By Dr. Garry D. Krause
Executive Dean, Advanced Manufacturing and Transportation, Blackhawk Technical College
Most individuals have heard stories about the earlier decline of Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector and how the state had lost 500 companies and more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs in the last decade. It had been said our companies can’t compete, that we have not re-invested in our production plants, and that we are not training our workers to meet the needs of modern industry. Those statements may have been true a decade ago, but they no longer are today. Wisconsin’s manufacturers are vigorously adapting, rebounding and growing.
Today, Wisconsin’s manufacturers employ approximately 17 percent of our state’s workforce, which is one of the highest percentages in the nation. Our current 9,400 manufacturers employ approximately 450,000 workers, and that number is starting to grow. Manufacturers are telling us they would expand if they had the skilled workers they require to grow their operations.
At Blackhawk Technical College, we are working hard to be part of the collective solution. We regularly meet with local manufacturing advisory groups and individual manufacturing employers to learn what is required of us to fine-tune our curriculum, update our equipment with state-of-the-art instruction, improve our training offerings, and to develop new programs. In addition, we are constantly creating new methods to ensure our students graduate quickly or earn embedded certificates to meet employers’ current and future requirements.
Recently, our Advanced Manufacturing and Transportation division began developing some new ways to help under-employed veterans and displaced workers who lost their jobs to foreign competition find new career avenues.
One great example is BTC’s partnership with the Department of Labor grant, which is providing two-year and technical colleges $14.9 million in assistance to help hire more resources for programs such as industrial maintenance.
By collaborating with industry leaders and using all of the available civic resources, Blackhawk Technical College aims to help Wisconsin manufacturers train and attract the skilled workers they need to grow and succeed.
We are excited about the future of manufacturing and how it will continue to help create new jobs and grow our economy.
Dr. Garry D. Krause is executive dean of Advanced Manufacturing and Transportation at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Posted Nov. 12, 2014 Issue.