Oakes2by Debra Oakes, WMEP Director of Marketing

“I wish I had known about this when I was in high school,” said Karl Metzger, Supply Chain Lead at Ultra Tool & Manufacturing in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. “Like everyone else I knew, I went to college right after high school with no idea of what I was going to do when I got out. Now, high school kids get to learn about real jobs and real careers and get a chance to see how things are made.”

On October 4th, manufacturers opened their doors to students, parents, teachers and the public so that they could see for themselves the interesting, challenging and well-paid careers available in manufacturing.  Across the country, more than eight hundred manufacturers welcomed students into their facilities, including Ultra Tool & Manufacturing.

Ultra-Presentation-captionThe event kicked off with welcome by Ultra Tool owner Terry Hansen, followed by remarks from WMEP Executive Director Buckley Brinkman, DWD Secretary Newson, State Assemblyman Don Pridemore, State Senator Alberta Darling, State Superintendent Evers and Lt. Governor Kleefisch who gave a rousing welcome to the 70+ students from Arrowhead and Kettle Moraine Lutheran High Schools. The Lt. Governor pointed out the $10,000 premium that manufacturing jobs command in the market.

Daniel Nelson, vice president of sales for Ultra Tool said that students who develop skills in tool and die making are in strong demand.  This particular skill requires mastery of comprehensive software packages that include VISI-Design, SolidWorks and AutoCAD.  At Ultra Tool, skilled employees design, build and maintain all of the tooling in the facility – a very impressive accomplishment, considering the variety and number of machines operated in the state-of-the-art facility.

In the Fox Valley/Milwaukee area, literally hundreds of manufacturers are hiring people with tool and die-making skills, along with welders, CNC operators, engineers, and others with technical skills and aptitude. In addition, manufacturers need accountants, sales leaders, marketers, a full range of IT skills, designers and more. Each year, Ultra Tool works with students from the Youth Apprenticeship program, and a number have joined the company as full-time employees.

Ultra-partcaption“Manufacturing built our economy and we’re here to show our young people the interesting, fulfilling and challenging careers available right here in Menomonee Falls,” said Terry Hansen, Ultra Tool CEO. We’re committed to demonstrating the value of manufacturing, and this celebration is one example of this commitment.” The well-planned tours followed the design, development and production of a part all the way to the end product – a beautiful Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Along the way, students got to see a range of processes including die design and production, metal stamping, robotic welding, laser cutting, heat treatment, CNC machining, and metal finishing.  At the end of the tour, students were provided lunch and the opportunity to meet with local tech schools and colleges, as well as see a 3-D printer create a prototype part.

Karl Metzger is happy he went to college, but knows many others who graduate with a four-year degree, lots of debt and no potential job offers – and no idea what careers are even available. He was very fortunate to have had a part-time job at Ultra Tool while he was in college and was able to move right into a full-time position after graduation.  “I don’t even know what I would have done with just a Political Science degree with no job experience,” he said.

Photography by Molly Johnson Photography