Exploring the Manufacturing Public Perception Gap: A Study by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte

Michael Reader

Jointly, The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte have recently published a study entitled “The 5th U.S. Public Opinion of Manufacturing,” addressing public perception.

Americans, according to the study, “remain steadfast in their support of manufacturing.” Disconcerting, however, is the fact that there is a gap in the interest shown by Americans to pursue long-term careers in manufacturing.

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According to the study, 90% of Americans think manufacturing is “very important to economic prosperity,” yet only half of all Americans think that manufacturing jobs can be interesting and rewarding.  U.S. investment in the manufacturing industry is supported by an overwhelming 82% of Americans, yet only 33% of parents would encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career.

Lack of information appears to be a direct influencer on general perception, as the study also shows that those who better understand the possibilities in advanced manufacturing, are more likely to favorably change their perception.

Download a copy of the infographic here, or directly from The Manufacturing Institute.

Barry Butters of Precision Plus Speaks at the 2015 PMPA National Technical Conference in Columbus, OH

Michael Reader

Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus in Elkhorn, WI spoke to a wide audience during the 2015 Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA) National Technical Conference, which took place on April 19-21, 2015, in Columbus, OH. His presentation centered on Precision Plus’ active plan to help close the skills gap in manufacturing.

PMPA’s 54th Annual National Technical Conference focused on technical innovation, quality advancements and shop management, offering attendees a variety of seminars on subjects needed to meet today’s precision manufacturing challenges.

In addition to Butters, six other members of the Precision Plus Team attended the conference: Mike Brown, John McConville and Sam Kirkland, Machinists, Terry Mumper, Engineer,  Dale Wittlieff, Director of Quality and Continuous Improvement, and  Bill Wells, Sales and Engineering Manager.

On Monday, April 20th, during a session entitled, “How to Deal with the Skilled Training Issue,” Butters shared Precision Plus’ “13-Step Playbook for Workforce Development,” currently used by the company, in an effort to close the manufacturing skills gap.

In his presentation, Butters talked about Precision Plus, its plan to double its capacity, and the absence of qualified employees to operate machines that do the work that used to be done by people in the past. He also addressed the overall perception of manufacturing based on “what it was then,” and the lack of information of “what it is now.” Whereas in the past, a high school student who may not be doing great in school would have been a prime candidate to go into manufacturing, today’s industry requires individuals who have high technical and math skills as well as strong soft skills.

In a 2012 News Magazine 60 Minutes interview, Professor Peter Cappelli of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, stated that even as late as a generation ago, manufacturing companies had training and apprenticeship programs in place, but over the last few decades that responsibility shifted primarily to technical colleges. As technology advanced, the curricula offered by technical colleges drifted away from the actual skills needed for professionals in manufacturing. Cappelli suggested that manufacturers needed to be involved in the training of prospective employees in one way or another.

After listening to this segment, Mike Reader, president of Precision Plus decided to get involved. “What’s the return on investment on doing nothing?” Reader asked.

Butters used Precision Plus’ “13-Step Playbook for Workforce Development” slideshow presentation to showcase the initiatives taken by Mike Reader and Precision Plus over the last two and a half years to get involved and become a catalyst. These efforts included hiring Butters, an educator, to help deploy the playbook. In 2013, Reader had organized a Manufacturing Career Panel at a local high school, which was attended by more than one hundred area students. When students asked about internship availability, Reader knew something had to be done.

Today, Precision Plus offers a summer internship program for young people typically becoming mechanical engineers, as well as a school-year apprenticeship program for students interested in pursuing a career in manufacturing.

Both programs expose students to all aspects of manufacturing and have been designed on a rotating department basis. In addition, students go on tours and attend tradeshows, among other activities. Parent involvement is key, as they must tour the facility before their child is accepted into either program.

In addition, Precision Plus is involved with local schools at all levels, from elementary through college. The company is a member of several career and technical education (CTE) committees, has brought more than 90 teachers, counselors and career coaches through the facility, and has welcomed students on field trips. In addition, Barry Butters has traveled to schools and has addressed students at all levels. Precision Plus also offers a Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering design and development (EDD) class, taught by Butters in the Precision Plus classroom to local high school students.

Having community support is crucial, so the public at large is regularly invited to tour the plant and learn about today’s manufacturing. Precision Plus has also reached out to vendors and customers to help enrich the experience, and has brought manufacturing industry awareness to local, state and national legislators, having had high ranking public officials across party lines tour the plant and engage in conversation, in an effort to find common ground and talk about workforce issues.

Butters information was well received and followed by many favorable comments, as per this letter from Monte Guitar, PMPA’s director of technical programs.

For more information on this presentation, please contact Barry Butters via phone or email.

Mike Reader of Precision Plus and Dr. Bryan Albrecht of Gateway Technical College Featured on 91.1 FM “Morning Show” with Gregory Berg

Michael Reader

On April 13, 2015, Mike Reader, president and owner of Precision Plus, and Dr. Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical College (GTC) were guests of “The Morning Show,” hosted by Gregory Berg on 91.1 FM WGTD in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The topic of “manufacturing” was central to the interview, and both Albrecht and Reader discussed the eminent improvements, which are coming to Gateway Technical College Elkhorn Campus, and the definitive positive impact it will have throughout the community.

Albrecht, who is a regular guest of the show, updated the audience with news about the Elkhorn facility’s physical and academic expansion, which is due to take place over the next few months. Of most importance to this conversation, was the announcement of a new manufacturing center to be built at the campus.   Albrecht acknowledged the contribution made by area manufacturers, but especially that of Precision Plus whose support has gone beyond a substantial monetary contribution, but also whose role has been indispensable for providing connections with equipment manufacturers, rallying up local support, and implementing a cohesive plan to bring awareness to manufacturing on all school levels.

Reader was asked to talk about his company, the industry, and the biggest threat faced by manufacturers, or lack of highly skilled professional candidates for available positions. He also explained in detail the cost of doing “nothing,” and how Precision Plus was inspired to roll out an awareness campaign, which, as evident by the changes coming to the area, is beginning to make a difference in creating a viable career pipeline in manufacturing.

Listen to a recording of the show. Click here for a PDF transcript of the program.

Precision Plus’ 360-Degree Holistic Approach to Closing the Manufacturing Skills Gap

Michael Reader

Faced with the reality of a shortage of qualified individuals with high manufacturing technology skills, Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin launched a 360-degree holistic initiative to address this deficit from all angles–or a game plan to create a pipeline of next generation machinists.

With all the attributes of a David vs. Goliath-type story, the initiative seemed futile at times. However, two years into the undertaking, the David in the story has become an amalgamated and tenacious force of educators, students, manufacturers, organizations, associations, and legislators who are bound to make a difference and close the skills gap.

The video above features a slide presentation created by Barry Butters, Director of Training and Education at Precision Plus In this presentation, Butters lays out the thirteen steps currently in place at Precision Plus which make up the “Playbook for Workforce Development.”

Please contact Barry Butters via email or phone to arrange a presentation at your facility, or to tour our plant and classrooms and learn more about this initiative.

Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus Continues His Commitment Closing the Manufacturing Skills Gap, by Serving as a Corporate Member of the MSOE Board

Michael Reader

In October of 2014, Precision Plus’ President Mike Reader was welcomed as one of the newest corporate members to join the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s (MSOE) Board.

MSOE Board is comprised of representatives of business, industry, government and education, which “governs the operations and the future planning of the university through a series of standing committees.” Above all, MSOE’s Board of Regents and Corporation members consider the relationship between industry and the university “a hallmark of MSOE.”

As a member of the MSOE Board, Reader reiterates his commitment to closing the manufacturing skills gap by strengthening the ties between education and real world high-tech manufacturing.

Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) ranked 14th Best Undergraduate Engineering Program in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Other interesting “by the number” information about the school can be found here.

On March 26, 2014 PMPA Members Took On Capitol Hill

Michael Reader

On March 26, 2014, thirteen members of the PMPA’s  (Precision Machined Products Association) Government Affairs Committee flew into Washington D.C. to discuss several industry key issues with members of the U.S. Congress.

Photo Courtesy of PMPA

These issues included:

  • Tax reform
  • Skills gap
  • EPA and OSHA regulations and NLRB rulings

The group was also able to conduct a PMPA Government Affairs Committee meeting and briefing at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters, which is located across the street from the White House.

Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus was among the delegation.  In the image to the left, Mike and PMPA Executive Director Michael Kobylka stand before the Capitol.

On the image to the right, Mike Reader stands next  Paul Ryan, U.S. Congressman representing Wisconsin’s 1st District.

Read the original report, “PMPA VOICES HEARD ON CAPITOL HILL” here.


Manufacturing Matters! Conference Update: The Skills Gap: Is it Real?

Michael Reader

The Manufacturing Matters! Conference was held at the Hyatt Regency in Milwaukee on Thursday, February 27, 2014.  The conference was sponsored by the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP), which focuses on delivering unmatched opportunities for learning, networking, and collaboration.

For 17 years, the conference has raised public awareness of the vitality, strength and contributions of the manufacturing sector, and promoted the well-being of manufacturing as essential for a healthy, vibrant economy in Wisconsin.

One of the conference’s breakout sessions was a spirited debate concerning the skills gap.  The room was packed full to hear an exchange between Professor Marc V. Levine, Founding Director of the Center of Economic Development of University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus, and Eric Isbister, CEO and co-owner of GenMet Corporation. WMEP President Buckley Brinkman moderated the panel discussion.

The subject being debated was the existence–or absence thereof–of a manufacturing skills gap in Wisconsin, and the program was headlined as “The Skills Gap: It is Real?”  The controversy stemmed from a 2013 study conducted by Levine, who proposed the manufacturing skills gap to be just a myth.

Levine’s arguments were based on statistical data of national averages in a job creation crisis scenario. Isbister and Reader contradicted Levine’s findings, by suggesting that the crisis was with skills, not job creation.

A summary of their views:

  Job Crisis

  • Creating too few
    good jobs
  • Economic numbers don’t
    support crisis
  • Well educated workforce
  • Skills just one piece
    of the puzzle
  • Employers aren’t effective “finders”
  Skills Crisis

  • Too few qualified workers
    to fill jobs
  • 82% of all manufacturers
    cite problems
  • Unskilled workforce
  • Skills are a
    critical need
  • Engaging more channels
    than ever

According to an article in by Dan Shafer, “Isbister called the study itself ‘detrimental’ to the future of manufacturing,” alleging that it discourages people from pursuing high-skilled careers in this field.  Mary Baer, Director of Member Development a Waukesha County Business Alliance, said there was a “disconnect between educators like Levine and the business community.”  Both Reader and Isbister extended Levine an invitation to visit their particular facilities, and observe the skill gap first hand.

At the end of the debate, Brinkman gave Levine credit for “appearing in front of a group of passionate manufacturers who all dispute the findings.” Levine mentioned that he it was not his intent to harm the industry, and that he considers “manufacturing…the heart of innovation.”

Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel To Be Held on February 26, 2014 at Elkhorn Area High School in Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Michael Reader

Elkhorn Area High School
in Partnership with Precision Plus,
Hosts The Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel
Wednesday, February 26 – 1:00-2:30 p.m.
Elkhorn Area High School Auditorium

Did you know…

  •  The highest concentration of manufacturing jobs in the United States lies within a 90-mile radius of the city of Waukesha?
  • By the year 2020, there will be 123 million openings in manufacturing in the country with only 50 million people ready to fill those jobs and that currently, there are 1000’s of job openings in our own region?
  • The manufacturing industry pays a sustaining wage that is 20% higher than most other industries?
  • Manufacturers are getting behind training programs to help ensure they will have the skilled workforce they will need for the future?

The time to get the word out to young people about these facts and the awesome career opportunities and rewards that the manufacturing industry has to offer is now!

Please plan to join Elkhorn Area High School in partnership with Precision Plus, for the 2nd Annual Manufacturing Careers Panel comprised of industry experts who will share the opportunities and rewards a career in manufacturing has to offer.  Panelists will also lay out career paths for students or community members interested in engineering or manufacturing careers with an opportunity for the audience to ask questions at the end of the presentations.

The panel will take place on Wednesday, February 26, 2014, in the Elkhorn Area High School Auditorium from 1:00 p.m. until 2:30 p.m.

This year, we are pleased to welcome the following manufacturing experts:

  • Ms. Mary Isbister, President of GenMet, a metal fabricating business located in Mequon, WI
  • Mr. Hanan Fishman, President of PartMaker, Inc., a computer-aided manufacturing software developer
  • Mr. Brian White, President of GE’s Waukesha Gas Engines, manufacturer of natural gas engines, located in Waukesha, WI
  • Mr. Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus,  manufacturer of precision turned components, located in Elkhorn, WI

Mary Isbister is president of GenMet Corp., a 75-employee metal fabricating company located in Mequon, Wisconsin.  She, along with her husband purchased the business in 1999. Since that time, GenMet has quadrupled its revenue.  In addition, the business has become ISO Certified, undergone a lean transformation, and been awarded ‘Fabricator of the Year’ by the National Fabricators and Manufacturers Association.

Ms. Isbister’s civil service includes being named in 2010 to the U.S. Manufacturing Council, which reports to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, where she currently serves as the Council’s Vice Chair.  She has been reappointed to serve an additional two-year term as a member of this advisory council.  In 2013, Ms. Isbister was appointed by Governor Walker as Chair of Wisconsin’s Council for Workforce Investment reporting to the Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development.

Ms. Isbister’s current civic participation includes service as a member of the Boards of Directors for a variety of non-profit organizations including:

  • Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Chair)
  • WUWM Community Advisory Board (Chair)
  • MMAC’s Council of Small Business Executives (Chair)
  • MMAC (Director)
  • M-7 Executive Partner (Small Business Representative)
  • FMA Precision Sheet Metal Council (Director)

In 2013 Ms. Isbister received the following awards:

  • An inaugural recipient of the Manufacturing Institute’s STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Award
  • The Milwaukee Business Journal’s Women of Influence Award

Mr. Hanan Fishman is the President of PartMaker, Inc., a division of Delcam Advanced Manufacturing Solutions, the world’s largest specialist in computer aided manufacturing (CAM) software development.  PartMaker, Inc. pioneered the field of CAM software for Turn-Mills and Swiss-type lathes with its patented ‘Visual Programming Approach’ for programming multi-axis lathes with live tooling. It assures quicker learning and easier use. It makes an extensive use of pictures to help the user describe tools, part features, and machining data. Synchronization of tools working on multiple spindles is achieved by a few mouse clicks

Mr. Fishman is the co-author of two U.S. patents dealing with the subject of automating the programming of multi-axis CNC machines.  He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Brian White is president of GE’s Waukesha Gas Engines, part of GE Distributed Power, a world-leading provider of power generation, energy delivery and water processing technologies serving all areas of the energy industry, including wind, solar, biogas, alternative fuels, natural gas and nuclear energy.

In 2010, White joined Waukesha Gas Engines, which specializes in the design and manufacture of natural gas engines to drive compressors, generators, pumps, and other equipment. Previously, he was vice president of reengineering for Dresser, Waukesha’s parent company. At Dresser, he led the transition to a ‘lean thinking enterprise’ culture, established a strategic global sourcing and logistics group to drive cost savings, oversaw facilities consolidations, led a worldwide Oracle implementation, and introduced a goal deployment process.

He began his career as an apprentice at Caterpillar Tractor Co.  Later at Sperry Sun UK, he moved up from a design engineer to program manager through a series of successively responsible positions, ultimately being named vice president of manufacturing for Sperry Sun Drilling Services.

Mr. White has a bachelor’s of science in electrical and electronics engineering from Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK.

Mr. Michael Reader, President/Owner Precision Plus has spent the last 18 years working to advance the family-owned and operated business, which specializes in precision turned metal components.  Serving a diversified customer based–from aerospace to music instrument manufacturers and from Fortune 100 companies to small businesses–has allowed the company to experience tremendous growth over the years.  Reinvestment in people, training, and state-of-the-art equipment are all part of the foundation driving success for Precision Plus and their 60-team members.

Precision Plus understands an organization is only as good as their people. Facing an imminent shortage of highly skilled manufacturing professionals, Precision Plus became proactive in the efforts to attract the next generation of skilled machinists, engineers and support staff. Starting in the fall of 2012, Michael hosted faculty from the Elkhorn Area High School for plant tours and conversations regarding critical skills needed for today’s advanced manufacturing.  This led to a career panel presentation involving approximately 180 students in February of 2013, and then to 10 internships over the summer.  Precision Plus has continued its internship program throughout the school year and is preparing for the Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel EAHS.

While deeply invested in workforce development efforts, Michael is also very active with the industry trade association PMPA (Precision Machined Products Association), where he is a former board member and currently sits on several different committees to advance the industry and association membership.

Precision Plus Spotlighted During the Project Lead The Way’s Wisconsin Professional Development Conference

Michael Reader

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is much more than a slogan to companies involved in trying to find new talent.  It exemplifies one of the premier programs in providing educational curricular programs to schools across the United States with over 5,000 schools nationwide participating in the movement.

PLTW’s focus is on science is on STEM–technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM education is at the heart of today’s high-tech, high-skill global economy.  In a typical year, over 3,000 high-school and middle-school teachers and counselors are trained through the PLTW programs, and PLTW-Wisconsin ranks second among all states, with over 60 new Wisconsin schools joining PLTW in 2013.

Precision Plus helped sponsor the 2013 PLTW – Wisconsin Professional Development Conference held at the Country Springs Hotel and Convention Center on December 9th & 10th .  President Mike Reader, and Director of Education and Outreach, Barry Butters were in attendance for the opening night dinner and keynote speech by Lieutenant Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch.

Not only did Mike and Barry find themselves at the same dinner table as the Lt. Governor and Milwaukee School of Engineering President, Dr. Hermann Viets, but were both deeply humbled to hear the Precision Plus name prominently mentioned in the keynote address, with reference to setting the foundations for economic development in our State.

Specifically, Lt. Governor Kleefisch referred to the ongoing efforts of Precision Plus in helping with education and training efforts throughout the community.  Internships, participation in the Wisconsin Aerospace Consortium, activities for Wisconsin Manufacturing Day, and an active role with local school programs have all helped to put the company at the forefront of developing the next generation of manufacturers.

Precision Plus supports  PLTW Wisconsin and works with the organization to bring STEM to the front burner. The Lt. Governor’s comments reiterated the values for which Precision Plus stands.  Two of our pillars of business are ‘Integrity and Empowerment.’ Being a valuable member of the community is one of the values of our ‘Pillar of Integrity.’  Providing training opportunities to our current and future employees, fuels our ‘Pillar of Empowerment.’

In as much as we are thankful for the recognition, we know that our efforts to bring manufacturing back to the United States are just at the beginning stages.

Precision Plus Welcomes Barry R. Butters as Director of Education and Training

Michael Reader

Precision Plus’ Efforts to Fill the Skills Gap:  Third Installment.

In a continuing effort to stay ahead of a widening manufacturing skills gap, Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus has hired Barry Butters as Director of Education and Training.

Butters has been in the education field for 27years, teaching mathematics and engineering courses as well as serving as a high school principal.  He has taught every course in the high school math curriculum including both Advanced Placement Calculus AB & BC and Advanced Placement Statistics.  Butters has also taught Statistics at George Williams College.  More recently, he began teaching a course called “Introduction to Engineering Design,” which is an engineering course in the “Project Lead The Way” curriculum.  Project Lead The Way is a national Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program aimed to increase the numbers of engineers in the USA.  The course work is designed to get high school students involved in real engineering work at a younger age and to attract more students to the engineering field.  “I will be using best practice in education to bring employees up to speed as quickly as possible through a variety of training techniques,” said Butters.

Butters’ duties at Precision Plus include: new employee training for those with no machining experience, cross-training existing employees, developing educational platforms for the various CNC machines and measuring tools, and acting as ambassador for the manufacturing industry.  Reader has repurposed a room at Precision Plus to serve as a classroom to conduct training.  Butters has lofty goals for the training at Precision Plus  His intentions are for the classroom to be used for:

  • To give employees, interns and students an opportunity to obtain certifications from the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC)
  • To establish Precision Plusas a testing center for MSSC certifications.
  • To teach employees, interns, and students the mathematics related to the machining industry.
  • To teach employees, interns, and students blueprint reading, including geometric dimensioning and tolerance.
  • To teach employees, interns and students the skills necessary to use measuring devices including all kinds of micrometers, drop indicators, gages, calipers, optical comparators, roundness testers, automated optical systems such as OASIS, and coordinate measuring machines (CMMs).
  • To train employees, interns and students in the use of the Part Maker program.
  • To train employees, interns and students in the use of 3D CAD software.
  • To offer a CNC Lathe class to local high schools students.
  • To offer the Project Lead the Way course Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) and Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) at Precision Plus for local high school students.  The courses could be offered in the evenings as necessary.

Barry Butters, Director of Education & Training, speaks to a second grade class at Westside Elementary School class about the field of CNC Machining and Engineering.

Butters’ efforts to get manufacturing and its opportunities on the minds of the community and young people include organizing an open house to mark National Manufacturing Day.  The open house will be held on Thursday, October 3rd at 6:30 pm and is open to all.  On Friday, October 4th, National Manufacturing Day, Precision Plus will offer tours of its facility to local high school students.

In 2012, Mike Reader kicked off the first annual career panel, held at Elkhorn Area High School.  “Our mission is to continue to expand this opportunity, and I think it speaks volumes to Mike Reader’s vision that manufacturers need to take an active role in promoting their own industry,” said Butters.

Butters will be visiting area schools to speak to students about manufacturing and promoting its opportunities.  Most recently he visited a second grade class at Westside Elementary School.

You can reach Barry Butters at  He is willing to take any suggestions or simply talk about what is being accomplished at Precision Plus

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