Changing ideas about manfacturing jobs

NWTC manufacturing class

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – October is Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin, and parents of school-age children in Northeast Wisconsin are being asked to take a first-of-its-kind survey.

Businesses and tech schools say parents’ perceptions about manufacturing don’t always match reality.

In recent years, manufacturers, tech schools and area high school have partnered together to educate students about the many career possibilities in manufacturing, where studies show 1 out of 4 area workers are employed.

“We have so many companies, thousands and thousands literally jobs in Northeast Wisconsin for manufacturing. We do a study each year, and last year 78 percent of employers could not find the workforce they need,” NEW Manufacturing Alliance Director Ann Franz said.

A recent national survey shed light on the potential problem: Parents clinging to the stereotype of manufacturing as a dark and dirty work environment.

“So we thought, you know what, we’ve been really working on trying to improve the image of manufacturing, so let’s ask parents in our area,” Franz said.

“Today everything is CNC controlled, controlled environment. It’s not uncommon to have a welding shop that’s actually air-conditioned in this area now,” Joe Draves, associate dean of manufacturing at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College said.

During October, parents of school-age children will receive an email with a link to the online survey.

With Baby Boomers retiring, the NEW Manufacturing Alliance is stepping up efforts to attract new workers, whose incomes are some of the highest in the private sector.

“The opportunity for somebody starting a career in manufacturing is just, it’s wide open,” Draves said. “They’re here for one or two years and they’re in the workforce making good salaries, so they’re not burdened with $100,000 in debt.”

“You don’t know what you don’t know, and parents have a difficult job — How do you expose yourself to all this information of what are the great jobs in this area? — and so that’s what we’re trying to do is help parents understand what are the realities instead of the perceptions,” Franz said.