Category: Manufacturing Workforce
“Not all heroes wear capes, and not all heroes have four-year degrees” –Rachel Unruh, Chief of External Affairs, National Skills Coalition
As skilled workers find themselves on the front lines of the national response to COVID-19, Skilled America talks to manufacturers Traci Tapani and Mike Tamasi about how their companies have adapted in the age of social distancing, how they’ve shifted production to contribute to the fight against the pandemic, and what they think about the sudden attention their essential work has brought on the industry.
ENGINEERING IS IN HIS DNA – Bob’s love for creating and building things started when he was very young and has continued in both his professional and personal life. His father was an engineer at 3M and always had a machine shop in his garage or workshop. Bob was helping his father design and machine parts before he entered his teenage years.
While in school Bob took all the shop classes that were available and was offered a machining/engineering internship at 3M in Austin, Texas after graduation. Although he was primarily a “gopher” in his position, Bob was exposed to the design and manufacturing process – and he was hooked! Bob earned an Associate Degree in Machine Tool Processes/Tool & Die Mold Making at Saint Paul College and went back for an additional semester to learn CNC programming.
Bob spent 17 years at a manufacturing company that built analog prepress equipment for the offset printing industry. He was originally hired as a machinist but was quickly promoted to the machine-building/assembly area. Bob feels that accepting this challenge is one of the best decisions he ever made because he was able to machine components AND build things!
Bob shared, “As my career progressed, I had some very good mentors that gave me advice and opportunities as a leader and a manager. It also groomed me to serve as a mentor for other people.” Eventually, Bob was promoted to the Manufacturing Manager position overseeing machining, welding, painting, electrical assembly, and mechanical assembly. Production planning, inventory control, purchasing, production, customer service, quality, and shipping were added to Bob’s list of responsibilities in the final years that he held the position.
Bob joined our team at Wyoming Machine in 2009 after his previous employer dissolved in the wake of digital printing equipment replacing analog systems. Instead of being a user of sheet metal components, Bob became a sheet metal supplier. In 2012, Wyoming Machine combined the Estimating and Engineering departments into a unified team. Communication is key between these two groups and having them together allows them to work closely from the start of the quoting process, through the creation of production documents, to the actual production of components.
“Manufacturing is manufacturing no matter what you are producing. If you provide quality items and maintain great customer and vendor relationships, you can do anything.” – Bob Loder
Bob gives much credit to his team saying, “In my opinion, the team of engineers and estimators at Wyoming Machine are unmatched in the industry with their years of experience and dedication.” With a combined total of 206 years of experience in sheet metal fabrication, Bob and his team are here to help you with your next project!
Finding creative ways to promote careers in manufacturing and address the shortage of skilled labor is something we’ve worked hard at for many years. The cover story of this recent issue of Minnesota Business Magazine focuses on out-of-the-box thinking for smart hiring in a tight labor market. Co-President Traci Tapani was interviewed for the article and she shares how we develop people within our organization using teamwork, technology, and tenacity! (click here for the article – page 28)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Traci Tapani to Testify Today at Congressional Hearing on the Workforce Skills Gap
WASHINGTON DC—May 9, 2018
Traci Tapani, Co-Owner of Wyoming Machine, Inc., based in Stacy, Minn., and national expert on workforce development and the Skills Gap, will testify at a 10:00 AM hearing today (5/9/2018) held by The Congressional Committee on Education and the Workforce. The hearing will examine the skills gap between high school graduates and skilled positions, especially in manufacturing. The Manufacturing Institute estimates that 2,000,000 manufacturing jobs will go unfilled in the next 10 years.
Traci will discuss the skilled worker shortage and the creative solutions she and sister and Co-President Lori Tapani use to find and train employees. The sisters work closely with Community and Technical Colleges, as well as high schools and even grade school children to inspire technical educations and careers in manufacturing.
The Tapani sisters’ efforts are widely recognized. Last year they won the W.O. Lawton Business Leadership Award in Washington DC, sponsored by the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB). The annual award honors one large and one small business or organization committing time, money and leadership to enhance their community’s workforce and economy. The award also salutes the recipients’ partnership with their local Workforce Development Board.
Both Lori and Traci have also received the national STEP Award. The STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Award is given annually to honor the achievements of women in manufacturing.
The Manufacturing Institute launched the STEP Ahead initiative in 2012 to celebrate women in the manufacturing industry that are making a difference through advocacy, mentorship, engagement, promotion, and leadership. Women make up about 47 percent of the labor force, but only 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce.
Traci’s testimony begins at 35:50 on the YouTube video (link here)
We started 2018 with some excitement! On Friday, January 5th, Minnesota Senator Tina Smith chose to make her first Minnesota appearance at Wyoming Machine. We toured our facility and then hosted a roundtable discussion about workforce with a group of community leaders. Manufacturing offers exciting career opportunities, and the future relies on our ability to attract, develop and retain people. Here are some links to the media coverage:
When people order a part from Wyoming Machine, they usually think quality, timing and price. What people seldom think, is just what it takes to make a part that meets exacting specifications. Lori and Traci Tapani, Co-Presidents of WMI, recently got a fresh reminder of that when Jacob Krautkremer, a Roseville, Minn., high school industrial technology teacher, spent three days with Wyoming Machine. He came to absorb what metal fabrication entails, from start to finish. According to Jacob: “I had no idea how many people it takes to manufacture a part. So many people need to work so well together to create a perfect part.”
WMI employees from the Tapani sisters and engineering, to production, quality control and packaging, eagerly assisted Jacob. He even toured a WMI vendor’s painting facility.
Government Grants Doing Good
Jacob’s internship was made possible via funding from the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act IV, passed in 2006. Its purpose is to fund programs to enhance secondary and post-secondary education and career development for technical education. Funding is channeled to career and technical education consortiums across the country at the secondary and post secondary levels. Jacob’s internship will help him develop a manufacturing curriculum for Roseville High School which he will lead, pending the passage of a bonding bill.
According to Jacob, “We’re even hoping to include internships at manufacturers so our students get real world experience that will help them know if manufacturing is a viable option before they graduate.” These days Roseville schools are encouraging students to learn about careers as early as seventh and eighth grade beginning with student interest surveys.
Wyoming Machine at the Forefront
WMI has sent employees to share manufacturing career experiences with eighth graders in area schools. And school tours at WMI? For many years. In fact, the Tapani sisters are national leaders in workforce training and development having won numerous national honors. It’s all a part of helping students find good-paying careers without a four-year degree. It’s also about filling the Manufacturing Institute’s estimate of 2,000,000 manufacturing jobs going unfilled in the next 10 years.
Reaping Results at Pine Technical and Community College
Such efforts are beginning to pay off. Pine Technical and Community College (PTCC) in Pine City, Minn., is experiencing record enrollment this fall. President Joe Mulford believes that the increased emphasis on uniting high school and technical college teachers with employers is creating better curricula and more inspired students. The increased enrollment is proof of that.
PTCC even “shares” equipment with area high schools. “We take it to them,” said Joe. “We load it in a trailer—lathe, mill, desktop CNC controller—for student exposure. They keep it for a month to try it out. No one school can purchase it all. But in a region—we can help all. We share curriculum with people, host technical education events, and bring possibilities to small schools that wouldn’t have previously dreamed of such a thing. We’re all coming together.”
Employee Development Also a Winner
Employee growth is also a factor. “The Tapani sisters have made employee development a part of their soul. It’s a foundation of their company,” Joe said. “You can get a job, but if you want a career, you’re going to need training,” Joe said. PTCC’s enrollment has increased so much that they’re adding night classes for their advanced manufacturing major. Everyone wins.”
In fact, Wyoming Machine hosts virtual classes on Interactive Television (ITC) from PTCC for employees wanting to advance their careers. They can learn and earn degrees without commuting to PTCC.
The biggest surprise for Jacob? Size and speed. ”I knew it would be high-tech, but some equipment was as big as my living room—humongous! These are automatic and hydraulic operated machines. We use hand tools,” said Jacob. The capabilities nearly dumbfounded him. Employees demonstrated their standard brake press, and then showed Jacob their new CNC model with automatic tool loading. “It was shocking. Whereas the old press took maybe 30 minutes to prepare for a run, the new CNC press was ready in less than five minutes.”
While few high schools will have the large machines Jacob saw, Jacob learned plenty about things he can teach. Welding and blueprint reading are two good examples. “If my students are reading blueprints and know how to do the small stuff,” Jacob said, “they can learn the big stuff.”
Jacob’s biggest take-away? “Given all the people involved in producing a part, I now know my students will have to learn to work well together…Students need to learn efficiency—time is money in manufacturing,” Jacob exclaimed. “So my trip to Wyoming Machine was a real eye-opener,” Jacob said.
As programs ensue to showcase manufacturing careers to middle and high school students, the question remains, “How do you get kids who know nothing about manufacturing to be interested in simply checking it out?” Continue reading “The Secret to Inspiring a New Generation of Manufacturers: Amber Carlson”
It’s no secret that technical college customized training is a life-saver for manufacturers. What you may not know is that Lori Tapani and Traci Tapani, Co-Presidents of Wyoming Machine, helped make that happen in Central Minnesota. Now they and their employees—are reaping the benefits.
For 21 years, Lori and Traci have worked closely with Pine Technical and Community College in Central Minnesota. Continue reading “Internet Television Classes: A Game-Changer at Wyoming Machine”
Remember Robert Bjoraker—the husband and proud father whose family was homeless at one point? Wyoming Machine Inc. hired him as a part-time custodian three years ago. But Traci and Lori Tapani believe in employee growth, training and promoting from within. In fact, they’re now national leaders for that practice. As a result, Robert has advanced to the highly technical position of laser cutter. Continue reading “From Homeless to Happy: Robert Bjoraker’s Ascent at Wyoming Machine”