Southeastern Wisconsin manufacturers creating partnerships to find new workforce

The rebound in orders and profitability seen by many manufacturers in metro Milwaukee over the last two years has led to new hiring by many companies within that space. That hiring has revealed a longstanding problem for many of those manufacturers – it is difficult to find young workers who are interested in careers in manufacturing that have the basic skills needed to work in the field.

The difficulty in finding young workers interested in the manufacturing sector, paired with the aging manufacturing workforce (according to the 2009 U.S. Census, the average Wisconsin worker employed in the manufacturing sector is slightly older than 43 years old), creates a long-term problem for many manufacturers in the region.

“With the growth we have projected and the aging workforce, there’s a huge gap,” said Steven Dyer, president and chief executive officer of Nashotah-based Dickten Masch Plastics. “(Manufacturers) have jobs that exist, and they can’t fill them.”

To solve the problem, more manufacturers are turning to public school systems, asking them to tailor curricula to their needs. The Waukesha Business Alliance’s Manufacturing Alliance, a group of manufacturers in Waukesha County, is now working with the Waukesha School District to align its curriculum more closely with the needs of employers there.

Second Chance Partners for Education, a nonprofit program that helps credit-deficient high school students graduate on time while teaching them math, reading and related curriculum developed for the trades, is also helping manufacturers connect with a next generation. The program operates a series of educational centers inside manufacturing plants – students attend class for several hours each day before going to work there.

To read more about the Second Chance program and several other manufacturing and education initiatives, read the cover story in the latest issue of BizTimes Milwaukee.


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