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Precision Plus Actively Supports Local Schools’ Career & Technical Education (CTE) Committees

Michael Reader

Precision Plus is now serving on four local Wisconsin high schools ‘Career & Technical Education’ (CTE) committees: Delavan Memorial High School, Elkhorn Area High School, Whitewater High School, and Beloit Memorial High School.

We are also serving on the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Advisory committees for Elkhorn and Whitewater. Both Mike Reader, President and Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training share these responsibilities. Mike and Barry also are serving on the Wisconsin State PLTW Leadership Committee.

Beloit Memorial High School’s CTE Committee met on April 2, 2014, to discuss goals and share real-life industry experience with educators and students. Pictured from left to right: Chris Klatt (BMHS), Brandon James (ScotForge,  James Ekman (ScotForge), Mike Reader (Precision Plus), Matt Baker (Versa Tool and Die), Jim Hoyt (North American Tool), Zach Ford (ScotForge), and Curt Clansbery (North American Tool).

Precision Plus in Elkhorn Announces Autodesk 3D CAD and PartMaker CAM Additions to Training Classroom

Michael Reader

Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin is pleased to announce the addition of eight seats of Product Design Suite Ultimate 3D CAD software ) as a donation from Autodesk,  as well as eight seats of CAM software as a donation from PartMaker to their Training Classroom.

When Roger Orban, Territory Sales Executive–Manufacturing Solutions for Autodesk, visited Precision Plus in January of 2014, he saw the viable inroads being made by Precision Plus in an effort to close the manufacturing skills gap.  So did Hanan Fishman, President of PartMaker, Inc.  Then, something incredible happened:  both companies committed to donating CAD and CAM software respectively, to support the active effort.  Precision Plus’ goal is to provide courses on advanced machining to local high school students.

On behalf of the entire Precision Plus Team and the future manufacturing professionals who will come through the training class, Mike Reader, President, and Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training wish to thank PartMaker and Autodesk for their generous donation. The marriage of the 3D CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) software Inventor  from Autodesk with the CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software from PartMaker will allow students to learn the complete design process from print to product.

Precision Plus in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, Continues Its Education Outreach

Michael Reader

Pictured from left to right: Ryan Rewey, Jon Watson, Bill Pfund, Deb Prowse, Dawn Skrzypchak. Not pictured was Katie McQueen.

Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training, hosted a new group of teachers from Beloit Memorial High School on Thursday, March 27, 2014. Ryan Rewey, the Director of Career and Technical Education for the Beloit School District arranged to have several math and science teachers as well as a guidance counselor from Beloit Memorial H.S. visit Precision Plus to see that STEM education is truly at the heart of the manufacturing industry.  The educators were given an overview of how Precision Plus uses the Inventor 3D CAD software coupled with the PartMaker software to program the Fanuc controllers on the CNC machines.  Precision machining is a perfect example of where STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) all come together.  There is the science of metal properties, technology in the CNC programming, engineering in the feeds, speeds and chip formation and the math involved on the geometry of the parts themselves.

Butters also traveled to Union Grove High School on Tuesday, March 11th, where principal Tom Herman arranged presentations to the Math, Science, Tech Education and Guidance Departments.  Butters spoke to the teachers about the nature of the work done at Precision Plus, as well as discussing the internship opportunities the company offers.  Butters felt the time spent at Union Grove with 26 of their teachers had big impact in the on the future of the industry, as it helped disperse the unfounded image of manufacturing as a boring, dirty and dangerous field.

Lastly, Butters most recent classroom visit was to Lake Geneva Badger High School where he spoke to all of Clint Geissler metals classes.  The informative message to the students was about today’s manufacturing and the type of schooling needed to pursue a career in manufacturing.  The presentation also included a discussion of the soft skills all employers are looking for.

Butters plans to attend a Career Day event at the Real School, which is part of the Racine Unified School District, on Thursday, April 17th and is scheduling a visit to speak to Casey Miller’s metals classes at Burlington High School in the near future.

Straight from the Source: Students at Elkhorn Area High School Recount Their Experience at the Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel on February 26, 2014

Michael Reader

Elkhorn Area High School posted the following post on Facebook on March 13, 2014 about the Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel:

On Wednesday, February 26, approximately 200 students from five different schools settled into their seats at the Elkhorn Area High School auditorium to listen to four experts and one of their own peers address the career opportunities in the manufacturing industry. Our schools feel very fortunate to have had Brian White, President of Waukesha Engine; Hanan Fishman, President of PartMaker, Inc, (a software development company); Mary Isbister, President of GenMet, Mequon (metal fabricator); Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus; and senior, Brad Pearson, (manufacturing apprentice) share their insights on opportunities the world of manufacturing offers.

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Each of the four speakers described their backgrounds, their journey to where they are today, various manufacturing processes, the skills and talent necessary to be successful in manufacturing, and the fast pace in which the manufacturing workplace is changing. They discussed with students the “skills gap”, which is the problem that many manufacturers are facing today in regard to maintaining a high-quality, high-skilled workforce. According to all four speakers, there is a huge deficit in the number of young people applying for jobs in manufacturing. Currently, the industry is looking for people skilled in Design Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, Machinists, Welders, CNC Programmers, Fabricators, and Machine Maintenance. White mentioned that top machinists can earn up to $80,000 per year and that every manufacturing job generates four other jobs in other sectors such as health, IT, finance, etc. Both White and Reader stressed to students to make certain they are preparing for a career, not just for college; to make sure that their advanced education can help them secure a job, and to prepare themselves for life-long learning. They cited the fact that 70% of manufacturing jobs will require education beyond the high school diploma. Fishman backed up this fact by stating that what goes on in manufacturing today has a lot more to do with what goes on above the neck than below. Isbister reminded students that when hiring she looks for highly driven and ambitious job candidates; those who are committed to their jobs. She, along with the Reader, White, and Fishman stressed the importance of soft skills—reliability, communication skills, collaboration, self-motivation, positive attitude, and a willingness to learn.

Senior apprentice, Brad Pearson, spoke of his experience at Precision Plus and his appreciation for the opportunities he has been given by his mentor to learn all aspects of precision-turned component manufacturing (Facebook, 2014).

Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel at Elkhorn Area H.S. Featured on Lake Geneva News

Michael Reader

Lake Geneva News featured an article on March 6, 2014, about the Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel, which took place at Elkhorn Area H.S. on February 26, 2014.  The title of the article quotes Mary Isbister of GenMet Corporation, one of the panelists. Mike Reader of Precision Plus, Hanan Fishman of PartMaker and Brian White of GE’s Waukesha Engines Business were also panelists.

Here is a transcript of the article:

Wisconsin may be the state of milk and cheese, but it is also one of the leading states in manufacturing.

Mary Ibister, president of GenMet, Mequon, a metal fabricating business, said Wisconsin and Indiana trade off being first and second in the nation in annual manufacturing income.

“Wisconsin makes stuff,” said Ibister.

“And making stuff is cool,” she added.

Ibister and three other local manufacturing executives, Hanan Fishman, president of PartMaker Inc.; Brian White, president of GE’s Waukesha Engines Business; and Mike Reader, president of Precision Plus Inc., Elkhorn, were at Elkhorn Area High School Feb. 26 talking to high school students about the importance of manufacturing jobs and their rewards.

Elkhorn High School and Precision Plus partnered for the second annual Manufacturing Careers Panel.

The panelists laid out the possible career paths and opportunities available now for those who are interested in careers in manufacturing.

Perhaps the biggest draw for students is the promise of jobs with higher pay. At a time when middle class wages are stagnating, manufacturing wages have grown.
Manufacturing jobs now pay an average of $52,000 a year, said White. And machinists can make as much as $80,000 a year, he said.

Barry Butters, Precision Plus’ director of training and education, said this year about 200 students from Elkhorn, Badger, Delavan-Darien, Union Grove and Whitewater high schools attended the 90-minute presentation this year.

Last year, just three high schools sent students, Butters said. Precision Plus started intern programs last year for students in high school and college, with 10 students involved in the summer portion of the program and three participating during the school year.

Butters said Precision Plus intends to continue the program into next year, but it’s also looking for partners to help out, because the company has limited capacity for interns.

Literature at the program notes that the highest concentration of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. lies within a 90-mile radius of Waukesha.

Manufacturing is returning to the U.S., as companies realize that the costs of transportation are beginning to outweigh the savings in cheap overseas labor and that the U.S. is still the leader in producing educated workers.

The problem now, said Ibister, is finding enough workers to fill the need.

Ibister came to manufacturing through an indirect route.

She told the students that she had a degree in chemistry and worked for pharmaceutical companies, making and later setting up testing for pharmaceutical products.

But Ibister said she was always fascinated by the manufacturing process. Her husband worked in the defense industry for a company that helped build nuclear submarines.

In 1999, the two decided to buy a small manufacturing plant in Mequon. They named the company GenMet Corp.

The company now employs 75 people.

For years, society labeled manufacturing, or factory work, as “dirty, dumb and dangerous,” Ibister said. At the height of the Industrial Revolution in America, manufacturing was done in sprawling complexes that were dirty and often unsafe, she said.

When manufacturing companies began leaving the U.S. for cheaper labor overseas, the label changed to “limited, low-skilled and leaving,” she added. And then there were the “one dog and one man” predictions of the all-automated factories.

Ibister said the story went “the man is there to feed the dog. The dog is there to keep the man from touching the machines.”

While mechanization, computers and robots have taken over most of the low-skilled work done at factories, humans are still needed for the skilled positions where judgment and creativity are required, Ibister said.

“It’s one thing to push ‘go’ on a multimillion dollar machine, it’s another thing to know what to do if the machine stops,” Ibister said.

Fishman of PartMaker Inc. said his company writes software for computer-aided manufacturing. The company was recently bought by a multinational manufacturing company. PartMaker, headquartered in Pennsylvania, sells its software worldwide. One of its customers is Precision Plus, Fishman said.

Fishman is the co-author of two U.S. patents for automating the programming of multi-axis computer numeric control (CNC) machines. The CNC lathes have programmable arms that turn both cutting tools and raw materials to create finished products.

“This is a profession for people interested in using their brain, rather than just putting a peg in a hole,” Fishman said.

Kathryn Lieffrig, a junior at Elkhorn, said she’s been interested in the modern manufacturing process since she attended Camp Badger at the University of Wisconsin when she was in seventh grade.

Citing Ibister as an inspiration, Lieffrig, who was one of just three students invited to attend the Manufacturing and Industrial Conference in Milwaukee on Feb. 27, said she’s interested in engineering and designing computer manufacturing programs.

Reader, president and owner of Precision Plus, has been part of the family-owned business for 18 years. The company specializes in precision-turned metal components for a variety of uses, from cuff links to military ordinance.

In fall 2012, Reader hosted faculty from the Elkhorn Area High School for plant tours and a discussion of skills needed for today’s advanced manufacturing.

Reader’s outreach to the school led to a career panel presentation last year and that led to 10 internships for the best and brightest over the summer (LakeGenevaNews, 2014).

Beloit Memorial High School in Wisconsin at the Forefront of Technical Education

Michael Reader

On January 28, 2014, Barry Butters, Precision Plus’ Director of Education and Community Outreach and Mike Reader, President, presented a monetary contribution to Beloit Memorial High School’s Project Lead The Way (PLTW)’s Leader Tammy Spoerk, who teaches engineering and STEM classes at the school.

Both Mike Reader and Barry Butters were highly impressed with the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program and Curriculum at Beloit Memorial High School, which has been under the tutelage of Ryan Rewey, Director of Career & Technical Education, since June of 2013.

Following a facility tour on January 7th, Barry Butters commended BMHS for their vision.  Mike Reader added, “Barry and I have toured a lot of educational facilities, high schools, tech colleges, universities, and this is—by far—the best (CNC) training facility we have seen, hands down.”

The video below features Precision Plus’ presentation, and a detailed recap of BMSH’s Career and Technical Education program’s endeavors to the school’s Board of Directors.

Click here to see a short version of Mike Reader’s and Barry Butters’ presentation.

Precision Plus is proud to support the efforts of Beloit Memorial High School’s teachers and students.

180 High School Students Attend the First Manufacturing Career Panel Discussion at Elkhorn Area High School in Wisconsin

Michael Reader

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.


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.

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