Green Bay teens are getting an inside look at manufacturing without even leaving their high school. Bay Link Manufacturing, which opened earlier this fall, provides students with a real-life manufacturing experience while earning both high school and college credits.
Bay Link Manufacturing contracts work with local manufacturers. It was formed through a unique partnership of Green Bay Area Public Schools, local manufacturers and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. Students work three hours each afternoon in the manufacturing shop at Green Bay West High School making parts for local customers, such as Lindquist Machine.
“They learn not only how to make parts and what it’s like to work in manufacturing, but also what it’s like to deal with the problems that are a part of everyday life for a manufacturer, such as missing a deadline or quality issues,” says Mark Kaiser, president and CEO of Lindquist Machine in Green Bay and a big supporter of the program. “We are their customer and they need to work with us to get the job done.”
Lori Peacock, career and technical education partnerships and program coordinator for the Green Bay Area School District, says the program draws students from all Green Bay high schools and the interest level is high.
“We’re trying to be as authentic as possible with the process. All interested students had to fill out an application and go through an interview process,” she says. “We hope to eventually add another shift of workers who work three hours in the morning. We’re also looking to get business and marketing students involved in that part of the business, too. It’s a wonderful learning experience.”
The Green Bay District found support for the program not only from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, but also the NEW Manufacturing Alliance, a group of manufacturers who work with educational institutions, workforce development boards and other organizations to promote manufacturing in northeast Wisconsin.
Bay Link Manufacturing is just one of several manufacturing companies set up by high schools. Other successes are Wolf Tech in Algoma and Cardinal Manufacturing in the Eleva-Strum School District. “We took two carloads of people there to view what they were doing. It was a fantastic learning experience,” Peacock says.
Kaiser thinks the program will spur even more districts to consider similar programs. “There’s no doubt there’s a shortage in the number of skilled workers in manufacturing and if we can give these students a head start, that’s great,” he says. “We’re not only helping the students, but also local manufacturers.”
Wisconsin’s economy is slowly getting back to its pre-recession levels, according to an economic forecast from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. The report is a mix of good news and not-so-good news.
The good: the number of jobs increased 1.1 percent between 2010 and 2013, the number of jobs in Wisconsin is expected to grow 1.3 percent between now and 2017 with the state expected to reach its pre-2008 job level by mid-2015.
The not-so-good news: While manufacturing has already recovered half of the total jobs lost during the recession, it won’t get back to its pre-recession levels at any point within the next three years.
A once-vacant Sheboygan manufacturing plant is now nearly full. Four years ago, International Automotive Components closed its 300,000 square foot facility. That empty space is now nearly full. Phoenix Investors of Milwaukee, which bought the building last year, has a new lease agreement in place with Georgia Pacific to use about 95,000 square feet for a regional distribution center.
-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.