Dodge County area manufacturers have been working together to change perception and increase awareness of manufacturing careers since 2013. As a cohesive and driven organization, the Manufacturing Business Alliance of the Dodge County region (MBA) promotes manufacturing careers to sustain and grow the manufacturing economy in the area.
With baby-boomers retiring and expected growth in manufacturing, the United States will look to fill over two million skilled jobs in manufacturing, according to Deloitte study based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pam Korth, Chairperson of the MBA says, “We formed the group to be proactive in growing awareness in manufacturing and gaining buy-in from parents, young people and the community at large, that manufacturing in Dodge County offers good salaries, good benefits, and professional growth. We are also working on communicating that the face of manufacturing is changing with technology, robotics and lots of opportunities.”
To fill the skills gap, manufacturers look to win over more women to work in manufacturing roles. The Deloitte study based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, also states that women represe
nt nearly half (47 %) of the US labor force and they comprise less than a third (27 %) of the manufacturing workforce.
Employers are creating change for women who are needed to fill jobs in manufacturing. With an internship, certificate, trade school or college education, women can expect to have their choice of manufacturing careers with a company that offers good pay and benefits, opportunities for advancement, respectful working relationships between genders, and work-life balance.
Ashley Tracy, General Supervisor, RLE & Attachments at John Deere Horicon Works tells her story, “I grew up in 4H and working on a farm. After high school, I looked to stay close to home in Dodge County. After an unfortunate accident, my twin sister suggested some college courses. After I finished college, I decided to take a “contingent” job as a Supervisor at John Deere. Yes, there was a risk involved, because it was a temporary to hire position. But it really worked out for me. Taking a job in a factory, I did not have the culture shock that I thought I would have. It was not a dingy or dirty environment. I have been promoted three times in six years. I am humbled and feel like I’m in a supported environment for women. I have all this, and I never had to leave Dodge County.”
With advances in technology and automation, manufacturers need a workforce with the ability to work with tools and specialized techniques, combined with digital skills and computer skills. The good news is that Moraine Park Technical College offers technical programs that are in high demand, including CNC/Tool and Die Technologies, Electromechanical Technology, Industrial Mechanical Technician, Tool and Die Technologies and Welding Certificates. While some programs are a year or two-year degree, Boot Camp programs are three months long and include an internship.
Nita Cook, a boot camp graduate and welder at Apache Stainless, tells her story, “I always liked building things, whether it is helping to remodel the house where I grew up, or making the many coffee drinks as a Barista. I had heard about the welding boot camp program and one day, I just walked into Moraine Park and joined a class. I am a small vessel fabricator at Apache Stainless. It involves using numerous types of manufacturing tools and machines, interpreting drawings, welding and assembly. It isn’t anything like I thought it would be. I’ve met a lot of nice people in this industry in the short time I’ve been here. People just want to help and all you have to do is ask. The boot camp teachers, and work supervisors and mentors are happy to give guidance, answer questions and make me feel like I’m part of the team.”
Dodge County area MBA Manufacturers collaborate with the greater community, including the local and state chamber, area businesses, schools and colleges, to grow awareness of manufacturing and to change perception. The MBA works throughout the year to organize their main event in October, during Wisconsin’s manufacturing month. Students, from schools throughout the area, tour manufacturers and participate in team activities, enjoy lunch and listen to educational information on how to get a career in manufacturing.
Tisha Indermuehle, an assembly line lead at Metalcraft, tells her story. “I have worked in manufacturing for over 19 years. After high school I wanted a job with good pay, benefits and stability, and have found it at Metalcraft. The work is interesting, challenging, and every day is a little different. I don’t believe that women should have any reservations about manufacturing. It is active and healthy work that women can do. My advice for employers to recruit women is be inclusive in their message… to women, veterans and people with disabilities. For young women who just want to learn more about manufacturing, I would say to check out Tech Ed programs in high school, like the one my son has enjoyed taking in Beaver Dam. They have hands-on fabrication instruction and opportunities to learn outside of the classroom on projects and manufacturing tours.”
As manufacturing companies throughout the nation look for skilled candidates to replace retirees and to help grow their businesses, they will continue to be very diverse. Men and women of different ages, experience and backgrounds, as well as different levels of education and training will be needed to fill the skilled jobs in manufacturing.
* * *
The MBA is organized under the Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce as an official affiliate organization. Since 2013 the MBA has been engaged in providing networking between manufacturers, business and educational institutions and works directly with the Wisconsin Workforce Development Board of South-Central Wisconsin for resources and support. MBA’s activities include marketing and communication programs and public events to promote manufacturing in the greater Dodge County region.