Manufacturing jobs on the rebound

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Carol Schneider has her finger on the pulse of Wisconsin employers, and that pulse is picking up its pace in 2005.
"We think the employment outlook is absolutely fabulous. Job orders are piling up around here. We write our job orders on pink paper and we say we have a sea of pink," said Schneider, who is the chief executive officer and founder of Seek Inc., a staffing services company headquartered on Opportunity Drive in Grafton.
With Seek being the ninth-largest woman-owned company in Wisconsin, Schneider has the know-how and the know-who to match job-seekers and companies.
Seek prides itself on matching personalities and skills, encouraging diversity and, at the least, putting individuals on the right path to the job they desire, Schneider said.
Seek currently has high demands from companies looking for skilled trades, health care workers, salespeople and direct-hire upper level positions for bankers and accountants. Middle management positions are in high demand from job-seekers, Schneider said.
Schneider also is noticing a revamping of job titles, responsibilities, hours and career choices, thanks to advances in technology that are changing the way people work.
The top 10 fastest-growing jobs between 2002 and 2012, as projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, mostly fall in the health care and information technology (IT) industries.
The fastest-declining occupations are vanishing as a result of outsourcing and technology.
"Health care is obviously going to continue to grow. Manufacturing is continuing to grow again. Yes there were a lot of jobs sent to China. However, most of those jobs were jobs that were unskilled, and Americans did not want to do them anyway," Schneider said. "I think most of the manufacturing in America is going to center around the skilled workforce, because we do it very well."
Demand is growing for manufacturing workers and skilled trades people, including machinists, electricians, welders, computer numerical control (CNC) machine operators and programmers, Schneider said.
Schneider is seeing a continual decline of qualified people for the trades, due to parents and high schools pressuring students to go to college instead of a vocational school.
"We are a manufacturing area and always have been. Yet a lot of our parents say, ‘I want something better for my child, so I am going to send them to college,’" Schneider said. "Something better is not sending them to college. Something better is getting them a job that they are going to be happy with."
Schneider is thrilled to see Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector rebound.
"If manufacturing is the sixth largest industry now, then the restaurant industry is three or four. Yes, people have lost jobs, but it has been part of the revamping on how we do business in America," Schneider said. "When Henry Ford came along and created the assembly line, there were people who were family farmers and family craftspeople who probably felt threatened. But guess what? They found jobs. And now we are just revamping again. Personally I think it is kind of exciting."
People who are reluctant to upgrade their computer knowledge will find themselves a step behind in any job market, Schneider said.
Even the manufacturing industry, in an effort to be more efficient, is adapting technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) to track inventory. The implementation of automated solutions in warehouses and distribution centers require less people to perform manual and labor intensive duties.
Now that some employees can work at home as easily as they can work in the office, Schneider is seeing more flexibility in the workplace.
"We are seeing a lot of empowerment in the workplace," Schneider said. "We are seeing a lot more teamwork, although there are still some companies that run pretty autocratically."
Employers increasingly are shifting the trends in pay raises, basing them more on merit than on the time an employee is with the company.
Companies and their employees need to remain flexible and adapt, Schneider said.
"Every time something like this happens, we all moan and groan that the computer is going to destroy our jobs and our lives," Schneider said. "And you know what? We thought it was going to destroy paper. It hasn’t. Will the jobs change? Yes. Well, you can’t be a telephone operator anymore, what can you be?"
Company: Seek, Inc.
Founded: 1971
Leadership: Carol Schneider, founder and chief executive officer
Corporate headquarters: 1160 Opportunity Drive, Grafton
Employees: 100
Web site:
Awards: Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs Woman of the Year 2000; 2002 Distinguished Alumni Award, UW-Whitewater
January 21, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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