Vocational Education and Training – The Swiss Answer To Unemployment

Michael Reader

With unemployment rate of 2.8%, the country of Switzerland is coming under increased observation by other industrial countries to discover its secret.  The consensus of opinion seems to be that its unique educational system is the most likely answer.

Swiss industries in cooperation with the educational system have devised a program referred to as Vocational Education and Training (VET).  The compulsory education for a Swiss child ends at nine years.  After this, they have the option of continuing their education in two different tracks.  Those children that want a career in academics can continue in the traditional school-based learning track, and those that are seeking a trade or vocation can enter into the VET program.  This program is a combination of classroom work and apprenticeship programs.  At present over 50% of the youth in Switzerland are choosing this track.

The VET program has the youth in the classroom for 1 to 2 days out of the week with the rest of the work week being spent at the host company of their apprenticeship. The course work at the VET schools is determined by the trade organizations that help run the schools.  This keeps the studies in line with the skills that are most needed in the market place. These programs tend to last for 3 to 4 years depending on the field of study.  Youth studying in these programs are then awarded a Federal diploma after passing their final exam. The youth that pass this test are also able to go onto a specialized university program in their field.  One of the aspects that have been found as most intriguing is the use of other businesses to sign off on the work that the apprentice is doing for the host-company, offering a transparency in the industry as well as a cohesive manner of maintaining the standards for those particular industry apprenticeships.

The current statistics show that around 58,000 companies are providing up to 80,000 apprenticeships.  These are presented to the lower secondary schools every year to enable the parents and students to know what is available.  The result of the training and expense is that most of the youth can expect to enter into a vocation with a starting salary of $50,000 or more.  Although this program is funded by the private sector, the output generated by the apprentices is seen to cover the cost and the end result is a trained labor force with the skills for the jobs that are available and needed.

Connecticut Manufacturers Celebrate Manufacturing Day 2012 to “Call Me Maybe”

Michael Reader

Several Connecticut manufacturing companies have a little fun on the job and spoof a popular song in honor of 2012’s Manufacturing Day.

In this video, employees from the following companies are featured:  CBIA, CONNSTEP, New Haven Manufacturers Association (NHMA), The Smaller Manufacturers Association of Connecticut (SMA), Air Handling Systems (Woodbridge), Cooper-Atkins Corp (Middlefield), Capewell Components (S. Windsor), ebm-papst (Farmington), G & R Manufacturing(Naugatuck), Munson’s Chocolates (Bolton), Prospect Machine Products (Prospect), and Schwerdtle Stamp Company (Bridgeport).

Audio: Carley Rae Jepson – Call Me Maybe. (C) 2011 604 Records Inc.
Video Produced by CBIA’s Chris McGuire and Liz Krueger

Precision Plus Invites You To Celebrate the First National Manufacturing Day: October 5, 2012!

Michael Reader

October 5, 2012 is the first National Manufacturing Day to be celebrated in our country.  It is an attempt by The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and The Manufacturing Institute to educate the American public about the necessity to have a strong manufacturing industry in place in the U.S. and about all the opportunities that will derive as a result.

The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA), and the U.S. Commerce Department’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) have joined in to help co-sponsor this day and the events surrounding it.  Precision Plus is proud to join in to celebrate our industry’s accomplishments in manufacturing.

Here are some impressive statistics about the manufacturing industry everyone should know:

  • For every $1.00 produced by the U.S. manufacturing sector, an additional $1.43 is generated for the U.S. economy.
  • On average, manufacturing revenue from just 5 states typically adds over a half trillion dollars to the U.S. economy.
  • 2/3 of the research and development in the private sector comes from the manufacturing industries.
  • For every job created in the manufacturing sector, 2.91 jobs are created in other sectors.
  • Jobs in the Manufacturing sector (from MEPblog)
    • make more than $77,000 a year on average (about $20k more than other industries)
    • have good access to medical benefits (25% more access than other industries)
    • collectively get more contributions to their retirement from their employers than their peers in the service industry, and
    • have the highest job tenure in the private sector

Manufacturing Day hopes to inform the American public about all the positives in the manufacturing sector and debunk the old myths of the old ‘factory job’.  Recent studies have shown that ‘600,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled in the United States due to a gap in the job requirements and the skills within the workforce.’

Special events to bring awareness to National Manufacturing Day are being conducted around the country today.  In our own back yard, the Waukesha County Business Alliance and the Manufacturing Alliance Committee have organized tours of area manufacturing facilities, inviting Waukesha County students, parents and educators to participate.

Precision Plus applauds these efforts at being part of the solution to the lack of skilled workers and is proud to be a part of the First National Manufacturing Day: October 5, 2012.

75 Gears on Mars – Mission Accomplished

Michael Reader

Back in 1955, when Stetler and Evelyn Young founded Forest City Gear in Roscoe, Illinois, they had a vision to create a leading gear manufacturing company, which would be well-respected throughout the world.  They did accomplish their dream and much more…but they certainly did not consider that 50-some years later, their gears would end up on Mars.

Our Curiosity, courtesy of  Our City, Our Story on Vimeo.

Curiosity, the latest of NASA’s Mars rovers, landed on the “red planet” on August 5, 2012 after an 8-month, 354 million-mile journey.  Forest City Gear can proclaim that a total of 75 of their gears are on Mars, split between Curiosity and an earlier Mars rover.

With over 50 years in the industry, this family-owned business has striven to be a model company, not only for the industry and their customers, but also for their employees.  The Youngs’ son Fred is now the CEO.

Precision Plus salutes Forest City Gear on their accomplishments and is proud to have them among our fine customers.

The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) Comes To Chicago

Michael Reader

From September 10 through the 15th, over 80,000 industrial decision-makers will be attending the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) at McCormick Place in Chicago.  There, ideas will spark and answers will be found, ranging from technology challenges to innovative ways to succeed in a globally-competitive market.

More than 15,000 new machine tools, controls, computers, software, components, systems and processes that can improve efficiency will be showcased by over 1,800 exhibitors representing the finest manufacturers in the world.

The show will feature distinct pavilions catering to specific applications or processes, including metal cutting, tooling and workholding systems, metal forming and fabricating/laser processes, abrasive machining, controls and CAD-CAM,  EDM, and environmental /quality assurance among others.

There will also be conferences throughout the duration of the show.  According the organizers, “Sessions will explore innovative as well as revered technologies, business development and optimization, plus workforce efficiency and productivity.  Special emphasis will be placed on maintaining focus on short- and long-term goals during a tough economic environment.”  The show will also focus on the subject of “Reshoring” or bringing manufacturing back to the U.S.

The Upper Midwest, which includes Chicago, has had a long history in the manufacturing industry,  with factories and shops  beginning to appear shortly after the expansion of the railroads in the mid-1800s, and quickly developing into a highly influential area for our country.  It seems only appropriate that one of the most important manufacturing shows in the world take place in the Midwest.  Attended by thousands of interested people from around the world, IMTS is truly a spectacle not to be missed.

The Plus – A Note from Mike

Michael Reader

My wife Pat and I took a U-Haul truck of “stuff” to our daughter Tina’s place in NYC earlier in the month.  Not exactly the way I prefer to see America, but it needed to be done.  After hauling all her stuff up two flights of narrow stairs in the heat, we were all in need of some good food.

We went for lunch at Joseph Leonard, a cozy seven-table bistro and bar, located
at the heart of West Village, and I must tell you it was great.  The atmosphere was relaxed, the food was excellent, and the service was beyond par.  It is what we, at Precision Plus, call

The brainchild behind Joseph Leonard is Gabriel Stulman, a fellow
UW – Madison grad, who runs a hell of a restaurant.   There were plenty of Wisconsin themes in the restaurant and all the staff clearly understood customer service:  Michael and Logan, and Grand Rapids’ “Big Guy” in the kitchen, made it a memorable experience.

Gabriel Stulman, who named the restaurant after both his grandfathers, got his inspiration from Madison’s Café Montmartre, a bistro where he tended bar while in school.  “Here I am,” he said, “a guy from Wisconsin who wanted to work with a bunch of his friends from Wisconsin.”  He’s kept his promise, as most of his staff comes from the Upper Midwest.

I drew some parallels between what they are doing and what we are doing here at Precision Plus  We also strive to always deliver THE PLUS to our customers:  Quality products at a reasonable price, experienced design engineers and caring customer service reps.  I strongly believe THE PLUS is what keeps satisfied customers coming back.  And as we continue to expand by adding space and equipment, we know that THE PLUS we deliver must remain intact.

In the two or so years since Gabriel Stulman first opened Joseph Leonard,  he has opened three more restaurants in West Village under the “Little Wisco” umbrella:  Jeffrey’s Grocery, Fedora (a former speakeasy), and Perla.  These are all unpretentious neighborhood joints that, according to some, “exude Wisconsin friendliness” and consistently deliver THE PLUS.

By the way, a Bloody with the beer chaser had me hooked from the beginning.  We’ll be back for more.

The Edge Factor Show and Champion Now Join Forces To Inspire New Generations of Manufacturers

Michael Reader

Across North America, manufacturers’ voices lament the shrinking of their workforce while working at all levels to reverse the trend.

Initiatives to inspire young people to enter the manufacturing field are sprouting everywhere, with coalitions being made between schools, local governments and manufacturers to create educational programs that will make a difference.

One project in particular, the Edge Factor Show, led by producer Jeremy Bout, stands out from the rest. Jeremy is an accomplished tool and design engineer…and movie producer.  He understands the journey between concept to production and, through his films, presents it in a way that is also understood by the new generations. The Edge Factor Show tells the stories of the people behind successes in manufacturing.

The third in a series of manufacturing films is entitled “Metal and Flesh.”  The teaser above shows how manufacturing makes a difference in a war-casualty amputee’s life. It’s both exhilarating and inspiring. According to Jeremy Bout, “Edge Factor is taking a stand for manufacturing.  This film is a critical component in our initiative to inspire the next generation of skilled manufacturers.”

However, this project will only come to complete fruition with the support of manufacturers.  To help make this happen, Terry Iverson, a business owner serving the manufacturing community, has founded Champion Now, which, in Terry’s words,  “exists to change the image of manufacturing…to one that is filled with extreme technology, advanced innovations and exhilarating and good paying careers for the next generation.”  Terry’s mission is to create a circle of manufacturing Champions that will support the Edge Factor’s film productions and other educational initiatives to change the perception of manufacturing.

The Edge Factor Show has produced two episodes in their manufacturing series:  Chilean Mine Rescue,  a story about the challenges and innovations that delivered a successful outcome, and Gnarly Metal, a story about a slopestyle rider competition inspired by “the insatiable need to go faster, further, harder and higher.”

Precision Plus supports educational initiatives such as the ones led by the Edge Factor and Champion Now.


HollenWolff’s Bearing-Lock Cuff Links, Made in Wisconsin

Michael Reader

From an article by Mary Louise Schumacher of The Journal Sentinel about HollenWolff’s bearing-lock cuff links

“Dressed to the nines for a big fundraiser, two friends chatted about the cuff links clasped at one man’s wrist. They talked about their grandfathers and the bygone elegance of certain masculine accoutrements.

One of the two owned a ball-bearing manufacturing company. The other was a clothing stylist.”

In a precise moment, a new idea was born and a new direction was forged.  HollenWolff has designed a new kind of bearing-lock cuff link that is unlike anything ever made. International patents are pending.

Precision Plus is honored to be a part of the project.

The H Foundation and the Goombay Bash – Committed to a Cure for Cancer

Michael Reader

On Saturday, August 11th, around 1,200 people dressed to the nines–Caribbean style—and ready to party will come together at Navy Pier in Chicago not only to have a great time, but also to make a difference.

The Goombay Bash, as this function is called, is a fundraising event of The H Foundation.  The foundation was started in 2001 by a few friends with entrepreneurial spirit who decided that, with some ingenuity, they could make a difference in the fight against cancer.  They chose the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University in Chicago (Cancer Center) to be the engine of their catalyst mission.

According to the H Foundation, “In just eleven years we have raised over $4 Million, donating nearly every dollar raised to the Cancer Center.  These funds are used as “seed money” for basic science cancer research projects which then compete for additional government or private funding. As a result, our donation has literally turned into nearly $30 Million of research dollars towards finding a cure.” In 2011 alone, the H Foundation raised over $575,000, a figure that is hoped to be surpassed in 2012.

A testament of how this “seed money” leads to additional millions of research dollars from government or private funding, is the case of the Cancer Center’s research in the emerging area of Oncofertility. In the fall of 2011, the Feinberg School was awarded a $21 million grant from the National Institute of Health to help women preserve their fertility while treated for cancer.  A basic science research project started with “seed money” turned into a fruitful project with potentially amazing results.

Precision Plus is proud to support fundraising efforts that make a difference, such as those which benefit Northwest Memorial Hospital in Chicago and University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Click here to make a difference.  It’s time to find a cure…



The H Foundation event on Saturday, August 11th at Navy Pier raised close to $500,000. Thank you to the 850 attendees that dug deep to make this happen, all to benefit basic research at The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

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