Youth programs promote industrial workforce awareness

5:14 PM, May 15, 2013  |  Comments
Bruce Trimble
Bruce Trimble
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While many employers in our Workforce Development Area are having issues finding workers with the specific skill set they require, some employers also have taken a different approach to solving their shortage or "skills gap."

Schuette Metals developed a program this year to introduce students to the field of welding, a field in which it had many openings. The company arranged for a welding simulator to be available in schools, and then held a welding competition for interested students.

According to Schuette Metals' President John Peterson, "The intent of the welding simulation was tri-fold. First, it was to introduce, educate and attract students to careers in manufacturing. Secondly, it was to educate parents and educators in the field of manufacturing on how it has changed over the years and, on the need we will have for skilled workers in the future as the baby boomers begin to retire. And finally, it was to discover and/or uncover talent and selfishly try to meet the demands of a growing industrial community by encouraging students to consider a career in manufacturing.

"The statistics are rather frightening in Marathon County and we haven't done a good job of showing schools what is inside our walls or what manufacturing contributes to our local economy. We desperately need to expand our labor pool and we need to work together with our schools to do that," Peterson said.

In a slightly different approach, the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board has expanded on last year's Heavy Metal Tour. While last year focused on the Grow North Economic Development Region, this year we will move into the central area of our Workforce Development Area. The program is aimed at introducing eighth-grade students to the many different skills and knowledge sets needed for employment in manufacturing and the potential that employment has for them. While not as skill specific as the welding competition, the tour has the same purpose - to show students there are challenging, interesting jobs that provide good wages and benefits right here in our own region.

The Schuette Metals welding competition and the Heavy Metal Tour are long-term approaches to filling the current and future needs in our local manufacturing economy. The board and regional employers also are working on developing effective collaborations and programs to help fill the looming gap in the workforce due to retirements.

"Each business, in attempting to attract new employees, tends to be tactical. Industry needs to get together and become more strategic," Peterson said.

And, that exactly is a primary focus of the board Business Services team - to foster these strategies and collaborations in order to meet the growing demand for an industrial workforce.

For more information about the board's Employer Services, call me at 715-204-1647 or email

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