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Spotlights and News: Jobs In Wisconsin

Student Returns to School after 24 Years in Manufacturing



When Alfredo Gomez lost his manufacturing job of 24 years, he knew it was time to return to school and resume his education in order to build a better career to support himself and his family.

Currently training in Machine Tooling Technics at Madison Area Technical College, Alfredo had a lot of work to do before getting into the program.  His first step at the college was to earn his GED.  That was followed by three certificates and several credentials in the area of manufacturing funded by the TAACCCT Advance Wisconsin Manufacturing grant.  Plus, he took classes to improve his English language skills.  So now, he is working toward a technical diploma in Machine Tooling Technics, which prepares students for a careers in tool and die making, mold making, CNC programming, quality control inspection, and precision and repair machining.

Alfredo has approached his education at Madison College with such enthusiasm that he won the Exemplary Student of the Year Award for the School of Applied Science, Engineering, and Technology for 2014-15.  Claudette Zweifel, the coordinator of his program, noted Alfredo’s dedication, work ethic, and outstanding character.  One of his instructors said, “Not all students easily transition from the TAACCCT program into the Machine Tool program, but Alfredo has earned the respect of the other students by working long hours in the shop and being a natural leader.”

Alfredo followed a similar path of many Mexican immigrants to the United States.  As a teenager, he started working in the farm fields of California, where his education took a back seat to day-to-day survival.  After that, Alfredo moved to Wisconsin to live with his uncle, where he was hired by Trostel, a manufacturer of custom rubber products and compounds.  He had a long run there as a machine operator until they moved their operations out of the United States and laid off many of their workers, including Alfredo.

Now, with the opportunity of education and a revitalized career, Alfredo is distinguishing himself among his classmates.  He organized a group of students from Whitewater to carpool to school, and he makes sure others around him are learning, by helping them with their English and technical training.  It is important to Alfredo that no one feels left out or falls behind in their school work.  He said, “This has been a great experience.  What I have learned in the United States at the college level has exceeded my expectations.”

Most recently, thanks to his training at Madison College, Alfredo was hired as a mold technician by a company located close to his hometown, and they are allowing him to work part time until he completes the Machine Tool Technics diploma.  Given Alfredo’s strong work ethic and positive attitude, it sounds as if that company is lucky to have him.

Learn more about this program»

Move to USA Allows Student to Renew Welding Career Path



More than 20 years ago, Adrian Gotts finished high school in Australia and started on his welding career path by taking an apprenticeship.

Then, his training was interrupted when he started caring for a relative who had dementia. And that led him down a very different career path in disability and senior care, in which he has been employed for the last 15 years. He has cared for people with dementia, autism, and schizophrenia, and worked in a hospice care unit.

When the mother of Adrian’s daughter decided to move back to Wisconsin from Australia, Adrian followed in order to be part of his daughter’s life as she grew up.  And, he was in fact, a stay-at-home dad before his daughter started school.

After that, Adrian began working in Wisconsin in a facility serving people with disabilities. An outgoing and compassionate person, Adrian has found his career as a caregiver to be rewarding in that he knows he is making a positive difference in people’s lives by helping to alleviate their challenges and suffering.

Nonetheless, over the years, Adrian has missed building things. He had a workshop and tool shed at home in Australia, which he had to leave behind. So when he learned recently that there is a high demand for welders in Wisconsin for jobs that pay well, he decided to take the opportunity.

The first step for Adrian was going back to school, starting in December 2013. He lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where Western Technical College is located, so that was a natural choice.  Adrian took advantage of the opportunity to earn credit for previous work/life learning.  He was awarded credit for several classes when he demonstrated that he had already mastered the required skills.  This allowed him to save time and resources while moving his career forward in the welding field.  “They really go the extra step for their students,” Adrian said of the faculty and staff at Western, whose flexibility he has really appreciated. They have also allowed him to use their facilities outside of class meetings to practice his welding skills.

Adrian has continued his full-time job as a caregiver while taking classes at Western. He attended school part time during the evening to obtain the Basic Welding short term technical diploma.  The Basic Welding pathway is fully embedded in the Welding program and the Manufacturing Systems Maintenance Technician (MSMT) program.  Adrian choose to return to Western full-time from January through March 2015, in order to complete the Welding Technical Diploma program in the spring, and be able to start a new career that much sooner.

Looking at that next step, Adrian said he thrives on variety and hopes to find a position that offers him diverse projects on which he can use his problem-solving skills.

Learn more about this program»

New Easy-to-Navigate Website Helps Dislocated Workers

Advance Wisconsin – Manufacturing launched its new site, www.jobupwisconsin.com, focused on streamlining resources for displaced workers,  those who are underemployed or looking for a new career.


The site is a result of a year’s worth of research, planning and development.

Research was conducted with over 650 displaced workers and stakeholders to better understand the challenges they faced, the resources that were needed during the job loss and reemployment process and what types of tools they would find helpful. This research was coupled with a website steering committee comprised of workforce development staff (TAA, WIA case managers), technical college staff and an ad agency to develop the finished product.

Step-by-Step advice and resources addressing basic needs, making a career plan and taking action to obtain a job is at the core. The resources already exist, we are just making them easier to find.

The site is simple and intuitive – great for those who have limited web skills and includes information on:

  • Budgeting
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Financial Assistance
  • Insurance
  • Emotional Support
  • Skill and Interest Assessments
  • Returning to School
  • Job Search
  • Marketing Yourself

Five testimonial videos from individuals who have experienced job loss are included. They help to normalize the emotions, worries and uncertainty that many experience. They also give the message of hope, as their training will help  lead to a new career. People can use their job loss as an opportunity.

Hear Gary’s Story: 

Meet others who have overcome their job loss.









Visit the site – try it – recommend it to others who might find this information valuable.

Wisconsin Leading the Future in Manufacturing

Why is manufacturing so important in Wisconsin? This infographic provided by TLX Technologies demonstrates not only the economic impact of manufacturing, but also the the skilled workforce needed in the next 8 years. Wisconsin’s technical colleges are proud to help train individuals to fill these positions that are vital to the state’s manufacturing industry.

Wisconsin: Leading the Future in Manufacturing – An infographic from the team at TLX Technologies

October is Manufacturing Month

October is here and so is Manufacturing Month. Companies, colleges and associations are celebrating in a bit way. WMC has a list of all the great events happening across the state over the next month.
– Tours

– Open Houses

– Job Fairs

– Grand Openings

– Virtual Events

Check it out and see why manufacturing plays such a key role in Wisconsin’s economy.

View Events in Your Area»

Moraine Park Technical College Welding Boot Camp Overview

Moraine Park Technical College created a video that give an overview of their Welding Boot Camp. It shares student, instructor and employer perspectives about the program and partnerships.

#Welding #Jobs #TAACCCT #Advance Wisconsin

Excitement for Learning a new Manufacturing Language

Jerry Stanislawski, Chippewa Valley Technical College

When Jerry Stanislawski started at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in October 2013, there was one transition he did not have to make. It is located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, across the street from Hutchinson Technology, where he had worked since 1999. “It’s just like I’m still going to work,” Jerry said of the drive.

Jerry Stanislawski in the lab at Chippewa Valley Technical College. Photo courtesy/property of Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Jerry had been laid off the previous fall from his position as a Lean-certified supervisor in the company’s Disk Drive Components Division. He had started at Hutchinson as an operator and was laid off for the first time in 2000. He then returned to the company in 2003 as a process specialist and was promoted to supervisor. In between, he had worked in carpentry, but found it less stable than manufacturing. Unfortunately, this second layoff seems more final, as the company has moved some of its manufacturing operations to Japan, China, and Thailand.

As it turns out, CVTC is not Jerry’s first college. After graduating from high school, he spent two years studying at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, before deciding it was not a good fit and taking the job at Hutchinson instead. This time around Jerry finds himself closer in age to the instructors than the other students. But, it’s a positive thing that has helped him develop a good rapport with his instructors. And, that has helped him successfully make the transition to being a student again.

The most challenging part of being an older adult student is that he is balancing school with family responsibilities. He and his wife are raising their 10-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. His wife recently completed her college degree, so they have been juggling being students and parents for a few years. Nonetheless, they are hopeful that their education will lead to better jobs, which will help the family in the long run.

Jerry is in the Machine Tooling Technics technical diploma program, which emphasizes automated machining processes with computer numerical controlled (CNC) milling and turning centers. “I’m learning a whole new language with the computer programming, which is great” he said. He also describes himself as meticulous and says he loves to work in small parts manufacturing.

He’ll graduate from the program in May 2015, and he feels good about his job prospects because the outlook for machine tooling and CNC operating looks promising. Plus, employers start recruiting CVTC students in their fourth semester. Jerry hopes to combine his new skills with his supervisory experience to run a machine shop.

Learn more about this program»

#CVTC #newcareer #CNC #jobloss

Displaced Worker Develops New Skills that Leads to Employment

Kevin Koch, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College


When Kevin Koch started his career in manufacturing 20 years ago, it was hard to know there would be instability ahead. He was employed by Fisher Scientific, at a facility that manufactured fume hoods and wood and steel cabinets for schools, hospitals, and labs. It was going well for Kevin until the company shut down those operations in Wisconsin and relocated them in Mexico, which left Kevin and many others without jobs.

Kevin Koch holds one of his final projects from the CNC Program at NWTC. Photo courtesy/property of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Kevin Koch holds one of his final projects from the CNC Program at NWTC. Photo courtesy/property of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.


While investigating manufacturing opportunities in northeast Wisconsin, Kevin discovered there was high demand for CNC technicians. That led him to enroll in the Machine Tool – CNC Technician program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) in Spring 2013.


Kevin had been out of school for a few decades, so he was required to take prerequisites in math, economics, communications, writing, and computers in 2012, before beginning the CNC Technician program. He especially found the computer classes to be helpful in getting him up to speed with that technology, which is so integral to the CNC field.


It was challenging for Kevin to get used to being in academic classes again, but he said the instructors were very knowledgeable and helpful. As for the technical classes that were part of the CNC Technician program, he said, “They offered a lot of good, practical training.”


“I am very appreciative of the program at NWTC,” he added. “It opened doors for me, and it helped me get a job right away,” From the college, Kevin learned of the Wisconsin TechConnect website, a searchable employment database for Wisconsin Technical College Systems students and graduates. And, thanks to that, he found a new job.


As for “right away,” Kevin was not kidding. He graduated from NWTC’s Machine Lathe – CNC Technician program on May 9, 2014, and started his new job three days later, on May 12. He is now working as a machinist for a stamping manufacturer. He started out on manual lathe machines, with the hope of advancing to CNC machines. “Everything I learned in the NWTC program, I am now using on the job,” he explained.


As for the present, Kevin is happy being a machinist and applying his new knowledge and skills. If that keeps him in manufacturing until he retires, he feels that would be great.

Learn more about this program»
#CNC #NWTC #AdvanceWisconsin #NewJob #TAACCCT

Displaced Worker/Veteran Turns Life Around

Don Gross, Blackhawk Technical College 

Just two years ago, U.S. Navy veteran Don Gross had hit a very low point in his life through the loss of his job, home, car and marriage. Now, thanks to help from Blackhawk Technical College and the Rock Valley Community Programs, he is turning his life around.


Don Gross stands next to restaurant equipment he installed and serviced. Photo courtesy/property of Don Gross.

Don Gross stands next to restaurant equipment he installed and serviced. Photo courtesy/property of Don Gross.

Don enlisted in the navy right out of high school. Since it was during the Post-Vietnam Era with relatively few military conflicts, he never saw combat. Instead, he served as an electrician on surface vessels for three years. Once he completed his service, he returned home to Illinois and received an associate’s degree from Highland Community College in Freeport.


That led Don to a 20 year career in industrial maintenance, working for various companies, including a steel foundry and a hospital. His career was going well for him until his 2006 lay off from a printing company that was going bankrupt. After that, he did a short stint at a dairy equipment manufacturer until a 2007 layoff, and then was unable to find full-time employment.


Don worked at several part-time jobs, but they could not sustain him. That’s when substance abuse became a problem, and he found himself homeless.


Fortunately, he was never on the streets, thanks to “a transitional housing program called Housing 4 Our Vets, located south of Janesville, Wisc.,” operated by the nonprofit Rock Valley Community Programs, according to a Feb. 16, 2014 article in the Janesville GazetteXtra. That allowed him to focus on getting back on his feet, Don told the GazetteXtra.


Another stroke of luck was that Blackhawk Technical College was within walking distance of Housing 4 Our Vets, which made it convenient for Don to enroll in the year-long Industrial Mechanic program. He started in January 2013 and graduated in December. Don found that the program allowed him to brush up on some skills he already had and pick up some new ones. “I was in the right place at the right time,” he explained.


The icing on the cake for Don was that he had a new job lined up before he graduated from Blackhawk. It was for a maintenance position with Snak King, located in Freeport, Ill., which allowed him to move back to the area where he had grown up. After six weeks as a temporary employee at the beginning of this year, Don was hired by the company for a full-time position.


Don credits the Blackhawk College program with helping him feel more confident and marketable about getting back into the industrial trades. He also noted that within a few weeks on his new job, he used some of the new skills he had learned at Blackhawk.


He’s excited about his field and says, “The nice thing about maintenance is no matter what the industry, everyone needs something fixed,” Don explained. “It is not economy driven. As one industry fades away, another one ramps up. I like the challenge and variety [of maintenance work].” Don sees several ways in which his career could develop. He is interested in keeping up with new technology and helping to mentor younger people. Down the road, that could lead him to management or teaching.

Learn more about this program»

#AdvanceWisconsin #TAACCCT #BTC #IndustrialMaintenance #JobUp #Manufacturing

Many Choices for Displaced Workers

Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC) recently participated in a job fair coordinated by the Oshkosh Corp. The fair was aimed at helping Oshkosh Corp.’s  over 500 laid-off employees find new employment opportunities. MPTC was one of 29 companies/organizations to participate and featured a virtual welder paid for by a U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT grant. MPTC offers a 12-week boot camp in welding as part of this grant. It is a great option for individuals who might want to develop their welding skills in an effort to make them more marketable in just 3 months. Moraine Park’s next information session for the boot camp takes place August 5th and 7th with the program starting in October.

Read more about the job fair here.

#MPTC #TAACCCT #Welding #Jobs

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