When Cesar Gonzalez' job as a butcher was eliminated, he began looking for new career opportunities to help him support his wife and three children. He knew that he would have more options if he could learn a new trade and improve his English language skills.
In 2000, he found the help he needed at the HIRE (Help in Re-Employment) Center's bilingual industrial maintenance program, taught by Milwaukee Area Technical College instructors. The HIRE Center is a component of the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board which provides an array of programs and services to dislocated workers in Milwaukee County. MATC partners with the HIRE Center to provide training in many fields. Some is entirely in English; other training is offered in a bilingual platform to Spanish and Hmong workers.
Gonzalez' studies at the HIRE Center focused on repairing machines and other equipment. After he finished the bilingual training, Gonzalez said that MATC instructor Bob Quesada noticed his aptitude in mathematics and machining and urged him to enroll in MATC's machine tool CNC setup and operations diploma program.
He attended classes at the Downtown Milwaukee Campus and graduated from the program in 2003. Gonzalez held machining jobs in Racine and in Franklin before landing his current position at Milwaukee Machine Works seven years ago. His job entails milling machining, turning machining and other projects.
Training Opened Doors
Gonzalez said, "The training opened doors for me. It helped me better support my family and get better pay and better opportunities. The HIRE Center training helped me practice English. And MATC changed my life for the better."
Jerry Smith, Milwaukee Machine Works manufacturing manager, speaks highly of Gonzalez. "He's good at what he does," Smith said. "I don't have to follow behind him and check up on his work. You give him a job and he does it. Cesar's made many suggestions about how we could do things better here. He's a very good employee. We are very proud of him."
MATC and the HIRE Center have partnered to offer bilingual training in several fields, including computer numerical controls, welding, baking, construction trades, basic machining, small business, computer software and information technology. MATC's Office of Workforce and Economic Development (OWED) coordinates the training by MATC instructors.
"The training opened doors for me. It helped me better support my family and get better pay and better opportunities. The HIRE Center training helped me practice English. And MATC changed my life for the better."
- Cesar Gonzalez
Hispanic Population to Double by 2050
Offering bilingual training is essential to help the rapidly growing number of area Hispanics find jobs and to help employers find qualified workers, especially in light of the skills gap, according to Al Luna, MATC associate dean of technical and applied sciences and director of OWED. According to the 2008 Pew Research Center Report, the percentage of the US population identified as Hispanic is expected to double from 14 percent to 29 percent between 2005 and 2050.
"Hispanic/Latino adults are clamoring for dual language, bilingual academic and vocational career training," Luna said. "Focused bilingual training programs are designed to strengthen ethnic identity; to reinforce cultural interaction; and to build a bridge to fill cultural, educational and socio-economic gaps."
Jerry Smith (left), Milwaukee Machine Works manufacturing manager, helps as Gonzalez loads a machined part onto a rack in preparation for shipping.
Gonzalez with parts produced at Milwaukee Machine Works for use by farmers harvesting crops.
Many of the Hispanic workers are immigrants, Luna said. "Immigrants play a strong and vital role, adding billions to the American economy. MATC values both the contributions and the needs of our immigrant workers for a greater role in American society and the workplace."
Gonzalez' success and recommendations have encouraged Milwaukee Machine Works managers to hire other workers from the HIRE Center/MATC training program. "Two employees we hired had worked at other machining jobs for a considerable length of time, which is unusual these days," Smith said. "They invested in themselves by getting training just as Cesar did. It's impressive when you see so much job stability and people really trying to help themselves. It's great to find employees who are loyal and want to stay with the company."
Gonzalez is very enthusiastic about his job, the company and his career path. "I like my job and the people at Milwaukee Machine Works," Gonzalez said, adding that the bilingual training opened his mind and life to new possibilities. Before he took the training, he had never seen a CNC machine. "It's much like a computer. You can do anything you want with these machines. I work on all kinds of projects."
Gonzalez with a computerized controller and CNC machine.
For more information on MATC's machine tool operations diploma programs, see: