Job descriptions and tips from the trenches

Focused on area workers in manufacturing, featuring employees at different stages of their careers

Last updated on June 7th, 2022 at 12:31 am

Career launch

5 things you can do to find a career:

Join a club.

Many schools have extracurricular programs designed to give you a chance at hands-on experience doing the work through robotics groups, LEGO leagues and STEM competitions.

Career cruise.

All Wisconsin students have access to career planning software at, which can help you find ideas and make a plan. Check out companies and what positions they are hiring for, and hear from actual workers in your field of interest for career guidance.

Talk to a career coach.

Ask your teachers and counselors in the school-to-work office about dual enrollment programs with other schools, colleges or training programs with employers that you can explore. They can also help connect you with mentors working in your field of interest.

Try a job shadow, internship or Youth Apprenticeship.

Many companies offer opportunities to see what jobs are like day-to-day. Teachers and counselors in your school district can guide you in finding job shadow opportunities for careers you are interested in. Classes might offer tours of factories in the area.

Attend a career fair.

Meet recruiters and ask questions about the positions that need to be filled today and for tomorrow’s jobs to help you in planning your future. They can suggest programs of study based on your interests. Talk to your community business association or chamber of commerce for career fair information.

Check out our Resources section on page 48 for some other points of interest on your journey to not just a job, but a career.

Ask a recruiter


David Thode, branch manager, Pieper Electric Inc.-HiTech Automation

David Thode started with HiTech in 1987, developing solutions involving machine vision, controls and automation. Today, David is the branch manager of Pieper Electric Inc.-HiTech Automation in Green Bay and Neenah. He attends career fairs at local and state colleges to recruit new talent.

What do you look for in a new recruit?

A person with a great attitude who is willing to learn new things.

“We can always teach them the technical aspects of a position, but we cannot teach them about attitude.”

A team player.

“Collaboration is mandatory in our company, and people must be able to work with people in order to deliver what other technology companies cannot.”

A customer-focused individual.

“Without customers, we will not be in business. Customers’ needs are all unique, and we must adjust accordingly so they keep coming back to Pieper Electric Inc.-HiTech Automation.”

Pieper-HiTech’s custom automation services include engineering, analysis, feasibility studies, proof of concept, design, fabrication, assembly, startup management and on-site training.

5 Tech Areas of Study in High Demand

You may not have considered these fields, but these areas of academic study will cover the skills required for key positions needed for today and tomorrow’s manufacturing workforce.

Automation (robotics)

Robotics technicians apply basic engineering principles and technical skills in support of engineers and other professionals engaged in developing, installing, calibrating, modifying and maintaining automated systems. This includes using computer systems; electronics and instrumentation; programmable logic controllers; electric, hydraulic and pneumatic control systems; actuator and sensor systems; process controls; applications to specific industrial tasks; and report preparation.

Industrial maintenance technology

Maintenance mechanics, millwrights, and machine repairers fabricate, install, dismantle or move machinery and heavy equipment according to layout plans, blueprints or other drawings.

Duties may involve pipefitting; boiler making; insulating; welding; machining; carpentry; repairing electrical or mechanical equipment; installing, aligning and balancing new equipment; and repairing buildings, floors and stairs.

Metal fabrication & welding

Skills necessary for this field include:

  • Attention to detail to perform precision work, often with straight edges and minimal flaws.
  • Manual dexterity to hold equipment in place and move it precisely.
  • Physical stamina to endure long periods of standing and repetitious movements.
  • Spatial orientation to interpret two- and three-dimensional diagrams in order to fit metal products correctly.

Tool & die making

Die makers construct metal forms (dies) to shape metal in stamping and forging operations. Toolmakers analyze specifications; lay out metal stock; set up and operate machine tools; and fit and assemble parts to make and repair dies, gauges, jigs, fixtures (devices that hold metal while it is shaped, stamped or drilled), and machinists’ hand tools.

Automotive tech

Whatever his or her specialty, a technician’s key responsibility is diagnosing and fixing automotive problems. The technician uses precision tools, electronic diagnostic tools and his or her training and skill to locate the cause of the problem. Once the cause is found, the technician makes adjustments or repairs. Technicians also perform routine maintenance on vehicles, such as oil changes and tune-ups.

(sources: DWD, WCTC & Career Cruising)

Key resource: The New Manufacturing Alliance

The Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance is a manufacturer-led organization with 220 members in 18 counties. The Alliance works with educators, workforce development groups, chambers of commerce and state organizations to promote manufacturing and develop talent in the region. The Alliance has provided more than $230,000 in college scholarships to date.

Manufacturing is alive and well in northeast Wisconsin,” said Ann Franz, director of the NEW Manufacturing Alliance. “Manufacturing employment comprises 23 percent of the overall jobs in the region. This is a significantly higher percentage than 16 percent for the state and nationally, 9 percent of employment is in manufacturing.

“Another important factor is wages/benefits are on average higher ($68,878) in the manufacturing sector than in any other private sector industry in Wisconsin. The men and women working in manufacturing enjoy what they do, which is reflected as tenure is higher in the manufacturing sector than any other, at 5.3 years.” 

Cool stuff from New Manufacturing Alliance

Career profile videos

Who better to share the value of manufacturing work than the people actually doing it? Over the past 10 years, the NEW Manufacturing Alliance has created 100+ three-minute videos of award-winning employees between the ages of 18 and 36 sharing information about their manufacturing careers, from assembler to warehouse manager.
Learn more at

Internship Draft Day

This college internship fair is held at historic Lambeau Field each year. College students interact with employers looking to fill internship positions. It is a fun event in which students are scored following their interviews and overall draft picks are announced. Mark Murphy, president of the Green Bay Packers, announces the top picks, who earn college scholarships at the event. The fourth annual event will be held on Nov. 8.

Career snapshot: Mechanical Engineer

One of the top jobs available now and in the future will be mechanical engineering. Here’s a quick look at some of the details.


Mechanical engineers produce specifications for, design, develop, manufacture and install new or modified machines and mechanical components or systems.


Mechanical engineers need to be technically minded, able to demonstrate numerical and scientific ability and have problem-solving skills. Engineers are creative, inquisitive, analytical and detail-oriented. They should be able to communicate well, both orally and in writing. The ability to work as part of a team is also important. Mechanical engineers have to keep up-to-date on new technology in their field and take courses.


Mechanical engineers work mostly in the manufacturing industry for firms that produce everything from transportation equipment to computer and electronic products. Some work in the utilities industry. Others may work for architectural companies or government agencies, and some work as independent consultants. Much of their time is spent in front of computer screens or meeting with accountants, advertisers or other businesspeople. They may also work on the factory floor with machinists, technicians and assemblers.


A bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering is usually the minimum educational requirement to work in this field. However, a degree in a closely related discipline, such as electrical engineering, may be acceptable as well. A master’s degree or a Ph.D. may be required for more senior positions or for advanced research and development jobs.


Most mechanical engineers earn between $52,000 and $122,000 a year, with an annual median of around $81,000. The highest salaries tend to be reserved for design specialists and those who have reached the level of supervisor or manager. Some senior engineers earn more than $125,000 a year.

(source: Career Cruising)

School spotlight: Kaukauna High School

KHS has one of the most advanced high school metal manufacturing processes labs in the region. Students take coursework that provides them with high-level measuring, programming and metal-working skills, offered with dual credit from Fox Valley Technical College. The technical education department also offers FVTC dual-credit basic and advanced CAD design, electronics, computer hardware and networking, concepts of programming, and programmable logic controls.

KHS offers a sequence of classes, Metals 1-2-3, leading to Youth Apprenticeship and advanced credit standing at FVTC. When a student completes a Youth Apprentice program, the school receives funding via Act 59.

Ask a teacher

Nels Lawrence, technology and engineering youth apprenticeship/co-op coordinator at KHS

“Unlike other teachers, I didn’t come in with an education background. I was in manufacturing. I worked in sales, marketing and the military. Now, I have been doing this for 22 years.

“Even in a downturn, we still had jobs because the quality of what is being produced in the area is so high that the bottom never fell out here.

“One of the most significant changes in the last few years is the number of companies reaching out to the school to recruit younger students into the trades. Baumgart Mechanical made a bit of history for Local 18 Sheet Metal union by signing an 18-year-old student to an apprenticeship immediately after he completed his Youth Apprentice program at KHS. The next youngest apprentice in the state at that time was 5 years older. Companies are recognizing the need to get students involved earlier and to move them forward rather than holding them in lower wage labor pools.” 

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