By Rich Rovito, WMEP Industry Reporter
For nearly 200 high school students, TLX Technologies in Pewaukee became their classroom this week as they got a behind-the-scenes look at one of the state’s growing manufacturers during the kick off to Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin.
Students arrived by the busload throughout the day at TLX, which manufacturers custom solenoids. The day culminated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception marking the company’s recent move into the larger, more efficient facility to accommodate its growing operations.
Among those on hand were Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson, who emphasized the importance of manufacturing to Wisconsin’s economy.
They urged students, displaced workers and those simply looking for a change to consider jobs in the industrial sector as a challenging and rewarding career pathway.
“I encourage students and those already in the work force to consider a career in manufacturing. Today’s manufacturers require not only welders and machinists, but also IT professionals, accountants and workers in many other occupations that support Wisconsin’s economy.” Kleefisch said.
Gov. Scott Walker has proclaimed October Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin.
“We need more young people, displaced workers and others to get interested in careers in manufacturer. That’s what this month is all about,” Kleefisch told the large crowd gathered on the factory floor at TLX.
Alana Lamboy has been employed at TLX for nearly nine years and currently works as a team lead while continuing her education.
“I like building things with my hands and working with engineers. They teach me a lot,” Lamboy said. “I like learning about the new products we have here at TLX. There are new things being built every day.”
Alex Doll, a quality engineer at TLX, chose working in a manufacturing environment as a career path.
“I haven’t been looking back. It’s all been a great experience. Something that I really enjoy is that I can come to work every day and not be doing the same thing all the time.”
Since January 2011, TLX Technologies has grown from 12 to 33 employees. The company moved late last year from an 8,000-square-foot facility to a building that covers 17,000 square feet to accommodate the significant growth in business the company has seen in recent years, including increased exports through assistance from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
In addition, representatives from TLX joined Governor Walker on his recent trade mission to China.
“We should take great pride in what we are doing with our manufacturing here and we should be taking advantage of all of the resources that are provided by the state and the organizations that are focused on making the Wisconsin manufacturing environment the best in the world,” said Buckley Brinkman, executive director of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
Manufacturing contributes nearly $50 billion to Wisconsin’s economy and employs nearly 450,000 workers, Newson said. “Considering the average wage for a manufacturing worker in Wisconsin’s is $52,000, or $11,000 more than the average wage for all Wisconsin workers, I urge anyone who’s looking for a new or different career path to look at manufacturing.”
Newson noted that the state’s 2013 – 2015 biennial budget includes more than $100 million in new resources for work force development, including funds for the Department of Workforce Development, the Department of Public Instruction, the Wisconsin Technical College System and the University of Wisconsin. The funds will support a number of initiatives, including Wisconsin Fast Forward, which allots $15 million to fund employer-led worker training grants for skilled occupations.
“We have to encourage an education system that looks back and says manufacturing isn’t the dirty job it used to be,” State Sen. Paul Farrow said. “It’s exciting. It’s taking technology and producing a product.”
Manufacturers need to open their doors to prospective employees this month and let them see what goes on in their plants in an effort to dispel long-outdated beliefs about what it’s like to work in an industrial facility, said TLX President and co-founder Neil Karolek.
“I want to encourage all the other business leaders to invite some students in and give them a taste of what manufacturing is all about,” Karolek said.