Washington County school officials to tour manufacturers

    Six manufacturing companies and two health care providers will be welcoming teachers, guidance counselors and other staff from three Washington County school districts for tours on Thursday and Friday.

    The tours are part of an initiative by the Washington County Workforce Alliance to help educators better understand the needs of today’s workplaces.

    In Hartford, the school officials will visit Broan-Nu Tone LLC, a manufacturer of residential ventilation products; Signicast Investment Castings, a leading provider of investment castings; Triton Trailers LLC, a manufacturer of aluminum trailers; and Aurora Advanced Healthcare.

    They will also go to Serigraph Inc., a designer and manufacturer of decorative, functional and brand-related graphics, in West Bend; Regal Ware Inc., a maker of cookware, in Kewaskum; Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin St. Joseph’s Hospital in West Bend; and Maysteel LLC, a manufacturer of precision sheet metal enclosures, in Allenton.

    The educators attending the tours are from the West Bend School District, the Slinger School District and the Kewaskum School District. The WCWA did a pilot project last year that involved more than a hundred teachers, counselors and other staff from the School District of Hartford visiting five local employers. In addition to Signicast, Broan-Nu Tone, Aurora and Triton Trailers, they went to Steel Craft Corp., a fabrication and metal stamping manufacturer in Hartford.   

    The Washington County Workforce Alliance is a coalition of employers and educators, as well as members of Economic Development Washington County and the Hartford Area Development Corporation. It was formed about a year-and-a-half ago in response to an April 2013 pre-retirement intention survey conducted by Moraine Park Technical College.

    According to Tom Hostad, the executive director of the Hartford Area Development Corporation and the chair of the WCWA, the survey showed that a large number of long-term employees from the Baby Boomer generation will be retiring in the next three to five years. In fact, close to 50 percent of the Baby Boomer retirements will occur over the next 15 years. Hostad said that number has not exceeded more than 35 percent for any other generation.

    The survey also indicated the population growth of Washington County is not sufficient to backfill those retirements.

    “The results were quite alarming to us, especially in the manufacturing and logistics and health care professions,” Hostad said. “Those will be the three employment areas in Washington County hit the hardest.”

    Many teachers recommend students obtain more education because that is the path they followed, but Hostad said recent high school graduates also have the option to go straight into the workforce. Many employers, he added, provide tuition reimbursement programs that allow for further training.  

    While helping educators better understand today’s workplace is the first phase, Hostad said the next phase is to get employers into the schools to see if the curriculum is in line with the workplace. That will likely occur in the first quarter of 2015.

    Beyond that, the WCWA is holding a college and career fair in March and is planning to conduct workplace tours for students sometime next year.

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