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What’s Now: Rallying to Fill Jobs

What’s Now: Rallying to Fill Jobs

Spring 2013

Rallying to Fill Jobs

Strengthening K12 partnerships and raising awareness on manufacturing careers are vital to the region’s economy.

Despite an uncertain national economy, manufacturers in the Fox Valley region are growing and in need of skilled employees. “Many of our machine tool and welding students find employment before they graduate,” says Steve Straub, dean of manufacturing and agriculture technologies at Fox Valley Technical College. “To meet this continuing demand, we’re adding classes and certification options as well as building upon our partnerships with area high schools.”

Kaukauna High School, for example, offers its juniors and seniors FVTC entry-level courses that teach a variety of advanced manufacturing skill sets. “This effort introduces younger students to all that modern manufacturing has to offer,” states Kaukauna High School Technology and Engineering Instructor, Nels Lawrence. “We also help educate parents about the high-tech side of manufacturing. With the right education today, their kids can land good-paying jobs—without a four-year college degree, or they can still transfer to a four-year school in many cases.”

Students who take FVTC entry-level courses while in high school gain valuable work skills as well as college credits. “One of my students took two FVTC machine tool classes here,” Lawrence says. “He is currently working part-time running a high-tech CNC machine and getting paid far more than flipping burgers. Plus, he earned college credits.”

Many of these high school students go on to complete their degrees at FVTC. “A few years ago, I had three students who all started taking the machine tool program here and then attended Fox Valley Tech,” states Lawrence. “They are all turning 21 now and each one just bought a new home. If you can make enough money that you can afford a down payment on a house—that’s a great start in life.”

In addition to working with younger students, FVTC is also expanding its machine tool and welding programs. “We’ve opened new class sections and now offer more entry dates so students can start faster,” says Straub. “In addition, we’ve embedded certification in the Machine Tool Technician program after just 18 credits. This adds value to an employer and fosters greater employability for our students.”

FVTC graduates are in high demand. Gordy Barth, manager of employee development and training at Waupaca Foundry, finds it extremely difficult to find qualified workers. “We work closely with Fox Valley Technical College to hire its graduates, but you have to be quick,” he says. “Most are already spoken for before they graduate.”

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