Manufacturing Month Highlights Workforce Needs

All around Western Technical College in October, manufacturing was the big theme. At a full crowd on Tuesday, Oct. 18, businesses from around the region came together to hear more about high school and college career and technical educational opportunities for students.

A full house at the Manufacturing Luncheon on Oct. 18

Workforce needs are a recurring theme, according to Western President Roger Stanford.

“Nearly every business I talk to, our conversation always turns to how to get skilled workers,” said Stanford. Whether it’s manufacturing, health care or technology. The need is all over.”

October is Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin, a chance to celebrate and highlight the various industries that make Western Wisconsin’s economy strong. It’s why businesses were gathered at Western this week, a chance to discuss ways to improve the manufacturing pipeline. Still in 2022, manufacturing remains the biggest industry in Wisconsin, with billions invested into the regional economy. In total, Wisconsin’s Technical Colleges, including Western, offer more than 150 associate degrees, technical diplomas, certificates, and short-term credentials in the field.

The event’s featured speaker was Sean Mullan, Global Plan Engineering and Operational Effectiveness Leader at 3M. Mullan discussed the importance of high school partnerships and how changing technology continues to make Career and Technical Education important for students and the economy. Following the luncheon, area middle school students were on hand to present STEM projects to business partners.

“We have found that getting students involved in STEM education at a younger age is actually beneficial,” said Stanford. “It’s providing an avenue from which students can learn more about careers in those fields.”

But from there, the day wasn’t done. Following the presentations, Western’s Career Services held a Manufacturing Career Fair for students and the general public. More than 20 employers, including City Brewing, Inland, and Kwik Trip were on hand to speak with interested individuals about career opportunities in the manufacturing field.

“The job market is tremendous right now,” said Barb Kelsey, Director of Advising and Career Services at Western. “Now more than ever, these type of events help connect students, alumni, and the public with potential employers that badly need skilled labor.”

The event participation exceeded expectations, as this was the first career fair open to the public since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In all, it’s a sign that the job market is in full swing, and manufacturing remains the center piece.

“Like nearly all of the industries we serve, it’s nearly a guarantee that a graduate will have a job waiting for them at the finish line,” said Stanford. “It’s just about getting them interested in the field and into our classrooms.”

To learn more about careers in manufacturing, visit