Like many manufacturing facilities across the country, Appleton, Wisconsin-based A to Z Machine Co. recently faced a shortage of skilled workers. In early 2010, when human resources and safety manager Andy Preissner joined A to Z, the company had between 10 to 15 job openings and was struggling to fill them.
A to Z specializes in computer numerical control, or CNC, manufacturing (controlling machines with computers and circuitry) and creates a variety of custom products from raw materials. "I consider the machinists here to be artists," Preissner says about the company's 100 or so employees.
CNC manufacturing requires highly skilled workers who possess math and science skills as well as advanced critical- and abstract-thinking skills. A dwindling supply of workers with these skills, plus the draw of other industries, contributed to the large amount of openings at A to Z.
A to Z tried a variety of recruiting methods, including job board ads. Still, the openings remained. "We're not a company that sits around and says, 'Why me?' " Preissner says. So A to Z actively sought a solution to its talent problem. In late 2010, the company launched a youth apprentice program. It began with just one apprentice, but soon A to Z began teaming up with local high schools to increase awareness of its program.
Preissner gives presentations about CNC manufacturing at local high schools to inform students about the industry, bringing in tools from the shop and explaining the high-tech systems the company uses.
Currently, A to Z has partnerships with five high schools in the Appleton area and plans to expand its recruitment program.
For its innovative program that teaches high school students the skills required by today's manufacturing industry, A to Z Machine Co. is the 2012 winner of the Optimas Award for Partnership.
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Workforce Management, November 2012, p. 29 -- Subscribe Now!