This column ran in the Lake Country Publications in January.
Today everybody seems to be talking about the “skills gap” in manufacturing, but tackling this problem “can’t be the flavor of the month, it’s got to be the flavor of the decade!” So said Rick Steinke, vice president of manufacturing at Sentry Equipment in Oconomowoc, at a recent local chamber program.
Although the skills gap is a national issue, the problem is very real right here in Waukesha County. From discussions with our manufacturing leaders, we know hundreds of local jobs remain unfilled because employers can’t find enough workers with the right skills to fill those openings. The challenge is likely to grow as more baby boomers retire.
The problem is exacerbated because our younger generation knows little about the kinds of jobs available in the modern manufacturing environment. Manufacturing is simply not viewed as a career path of choice. And this misconception is held not only by students, but often by parents, guidance counselors and other educators as well.
Waukesha County manufacturers, however, are collaborating to address the issue. At their request, Waukesha County Business Alliance has created a “Manufacturing Alliance” committed to raising the profile of manufacturing in our area and to educating young people about the great opportunities available in manufacturing.
Steven Dyer, President & CEO at Dickten Masch Plastics in Nashotah, is chairing our steering committee, which includes leaders from other premier local companies like DUECO/UELC, Ellison Technologies, Generac Power Systems, GE, HUSCO International, MetalTek International, Sentry Equipment, SPX Waukesha Electric Systems, Waukesha Foundry and Waukesha Metal Products. Partnering with us are First Business Bank—Milwaukee; Kolb+Co., Michael Best & Friedrich, and R&R Insurance.
Under the guidance of this group, several initiatives are underway:
To learn more about these and other programs, please contact the Waukesha County Business Alliance at (262)542-4249. The Alliance is the countywide chamber of commerce with over 900 member companies representing more than 60,000 employees.
Note: We have two opportunities coming up for you to get involved in our manufacturing initiatives. On Tuesday, February 21, we will be holding our monthly Networking After 5 at SPX Waukesha. Tour the facility from 4:15-5 with us, then join us for networking from 5-7pm. Additionally, as Suzanne mentioned, join us for the 3rd Annual New Faces of Manufacturing event on March 2. Details and registration information for both events is available at waukesha.org.