Manufacturing is rebounding in Wisconsin at a time when many veteran employees are nearing retirement. David DeLong, a consultant who will keynote this week’s Manufacturing Matters conference in Milwaukee, says manufacturers need to be proactive. “One of the things that small manufacturers can do is develop closer links, closer ties with local technical colleges, vocational schools, and start getting closer to the pipeline of young talent coming out of these schools,” says DeLong. “There are particular areas where I know we are having difficulty finding people. For example is Wisconsin there is a shortage of welders and industrial engineers.”
Delong says Wisconsin’s technical colleges are well positioned to provide skilled workers – provided they don’t go to college instead. “We have been sending many kids to college who maybe would have been much better served by pursuing the vocational or technical training that could prepare them for a job in the high-tech manufacturing sector. That’s really what’s happening in states like Wisconsin,” says Delong, adding that it’s important to get the message out that manufacturing can still provide stable, good paying employment. “This is not your father’s or your mother’s manufacturing workplace anymore. It’s much more technology intensive, much more challenging I think in terms of the work. And in certain sectors it’s going to be fairly stable long term.” The Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership sponsors the Manufacturing Matters conference.