A great article appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Business section yesterday by John Schmid entitled, "New law puts jobless in training for manufacturing jobs" (click here to read the article online).
In a nutshell, the article addresses a pilot program called W3 (for Wisconsin Workers Win) currently in the works that will help those currently receiving unemployment compensation acquire training and skills to transition into the manufacturing industry. By June of this year, the article states, the program will be operating in Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Walworth, and Rock counties. The state's Department of Workforce Development (DWD) would team up with various manufacturers to provide these training opportunities. Those enrolled in this program could still receive their unemployment compensation while in training, and those who are eligible will also receive a, "...$75 weekly stipend to defray child care, transportation or steel-toed boots or other safety necessities." The article notes that training cannot exceed six weeks. But read the full article, as I am simplifying here.
This sounds likes a really neat opportunity, and I wish it much success. Being involved in various business networking organizations, I often hear a lot of concern expressed by leaders of Wisconsin's manufacturing community about a skills gap that currently exists, in which there simply are no longer enough young adults interested in learning a trade or entering manufacturing, and where bachelor's degrees have become the norm.
As a 29-year-old, I can attest to all of this. Growing up, my father and other relatives and family friends who are in manufacturing always told us not to go into manufacturing. "Manufacturing is dead", they'd warn us. "Everything is going either down to Mexico or overseas." So, like many other young adults in my generation, I went off to a university. And that has been the norm being instilled in the generations younger than mine.
Well, the problem is that manufacturing is now returning to the United States, and in a major way. Growing up in the mid 1990s-early 2000s, the adults in our lives were correct in saying that manufacturing was dead. Manufacturing's future, at least here in the United States, looked pretty dismal. Thousands upon thousands of jobs were lost to other countries because of lower labor costs. But many U.S.-based companies have now realized that lower labor costs do not necessarily translate into a better bottom line. So they're bringing jobs back. The challenge now is to reverse all the psychology we've exposed ourselves to over the last 10-15 years about manufacturing. We must tell our children and young adults that manufacturing is returning, that there are plenty of in-demand jobs right now in that sector, and that there are alternatives to the four-year university.
What are your thoughts on manufacturing's future, either here in Wisconsin or just in general across the United States? What do you think about this new program in the works, Wisconsin Workers Win (W3)? Share your thoughts, insights, and experiences in the comments below.
--Aaron Robertson, president, Intrepid Innovations Inc.