For the City Times
The fifth Annual North Central Wisconsin “Heavy Metal Bus Tour” promises to be bigger than ever. From 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on October 5, 2016, thousands of eighth-grade students from across central and northern Wisconsin will tour manufacturing facilities and learn about one of three technical colleges in the region. Locally, Mid-State Technical College will host separate tours at its Marshfield, Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids Campuses.
The event is the result of a collaboration between the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, Central Wisconsin Metal Manufacturer’s Alliance (CWIMMA) and three technical colleges, including Mid-State. The tours of high-tech manufacturing facilities showcase educational and career opportunities in welding, fabricating, machining, engineering and manufacturing trades.
“Our Wisconsin industry partners often point to the ongoing shortage of people entering the workforce with the skills needed for today’s high-tech, automated manufacturing,” said Mid-State’s dean of Technical and Industrial Al Javoroski. “We are excited to host an event that lets the next generation of college students explore these high-paying career opportunities available right here at home.”
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40 percent of the skilled workforce in north central Wisconsin will retire in the next 7–10 years. A separate study from ManPower Group out of Milwaukee shows that Wisconsin is seventh in the nation for outbound population migration, adding to the shortage of skilled workers.
“Mid-State’s participation in the Heavy Metal Bus Tour is one effort beginning to make a difference,” said Derek Heikkinen, business services director for the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board. “Data from Mid-State shows that enrollment in the College’s Machine Tool Technician program increased from 21 to 58 in one year, likely due to machining employers involved in the Heavy Metal Bus Tour, Central Wisconsin Metal Manufacturer’s Alliance, and regional youth apprenticeships.”
Last year’s tour saw participation from 56 regional manufacturers and over 3,800 students in ten counties, making it the largest tour of its kind in the United States. The 2016 tour will feature participation from 66 regional manufacturers, 20 of which are local. The tour will also expand this year to include Wisconsin Rapids and surrounding school districts. To date, over 1,300 students in these districts have already signed up.