Wisconsin high school welding contest looks to spark workforce

|  March 06, 2013 |

Tony Schmidt of Schutte Metals instructs Wausau West High School students trying out a welding simulator. / Credit: Daily Herald Media

Tony Schmidt of Schutte Metals instructs Wausau West High School students trying out a welding simulator. / Credit: Daily Herald Media

Bruce Trimble, the employer services director for North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, recently told the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune that about 40 percent of the welders in Marathon County are between the ages of 45 and 64 and 14 percent are between 55 and 64.

That means Wisconsin companies like Schuette Metals, a metal fabrication company based in Rothschild, are facing what will very soon be quite a few employees to replace. Unfortunately, interest from the younger generation in jobs like welding is low and the pool of skilled laborers to choose from is quickly shrinking.

But Schutte Metals hasn’t sat on its hands. A few years back the company started an in-house welding academy to craft master welders itself. And now the company has started a welding competition that attracted 400 high school students in the Wausau, Wisconsin area, the Tribune reports.

Schutte sent Tony Schmidt, director of education and a welding instructor at the company to four area high schools where he invited students to try their hand at a welding simulator. The top three scorers from each school were then invited to the Schutte plant to compete with actual welding equipment.

In the end, several students voiced new interest in welding when they hadn’t even thought of the profession before. And Schutte told the paper that the students it saw in action were very talented welders.

As the threat of a major skilled labor shortage looms larger and larger, let’s hope more companies take similar proactive approaches.

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