Center to shrink skills gap, preach attendance

BY JOHN KREROWICZ
jkrerowicz@kenoshanews.com
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A Gateway Technical College facility has expanded with a goal of shrinking the “skills gap,” especially in manufacturing.

The school has a Tuesday grand opening to highlight new equipment and processes at the SC Johnson integrated Manufacturing and Engineering Technology Center in Sturtevant, 2320 Renaissance Blvd. Speakers include Fisk Johnson, SC Johnson chairman and CEO. Gov. Scott Walker has been invited.

The public is invited to the free event.

The skills gap is the difference between what employers need and the training that applicants have.

The schedule includes:

-- 10:30 a.m. demonstrations on manufacturing skill standards and certifications, grade- through high school academic improvement programs, and Fab Lab, or fabrication laboratory, equipment used to design a product.

-- 11:30 a.m. presentations, then tours and refreshments.

-- 1 p.m. skills gap discussion.

The building expansion — adding 18,000 square feet to a college building that was 43,000 square feet — is to help supply workers in careers such as computer numerical control machining, welding, metal fabrication, automated manufacturing systems and industrial robotics.

The new training facility also has options for teaching robotics in addition to faculty who can do that for a company at its location.

In addition, the new equipment will be used in 15-week “boot camp” classes in fields hit hard by the skills gap.

Debbie Davidson, Gateway’s Workforce and Economic Development vice president, said the skills gap would always be a problem, to an extent.

The issue has grown in importance recently because of looming Baby Boomer retirements, companies expecting to upgrade to new technology and young people’s resistance to working in manufacturing.

Davidson said iMET can respond quickly to business needs by, for example, having staff prepare custom training for a company’s needs within six weeks as opposed to developing an academic program that might require a year to introduce.

Besides emphasizing manufacturing skills, the boot camps also push for good attendance, something employers wanted taught, Davidson said.

“They said if we could teach students to show up every day and on time, that would be fabulous,” she said. “It’s hard to teach that, but in boot camp, their attitudes and behavior do change. They understand the responsibility the employer is expecting from them to be there and how important they are to the organization.”

Technology is changing rapidly, so employers also want employees who embrace learning.

“They’re asking for people who can change and take hold of new concepts so they’re more productive,” Davidson said. “The ability to learn is key to that productivity.”

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