Another “Skills Gap” Strategy for Employers

A few years back a number of employers independently (and somewhat coincidentally) reached out to FVTC to assist with addressing their need to find skilled industrial maintenance employees. Even though we were graduating a significant number of manufacturing students, there were simply not enough to fill all the open positions in the region.

We then offered a solution to these companies to train current front-line employees and build their own maintenance technicians. This really resonated with employers. They would then only need to backfill entry-level operator positions (roles easier to fill due to skill level requirements) and take the opportunity to invest in their high-potential employees.

This was designed as a customized program once we identified the group of employers interested in participating. With that group we developed curriculum and the basic skills required for entry-level maintenance technicians. To date, this program has involved about a dozen employers, including Bemis, McCain Foods, Waupaca Foundry, Marvel Manufacturing, Sargento Foods, and others.

A dozen employers meant that multiple training cohorts could be offered. This benefited the smaller companies in that they didn’t have to fill a cohort with 8-12 trainees on their own. Larger companies benefited by not having to send all their technicians for training on the same day, leaving facilities understaffed.

What resulted was a 10 credit Fundamentals of Maintenance Certificate specifically designed to meet the needs identified by these employers. The Fox Valley Workforce Development Board was also brought in to manage WI Fast Forward grants that help defray some costs.

This spring, 105 employees will have completed one year of training, and with two advanced levels also developed, 54 will have completed two years, and 27 with three years. Now, that’s a significant amount of skilled, specialized talent for these regional companies!

If you know of specialized needs in any industry sector, we would be more than happy to facilitate the development, design, and delivery of customized programs that help employers build their own talent to address critical shortages. And we have access to a whole network of workforce and economic development resources to potentially support these efforts.

A great example of how business and education can work together on some of our most challenging skilled worker shortages!

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