By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN What kind of job opportunities are available locally? Which fields are in high demand? Do I need to go to a four-year college?
By hosting career exploration days for area high school students, Millerbernd Systems in Winsted aims to shed some light on these questions.
“The opportunities are there for kids, but if they don’t see it, they don’t know,” said Lisa Stanger, Millerbernd’s national sales manager.
Stanger started the program last year with juniors and seniors from Glencoe-Silver Lake (GSL) High School. Other schools in the area have also been invited to attend.
“It’s been a good tour for us,” said Mike Sundblad, GSL’s industrial technology and engineering instructor. “Most [students] don’t realize these businesses are right here.”
Earlier in the school year, Sundblad took his construction and engineering classes to Littfin Lumber in Winsted. In the future, he is hoping to work with area businesses for possible job shadowing and short-term student work opportunities.
“Every place in Winsted is in need of welders and machinists,” he said. “We just want to show them what’s available.”
Students from Sundblad’s metals and welding classes participated in a career day at Millerbernd Systems Tuesday. The afternoon began with a pizza lunch at the facility, followed by a presentation about the company’s history and capabilities.
Then, they split into groups for a full tour.
“Some of the students have never been in a manufacturing environment like this,” Stanger said.
People who work in manufacturing can be drafters, designers, project managers, machinists, machine operators, mechanical engineers, controls technicians, welders, and more.
The demand for welding is higher now than in the past, according to Stanger, partly due to fewer students being exposed to welding growing up on a farm. Another factor is the increasing age of current employees.
“We’re seeing a lot of baby boomers retiring now,” Stanger said. “Now, there are going to be more positions open, and not enough support in colleges.”
One way businesses are proactively solving this issue locally is through the Dunwoody Training Center in Winsted, which will begin its second welding course in March. Fifteen companies from Winsted, Delano, Hutchinson, Litchfield, and surrounding communities are part of the effort, through a coalition called MOVE, or “Manufacturing Opportunities for Vocational Employment.”
“There are a lot of places in need of quality workers,” Sundblad said.
Of manufacturing companies that responded to the 2011 Minnesota Skills Gap Survey, nearly 50 percent indicated a moderate or serious shortage of workers, and had positions unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants. The survey noted that the severity of current and future workforce shortages was highest in skilled production and scientist and engineering occupations.