APPLETON, Wis. (June 17, 2014) — A collaborative job training initiative aimed at addressing a shortage of qualified welders will launch this summer in four regions of Wisconsin after receiving funding from the state and welding industry leaders. Miller Electric Mfg. Co. has joined with area employers, manufacturing alliances, technical colleges, workforce development boards and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin (HCCW) to spearhead the initiative, with the goal of training 120 qualified welders in the program’s first 12 months. The innovative initiative will produce accredited job-ready welders through a combination of a rigorous pre-screening process and essential life skills training, in addition to traditional welding training and mentored trainee support.
The more than $1 million committed so far to the HCCW Advanced Manufacturing Partnership’s Hispanic Training Initiative includes $400,000 from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to fund customized technical skills development for trainees in the program’s first year, with $100,000 going to each of the four regional sites. In addition, Illinois Tool Works Inc. (ITW) — the parent company of Miller — is providing $400,000 in matching funds to ensure a successful launch of the initiative, and the American Welding Society (AWS) Foundation has committed $220,000 in grant funding.
“Miller understands the critical role welding plays in our customers’ manufacturing operations and the significant shortage of skilled welders that the entire industry faces. We believe training programs such as this one can meaningfully address this problem, not just in our backyard but also across the nation,” said Mike Weller, Miller president and co-chairman of the HCCW Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. “Just as Miller is committed to helping our customers build things that stand the test of time, we are also committed to building careers in the welding industry.”
The Hispanic Training Initiative distinguishes itself from traditional skills training by including up to 60 hours of life skills training led by the HCCW on topics such as communication, teamwork and the work environment. That is followed by 12 to 16 weeks of welder training with an employer mentoring component at the four participating technical colleges serving the regions of Appleton/Fox Valley, Green Bay, Wausau and Milwaukee, with the training tailored to meet the specific needs identified by employers in each region. This will help fill the immediate needs of Wisconsin employers, as there are currently more than 400 welder job openings in the five counties served by the program.
“We need about 230,000 new welders nationwide by 2019, so we are enthusiastic about this great project because it brings together partners in education, business and the government to create a successful initiative to train and put productive people into the workforce,” said Sam Gentry, executive director of the AWS Foundation. “Providing the life skills in addition to the welder training is so important, as well. I think the components are certainly there for this to be looked at as a national model.”
Along with the partners mentioned above, several manufacturing alliances have signed on in support of the initiative: the Central Wisconsin Metal Manufacturing Alliance, the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce Manufacturing Careers Partnership.
The HCCW has begun recruitment for the training program, which initially will be geared toward Hispanic applicants with an eventual expansion to the Hmong population.
“We are excited to be at the national forefront of this new-generation skills development solution that places high-growth workers into the higher-paying jobs in the metal manufacturing sector with low- to moderate-income worker upward economic mobility as a resultant outcome,” said Jorge Franco, HCCW chief executive officer. “We are grateful for the outstanding leadership of Gov. Scott Walker, ITW and Miller, and for the national recognition of the American Welding Society in endorsing this HCCW Training Initiative.”