Aug 6, 2013
Going High-Tech: Miller Electric’s President Honored for Commitment to Technical Education
The intricacies of a new economy have ushered challenges for today’s manufacturers, but one industry leader continues to adapt in order to grow thanks to an ongoing partnership with Fox Valley Technical College.
Miller Electric Mfg. Co., headquartered in Appleton, Wisconsin, is that company. As a worldwide leader in the manufacturing of arc welding and cutting equipment designed for manufacturing, fabrication, construction, aviation, motorsports, education, agriculture, and marine applications, the organization has worked with the college for nearly 30 years as kind of an extension of its workforce.
That way of thinking has helped Miller grow its talent of more than 1,500 current employees to sustain a strong position in an ever-changing global market. The company’s working relationship with FVTC has recently emerged as a model by way of a distinct form of state recognition.
Mike Weller, president of Miller, earned the 2013 Technical Education Champion award from the Wisconsin Technical College System District Boards Association (WTCSDBA). Weller was nominated by FVTC, and was selected out of 16 possible recipients from each technical college in the state. The award was presented at the WTCSDBA summer meeting in Rice Lake.
“Our longstanding partnership with Fox Valley Technical College is a strategic one that I’m very proud of, and I’m humbled to receive this award,” says Weller. “The college does so much for our community that I’m honored to be part of its efforts.”
“Mike Weller is more than deserving of this award,” says Dr. Susan May, president of Fox Valley Technical College. “His vision and leadership have contributed toward the economic vitality of our region. Miller represents a business model that is committed to building a world-class workforce, as well as providing quality products that allow other enterprises to thrive.”
Weller’s collaborations with FVTC run the gamut, from adjunct instructor to hiring numerous graduates at Miller—to even serving as treasurer of the Friends of FVTC, an advocacy group of business leaders and volunteers that helped propel the passage of a $66.5 public referendum for the college in 2012. The referendum enabled FVTC to advance several key facility projects to meet industry demands.
Facility projects that address regional workforce demands are no secret to Weller either. In 2011, Miller jointly developed FVTC’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center (AMTC), a 26,000 square-foot training facility in Oshkosh. The center is designed to train skilled welders and metal fabricators, and houses more than $1.5 million in leading-edge equipment and training resources.
FVTC was providing training around the clock at its previous facility in Oshkosh to accommodate growing enrollments, and as more students wanted to enter welding careers, the college turned to Miller. The two entities then blueprinted an innovative solution in the shape of the AMTC.
Within a couple of years after opening, the AMTC has made strides in reaching out to both the next generation of skilled workers and today’s champions of manufacturing. Last October, the center served as a model training facility through highlighting the partnership between Miller and FVTC. As part of National Manufacturing Day, busloads of regional high school students toured the center and learned about related careers and how the industry is a viable, high-tech way to earn a good living.
Other area manufacturers joined in the initiative, including Jay Manufacturing, Muza Metal Products, and Oshkosh Corporation. Just weeks after the event, Clintonville-based companies Walker-Forge Inc. and Precision Thermal Processing donated equipment to the AMTC for the implementation of a metallurgy lab, allowing students to better learn about the complex science of metals in a hands-on environment.
The center is also in the process of adding robotic welding courses to support its in-demand production welding program thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition, through Miller’s parent company ITW and its foundation, Weller’s organization has pledged $200,000 to the AMTC over five years in the form of housing one Panasonic robotic welder per year.
“We understand the labor challenges the industry is facing,” added Weller. “Our company has always believed that this kind of direct partnership with a leading technical college can serve as a model for addressing the needs of regional and national manufacturers and other businesses.”
As Weller alludes, keeping the skills of incumbent workers is as important as matching career starters with new opportunities in an economy crippled by a skills gap. His company’s utilization of FVTC for on-site, employee training has been in the areas of succession planning, customer service, lean strategies, software, and more to help Miller maintain its industry leadership position.
May adds that Weller’s award is symbolic of an outstanding and impactful partnership between the private and public sectors. “More than ever, employers like Miller rely on us for talent development, and working in close partnership allows us to provide extremely relevant programs and services,” says May. “The Wisconsin Technical College System District Boards Association clearly recognizes Mike’s incredible contributions to career and technical education through this prestigious award.”
Read FVTC President Dr. Susan May's blog post about the award >>
Miller Electric Mfg. Co., headquartered in Appleton, Wis., is a leading worldwide manufacturer of Miller brand arc welding products and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Illinois Tool Works Inc. (NYSE: ITW).
For more information, visit Miller’s website at www.MillerWelds.com, call 1-800-4-A-Miller (800-426-4553), email firstname.lastname@example.org, fax 877-327-8132, or write to Miller Electric Mfg. Co., P.O. Box 100, Lithonia, GA 30058.