Tools for Success

Miller Brewing fund helps tradesmen get started
Orlando Arce knew that if he wanted to get ahead in the world, he would need the tools of his trade.
Trouble is, those tools are expensive. And in many of the trades, employees are expected to have their own tools, especially at smaller firms. But even at larger firms, employees often need to bring in some of their own tools.
Arce, however, didn’t just sit on his desire. He attended classes as Milwaukee Area Technical College and did so well that he was awarded a set of shop tools through the Tools for Success program sponsored by Miller Brewing Co.
Since its introduction in Milwaukee six years ago, Tools for Success has assisted more than 180 MATC students with more than $185,000 worth of tools. This year alone, 21 MATC students in 20 different fields won the tool scholarships. The scholarships are based on the students’ academic achievements, career goals, community service, biographical statements and references from faculty and community members.
“Before I won the scholarship, I had to borrow tools to do my job,” said Arce, an auto body and paint technician who works for Lou’s Autobody Carstar. “It’s better to have your own tools. The program has helped me out in my career to a very large degree.”
Arce, who won his tools last year, said he would have been in a bind without the tools scholarship.
Tools scholarships range from $600 to $2,500 worth of tools. But because Miller works with MATC to buy the tools through educational channels, a scholarship can include equipment valued at up to $10,000.
Arce’s story is not unlike the hundreds of other persons who’ve won tools through the Miller-sponsored program in Wisconsin, California, Texas, Ohio and Puerto Rico – they have one final hurdle to qualify for jobs in their selected fields. That hurdle being tool ownership.
The program not only benefits the worker, it also benefits employers, say Jack MacDonough, chairman
“Before I won the scholarship,
I had to borrow tools to do my job … The program has helped me out in my career to a large degree.”
– Orlando Arce, Lou’s Autobody Carstar
and CEO of Miller Brewing, noting the tight labor market that businesses must deal with. “We’re facing a critical shortage of skilled labor, and no issue is more important to the future of the collective workforce. Young people and those looking for new careers have shied away from entering the trades over the years, and now we must address this problem head-on if we hope to solve it.”
The Tools for Success program, he says, is one way Miller is tackling the problem.
Miller started the program in Los Angeles in 1991 after seeing a growing need for skilled tradesmen, said Julie Kubasa, corporate communications representative for Miller. Through the years, “it’s helped us publicize that America needs more people in the trades,” she added.
For MATC, the program is a boost for its skilled trades disciplines, says Donna McCarty, director of college relations. “It really helps us encourage people to go into the trades,” she said, adding that for many people, a career in the trades can be financially rewarding.
“The lowest pay-range of the jobs these people are moving into is $9 to $10 an hour while the highest is $18 to $20 an hour,” she said.
The demand for workers is there. “For every graduate we have, there are five job offers,” McCarty notes. The U.S. Department of Labor says a growing percentage of the workforce will be comprised of skilled labor.
For some of the scholarship winners, the tools they get are the only ones they own. For others, having an extra set allows them to have a set of tools on the job and one at home for sideline work.
Miller, Kubasa noted, is a very active benefactor to many causes. But the Tools program is a favorite, Kubasa says. “Of all the corporate programs we have, this one is most special. It makes the giving so much more real when you can see an individual recipient and when you know the impact of the giving on that person’s life. And when you see what some of these students have overcome, it really is rewarding for us.”
McCarty is similarly enthusiastic about the program, especially since it provides an extra recognition for accomplished students at the end of their studies.
And for many of the students, the awards ceremony is recognition the likes of which they’ve never felt. “It’s a real self-esteem builder,” McCarty says. “Many of the students will say they’ve never had an honor like this.”
May 1998 Small Business Times,Milwaukee

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