by Rich Rovito, WMEP Industry Reporter
Plant tours and a variety of events highlighted Manufacturing Month in the state. It all kicked off at TLX Technologies in Pewaukee as more than 150 students got a behind-the-scenes look at one of the state’s growing manufacturers.
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 proclaimed October Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin.
“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,” Buckley Brinkman, executive director of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership told the crowd gathered at TLX.
Manufacturing contributes nearly $50 billion to Wisconsin’s economy and employs nearly 450,000 workers, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
The state’s 2013 – 2015 biennial budget includes more than $100 million in new resources for workforce 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.
Manufacturers need to open their doors to prospective employees and let them see what goes on in their plants in an effort to dispel long-outdated beliefs about what it’s like to work in an industrial facility, said TLX President and co-founder Neil Karolek.
Kleefisch, Newson, Brinkman and State Superintendent Tony Evers toured Ultra Tool & Manufacturing in Menomonee Falls as part of the national celebration of Manufacturing Day on Oct. 4.
Ultra Tool hosted nearly 100 students from Arrowhead High School, Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School, Germantown High School, and Wisconsin Lutheran High School. Students had the opportunity to tour Ultra Tool’s facility.
“The manufacturing industry is an important part of Wisconsin’s economy,” Evers said.
State officials also visited Waukesha Metal Products in Grafton on Manufacturing Day to highlight the value of manufacturing as a career.
Waukesha Metal Products hosted an open house for students from John Long Middle School in Grafton, who got the opportunity to tour Waukesha Metal Product’s metal fabrication facility.
Gov. Walker’s Manufacturing Month activities included participation in the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Heavy Metal Bus Tour at Mid-State Technical College, which took eighth through 10th grade students on tours of successful manufacturers in the Wisconsin Rapids area.
Walker also appeared at Southwest Technical College in Fennimore.
“A career in manufacturing provides a stable, family-supporting job for workers and their families,” Walker said. “Students often don’t realize the full potential of a job in the manufacturing sector. We need to encourage our youth to consider this career path and provide them with the tools they need to succeed in this field.”
Manufacturing Month concluded with the Manufacturing First Expo and Conference at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay, which featured more than 120 exhibitors and about 600 attendees.