Dozens of manufacturing events took place in southeastern Wisconsin on Friday in recognition of Manufacturing Day, a third annual celebration of manufacturing in North America co-sponsored by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, The National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
In total, 1,563 events were held in the United States, with 74 of them in Wisconsin.
One high-profile event took place at Milwaukee-based Super Steel LLC, where students from area schools and technical colleges received a tour of the 450,000-square-foot facility.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., also spoke at the event, where he urged the young people in attendance to consider manufacturing as a career.
“We communicate to kids that unless you have a four-year degree, you’re a second-class citizen,” he said. “But that’s bunk. When you graduate high school, make sure you are aware of all your options.”
Johnson, who has 31 years of manufacturing experience himself as the owner of Oshkosh-based Pacur, said it can be difficult to find qualified people to fill manufacturing jobs even though there are plenty of good-paying available positions.
Some of those open jobs happen to be at Super Steel, a contract manufacturer capable of providing a broad range of prototyping, manufacturing, production fabricating, coating and assembly services to a variety of markets.
President and chief executive officer Dirk Smith said the company, which currently employs 386 people, is hiring for 50 new welding positions. They are needed due to new customers and an increase in demand from existing ones.
“I would hire 50 today if I could find them,” Smith said. “The skills gap is real, but we’re being creative about doing the training ourselves.”
For instance, Super Steel is launching in early 2015 Super Steel University, a 12-week on-site training program for recent graduates.
“We have a pool of workers without the skills who want to work,” said Jason Gaare, vice president of sales and materials. “We’ve had a history of turning them away; now we’re saying ‘We don’t want to turn you away. We will train you.’”
Super Steel also has a 90-day mentorship program for new employees, an educational assistance program that helps current employees further develop their skills, monthly employment training, and monthly lunch and learns.
According to Gaare, new welders can expect to earn $18 to $20 an hour and more advanced ones can make up to $27 an hour.
Since 2010, Super Steel has seen an annual increase in revenue from $27 million to $60 million. In that same time period, it has also grown from 178 employees to 386 and from 41 customers to 60.
Gaare said Super Steel is expected to make $100 million in revenue by 2017 and $250 million by 2025.
“We’ve got to start incentivizing and celebrating the success of business,” Johnson said. “The only way to have America succeed is by having businesses like (Super Steel) succeed.”
Other manufacturers that celebrated the day included Brown Deer-based Badger Meter Inc. and Waukesha-based Weldall Mfg. Inc., both of which welcomed Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson for facility tours with middle school students.
Sussex-based Waukesha Metal Products also gave tours of its Grafton and Sussex facilities to regional students on Friday. Waukesha Metal Products was the grand prize winner of the first-ever Manufacturing Day video contest.
The rest of the manufacturing events in southeastern Wisconsin took place at the following: Altus Vinyl LLC in Racine; Andis Co. in Sturtevant; Big Systems LLC in Menomonee Falls; Bradshaw Medical Inc. in Kenosha; Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. in Sturtevant; Caterpillar Inc. in South Milwaukee; CNH Industrial in Sturtevant and Racine; DENTSPLY OrthoLab in Racine; Fischer Precise USA Inc. in Racine; Gateway Technical College in Sturtevant; GenMet in Mequon; Graphics Systems Corp. in Menomonee Falls; InSinkErator in Racine; Modine Manufacturing Co. in Racine; Nelson Bros. & Strom Company in Racine; Pioneer Products Inc. in Racine; Poclain Hydraulics in Sturtevant; Precision Plus Inc. in Elkhorn; Racine County Workforce Development Center in Racine; Racine Metal-Fab Ltd. In Racine; Reed Switch Developments Corp. in Racine; Rockwell Automation Inc. in Mequon; Stanek Tool Corp. in New Berlin; Superior Die Set Corporation in Oak Creek; Tailored Label Products Inc. in Menomonee Falls; TLX Technologies LLC in Pewaukee; Waukesha County Business Alliance in Waukesha; Waukesha County Technical College in Pewaukee; and Wisconsin Web Offset LLC in Brookfield.
Manufacturing will be celebrated throughout Wisconsin this month as Gov. Scott Walker has proclaimed October as Manufacturing Month in order to highlight the high-quality, family-supporting jobs available in the manufacturing industry.
For more information on registering, hosting or attending an event, visit www.wimanufacturingmonth.org.