Recruitment event reflects need for manufacturing workers
WCTC officials, Waukesha County manufacturers meet with job seekers

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

Oct. 20, 2017

MILWAUKEE — In recent years, labor-related headlines across the state have frequently placed a spotlight on the abundance of manufacturing jobs and the need for skilled workers to fill empty positions.

A cross-section and public officials and private company executives spread this message on an even grander scale Thursday during a four-hour advanced manufacturing recruitment event at American Serb Hall in Milwaukee.

The effort, according to organizers, cast one of the widest nets across Southeastern Wisconsin and was aimed at reaching hundreds of workers looking to fill jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Hiring managers from at least 15 companies took part in the event. One of the companies on hand was Foxconn, the multinational electronics maker that is laying roots in Mount Pleasant in upcoming years.

Beyond Foxconn, however, a number of established firms also met with job applicants, including four with locations in Waukesha County: Ace Precision, Eaton Corporation, HUSCO International and Midwest Engineered Systems.

“The fact there are this many companies here illustrates that there’s still a labor shortage,” said Laura Catherman, president of the board overseeing the Waukesha Ozaukee Washington, or WOW, Workforce Development organization.

Catherman added, “This seems to be the perfect time to pull all of these manufacturers together in one room.”

Representatives of technical colleges and workforce-related organizations also were on hand to meet with attendees and discuss educational opportunities as future jobs continue to open within the industry.

At a news conference laying out the rationale for the recruitment event, Kaylen Betzig, president of Waukesha County Technical College, said her institution and others like it play a pivotal part in the ongoing discussion surrounding the manufacturing workforce.

“This is our wheelhouse — technical education is what we do,” Betzig said. “We’re proud to serve the manufacturers in this state. We’re working really hard to make this seamless. The technical college system is here to advance the workforce.”

More than ever before, the state’s technical schools are working outside a vacuum, said Dorothy Walker, interim dean of Milwaukee Area Technical College’s School of Technology and Applied Sciences.

“We’re working together as a regional group, and we’re aligning our curriculum together,” Walker said.

Thursday’s event also was an opportunity to continue working toward erasing the stigma that sometimes is attached to manufacturing jobs.

“Milwaukee’s growing advanced manufacturing sector requires workers from a variety of occupations,” DWD Secretary Ray Allen said. “The industry offers many good-paying jobs, with supporting wages.”

Some of the positions under the umbrella of advanced manufacturing include accountants, electricians, machinists, information technology technicians, managers, office associates and welders.

On average, Allen said, salaries for the advanced manufacturing jobs hover around $55,000 annually.

Other manufacturing companies that participated in the event included Briggs and Stratton, DRS Technologies, GenMet Corp., Krones USA and Rexnord.