Moraine High School teachers listen during a tour of GE
Healthcare’s Waukesha manufacturing facility as part of the
Waukesha County Business Alliance’s School2Skills initiative.
WAUKESHA - The No. 1 economic development
concern in the county isn’t just an issue for businesses
to solve. They need the help of teachers, too.
That was the plea two industry
representatives made to a room full of Kettle Moraine
School District staff members Thursday afternoon, as
they stressed the role of K-12 education in addressing
Wisconsin’s critical shortage of skilled manufacturing
Representing the Waukesha County Business
Alliance, Acieta LLC CEO Kent Lorenz and Rick Kalscheuer
of R&R Insurance Services shared data regarding the
widening chasm between available jobs and skilled
workers - a skills gap that is expected to continue
growing as baby boomers retire.
The statistics are concerning, they said,
and it’s going to take more than businesses’ recruitment
efforts to sell manufacturing careers to students.
Lorenz said teachers need to lead the way in debunking
common misperceptions about the industry.
“As a culture and as a society, we’ve
spent the past two decades telling kids this:
manufacturing is a dead-end career, everything is going
to China, it’s dirty, it’s unsafe, it’s low-tech,”
Lorenz said. “None of that is true in manufacturing
As WCBA Vice President of Community
Engagement Mary Baer said, the days of “dangerous, dark
and dirty are over.”
Mills talks about a CT/PET scanner made in GE Healthcare’s
Waukesha manufacturing facility during a tour for Kettle Moraine
High School teachers as part of the Waukesha County Business
Alliance’s School2Skills initiative on Thursday.
Kettle Moraine teachers toured three area
businesses - TLX Technologies, Generac Power Systems and
GE Healthcare - Thursday to get a firsthand look at
modern manufacturing. For about half of the teachers,
Baer said, it was their first time in a manufacturing
While the industry is in need of
rebranding, Kalscheuer said schools also reexamine their
definition of what makes a successful student. K-12
schools traditionally have emphasized four-year college
preparation in defining success, including participation
and performance in ACT and AP exams, he said.
But those values aren’t necessarily
shared by employers, Lorenz said.
“I don’t need everyone to have a college
degree,” he said.
Lorenz said he would rather workers have
employability skills like collaboration, teamwork,
showing up on time, communication and a willingness to
continue learning. Those things, he said, are likely
better indicators of a successful employee than ACT
Lorenz implored teachers to be on the
lookout for students who show an interest in hands-on
work and creating things. Those are ideal candidates for
manufacturing, he said.
of Acieta, a City of Pewaukee robotics company, talks about
opportunities in his field for students with technical degrees
at Kettle Moraine High School as part of the Waukesha County
Business Alliance’s Schools2Skills program.
Some of the top technical skills
employers are looking for in an employee include
computer literacy, application of math, creativity,
safety, understanding mechanics and blueprint and
schematic reading, Lorenz said.
Baer praised efforts like Kettle Moraine
High School’s advanced manufacturing certificate
program, which allows students to work with mentors at
GE and Generac and earn college credit with Waukesha
County Technical College. Opportunities like those, she
said, give students both employability skills and
WCBA representatives stressed that
students will likely find good wages in the
manufacturing industry, with the average Wisconsin
manufacturing worker earning more than $52,000 annually,
according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce
Development. That’s compared to an average of about
$41,000 for workers in all industries.