Rob Tatinger, a Chippewa Valley Technical College Welding program student, has a university degree, but he’s already looking for a career change.
“I have a four-year degree from UW-Superior in Exercise Science, and I couldn’t find a job,” said the graduate of Maple Northwestern High School. “So I came here.”
He said a welding career offers, “Good pay, you can work with your hands, and you’re always busy.”
He chose well, a panel of professionals with backgrounds in manufacturing told about 175 students enrolled in CVTC manufacturing programs Thursday at the College’s Gateway campus. The event kicked off CVTC’s observance of October as Manufacturing Month, with more events to follow.
The average salary in the manufacturing field is $77,000, said Mark Hendrickson, CVTC’s dean of manufacturing. Graduates of CVTC’s manufacturing programs have average starting salaries six months after graduation between $34,000 and $37,000, Hendrickson added.
And the opportunities are out there, with placement rates extremely high. Diedre Grant, regional development manager for Manpower Inc., told the students she was recently at a roundtable in Menomonie attended by 60 manufacturers who said they were having a hard time finding workers.
The lack of training is the major reason, which is where CVTC comes in.
Frans Carlstrom, currently an executive with the Eau Claire company Plank Enterprises, is a CVTC graduate in the Electromechanical Technology program who has built a career in manufacturing. He said Plank employs about 120 people, with 30 hired in the past year. He added the company works around the schedules of CVTC students so they can start before they graduate.
But it’s not just people with a degree or certificate that manufacturers want, he warned.
“We want someone who is self-motivated. We want people who enjoy their work and will be self-starters. We want it to be part of a career for them, not just a job,” Carlstrom said.
“Every day we have to get up and better ourselves and better our company. If you have that attitude, you’ll go places,” Carlstrom added.
Richard Wrobel, a veteran in manufacturing in the metal fabrication and machine tooling fields, told of his long history in manufacturing, which he started at a time when young people were being encouraged to attend universities. Wrobel went that direction at first, but found a life in manufacturing.
“It was a career that fit me,” he said. “I could work with my hands. I was good at it. The time went by quickly, and it was a career I could grow with,” he said.
CVTC students who enjoyed a pizza party during the presentation thought they had chosen well too.
“In high school, I got into some electrical classes and found my niche. I enjoy working with that kind of stuff,” said Curtis Scott of Chippewa Falls, an Electromechanical Technology program student. “I wanted to take this and see what I could do in the Navy with it.”
John Plendl, a Welding program student from Chippewa Falls, said he was inspired to pursue the career by his high school teacher, Roger Hoffman.
“I tried it in high school and really liked it. I had a really good teacher who had a passion for it. He instructed me really well,” said Plendl, who is leaning toward a welding career in the construction field.
Hendrickson told the students they can find out more about careers in manufacturing through www.goldcollarcareers.com.