Over 200 area students attend the IMTS show in Chicago

Over 200 Walworth County high school students attend Chicago’s International Manufacturing Technology Show

by Cathy Kozlowicz


With some stereotypes existing that working in a manufacturing job is warehouse work, the jobs are often short-term or that the work may not be very skilled, managers in the field will say that this is just not true.

According to the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), there has been an increase of 15,100 of manufacturing jobs from May 2017 to May 2018 in Wisconsin. With these new jobs in this industry and with new technologies in the workplace, the manufacturing industry has been redefined.

“There is a great opportunity to go into our field,” Spencer Weber, owner of the family-owned business, Mode Industries, Inc., said. “We strive to take care of our employees as long as they take care of us,” he said.

In a combined effort between the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) and Elkhorn Area High School, over 200 kids, teachers and chaperones attended the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago representing Elkhorn, East Troy, Badger, Williams Bay and Delevan Friday, Sept. 14. The following local businesses sponsored four busses to transport the students to the event: Precision Plus, MPC, Mode Industries, USG, Plymouth Tube, Medicoil/R&L Spring, Certified Power Train, Hudapack Metal Treating and Palmer Hamilton.

“We were pleased to have been able to support,” said John Juds of Plymouth Tube – Trent. “Getting a chance to ride along and participate with the students was very rewarding, but certainly even more so for them as they look to be inspired by technologies for the future.”

“The world of manufacturing is changing. Advanced manufacturing is a rapidly transforming industry, and high school students have the opportunity to gain valuable skills through career-based learning experiences. This (IMTS) was to open their eyes to the possibilities in this industry.” Lisa Pavett, program manager at WCEDA said.

“While some say a day out of school is a lost day, this is an opportunity for the students to explore how they could apply the subjects they are learning in the classroom to a rewarding career beyond their education journey,” said Mike Reader of Precision Plus who helped sponsor three busses from Elkhorn High School.

And the students agree.

“I did not realize the power of manufacturing until I came to this show,” said one of the Walworth County students. “The most valuable thing about this experience was learning about technology that I did not even know existed,” said another.

Pavett said that knowledge in computers, math and robotics are desirable for a career in advanced manufacturing. She also explained that students could use their high school classwork as college credit towards a technical degree with the option of going to a four-year college later for engineering or a related degree.

“We try to give them (high school students) experiences,” Pavett said. Two of the programs Pavett is working on are geared towards connecting students and businesses for career exploration.

WCEDA’s Made in Walworth County group aims to connect the manufacturers in Walworth County to share best practices, to leverage opportunities, to leverage the Made in Wisconsin initiative to showcase that Walworth County has a strong manufacturing base and promote career opportunities.

Inspire Southeast Wisconsin – Walworth County Region offers career-based learning, providing students with experiences in the real world of work where they can apply academic and technical skills and develop essential workplace skills critical to their future employment success.

“It was great to be able to see the students’ enthusiasm and excitement when they actually viewed technology and automation that many had likely never seen outside the classroom,” said David Bitzen of USG. “Today’s manufacturing environment is much different than even 20 years ago; technology, automation, data analysis, and innovation are keys to the future. USG was proud to help sponsor this visit to IMTS for area high school students interested in STEM careers.”

Mode Industries owner Weber said he works with high school students so they gain exposure in the manufacturing field which can develop into a full-time job with career opportunities.

“The field is more technical then you think. It is not just guys digging ditches. It is about tight measurements and quality control,” Weber said. “We really need bright, smart employees to handle it. It is about knowing the math, how machines work and how to problem solve,” he said.

Weber is looking at giving high school students the chance to learn more about the trends in the manufacturing field. Some students, he said, may not want to pursue a four-year degree but can work towards a technical degree. If he or she feels college is an option, the relevant work experience may help direct someone towards a major.

Wisconsin is ranked second nationally and first in the Midwest for its increase of manufacturing jobs according to the DWD. Wisconsin also has added 45,600 manufacturing jobs since December 2010, which ranks ninth in the nation.  Wisconsin is ranked 11th nationally in the percent growth of manufacturing jobs from May 2017 to May 2018.

For more information about the Made in Walworth County and Inspire Southeast Wisconsin programs, contact Lisat Pavett at lisa@walworthbusiness.com.