180 High School Students Attend the First Manufacturing Career Panel Discussion at Elkhorn Area High School in Wisconsin
Despite an 8” snow fall, on February 27, 2013 180 high school students from Elkhorn, Lake Geneva and William’s Bay gathered at Elkhorn Area High School’s Wehner Auditorium to listen to a panel of manufacturing professionals discuss the vast possibilities available today in the world of hi-tech manufacturing. The program was entitled “Elkhorn Area High School – Manufacturing Career Panel.”
This manufacturing awareness initiative began in late July of 2012, when 40 business representatives from Walworth County—most of them manufacturers—met to discuss the skills gap and the increasing demand for skilled manufacturing professionals. The vision was clear: to strive for the collaboration of businesses, the academic world and legislators in order to validate the impact that the manufacturing sector (or its absence) has on the overall economy of the state and the country. Additionally, the group agreed to foster initiatives aimed to bring up a new crop of world-class manufacturers through relevant education. The mission was also clear: to make the vision happen, and to dispel the current stigma hovering over the notion of pursuing a career in manufacturing.
“The real world of 21st Century manufacturing is totally different than its mid-century predecessor,” comments Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus “Today, manufacturing is the engine behind every “Top-Gun” pilot’s aircraft, the tools behind every surgeon’s life or death decision, the technique behind every tractor reaping the best of the crop, and even the reality that made the Mars Rover Mission possible. “
“Today’s manufacturing industry is not looking for unskilled workers, but instead, is looking for the cream of the crop,” adds Mike Reader, “Only 3 out of 100 candidates makes the cut. The manufacturing industry needs people who will make James Bond succeed and we’re willing to train them on the job and pay them a salary comparable or even greater than any college graduate. But they have to have the drive and the will.”
Late in 2012, Precision Plus invited twenty-four area educators to tour its facilities in Elkhorn, WI and to discuss the manufacturing possibilities available for high school graduates in the area. The exchange resulted in the implementation of a program aimed to educate high school students about the reality of a future in manufacturing. Under the diligent leadership of EAHS’s Career and Technical Education Coordinator JoAnne Pella and the support and endorsement of Principal Tina Bosworth, a Manufacturing Career Panel was organized for February 27, 2013.
The event was formatted as a panel discussion. The manufacturing professionals panelists were Dan Murphy, Regional Sales Manager at Rem Sales, LLC; Darlene Miller, President and CEO of Permac Industries; John Murphy, President of Morris Midwest, LLC; Olaf Tessarzyk, Managing Partner of ZPS America, LLC, and Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus For one and a half hours, the panelists and students engaged in a genuine discussion about the state of the industry and the possibilities manufacturing has available for young people finishing high school.
It was pointed out by the panelists, that the marked difference between a regular college education vs. a technical college education and/or on-the-the-job training was the opportunity to have real-work experience rather than strictly classroom instruction. A person learning and experiencing the art and science of machining, may continue on as business owner, as a program developer, design engineer, quality control engineer, management leader or sales professional, to name a few, and have the real-life experience to understand how to transform ideas into reality. The machining industry opens the doors to limitless possibilities, offering rewarding careers to “Top Gun” candidates, both men and women.
Following the panel discussion, several tours have been scheduled for students to visit area manufacturers. The next phase in the manufacturing awareness program is to develop internships for high school and college students, to coordinate learning opportunities with local technical colleges and to seek increased support of local, state and national legislators.