Career expo highlights manufacturing

By LINDA MCALPINE- Daily News

Oct. 10, 2014

Seventeen-year-old Taylor McCarthy, right, a student of GPS Education Partners, a nontraditional program for high school-age students, visits with Guy Linderugel of Hayes Performance Systems of Mequon during the sixth annual MCE Manufacturing Career Expo on Thursday at Washington County Fair Park.     
Linda McAlpine/Daily News

TOWN OF POLK — Seventeen-year-old Taylor McCarthy stood transfixed as he watched a video from Hayes Performance Systems of Mequon on Thursday.

McCarthy knows his career likely lies in some form of manufacturing and spent part of the afternoon at the sixth annual MCE Manufacturing Career Expo at Washington County Fair Park.

“I’m a student at GPS Education Partners. I attend classes like a regular school in the morning and then I go to work in the afternoons,” McCarthy said, noting that he’s much happier now than when he attended traditional high school.

“I really look forward to going to class for a couple hours and then getting a chance to work at different manufacturing companies in the area and learn what they do. It’s a great experience.”

More than 700 students attended the two-day expo, which started Wednesday, and featured 24 local manufacturers and three post-secondary schools.

Guy Linderugel, advanced tool and design worker for Hayes, said students have been wanting to know what type of jobs his employer offers and what kind of classes they should take to help them for a career in manufacturing.

“I think the expo is a really good experience for students because they’re able to see so many local companies in one place and to get the facts about the kinds of jobs that are out there,” Linderugel said. “We even offer internships. That can spark an interest in doing a job maybe they haven’t considered before.” Fifteen-year-old Victoria Phillips of Milwaukee, a home-schooled student, visited the expo with her mother, brother and a younger sister.

“I’m interested in photography and I wasn’t sure I would find anything like that here but in talking to some of the companies, I learned that they do use photography in different ways that I hadn’t thought of,” she said.

With the educational trend of tracking students toward college and a four-year degree, and the perception that manufacturing jobs are low-pay, low-skill dead ends, companies have been hard-pressed sometimes to find the type of workers needed.

“We need tinkerers, people who can think mechanically,” said Greg Teeters, manufacturing engineer with Harley-Davidson of Milwaukee.

“While we don’t want to take anything away from a college education, there are jobs in the skilled trades that are well-paying and with advancement,” said Dan Kohout, human resource flexible workforce coordinator for Harley-Davidson.

Dan Alexander, robotics sales engineer for Acieta of Pewaukee, drew a lot of attention to his space in the expo with a robotic arm moving small parts around on display.

“The workforce needs help,” Alexander said as a group of students gathered around the display case. “When students ask what they need to qualify for manufacturing jobs, I have been telling them a two-year associate degree is a good start along with some technical engineering.”

Jim Hokenson, CNC tool and die technologies instructor at Moraine Park Technical College’s West Bend campus, said those looking for manufacturing positions should seek to develop strong math skills.

“Math like algebra, and applied trigonometry, but not necessarily calculus,” he said. “Problem-solving skills are also needed but so is aptitude and attitude.”