Closing the Skills Gap

For the last few years, Waukesha County Technical College has been working to address the manufacturing skills gap by providing short-term training programs, working closely with employers who sit on our advisory committees and providing learning opportunities for our K-12 school districts.

But there was something missing along the road to addressing the manufacturing skills gap, and that's to get workers the training they need quickly but also encourage them to build a career path. An innovative approach was needed in order to truly make a difference. WCTC took action and manufacturers are starting to realize the benefits in the form of more skilled workers to meet their immediate employment needs.

WCTC's General Manufacturing Degree Closing the Skills Gap

At WCTC's Manufacturing Summit in June 2012, WCTC announced a new Associate of Applied Science degree in General Manufacturing. This certificate-driven, business-driven approach allows workers to quickly gain the skills they need and also career ladder toward an associate degree.

More than 20 area manufacturers served on "Councils for Action" to help guide the new associate degree's curriculum to best meet their skills needs. The councils focused on creating short-term Welding and CNC/Machine Tool training programs. The certificate-driven degree concept has been a resounding success – with more than 100 completers – and is currently providing a stream of entry-level employees to the workforce within a 6 to 10 week period.

'Exactly what employers need'

Jamie Boettcher, Human Resources manager for Cooper Power Systems in Waukesha, attended the Council for Action focused on Welding. Boettcher applauded WCTC's efforts to help fill the manufacturing skills gap.

"The Welding program is exactly what employers need – it's short-term and business-driven," Boettcher said. "We look forward to continued collaboration with WCTC in order to fill our job vacancies with candidates who are prepared for immediate, entry-level employment."

WCTC also plans to pursue the transferability of the AAS degree to some of its partnering four-year institutions so workers can progress toward a bachelor degree if they desire.