‘Magic in manufacturing’: Companies expose students to career opportunities


October 3, 2015

Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson talks with TLX Technologies co-founder Derek Dahlgren during a tour on Friday.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

CITY OF PEWAUKEE — To persuade middle-school and high-school students to consider a career in manufacturing, several Waukesha County manufacturers opened their doors to tours Friday, including TLX Technologies, where students could see how custom solenoids and solenoid valves are made and used to build Harley-Davidson motorcycles and a Corvette.

North Shore Middle School teacher Michelle Stults said she appreciated being able to show her students that there are alternatives to the traditional four-year college degree.

“Exposure like this at an early age is so important,” she said.

Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson talks with TLX Technologies co-founder Derek Dahlgren during a tour on Friday.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Introducing the possibilities and benefits of a career in manufacturing was a common theme of discussion Friday among company executives, business organization representatives and government leaders, including Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who met with students at TLX and participated in a roundtable discussion.

She encouraged people attending the roundtable to “infuse the minds when most malleable that these are great jobs and super cool jobs.”

Kleefisch said a child’s life could be changed even in the second grade with exposure to a high-tech manufacturing firm like TLX Technologies. She said elementary school students are often taken on field trips to places that are considered community jobs, such as firefighters and police officers, but she questioned what is a manufacturing job if not a community job.

Students from North Shore Middle School sign a manufacturing day banner during a tour of TLX Technologies on Friday.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

She also stressed that teachers might be so busy educating students that they might not think of touring a manufacturing facility so she encouraged companies and others to reach out to them “I would argue that there is magic in manufacturing,” she said.

In addition, Kleefisch said it’s important to infuse the idea that “all work is dignified.”

TLX Technologies President Neil Karolek said he was hoping that even a few of the students who toured the facility Friday would now consider a career in manufacturing.

He said there are possibilities in manufacturing and gave the example that one of his employees who worked in production was recently promoted to work in its Quality Lab.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, encouraged students about to go on a tour to take advantage of the opportunity they were being given Friday.

Engineers Benjamin Shimon, right, and Sean Sapino talk about the testing lab at TLX Technologies while giving a tour to students from North Shore Middle School on Friday.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

“Understand you have to work and be productive in some shape or form,” he said.

Johnson encouraged the middle-school students to consider an alternate path to the four-year college degree and to take advantage of the United States being the “Land of Opportunity.”

North Shore Middleschooler Sydney Dobyns said she had learned in school that a job in manufacturing can be a hard career choice and that you have to make sure everyone wants to buy what you are making.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch speaks with TLX Technologies President Neil Karolek during a Manufacturing Day event Friday at the City of Pewaukee company.
Katherine Michalets/Freeman Staff

Brenda White toured TLX Technologies with her grandson who attends Golda Meir School in Milwaukee. As a retired teacher and part-time worker in Milwaukee Public Schools’ Career Tech Education center, she said she has visited quite a few manufacturing facilities and believes it’s important to expose students to many things.

“Kids only know what they know,” White said. Even if students decided they don’t want to go into manufacturing after the tour Friday, she said that will help them decide what would be a fulfilling career. Michael Steger, vice president and chief operating officer at Waukesha Metal Products in Sussex, said he felt Manufacturing Day was a great opportunity.

“It’s such a wonderful thing to share what we do with these kids. Many don’t understand what we do and the technology behind manufacturing parts and components,” he said. For example, Steger said he liked being able to illustrate how a single piece becomes a larger part of something like a car.

Email: kmichalets@conleynet.com