Letter: Education impacts local manufacturing by Mike Sutton
I’m writing today in an effort to describe to referendum voters how crucial it is that the School District of Rhinelander continues on its current course. As a member of the Grow North Manufacturers Consortium and the Engineering Manager for HyPro, Inc.’s Rhinelander facility, I have seen first-hand both the opportunity that exists and the shortage of trained, capable people available to fill those opportunities.
Our professional group has worked closely with both Nicolet Technical College and the Rhinelander School District to help guide a new effort to prepare students for modern manufacturing businesses and to offer alternatives to pursue a meaningful and fulfilling career. The manufacturers see a need for as many as 500 people over the next five years to replace retiring workers and to staff for continuing growth. There are many entry-level jobs available that can lead to a long-term career path and all that is required is a high school diploma and some basic technical education. Those same jobs offer a steady income and tuition reimbursement for those who pursue additional education for future growth. Most of the manufacturers also offer flexible work schedules in support of those educational efforts.
Speaking on behalf of HyPro, Rhinelander, we have been on a steady growth path since I have worked for the company (now approaching eight years). We have grown to the point of exceeding the ability of our two buildings to contain us. Recently, we acquired another facility that will double our available floor space. In the two years it took to convince ownership to acquire this additional space, there was one question constantly repeated and that was the following: “Are you sure you can hire the people necessary to staff the growth?”
In that question are the seeds for the downside of the proposition. Companies have alternatives and they do not want to invest in areas unless they have a reasonable expectation of success. Our company and others have now committed to the investment to continue the growth here, and it is crucial for each of our businesses to be able to hire qualified individuals who have the skills to quickly learn our business and to grow with us. We certainly have employees living outside of Rhinelander, but this is the economic heart of the entire region. You have an opportunity on Feb. 19 to vote in favor of continuing that economic vitality which benefits everyone.
Mike Sutton, Rhinelander