Dealing with the skills gap in advanced manufacturing
Wisconsin’s technical colleges’ success in aligning technical education and
manufacturing careers was the focus of an international delegation in
Washington, D.C. recently.
from Wisconsin, California, and New York were invited by the U.S. Department of
Education to meet with Chinese officials interested in American approaches to
involving business and industry leaders in the development of education
programs. Wisconsin leaders focused on the technical colleges’ approach to
developing “gold-collar careers,” which offer rewarding opportunities in
high-tech manufacturing to those with a passion for pushing the limits of
machining, electronics, IT, and other technologies.
Wisconsin’s representatives were Jim Mackey, the Wisconsin Technical College
System’s manufacturing program expert, and Dan Conroy, vice president of human
resources for the Nexen Group, a leading manufacturer in northwestern Wisconsin
and a close partner of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.
manufacturers are facing some of the same challenges we are, including worker
preparation and closing skills gaps,” said Mackey. “We had a great response from
meeting was amazing,” said Conroy. “There was much openness and sharing. All the
participants were congenial and engaged. It certainly reinforced the importance
of our efforts – the urgency of the skill shortage issue – and highlighted the
fact that we have to keep chasing this.”
the second time that U.S. and Chinese officials convened on the topic of career
and technical education, with the focus of this session on the unique and
critical role Wisconsin employers play in developing the curriculum for each
education or training program.
believe Nexen Group is the standard for other manufacturers to follow when it
comes to promoting “gold-collar careers,” said Bob Meyer, president of WITC “I’m
pleased that the Chinese educators were able to expose themselves to a best
practice partnership as represented by Jim Mackey and Dan Conroy. The Chinese
delegation learned from the best in the nation.”
and regional employers serve on advisory committees for each technical college
program. These committees rely on the employers’ expertise to ensure that
courses and programs are aggressively modified to consistently reflect current
industry practices. The employers also provide valuable local labor market
insights, which allow the colleges to be confident that program graduates will
find employment upon graduation.
both Jim and Dan well, I guarantee that this was a productive exchange, and one
that really showcased the great work being accomplished by all of our colleges
in delivering manufacturing programs that truly reflect the needs of employers,”
said Mark Tyler, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board.
90 percent of Wisconsin technical college graduates are placed in jobs within
six months of graduation. This latest recognition of the high-quality education
and training programs offered by the technical colleges comes as the state
tightens its focus on job creation and positioning for Wisconsin’s employers to
be even more globally competitive.
success of WITC, as well as the other 15 Technical Colleges in Wisconsin, is
dependent on strong working relationships with business and industry,” said
Meyer. “And there is no stronger partner in that regard than Nexen Group under
Dan Conroy’s leadership. Not only does Nexen Group invest itself heavily with
participation on WITC’ advisory committees to strengthen our programmatic
offerings that hone our graduates’ capabilities, but the company is also
extremely dedicated to developing career pathways in the K-12 system by clearly
articulating all of the exciting and challenging manufacturing career options