Waukesha County Business Alliance hosted the panel
"Manufacturing Voices," at the
Sheraton Hotel in Brookfield on Friday.
courtesy of the Waukesha County Business Alliance
- Amid the backdrop of a well-publicized skilled labor shortage,
local business leaders gathered for a symposium Friday to discuss
the state of the manufacturing industry in Southeastern Wisconsin.
Waukesha County Business Alliance hosted the panel discussion,
“Manufacturing Voices,” at the Sheraton Hotel in Brookfield.
Several hundred people attended the event at a time when all eyes
are on the industry with Foxconn’s imminent arrival in Racine
panelists included Jennifer Hansen, general manager and owner of
New Berlin-based Trelleborg/Anderson Packaging; Dirk Maroske,
president and CEO of Lake Mills-based Aztalan Engineering Inc.;
Dave Morrow, president and CEO of North Prairie-based Zero Zone
Inc.; and John O’Connell, president CFO and COO of
Waukesha-based Geo-Synthetics LLC.
Baumann, director of global engagement with the Wisconsin
Manufacturing Extension Partnership, served as the moderator of
the 75-minute discussion.
the discussion, Baumann and panelists frequently discussed efforts
to recruit talent at a time when a labor shortage still exists.
Although perceptions have chipped away in recent years,
several speakers said there are still challenging headwinds at
not dumb, dirty and dangerous,” Baumann said in describing the
jobs in need of filling across the industry today.
notion students must attend a four-year university to achieve
success in life is slowly being eroded as light has been shed on
the family-supporting jobs available within manufacturing. Several
panelists, however, pointed out the sector as a whole still faces
some kids, it’s the right thing to do,” Maroske said of a
four-year university. “For others, it’s not. I think it might
take another decade to change the perception.”
such as STEM — or science, technology, engineering and math —
are giving students a taste of some of the jobs that might be
available, post-graduation. Many school districts across the region
are adding STEM into their curriculum.
and other panelists said they try and provide job shadowing and
mentorship opportunities to interested students, whenever
believe in community and giving back... and helping people,”
Hansen said of her company’s corporate philosophy.
the discussion, panelists also were asked about automation within
the industry and how artificial intelligence might impact job
availability in the future.
continued technological advances have, and will continue to,
change the nature of how products are assembled, none of the
panelists said they believed developments such as artificial
intelligence would drastically alter how they do business in the
Geo-Synthetics, for instance, O’Connell said automation might
not necessarily lead to cost-effective outcomes in the long run.
Speaking to the manufacturing process within his business,
O’Connell said, “It requires a significant amount of
some of the discussion was granular and technical, the overarching
topic of finding talent emerged frequently throughout the
it calls Southeastern Wisconsin home, Morrow said Zero Zone is
willing to work with skilled professionals — particularly
engineers and regional sales managers — in other locales through
said referrals, community involvement and networking opportunities
have helped in bringing skilled talent to her business at a time
of robust growth.
think your ‘A’ employees will refer ‘A’ employees,”
Hansen said. “When talent comes your way, take it.”