The Gold Collar Careers initiative started in August 2004 in North West Wisconsin with an aim to promote a positive manufacturing image. The title Gold Collar Careers represents the blue collar workforce and the white collar workforce that makes above the median wage in the United States and in our region. Manufacturing Technician and Engineering jobs fall into the Gold Collar Category when it comes to pay and benefits.
Regionally our manufacturers experienced a skills gap in these, Gold Collar Career positions. Both manufacturers and educators responded to the skills gap and the supply chain shortage. Skilled workers such as welders, machinists, automation technicians, advanced technology processing technicians, and maintenance personnel were not to be found by the manufacturers. Manufacturing growth was being inhibited due to a shortage of these skilled workers.
The economic recession that had begun across the United States with its nightly media sounding the plight of declining production manufacturing jobs did not help to promote a positive manufacturing image. This convergence of employers not able to find skilled workers and an unemployed workforce without skills to become employed resulted in a problem to be solved. The net effect of this convergence was manufacturing education programs that did not have enrollments to continue operation and the ability to supply employer needs. The employers could not grow and the economy was impacted.
Thanks to the generosity of supporting manufacturing organizations, the efforts of key manufacturing leadership, the support of CESAs at the secondary education level, post secondary colleges, and Workforce Development organizations much has been done to fill the pipeline to producing trained technicians in North West Wisconsin. Regional groups such as EMMA, 7-Rivers, Manufacturing Works, Grow North, Centergy, and others began to create an enhanced regional West Central Wisconsin Manufacturing image and helped to fill the supply chain for these manufacturing technology education programs.
Many of the regional groups were connected with a Wisconsin Technical College Initiative called Advanced Manufacturing Solutions and numerous funding grant opportunities. Wisconsin was divided into four quadrants. The NW Quadrant or Advanced Manufacturing Network - Northwest, was established and linked six technical college districts from Superior to La Crosse and from Hudson to Wausau. These six districts make up approximately fifty percent of Wisconsin's geographic area so that outreach was a challenge.
The regional efforts to promote manufacturing careers have been successful to date with more work to do. Many of the mall kiosks, youth academies, robotics competitions, welding camps, nanotechnology camps, movie trailers, teacher in-service training, publications, outreach and PowerPoint presentations have begun to fill the manufacturing training programs.
The technical worker supply chain however will continue to be an issue in Northern, Western, and North Central Wisconsin if the demographic predictions are correct. As a result of the projected skilled worker shortage for the coming years, we are now moving to expand on the initial successes of these groups to provide regional youth outreach and promote the positive and exciting nature of manufacturing.
Our job has just begun to help the middle school, high school, and displaced worker populations explore opportunities in manufacturing. The Gold Collar Career website is a portal to help middle school and high school students, teachers, parents, and other influencers the ability to explore manufacturing careers.
Message from the Chair
Thank you for your interest in Gold Collar Careers to promote a positive image on educational pathways for manufacturing careers.
The northwest Wisconsin demographic projections, county by county, for the next twenty years looks challenging. An analysis of the projections indicates an age gap of 3 to 1 between the 65-year olds and 18-year olds in our population year by year. Whether we look at Langlade County, Marathon County, Eau Claire County, or St. Croix County, this age gap appears similar in all of northwest Wisconsin and begins in 2010. Those companies located closer to the major cities will have a delayed impact, but the impact is projected none-the-less.
Manufacturers in the northwest region of the State have already begun to voice a concern that not enough trained and skilled workers are coming into the workforce specifically for welders, machinists, and other manufacturing technicians.
While our recent economic challenges have delayed worker shortage issues with some employers, there is a concern that the negative image or lack of image for manufacturing jobs will prevent many potential students from pursuing an exciting and dynamic career through a manufacturing education pathway.
Transitions from high school through a technical college and on to a four-year college are everyday occurrences with many success stories. A large number of middle school and high school students, as well as their parents, are unaware of the career opportunities and benefits of pursuing a manufacturing career.
The Wisconsin Technical College System was created to respond to the workforce training needs as initiated in 1911 from the voice of the manufacturers.
This initiative to enhance and support a Gold Collar Careers web portal is a response to the regional Manufacturers and Educational Partners for the future workforce.
We hope you will join us and can support the initiative to promote manufacturing career opportunities to our middle school and high school students. We appreciate your support whether it is financial or via your input into your local College Advisory Committees or by telling someone of this site.
Help us tell the story of manufacturing career opportunities to our youth and enlighten them of the Gold Collar Careers.
Thank you again for your interest in this initiative.