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.
Business leaders were asked to express their greatest concern regarding the state of manufacturing in the area. The resounding answer was, “attracting, developing and retaining future workforce,” adding that the often-negative perception of manufacturing could be the root cause halting the process.
The group was honored to have the key participation of Mary Baer, Waukesha County Business Alliance (WCBA) Vice President of Community Engagement, and Derek D’Auria, Walworth County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) Executive Director.
Ms. Baer shared with the group the successful efforts undertaken by Waukesha County manufacturers who formed the Waukesha County Manufacturing Alliance (WCMA) in 2010 to overcome similar issues. Business leaders belonging to WCMA have steadily worked together to “share ideas and encourage innovation to transform the image of manufacturing and target new talent.”
Since its launch, the WCMA has developed the “Schools2Skills™ Program,” an all-inclusive initiative that promotes awareness of 21st century manufacturing to middle school and high school students, teachers and parents. The program includes tours of manufacturing facilities and Waukesha County Technical College. The alliance also partners with groups and associations that promote manufacturing. “It’s important to reach young people at a critical time, when they’re charting their career direction. It’s vital to share the real story of manufacturing careers – good-paying positions, technologically advanced environments and strong growth prospects.”
With the January 2016 inauguration of Gateway Technical College’s Manufacturing Center in Elkhorn, the WCMA model is one that the new Walworth manufacturing council hopes to closely replicate. All participants agreed that working together to overcome perception and workforce challenges would be much better than the isolated efforts spearheaded by some.
Next on the agenda for making the Walworth manufacturing council a reality, is to establish a small group to lead its organizational development. Derek D’Auria agreed WCEDA could be the engine behind the scenes, executing the vision crafted by the Walworth County group of manufacturing business leaders. Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus has joined Derek D’Auria in these preliminary steps.
Stay tuned for the exciting developments as they take place.