Today, I attended the integrated manufacturing & engineering technology (iMET) center Tarnowski Hall grand opening ceremony. This facility is the newest workforce training facility that was led by the sponsorship from SC Johnson and Tarnowski family. IMAG0111

The event was kicked off by Dr. Bryan Albrecht, President & CEO of Gateway Technical College. The opening ceremony was highlighted as a great day for advanced manufacturing as the speakers addressed a standing room only crowd. Presenters of the grand opening ceremony included Dr. Fisk Johnson, CEO and Chairman of SC Johnson.

iMET Wisconsin Grand Opening Ceremony Speakers

iMET Wisconsin Grand Opening Ceremony Speakers

Johnson was very enthusiastic about continuing the SC Johnson tradition of making every place in the world that SC Johnson does work, a better place because they are there. In the past 18 months, SC Johnson contributed 1.8 million toward the completion of the iMET facility.

Also in attendance was Brent Weil, Sr. Vice President of the Manufacturing Institute. Weil highlighted that now is the time that we engineer our robust supply chain for talent for the advance manufacturing sector. Overall, the theme of the afternoon was that advanced manufacturing is in its renaissance. However, in order to achieve this vision the technical and manufacturing skills gap needs to be addressed.

This isn’t the first time anyone has heard that the skills gap needs to be addressed. To me, the interesting piece was when the senior vice president of the manufacturing institute asked the crowd why is it that only one third of american households encourage their offspring to enter the manufacturing industry. I wanted to yell outloud, “Because all the jobs have been outsourced to Asia!!”. Of course, that would not be politically correct, so I just held my breath. Why would I tell my child to go work in an industry that is dying? The manufacturing that founded this country will never come back, period.

The truth is that there is a renaissance in manufacturing in the United States, but it is not the manufacturing that brought this country the greatness that we want to revive in this economy. It is advanced, highly technical, robotic, automatic, precise, complicated, and clean. It takes interested in STEM educational programs to help make the United States economy strong for the future. Let’s keep it real, we only have about 10-12 years max to really get our technical training and education into high-gear!

iMET Tarnowski Hall grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony

iMET Tarnowski Hall grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony

The highlight of the opening ceremony truly was Reggie Newson, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Newson’s presentation was detailed and helped to layout the plan for state government to help meet the needs of it’s tax paying employers. Here are just a few of the highlights of his speech.

– Provide customized workforce training to employers
– Grant opportunities will provide financial support for workforce training programs
– Apprenticeship programs need continued investment and focus
– The state government is committed to targeting jobs and training for veterans

Congrats goes to Gateway Technical College for winning the crowned title for the benchmark manufacturing training facility for the rest of Wisconsin. Now prepare for many other educators to tour your facility and please, graciously provide them with any information that they may request to duplicate your efforts across the states (and the country).

A big hit home by Newson included the statement that in order to provide customized training to meet the needs of the 37,000 available jobs in Wisconsin, the 120,000 unemployed applicants need to be trained. Here is what I wonder. Does part of this skills gap training include educating the population on the advantages of a career in manufacturing? When will employers embrace apprenticeship programs, even if it cost a little money to do so?

Overall, I left the ceremony with the feeling that this is a good time to be in Southeastern Wisconsin. I’m glad that I now call this place home! I’m excited for what is to come in 2013.

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