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Youth and Workforce Readiness

Michael Reader

Ensuring that our country has a skilled workforce in manufacturing is key to a variety of industries and to our country as a whole. To that end, on January 28, Mike Reader presented at the “Speaker’s Task Force on Youth Workforce Readiness,” at Milwaukee Area Technical College – Oak Creek Campus. This event allowed the Speaker’s Task Force to explore new ways to encourage Wisconsin youth to pursue careers in the trades, manufacturing industry, and technical fields.

Education Update for December 2015

Michael Reader

East Troy Middle School Visits

Mark Beilman, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus (PPI) recently visited three technical education classes at East Troy Middle School in East Troy, WI, at the request of Michael Mass, Technical Education Instructor.

MSOE Freshman-Life Update from Precision Plus Intern Amanda Mudlaff

Michael Reader

Amanda Mudlaff is a freshman at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). Since 2014, she has served as a dedicated intern and an apprentice at Precision Plus (PPI) in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Her work is impeccable and her enthusiasm is contagious. She’s also an applied student who has earned a scholarship from PPI, with the possibility of it being renewed for the next three years. She will be back at Precision Plus for a short-term winter break internship when school is off.

How To Attract, Develop and Retain Our Future Workforce?

Michael Reader

On November 19, 2015, twenty-two Walworth County manufacturing business leaders held a roundtable meeting to discuss the possible creation of a manufacturing council dedicated to encourage, sustain and grow the manufacturing industry in Wisconsin’s Walworth County. According to a recent survey, the manufacturing sector provided 13.3% of all jobs in the county for the year 2013.

The breakfast meeting took place at Precision Plus (PPI) of Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Coffee, juice, water and light breakfast snacks were provided by First Business Bank.

Precision Plus Education Update for November of 2015

Michael Reader

For Mark Beilman, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus (PPI) in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, no two days are alike. Under the umbrella of his title, there is a wealth of responsibilities that include, among others,

  • Day-to-day management of PPI’s apprenticeship, mentoring and summer internship programs
  • Community and education outreach that communicates and brings awareness to careers in manufacturing
  • Participation in industry and commerce events to exchange ideas and knowledge with colleagues
  • Assisting in career development at any stage of the process

In November 2015, Mark Beilman represented Precision Plus at two career development events.

On November 4th, Beilman was a panelist at the Beloit Memorial High School Career Panel. Other panelists were Clint Wallisch of Corporate Contractors, Inc., Stephanie Leuder and Brandon Flexsenfar of Fairbanks Morse Engine, Vance Wilmovsky and Cory Brown of Scot Forge, and Joe Schwengels of JP Cullen.

The hour-long event was attended by about 70 students, and was organized by Lindsay Healless, Career Advocate for the school. Each panelist had the opportunity to introduce himself or herself, and give a short presentation about employability skills typically required by their companies.

The panelists spoke about the importance to “doing something you love.” Beilman added, “Never settle for second best.” Several panelists also discussed the benefits of “following one’s own passion” when determining what career to pursue, and let that be the guide to a choice of school and/or position that can nurture their passion. Following, students asked questions of the panelists, mostly about suggested educational paths.

Among the students, there was a variety of career aspirations, from becoming skilled tradesmen to becoming engineers. The panelists discussed options such as attending a 4-year school, getting a 2-year associates degree, or going into the skilled trades as an apprentice.

The panelists also reiterated the importance of developing employability skills—from showing up to work on time every day, to passing a drug test, writing a coherent resume, looking at the potential employer in the eye when speaking with them, doing their best in all their classes, and declaring their desire to succeed within the organization as a positive team member.

Career panels such as the one presented by Beloit Memorial High School open career possibilities for students, who can listen to and interact with employers and learn about the education and skills required to work at their type of businesses.

On November 12th and 13th, Mark Beilman participated in one-on-one employment mock interviews with two Occupations Program students at Elkhorn Area High School (EAHS).

Tristyn Nichols and Alexis Parise, both seniors at EAHS, practiced their skills for the mock interviews conducted by Beilman. Each took approximately 30 minutes, and was followed by a 15-minute immediate feedback session, not only assessing the interview, but also suggesting ways to improve their employability skills.


Both students were well prepared with resumes and cover letters. Tristyn was “interviewing” for a sales position at Polaris Snowmobiles, while Alexis was “interviewing” at a horse stable to work as a vet technician, horse groomer and animal care provider. Both asked pertinent questions and responded to questions posed by Beilman such as,

  • Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
  • What is your biggest accomplishment?
  • What is your biggest regret?
  • Explain a time when someone told you about correcting your behavior – what was the situation and how did you react?

For students looking for a summer job or a full-time job after school, Mark Beilman has the following recommendation: “Prepare and be yourself: you are selling yourself to the company as well as your skills. Be energetic and enthusiastic.”

For more information about these programs or other education and training initiatives and events, please contact Mark Beilman via email, or by phone at 262.743.1700.

 

Precision Plus Welcomes Two Youth Apprentices and Two Gateway Youth CNC Boot Camp Students

Michael Reader

Youth Apprentices

Jordan Belanus, a senior at Elkhorn Area High School in Elkhorn, WI and Jake Sherwin, a senior at Big Foot High School in Walworth, WI, have joined Precision Plus’ Youth Apprentice Program.

Jordan Belanus began working as an Information Technology (IT) youth apprentice at Precision Plus (PPI) on November 9, 2015, reporting to Jeff Lemmermann, the company’s CIO and CFO. The IT apprenticeship adheres to the IT Skill Standards Checklist established by Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development.

Items on the checklist vary from soft skills such as communicating effectively and thinking critically, to job-specific skills such as upgrading an operating system or installing software. The checklist serves as a guideline to help the apprentice obtain designated competencies.

Jordan enjoys working on computers for friends and family, having developed an affinity for programming and networking. As an IT apprentice, he will also be putting those skills to work, performing back up operations, upgrading operating systems and installing software as needed. He will also assist to process employee IT help requests. As his internship progresses, Jordan should be able to perform certain tasks of his own volition, rather than being directed to do so.

In order to receive a certificate for his internship, Jordan must complete 450 total hours of work by August 2016. By state law, however, he cannot exceed 20 hours per week. He learned about PPI’s apprenticeship opportunity through his school’s career and technical education coordinator.

At Elkhorn Area High School, Jordan’s favorite subjects are algebra, physics and geometry. He plans to attend Gateway Technical College in the fall of 2016 and subsequently use its 2-plus-2 articulation agreements with the University of Wisconsin or with Milwaukee School of Engineering to continue his education in computer engineering.

In his spare time, Jordan enjoys playing video games, playing guitar, and practicing Tae Kwon Do, for which he holds a second-degree black belt.

Jake Sherwin began his manufacturing apprenticeship with PPI on November 2, 2015. He reports to Mark Beilman, Director of Education and Training.

The manufacturing apprenticeship follows the Skill Standards Checklist established by Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development for that purpose. The first part of the apprenticeship will include a general assessment of Jake’s math skills, micrometer and blueprint reading skills and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) interpretative skills.

After the first phase is completed, Jake will spend time with mentors from different departments to learn skills and applications from them first hand. Jake will be completing the core skills and machining unit of the Production Pathway of the Skill Standards Checklist.   Mentors will sign off on the acquired competencies at the end of their mentoring.

The curriculum at PPI goes hand in hand, with Jake’s curriculum at Big Foot High School. Jake learned about the apprenticeship opportunity at Precision Plus when Mark Beilman spoke to his technical education class in September. Jake knows that he wants to work in the trades—most likely in construction—after his graduation. However, he enjoys the science and agriculture classes he is taking, as well as helping with his family’s farm. In addition, he works part-time at Heyer True Value Hardware Store in Walworth, Wisconsin, so he is keeping his options open. His apprenticeship will also require him to complete 450 hours by August 2016.

When time permits, Jake enjoys hunting and fishing, baseball, and playing bass guitar in a band.

 

Youth CNC Boot Camp Students

Two Gateway students, currently enrolled in Gateway Technical College (GTC)’s Elkhorn Campus Youth CNC Boot Camp have begun their job shadowing experience at Precision Plus, as part of their current semester requirements.

Monday through Friday, Elliot Salentine from East Troy High School and Cameron Bunne from Elkhorn High School attend high school in the morning, followed by classes and training at GTC from 12:30 until 4:30 in the afternoon. As they learn different processes and applications at school, a concurrent shadowing program lends them the opportunity to watch professionals performing those jobs. Each student spends one hour per week at PPI to meet those requirements.

Thus far, the students have shadowed Marty Baumgardner in the Quality Assurance Lab, Ryan Landreman and Brad Pearson on the Miyano platform, and Curtis Hibl in the CAM Department. The shadowing will continue on the Tornos platform, the Secondary Department, the Scheduling Department and, finally, the Shipping Department.

Elliot and Cameron will continue their high school/boot camp schedule until the spring semester begins on February 2, 2016. At that time, they will attend their high school classes in the mornings, but will participate in a mentoring program at Precision Plus in the afternoon, learning and working in different departments. The mentoring phase will end in May 2016. The students will receive high school and boot camp credits for their experience at the company.

Although the Youth CNC Boot Camp mentoring program is similar to the Youth Apprenticeship program already in place, possible modifications may be made based on the students’ incoming skill level.

Cameron and Elliot are members of the first Youth CNC Boot Camp to graduate from GTC’s Elkhorn Campus in Walworth County. The program had already been running successfully at GTC’s other two locations in Racine and Kenosha.

For more information about Precision Plus’ apprenticeship and mentoring programs, please contact Mark Beilman via email or by calling 262-743-1700.

 

The Brad Pearson Story: A Problem Solver Defines the Future of Manufacturing

Michael Reader

On Saturday, October 10, 2015, Brad Pearson attended Blackhawk Technical College’s Gala and Grand Opening of the school’s new “Advanced Manufacturing Training Center” in Milton, Wisconsin. He was there with his parents, Lori and Don Pearson, and Precision Plus’ Administrative Assistant Luann Dall and her husband Dan. Wisconsin’s Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was the guest of honor at the function.

Brad is a straight A student at Blackhawk Technical College (BTC), where he is also the student representative for the CNC Technician Advisory Committee. In the afternoons, he drives from Milton to Precision Plus (PPI) in Elkhorn, where he works part-time.

On the night of the event, Lt. Governor Kleefisch approached Brad, and said, “I’ve heard about you and your story! Congratulations!”

 

As a youngster, Brad had always had an affinity for making things, building things, and working on things. He did well in school, and there was no question that after graduating from Elkhorn Area High School, he would probably enroll at U.W. Whitewater to pursue a business degree.

But for Brad, February 27, 2013, would prove to be a day filled with opportunities, as on that day, the First Manufacturing Career Panel would take place at Elkhorn Area High School (EAHS), organized by Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus and JoAnne Pella, CTE Coordinator at the school. Brad was one of nearly 180 students who came to the event to hear industry professionals talk about manufacturing and the highly rewarding careers available, especially for the younger generation.

Brad recalls, “I found Mike’s message amazing, and even thought I didn’t have a chance to meet him personally then, I talked with Mrs. Pella about my interest in meeting him. That request eventually resulted in  youth apprenticeship at Precision Plus in the fall.”

Mike Reader recalls,

It must have been the spring of 2013, when Elkhorn High School CTE Coordinator JoAnne Pella sent me three candidates to interview for the Youth Apprenticeship program Precision Plus was about to launch.

Our directive to Mrs. Pella was clear: We were looking for the “best and brightest” of the next generation, including exceptional character and the willingness to commit to about 3 hours of daily time, starting at 6:30 am–which could be a difficult feat, taking into consideration high school schedules that are jam-packed with coursework, and extracurricular activities.  

One of the candidates was a young man who although did not seem too enthusiastic during the initial interview, exuded with it the moment he stepped on the production floor. Yes, a light flickering in the eyes that proved we had now captured his attention.  I replied to Mrs. Pella that while I had some early reservations about Brad, he had shown a lot of interest on the shop floor, and that we wanted to offer Brad the opportunity to work with us during his senior year.

Brad started out the 2013-2015 PPI Youth Apprenticeship with two other students—one also from EAHS, and the other from Lake Geneva High School.  All three worked directly with Barry Butters, then Director of Education and Training, first covering all the basics in the classroom.  This included basic blue print reading, understanding Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerances (GD&T), measurement equipment and techniques, and machine shop vocabulary—no, not the swear words, but the manufacturing lingo. 

Each apprentice received clear instructions on how they would be introduced to all facets of manufacturing, and that while some activities would be extremely rewarding, others might challenge them with boredom through redundancy. 

After completing classroom instruction, the apprentices worked in a variety of support roles, reinforcing what they had learned, while exercising both body and mind through hands-on activities. These included working in the Secondary Department, where parts receive additional processing; the Finishing Department, where parts are washed/polished; and the Quality Assurance Department, where parts are given a second inspection.  Although sometimes tedious and/or boring, these experiences provide our apprentices with a foundation to draw from as they progressively move from basic platforms to much more complex responsibilities.

Once they had demonstrated an eye for detail and earned the confidence of their mentors, the apprentices were introduced to the Tornos Swiss-Screw machine platform, a mechanical machine used in the production of small, very close tolerance turned parts using custom-shaped cams mounted on a camshaft. Working on the machines helped the students understand the interaction between tools and material.  Once confident on this platform, the apprentices moved through different CNC Swiss platforms, and eventually onto the Miyano CNC turret lathe machines, which can cost up to $600,000 when all tooled up.  The students not only ran the machines, but also inspected them with different gauging equipment, made tooling offsets, and inserted changes.

We often refer to our apprenticeship program as “Karate Kid School,” as the apprentices must first learn all that it takes to get perfect product out the door for our customers.  Some tasks may not be exciting, but every task is as important and it must be considered the most important task in the world.   And every experience is a learning opportunity…even if just to learn why it is important to do it right the first time.

Over the course of the fall semester, Brad was learning quickly and embracing what manufacturing had to offer. He was particularly intrigued by the nuances and the challenges of the manufacturing process and the problem-solving skills required to bring the part from drawing to reality. “Just checking on a part’s tolerance,” mentions Brad, “requires problem-solving skills. If it’s off, I need to offset the problem by making the necessary adjustments.”

Brad was excited about manufacturing and regularly shared his excitement at home. However, there was obvious resistance from his parents, who did not believe manufacturing should be part of the options for Brad’s future.

However, at Mike Reader’s request, they agreed to come to the plant to see what Brad was learning as a youth apprentice. Brad’s parents and sister spent one and a half hours touring the plant, talking with Mike and Barry, observing the type of technology Brad was utilizing, and the skills and knowledge required to properly use the equipment. At the end of the tour, Brad’s parents understood what they saw was not “vintage” manufacturing, but 21st century technology, and have since become Brad’s greatest supporters in his decision to pursue a career in manufacturing.

Upon his high school graduation in the spring of 2014, Brad rolled into PPI’s summer internship program, where he continued his journey. “And it’s been a journey ever since,” reiterates Brad, “Precision Plus and manufacturing are very special to me. One day I may even want to have my own manufacturing business!”

As the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year was approaching, Brad had to make a final decision as to his next step. He had three options: he could continue with his on-the-job training while working full time, he could enroll in a technical college to pursue a machining degree, or he could pursue a 4-year degree. “Barry and Mike took me around to different technical schools, but I fell in love with Blackhawk Technical College in Milton and with its state-of-the-art CNC training facilities.” And that was his final choice.

Mike continues,

Between Brad, Barry and myself, we set a plan in place where Brad would take classes during the day and work about 4 hours in the evening to reinforce what he was learning in the classroom.  We also had set up a reimbursement plan whereby we would refund him 100% for As, 50% for Bs and nothing for Cs.  Some would say this is a tall order, but the goal is clear: We want to nurture the “best and brightest.” Average does not cut it these days. 

Brad continued his school/work efforts through both the fall and spring semesters, and then brought his transcripts in for Barry and me to review.  It was with great delight that we saw nothing but straight As in every class, both semesters.  A check was drafted and presented to Brad for his full year tuition expenses.  It was a great day for Precision Plus, Brad and his parents. 

Brad is now in his third of the four-semester program and leading his class in all aspects.  BTC and his instructors have done a great job furthering Brad’s education, while we reinforce and focus his energies on how both must go hand in hand.  He is still considering his options for after graduation.

Brad is thoroughly enjoying his experience at Blackhawk Technical College, including being the liaison between his fellow students and the CNC Technician Advisory Committee, serving as a communication bridge between the two groups.

At Precision Plus, he currently operates a Miyano lathe and loves the process involved in solving problems. He thanks his mentors, Ryan Landreman, Sam Kirkland, Victor Moreno and Curt Hibl.

Whenever he can, Brad also shares his message with others as he promotes manufacturing as a career, and a not job.  As a matter of fact, a year after he first heard Mike at EAHS, Brad talked about his manufacturing experience to 200 attendees at the Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel. He has also talked to students at Delavan High School, has been to the Capitol, was interviewed by the Lake Geneva News, and by the office of Secretary Reggie Newson of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, just to name a few.

As far as the future is concerned, Brad will continue to look at all opportunities, but hone in on his own hope to make a difference and change the world. After all, he is a problem solver.

At Precision Plus, we are grateful for that snowy day in February of 2013, not only for Brad, but also for everyone who has shared in his enthusiasm for the industry ever since.

It is clear why so many people, including Lt. Governor Kleefisch, already know Brad Pearson, his story and his love for and commitment to manufacturing. And there is no question that given the opportunity to change the world, he will.

 

Precision Plus’ President Mike Reader Speaks at The Economic Forum Presented by the La Crosse Area Development Corporation

Michael Reader

Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus of Elkhorn Wisconsin was invited to speak at The Economic Forum presented by the La Crosse Area Development Corporation (LADCO) on Thursday, October 8, 2015. The presentation was entitled “Workforce Development Challenges & Strategies,” addressing tangible steps for manufacturers to take to help tackle workforce challenges.


The October 8th event also featured Ann Franz from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, and Mark Kaiser from Lindquist Machine Corporation, both representing the NEW Manufacturing Alliance (NMA) of Northeast Wisconsin. James Hill of LADCO moderated the forum.

All three presenters addressed two common threads: how to raise industry and career awareness, and how to promote collaboration between sectors.

The NMA represents a group of manufacturers who work with educators, workforce developers, chambers of commerce and state organizations to promote manufacturing in Northeast Wisconsin. Franz and Kaiser explained how the organization makes available valuable resources through their outreach program, listing manufacturers who regularly offer plant tours, have representatives who can speak about the industry and career opportunities, offer college internships, job shadowing, mentoring, and youth apprenticeships. In addition, the organization makes available to educators a number of tools to deploy in the classroom, and prospective employees a model pathway for shaping their careers.

Reader recounted his own personal journey to turn the skills gap tables, when he “stopped complaining” and began reaching out to educators, legislators, associations and fellow manufacturers, while organizing career panels, plant tours for students and parents, participating in career fairs, and hiring a dedicated individual to undertake the outreach efforts on a full-time basis. He also established internships and apprenticeships, created scholarships, crafted tuition reimbursement programs, joined career and technical education (CTE) committees, and invested in local education—efforts which, along the way, have nurtured individuals who now make Precision Plus their employer.

LADCO businesses attending the forum, walked away with a wealth of executable ideas. La Crosse, WI is a key city in Western Wisconsin located along the Mississippi River, in what is called the “Coulee Region Business Center,” ideally located to serve the tri-state area of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. LADCO is an organization that strives to promote and retain business in the area, offering an array of business related programs throughout the year.

 

Precision Plus October 2015 Education Update

Michael Reader

During the month of October, 2015, students from two local high schools visited Precision Plus in Elkhorn, Wisconsin to tour the facility and learn about careers in manufacturing. Mark Beilman,  Director of Education and Training, organized the events.  Beilman also visited an intermediate school (grades 4-8) during their career fair, to share the manufacturing message.

On Thursday, October 8th, Precision Plus welcomed Gateway Technical College’s Alternative High School, a creation of the Walworth County Educational Consortium in partnership with Gateway Technical College and local high schools. Allison Ender, Teacher of Senior Skills, and Derek D’Auria of the Walworth County Economic Development Center led the group of six students.

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Students and teachers first listened to Mark Beilman’s presentation on the company, the processes and the products manufactured at Precision Plus He also addressed the group about career possibilities at the company and the industry. Later, Beilman along with Tom Lankford, Production Manager, and Steve Dues, Tooling Engineer, led the students on a tour of the plant..

On October 12, Mark Beilman attended a Career Fair at the McNeel Intermediate School in Beloit, Wisconsin. He and Lindsay Healless, Career Advocate for Beloit Schools, talked to students during their lunch breaks not only about manufacturing, but also about the importance of education for succeeding in life. The students were then given an opportunity to visit the Precision Plus table and ask questions about CNC machining, manufacturing, and the benefit of getting a good education.

On October 15, 2015, students and teachers of Whitewater High School in Whitewater, Wisconsin came through Precision Plus for a presentation and tour, similar to the one given earlier in the month.

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Precision Plus continues its initiatives to bring technology to classrooms and schools to see manufacturing first hand.

For more information, please contact Mark Beilman via email, or by calling 262-743-1700.

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