West Bend school staff take in manufacturing, health field trip

By LINDA MCALPINE - Daily News

Oct. 24, 2014

HARTFORD — When the school bus pulled up in front of Broan-NuTone LLC in Hartford on Thursday afternoon it wasn’t students that were lining up for a tour — it was teachers and guidance counselors from the West Bend School District.

More than 200 seventh-through 12th-grade counselors and teachers from the School District visited six manufacturing companies and two health care providers as part of an initiative by the Washington County Workforce Alliance. It occurred on a staff development day and West Bend School District students had no classes.

“It has been very interesting,” West Bend high schools band director Leah Duckert said after a tour of Signicast Investment Castings in Hartford and before the tour at Broan-NuTone, also in Hartford.

Duckert said the purpose of the half-day field trip to see jobs being performed up close “is to make sure that we offer manufacturing positions to our students as career options.”

Rae Wilde, a teacher with the Spartan/Sun Community Program, the district’s alternate high school, said getting to see the different types of jobs — and the skills needed to do them — was important to her.

“This has been a good opportunity to learn about manufacturing jobs in particular,” Wilde said. “Our students have to create a career plan before they leave our program, so it was exciting to see firsthand the kinds of jobs that are available in manufacturing.”

“We felt it was important for district staff to better understand the needs of today’s workforce. The tours will help them bring the relevancy such jobs into their classrooms,” West Bend School Superintendent Ted Neitzke said.

Broan-NuTone Vice President of Manufacturing Wayne Losinke, who held a question-and-answer session with the groups after tours, said the company is interested in working with area school districts to set up co-op programs and apprenticeships.

Losinke said entry-level employees need to have a high school diploma or a GED.

“Technical degrees aren’t necessary to start unless they are going into an engineering or a financial position in the company,” Losinke said. “We are a very stable company. We have 35 employees who have 40 years or more on the job here. We will have to replace a large number of our employees as they retire.”

“There are good opportunities for growth in our company and employees can advance quite quickly. We like to promote from within the company and to grow our own talent,” Losinke said. “Our pay is good and we have an excellent tuition reimbursement program for employees.”

Losinke said manufacturing is “a good career path.”

Broan-NuTone LLC in Hartford is the company’s headquarters. It has plants and offices in eight other countries, including China, Poland, Australia, Chile, Italy, Canada and Mexico. Broan is the country’s leading brand of residential ventilation systems such as range hoods and heater/ fan/light units. NuTone is a leading brand of convenience products for residential use, such as door chimes, central vacuum systems and intercoms.

A tour of the 500,000square-foot Hartford plant reveals the high level of automation used in the manufacturing of range hoods.

The robotics, however, need workers to program and to maintain them, said Dave Roskopf, a Broan-NuTone employee who served as a tour guide to one of the groups.

Roskopf said workers are cross-trained and rotate to different positions each hour. The company runs three shifts a day.

A prospective employee can expect an interview and physicals, lift assessments, and drug screening as part of the hiring process, Roskopf said.

The company also offers positions in purchasing, customer service, accounting, drafting and engineering, he said.

The other tour stops included Triton Trailers LLC, Aurora Advanced Healthcare, Serigraph Inc., Regal Ware Inc., Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin St. Joseph’s Hospital and Maysteel LLC.