Building the workforce and creating opportunity

By Emilie Wilson

In an effort to help combat the skilled worker shortage, Moraine Park Technical College (Wisconsin) offers Manufacturing Skills Academy Boot Camps – a unique opportunity to gain entry-level skills. The two boot camps – computer numerical control (cnc) and welding – are tuition-free, 3-month long programs.

In addition to skill development, the boot camps include a 144-hour paid internship to get hands-on experience that ideally turns into a full-time job opportunity. Moraine Park partners with businesses all over their district area to offer paid internships to the students in the program. Wabash National has been a valued partner since the boot camp’s induction in 2012.

“The need for welders at Wabash is constant,” said Nate Glancer, HR business partner at Wabash National. “We are working against a talent pool that has been shrinking steadily over the past decade. People that have been with us for 40-plus years are retiring, and as they are leaving, we are having a tough time filling those spots. Welders are a main component of what we do here; making up about 70% of our workforce, which is why this boot camp program is so vital to us.”

Since 2012, the boot camp programs have had more than 400 participants. One of those participants, Elise Winkel, found life-changing success after completing the welding boot camp in 2019.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and taking several art classes, Winkel, a stay-at-home mom of four girls, thought the welding boot camp would be a good fit for her.

“Welding is very much an art, and you have to be able to work well with both hands at the same time,” Winkel said. “The boot camp was a little out of my comfort zone, and I was the only woman in my class, but I felt comfortable with the gradual pace of the program, and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

Winkel completed her internship at Wabash and stayed on full-time after the boot camp’s completion as an inside seam welder. Because of this career change, Winkel and her husband decided to have another child and bought a home together.

“About 93% of our boot camp graduates found jobs,” said Kelli Karpinski, MPTC economic workforce development business development manager. “The best part is that these once unskilled manufacturing participants start out making $23/hr or more, and more often than not, they advance very quickly.”

The boot camps are free for participants, thanks to financial support from community resource partners and the Workforce and Training (WAT) grants.

This article was originally published here.

Emilie Wilson

is a communications specialist at Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.