiar with robotic welding and asked them to provide one or two robots they use. He said Ariens Co., in Brillion, and Muza Metal Products, in Oshkosh, are just two of the companies that stepped up to help out.
“Getting eight robots on the floor would have cost an astounding amount of money,” Cebery said. “Finding another way was vital. Fortunately, we were able to find a way via donations and gifted equipment that exposes students to the different types of robotic welders. They get to learn on each of them.”
August 20, 2013
From antigodailyjournal.com: “NTC to offer manufacturing tech degree” – Northcentral Technical College will begin offering a new manufacturing technician technical diploma in the fall, and the Antigo campus will be one of two locations to host the program.
Instructor Mike Parizek works with student Dylan Zimmerman in Northcentral Technical College’s machine tool lab.
This one-year (29-31 credits) technical diploma is designed to prepare students for a variety of entry-level careers within the manufacturing sector. The new program incorporates portions of NTC’s machine tool operation technical diploma and welding technical diploma in order to give students a well-rounded education and make them more marketable to potential employers.
According to a survey conducted by the technical college, area manufacturers are placing an increased focus on hiring employees who have cross training in both the machine tool and welding areas.
“After conducting the survey and meeting with business leaders in our area, it became clear that many local companies are in need of employees with diverse skill sets,” Larry Kind, dean of NTC’s Antigo campus, said. “The manufacturing technician technical diploma is an ideal fit in that sense, as students gain valuable training in two high-demand areas.”
Throughout the course of the program, students will learn to use a drill press, power saw, elementary lathe, mills and pedestal grinders in the machine tool courses. The welding courses will provide a solid foundation for a single manual process.
For more information or to register, call the NTC Antigo campus at 715 623-7601 or visit http://www.ntc.edu.
August 5, 2013
From wqow.com: “CVTC receives national grant for mobile lab” – Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) has been awarded a three-year grant of nearly $800,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for development of a mobile manufacturing training laboratory to reach out to students in rural school districts and to help close the manufacturing skills gap.
The goals of the project are to prepare and recruit students into manufacturing careers, provide students with increased opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school, and provide more trained workers for manufacturers.
With the grant funds, CVTC will develop a mobile manufacturing training laboratory in partnership with Realityworks, an Eau Claire company that develops learning products that provide real-world simulations. Among the company’s products are a welding simulator and the RealCare Baby infant care simulator.
Realityworks will work with CVTC to develop a portion of the mobile laboratory equipment and curriculum. Manufacturing program faculty at CVTC will develop simulation training curriculum for use in high schools. The mobile laboratory will then be taken to the rural school districts to provide hands-on learning for students and professional development for teachers. Students will be able to complete manufacturing skills training while still in high school, earning college credit, saving them money, and helping them transition into the workforce earlier. That will help area manufacturers in their search for skilled labor.
The school districts of Alma Center-Lincoln, Eleva-Strum, Greenwood, Neillsville and Owen-Withee have partnered with CVTC for the initial integration of the curriculum into their high schools, but all schools in CVTC’s 11-county district could ultimately benefit.
Several CVTC programs will be involved in the development of the project, including Machine Tooling Technics, Welding and Electromechanical Technology. The mobile lab curriculum will include machining, welding, automation, precision measurement, applied mathematics and engineering design.
NSP has awarded CVTC $198,005 for the project, effective August 1. Contingent on the availability of funds, NSF expects to continue to fund the project with awards of $299,735 in 2014 and $299,558 in 2015 for a total grant of $797,298.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for CVTC to reach out to underserved students in the district, and to help manufacturers find the skilled workers they need. We’re going to take the advanced training right to the students in the rural school districts, who will be able to earn college credits and develop the skills they need to succeed,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker.
“We are very pleased to be working with Realityworks on this project. They are experts in creation of simulation technology and will also work with our outstanding manufacturing faculty to develop the curriculum to go with the laboratory. This is an exciting partnership that will benefit students and manufacturers in the CVTC district,” Barker continued.
Development of the mobile laboratory will begin this fall with the first visits to school districts expected in the 2014-2015 school year.
Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.
From prweb.com: “Apache partners with Moraine College to develop skilled trades” – Moraine Park Technical College in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, is helping to develop skilled worker assets in the area by offering Welding Boot Camps. These Boot Camps are entry-level welding courses with on-site welding practice and supervision at Apache. The Boot Camps are part of the manufacturing skills academies funded by the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation and the Department of Labor TAA CCCT Grant. The program helps build a skilled welder pool for area manufacturers, including Apache.
During the program, students are required to complete eight hours per week of welding practice which is conducted at Apache under supervision of Apache’s welding mentors and floor supervisor as well as the instructor. Apache was proud to host several students last month in the Boot Camp Welding Program.
The on-site hands-on welding at Apache helps the students experience a real manufacturing environment with access to different types of equipment, different shapes and thicknesses of stainless steel and TIG welding processes.
A large part of the tuition is funded by the grant, with a small investment from the student. The student investment is refunded if they are selected for an internship.
With an ASME rated welding team, Apache continually promotes training and education in welding, fabrication and over-all manufacturing.
Founded in 1975, Apache Stainless Equipment Corporation consists of five groups: Large Tanks, Portable Vessels, Contract Manufacturing, Carbon Steel and Mepaco. The Mepaco group manufactures food processing equipment. Apache is an employee-owned company and a subsidiary of Dexter Apache Holdings, Inc.
July 12, 2013
From wjjq.com: “Nicolet teams with Oldenburg to improve welding” – Nicolet College is teaming with an area heavy equipment manufacturer to improve both student and worker skills training.
The technical college has recently expanded its welding program and has hired some of the top welders from Oldenburg Group in Rhinelander to teach additional class sections on a part-time basis.
Meanwhile, to advance the skills of workers at Oldenburg, a Nicolet instructor travels there to teach advanced blueprint reading.
Brigitte Parsons, dean of Trade and Industry at Nicolet noted the benefits of hiring instructors with private industry experience saying, “Each one brings their own unique set of skills to the classroom…(exposing students) to a wide range of talents which will make them that much more well-rounded when they enter the workforce.”
Oldenburg Lake Shore plant manager Scott Sedlacek says the arrangement advances the skill set of their current workers and potential future employees.
Milwaukee-based Oldenburg recently was awarded a $40 million contract from the U.S. Navy to build a variety of major components for Navy ships. They have 11 facilities in North America and other countries.
Nicolet has started an accelerated Welding program that gives students the opportunity to complete the traditional one-year diploma program in as little as seven months.
July 3, 2013
From wjfw.com: “Prepare for an increased demand in welding and fabricating jobs” – Looking for a new career? There’s one job in huge demand in Northern Wisconsin: Welding. To help fill those jobs Nicolet college is working with the Oldenburg Group and expanding their welding program.
Nicolet College’s Dean of Trade and Industry Brigitte Parsons says Wisconsin manufacturers are highly competitive in the world market. They’re getting more contracts, and need more workers.
“We’re seeing continued growth in this industry sector and an increased number of jobs in welding and fabricating and machine tooling,” said Parsons. Oldenburg Group, specifically, will be looking for more welders and fabricators to keep up with demand. “They just got a contract but they haven’t begun employing people yet. So right now is a good time to start thinking about if that’s a job that you might be interested in getting. Now’s a good time to get the skills,” says Parsons.
Nicolet College in Rhinelander offers a 9-month program for welding. They work closely with local leaders in industry like Oldenburg Group, so they’re teaching exactly what employers want you to know. Some of Oldenburg’s employees even teach part-time at Nicolet.
June 21, 2013
From jsonline.com: “Opinion: A partnership to fill jobs” – An article June 9 by the Journal Sentinel’s John Schmid provided an overview of the debate among researchers about the existence and extent of a skills gap in Wisconsin (“Program’s new approach to skills gap? Talk to employers”). However, the debate misses the immediate need to focus on a tangible solution. With area manufacturers working together with technical schools, we have an opportunity to begin that process.
We are in a manufacturing-rich region poised for growth. That growth is being squeezed by an increasing demand for advanced skills and an impending demographic shift that will mean too few workers to fill the void left by retirees. Time is of the essence to focus on action. Our ability to train, attract and retain talent to career pathways in manufacturing is simply critical to this region.
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s Manufacturing Careers Partnership is a collaborative effort in the truest sense of the word. We share a common mission: to give people the skills they need to fill jobs and create a pipeline of talent now and in the future. The only way we can accomplish our mission is to have educational institutions, workforce development agencies and employers at the same table, talking — in detail — about their needs. And that’s exactly what we are doing.
Our first project, Welding 101, is designed to create a baseline of common skill requirements for entry-level welders among a significant number of employers and to improve manufacturers’ ability to attract and retain talent. To date, more than 50 companies have participated in a survey that asks, in great detail, what employers need from their welders on day one. As more employers complete the survey, we can move with confidence toward aligning course competencies across the region’s technical colleges.
We are pleased to be working in alignment with our manufacturers and our technical colleges: Gateway, Milwaukee Area, Moraine Park and Waukesha County, as well as the Wisconsin State Technical College System on this project. Together, we can give an individual employee the skills to succeed in a welding position and give employers a starting point for building a manufacturing career pathway.
Getting clear on what we, as technical colleges can teach, and we as employers, can then train, lays out a progressive and practical path to solving one of our region’s most pressing needs. We recognize that this project is a starting point. Workforce challenges are complex and the issues impacting the entire talent pipeline will not be solved with a single approach. But much like an entry-level position, we need to tackle Welding 101 and gain some experience and tangible success.
How you can help: if you are an employer of welders, please take the Welding 101 survey at www.mmac.org.
This op-ed was signed by Bryan Albrecht, president, Gateway Technical College; Dave Biddle, manager of technical services, Joy Global (MCP co-chair); Michael Burke, president, Milwaukee Area Technical College; Shelley Jurewicz, vice-president for economic development, MMAC/Milwaukee 7; David Mitchell, president, Monarch (MCP co-chair); Barbara Prindiville, president, Waukesha County Technical College; and Sheila Ruhland, president, Moraine Park Technical College.
From thomasnet.com: “Skilled Trades Educators & Employers: We Need to be Better Partners” – At a workforce development meeting last week, manufacturing educators and employers from across the Midwest and elsewhere in the U.S. agreed that much greater collaboration between the private sector and teaching institutions is needed to fix the U.S. industrial labor skills gap.
About 35 community college and technical school educators and human resource managers of manufacturing companies, along with workforce development experts, met at the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International’s (FMA) T.E.A.M. Summit in Anoka, Minn., to tackle the multifaceted and complex manufacturing talent crisis. They concluded that foundational changes must be made in curriculum education in college and high schools, certification and credentialing programs, and internships and apprenticeships.
Moreover, the group discussed different ways to change negative public perceptions about manufacturing, stimulate younger generations into entering the sector, and create greater employee engagement, development, and retention at manufacturing businesses. But the biggest challenge, both teachers and employers acknowledged, is overcoming the disconnect that currently exists between the educational system and the private sector in preparing students with the skills they require to become effective workers.
Despite coming from different areas around the country, skilled trades instructors and program administrators lamented a similar lack of engagement by manufacturing businesses in their student development efforts. Years of under-coordination with employers have resulted in numerous situations where the graduates and would-be employees they produce do not match up with job competencies.
Larry Clark, who teaches welding and metal fabrication at Moraine Park Technical College, in Fond du Lac, Wis., said that while several local manufacturers are members of the school’s manufacturing program advisory committee, they meet with faculty just twice per year. “We need an engaged faculty working with employers,” he said.
Today’s shop floor skills in advanced manufacturing facilities can be highly specialized, but employers have not been defining them specifically enough to educators, according to Dave Stotelmyre, machine shop instructor at Kirkwood Community College, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That problem is magnified because of the rapid pace of manufacturing technology advances. He said the school has had difficulties placing the right candidates into area manufacturers, as a result.
“Companies need to have some forethought and identify what their needs are,” Stotelmyre said. “When the [employees] are not what they expected, now the specifics start flowing out.” He said companies “need to be involved right up front” with schools, working together as partners in developing the right manufacturing employees.
“Manufacturers, in general, don’t think that educating their future workforce is their job,” said Pat Lee of the FMA.
Larry Clark (left), of Moraine Park Technical College in Fond Du Lac, Wis., talks shop with Dennis Ringgenberg (middle) and Dave Stotelmyre (right), both from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Credit: William Ng
“This problem has been around for a long time,” said John Calver, director of the Advanced Manufacturing Excellence Center at Thomas Nelson Community College, in Hampton, Va. “It was ignored because their immediate needs were still being met – until now.”
He equated talent development to a supply chain whose design, long-range planning, and execution require private-sector commitment. “Employers don’t see educators in the supply-chain light,” said Calver, who added that when businesses look to schools for people, they “expect to have it tomorrow.” He described those expectations as being “unrealistic.”
Clark of Moraine Park Technical College said that when manufacturers call the school, “they’re desperate.”
Manufacturers, likewise, have struggled with alignment issues with education institutions. In southwest Louisiana, Begneaud Manufacturing Inc., a precision sheet metal fabrication shop based in Lafayette, has had trouble finding workers skilled in TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding due partly to local schools teaching only stick (arc) welding. “There are seven welding programs and five machining programs in my area, but no TIG welding,” said Andree Begneaud, employee relations director and co-owner of the 55-employee company, who spoke on a panel at the FMA T.E.A.M. Summit.
The manufacturer therefore began internships that offer locally enrolled welding students opportunities to add TIG welding to their skill sets. “We are doing the TIG welding component of local education programs, where students spend three days a week at Begneaud,” she said. Yet in Louisiana, internships are not considered a part of the state’s educational system, but, still, they must be approved and sanctioned before they can be implemented.
Wilson Tool International, headquartered in White Bear Lake, Minn., is another business that had difficulties with schools. Its internship programs are aimed at nurturing high school students to become CNC machinists, as well as mechanical designers and mechanical maintenance operators. “We were looking to partner with high schools, but it was difficult,” said Amanda Kehoe, director of human resources at the company, which makes tooling systems for punch presses and press brakes, and punch and die components for sheet metal stamping equipment. “I couldn’t get [any school official] to talk to me. And schools didn’t allow kids out of their buildings.”
“Make friends with instructors, and bring schools to your company,” Laura Elsner, workforce development manager for DeWys Manufacturing, a machine shop and metal fabricator based in Marne, Mich., advised other manufacturers during a presentation at the FMA event. “You have to build the relationship, and work with educators, not against them. Get to know the right people at schools.”
Although DeWys initially began a 12-week educational curriculum and training course that was just internal for its own manufacturing operations, the 140-person company has struck partnerships with both area post-secondary educational institutions and high schools. It is now collaborating with Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University, and Grand Rapids Community College in the areas of weld engineering, manufacturing engineering, and machining. The company is also involved in Coopersville High School’s Manufacturing Engineering Partnership Program, and with Kenowa Hills High School on conducting hands-on manufacturing camps for teenagers.
That proactive approach ensures that manufacturing employers have a talent pipeline that possesses the particular skills they need, said Gabrielle Caputo, Americas product manager for the manufacturing and logistics markets for global staffing company Kelly Services, headquartered in Troy, Mich. A keynote speaker at the FMA meeting, Caputo, who has 15 years of experience in workforce development and talent acquisition, said to the summit’s participants, “Look at your internal talent and develop your own talent supply chain.”
The manufacturing labor pool is aging. Before 2018, 78.5 million baby boomers will have left the workforce, Caputo said, citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. At Wilson Tool, the average employee age is 45. “We have a very senior workforce,” Kehoe said. There is a sense of urgency now to make sure huge chunks of the labor pool are refilled. And that will drive greater cooperation between educators and employers, they expect.
“We have to get better at matching faculty teaching to real-world employer needs,” said Katherine Whelchel, a project manager for Bio-Link, a National Advanced Technological Education Center, part of the National Science Foundation.
That sentiment was echoed by Matthew Salo, biomedical market development manager and program advisor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, in Coon Rapids, Minn., who said private-public partnerships must have a sense of “matching employer-needed outcomes with what the schools are capable of delivering.”
Jeff Stapel, human resources manager at Schickel Corp., a metal fabricator and machine shop in Bridgewater, Va., noted, “I want to focus on doing more for my people, exploring the new welding program at my local community college.” He added, “I appreciate having new contacts who can help me.”
“I know I need to get a good relationship going with my local technical college,” said Dan Bushman, human resources and safety manager for Northern Metal Fab Inc., in Baldwin, Wis. “I need to overcome the awkward formality dance we’re doing, and I know I need to take responsibility for making this happen.”
April 23, 2013
From reliableplant.com: “Welding Boot Camp creates skilled workers” – There’s a boot camp taking place in Fond du Lac, Wis. – one that doesn’t require boot shining, marching and bivouacs, though you do have to wear a helmet and other gear and follow instructions.
This particular group of “recruits” is firing welding torches. Along with Brenner Tank LLC of Fond du Lac, Moraine Park Technical College developed a Welding Boot Camp to train individuals for entry-level work in the welding profession. The first eight-week camp began June 18 and ran through August 15; a second seven-week round will start in September. All participants earn four college credits that articulate into Moraine Park’s welding program.
“Brenner Tank formed the partnership with Moraine Park in an effort to maintain our competitive edge,” said Dawn Marie Polakoski, PHR, Brenner Tank’s human resources manager. “ Moraine Park’s custom training program is providing the skilled welders we need to support our continued growth. As a local manufacturer, we are very pleased with the creation of the Welding Boot Camp.”
While built in conjunction with Brenner Tank, the program was designed with the broader purpose of helping manufacturers address a serious shortage of skilled welders and is open to any manufacturing employer who may have similar workforce development needs. The program works to connect energetic, dedicated individuals with a sincere interest in a welding career with employers by helping those individuals develop the foundational skills needed to be successful. Ten candidates were selected by Brenner Tank for the first boot camp. Their ages varied but their passion for welding is the same.
Sara Buechel, 18, of New Holstein, Wis., applied because she enjoys welding and wanted to get further education in the profession. Joel Grier of Fond du Lac, also 18, also wanted to learn more about welding and be able to get a good job. Daniel O’Connor, 36, of Fond du Lac sees the Welding Boot Camp as an opportunity to better himself and have a shot at a new career move. And, the camp is a chance to expand job opportunities at Brenner for Forrest Brunet, 42, of North Fond du Lac.
Brenner Tank interns are paid to train three days per week at the welding lab on Moraine Park’s Fond du Lac campus under the instruction of adjunct faculty member Jonathan Thill. For the remaining two days of the week, they work at Brenner, where they apply the skills they learn in the classroom. Tuition is employer-paid. The Brenner Tank interns who successfully complete the program are given priority consideration for a permanent position with Brenner.
“We’re very excited to be partnering with Brenner Tank,” said Kathy Schlieve, Moraine Park economic and workforce development sales representative. “They have been instrumental in helping Moraine Park develop this program and are actively working with area high schools to educate students about career opportunities in manufacturing. Welding interns who successfully complete the boot camp are filling open or new positions and are earning a better wage. Moraine Park’s goal is to provide the type of rapid response that companies need to develop and maintain a competitive advantage and grow their business, and the Welding Boot Camp delivers on that goal.”
Polakoski concurs, “This program is a win-win that meets our needs as an employer but also helps the individuals being trained to begin earning a good wage while developing lifelong career skills that they can build on for future career advancement.”
With additional training, the opportunities that exist for these individuals abound.
“Manufacturing has become very high-tech and offers a variety of career opportunities,” said Marcia Arndt, Moraine Park dean of manufacturing technology. “The future workforce has to be technologically savvy to handle the competitive climate of the global market. In addition to technical skills, employers are looking for people who can problem-solve, work in teams and adapt to change quickly. Moraine Park’s manufacturing program helps individuals develop these skills for future success.”
For more information about upcoming welding boot camps in Fond du Lac, call Moraine Park at 920-924-3449 or e-mail email@example.com.
April 19, 2013
From fox11online.com: “Students compete in Tech Challenge” – GREEN BAY – More than 600 students from 26 area high schools showed off their talent Thursday at the annual Tech Challenge at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.
Categories included architectural design, woodworking and welding. Students made the entries at school, and brought them to NWTC to be judged.
Organizers say the competition fits well with the programs offered at the technical college.
“It’s another way for us to promote trades, promote awareness, and to promote those careers where we’ve got demand,” said Todd Kiel, NWTC apprenticeship manager.
Prizes included scholarships to NWTC for winning team members.
April 11, 2013
From lacrossetribune.com: “Welding institute launching bigger lab” – A local initiative to train skilled welders has received monetary boosts and will have a bigger lab and more participants when its first regular session begins next month.
The Welding Skills Institute is using a combined $80,000 it received from Jackson County and the Black River Falls School District to expand its BRF High School-based lab and, in turn, welcome more participants.
The initiative, started last year in an effort to fill a growing local need for skilled welders, will begin its first regular session May 13 with nearly double the number of participants it had in each of its two pilot sessions.
“I’m super excited about it,” said BRF High School Principal Tom Chambers, who helped launch the institute. “I think it’s a great example of collaboration between the school, county, businesses and the community.
“The project is, by far, the biggest collaborative project I’ve worked on.”
The effort to launch the Welding Skills Institute began when Nelson Global Products welding engineer Paul Schulz approached Chambers to use high school welding lab space to test new company applicants.
That push showed there weren’t many qualified applicants for welding jobs in the area, and soon representatives from local businesses, Western Technical College, Jackson County Treatment Court and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections began collaborating to launch the institute to fill the local need.
The institute trains participants in basic wire feed welding skills through welding, blueprint reading and math curriculum that are necessary for jobs at manufacturing companies like Nelson Global Products and D&S Manufacturing.
“I think it’s an excellent start. It’s a real short-term, high-intensity program that hopefully someday will expand into longer terms and more technical topics,” said Schulz, who will accept a 2013 Business Friends of Education award from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for Nelson’s work on the institute.
“I think we’re off to a really excellent start.”
The Welding Skills Institute received $50,000 in Ho-Chunk Nation funds through Jackson County last fall and $30,000 from the BRF School District to allow it to update the lab. Nelson and D&S Manufacturing also have donated materials and equipment throughout the program’s tenure.
Work on the BRF High School technical education classrooms spurred by the monetary contributions has allowed the institute to expand from seven welding booths to 13, which are about one-third bigger than their original size.
That will allow more students to enroll in the first regular 10-week session next month, including five spots for high school students interested in higher-level welding, three spots for Ho-Chunk Nation participants and the rest for Jackson County Treatment Court participants and placements through the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
Officials hope to hold four 10-week sessions a year now that the expansion is taking place and the pilot period is complete. They are pursuing a grant to create a mobile classroom equipped for computerized numerical control training, a skill in demand and a natural extension of basic welding, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Lister said.
They also hope the institute will remain a presence in the community for the indefinite future.
“I’ve been impressed with the collaborative effort by Western Technical College, (the Department of Corrections), principal Tom Chambers at Black River Falls High School, as well as the willingness of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors and the Black River Falls School Board to fund substantial expansions and improvements of the welding institute,” said Lister, who also assisted in the program’s launch.
Chambers said community collaboration has been an integral part of the program and commended the work of Nelson, D&S and other local entities.
He said it’s appropriate Nelson was recognized through the Department of Public Instruction award.
“Nelson has been very supportive of the whole process,” Chambers said. “They’ve been good partners to work with.”
April 10, 2013
From jsonline.com: “Few employers show up to recruit MATC students” – Employers who have said there’s a shortage of welders in Wisconsin – and that it’s serious enough to threaten their business prospects – didn’t turn out in large numbers Tuesday for a Milwaukee Area Technical College job fair that could have introduced them to 50 job candidates.
Eight companies attended the event at the college’s campus in Oak Creek, which was intended to help recent and upcoming welding program graduates find employment.
For years, companies have lamented a lack of welders, especially for work that requires a high level of skill and knowledge. In some cases, they’ve said, the shortage has created production bottlenecks at their manufacturing plants.
MATC has ramped up its welding programs to help address the need, and college officials said they expected more businesses to be at the job fair.
“I think there is some fair criticism” for employers who complain about a shortage but didn’t show up for the fair, said David Dull, president and CEO of Allis-Roller LLC, a metal fabricator in Franklin that was at the event.
“It’s easy to complain,” said Dull, who is also a MATC board member.
Some companies have started welding classes in their factories, and some have said MATC’s programs haven’t met their needs for highly specialized and demanding jobs.
“I would say it’s challenging to find skilled help,” Dull said, adding that some companies might be turned off by a job fair that doesn’t have experienced candidates for them.
Area business leaders have said the welder shortage is going to get worse as thousands of older workers retire and there aren’t enough young people willing to take their place.
“Welding is more than just grabbing a stick and going to work. There’s a lot of science and knowledge involved,” said Mike Kuehnl, manager of student employment services at MATC.
“I was hoping for more employers” at the job fair, Kuehnl said. “I can’t speak to the reasons why more didn’t show up. Maybe they don’t need people right now, and it’s quite possible we might be catching up a little bit with the demand.”
Welding has been a sensitive subject at the technical college.
A labor union, for instance, has asked the college to stop training nonunion employees who could step in as replacement workers at Caterpillar Inc.’s South Milwaukee plant in the event of a strike.
Labor officials also have questioned whether there is a welder shortage.
“If there is one, we shouldn’t have to be pulling teeth to get companies at a job fair,” said Michael Rosen, faculty union president at MATC and economics instructor at the college.
“I think some employers want to keep flooding the market with job candidates so they can keep wages down,” Rosen said. “In a market where companies are looking for welders, the only way to attract them is to pay a higher wage.”
Some research, though, suggests these shortages are real and can be expected to worsen.
Wisconsin will have fewer than half the metal manufacturing professionals it needs by 2021, according to a recent report from ManpowerGroup. Demand for these skilled tradesmen will grow by nearly 50%, but the supply will decrease about 12% as the industry gets slapped by a wave of retirements, the report said.
The U.S. Department of Labor projects that two-thirds of the fastest-growing occupations from 2012 to 2018 will be in apprentice-based fields. More apprenticeships could help fill some of the skills gap. But many young adults, especially, don’t realize they could earn a good living in a manufacturing career, Dull said.
“More than half of the jobs in the state don’t require a four-year degree, but nearly 100% of the students are being told to go to college. To me, that’s the biggest disconnect,” Dull said.
But Marc Levine, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor of history, economic development and urban studies, says the skills gap is a myth.
“All of the data suggests that companies that have been crying the loudest about a shortage of skilled workers have exaggerated the claims,” said Levine, who last month published a research update titled “The Myth of the Skills Gap in Wisconsin.”
There are about 2,000 unemployed welders in Wisconsin and about 500 job openings here a year for them, according to Levine.
In Wisconsin and surrounding states, there are about 17,000 unemployed welders, he said.
Levine says the only welder shortage he’s aware of is in places like North Dakota and Wyoming, where a boom in the oil and gas industry has resulted in a widespread lack of skilled help.
“The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If there really were a shortage of welders here, you would expect employers to be lining up for them at the MATC job fair,” Levine said.