WAUKESHA - Earlier this month almost 130 workers
in Waukesha County learned they would be losing their jobs at GE
Power & Water Distributed Power and Eaton Corporation- but also
that the Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington Workforce Development Board
would help them with the difficult transition.
Elsa Travieso, employer relations manager for the
WOW Workforce Development Board, said the Pewaukee Center staff
met with GE employees at the St. Paul Avenue facility last
Friday, the day of the layoffs. Another session was held at the
Pewaukee center Wednesday. On Aug. 31, GE announced it would lay
off 46 production employees at the GE Power & Water Distributed
Power in Waukesha.
Travieso said the WOW Workforce Development Board
can help with training or help update a person’s resume if he
wants to return quickly to the workforce. Last year the
Wisconsin Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was passed,
which provides funding for training and other services.
On Friday, Travieso said, they met with more than
30 people at GE, but those on third shift couldn’t attend based
on the times the session was held. On Wednesday, another 25 GE
workers attended a session held at the Pewaukee center, all of
which enrolled in WIOA.
Coordinating with Eaton has been more difficult
because it was getting funding through the Trade Adjustment Act,
which means that WOW Workforce Development Board must coordinate
aid with the state. The layoffs of 83 workers at Eaton also
won’t occur until the end of October, said Laura Catherman, vice
president/operations manager for WOW Workforce Development
Travieso said staff has visited Eaton Corporation
and did some presentations for the employees, along with state
representatives. She said when the center learns there will be a
significant company layoff, staff works with the employer to
learn what level of service they want to provide for the
affected employees, whether that’s Workforce Development Center
staff dropping off information about its services or planning a
mini job fair.
“It’s very important that they are familiar and
aware of the services we provide,” Travieso said.
‘An exciting opportunity to grow the
Jay Walt, vice president for Automatic Entrances
of Wisconsin, said his company reached out to WOW Workforce
Development Board after learning about the layoffs at Eaton and
GE in Waukesha. He said they have struggled to find qualified
candidates to fill open positions and he thought those losing
their jobs might be a good fit.
“Recently I read about Eaton and GE and
immediately had our people reach out to GE and Eaton and
hopefully provide the soft landing for the people who were put
in a tough situation,” Walt said.
Automatic Entrances of Wisconsin is frequently
looking for applicants with a high school degree, who are 21
years and older, have a desire to work and have some mechanical
ability. Walt said Automatic Entrances invests in the training
of its employees and will provide them training for mechanical,
electronic and trades in the field.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to grow the
company,” Walt said, adding it Automatic Entrances has never had
any layoffs during its existence.
Walt said he never heard back from Eaton or GE
regarding his offer to help the affected workers. Then, he
contacted WOW Workforce Development Center in Pewaukee, which he
said took the company’s name and number but did not return the
call. Walt said it wasn’t until after he reached out to state
Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, that he got a call from a center
employee who said his call was noted.
“We are not alone in our search for young people
who want to work in Waukesha County,” Walt said. “There are
excellent opportunities in building trades that are absolutely
going unfilled and there is no emphasis within the Waukesha
community beyond manufacturing.”
Catherman said a WOW Workforce Development Board
staff member did speak with someone at Automatic Entrances on
Tuesday, although it was not Walt. She said that person
explained the center is waiting to hear back from the state
regarding Eaton still being under the Trade Investment Act
before the center’s staff can act.
“As always, Eaton will work with each affected
employee to ensure they receive assistance and are treated with
respect during this transitional period. All individuals
impacted by these changes will be offered severance and
off-placement assistance. Affected employees will also be
encouraged to apply for open positions within Eaton,” said Holly
Mueller, manager of external communications for Eaton, in an
A spokesman for GE Power & Water did not return a
call seeking comment before deadline.
Catherman said WOW Workforce Development Board
measures how successful it is by how many job seekers are
served, how many people come through their doors to use their
services and how many employers they work with. In addition,
surveys of the employers’ level of satisfaction with the
Workforce Development Center’s services are also collected.
Those surveys are then regularly reviewed by the Workforce
Development Board, she said.
Issues that may arise as a result of a survey are
addressed individually, Catherman said, and staff meets on a
regular basis to discuss policy and practice.