Kinetic employee Dave Muschinski (r) grinds parallels in the surface grinding class at MATC,
while Kinetic manufacturing manager John Sobocinski looks on.
Like many manufacturers across the U.S., Greendale's Kinetic Company faces a shortage of skilled labor. Long-term, highly skilled employees are retiring, leaving the knife-making company with a younger, less experienced workforce. With that challenge in mind and armed with a Workforce Advancement Training (WAT) grant, managers from Kinetic Company teamed with Milwaukee Area Technical College to enhance the skills of their incumbent workers.
Established in 2005, WAT grants are funded by the State of Wisconsin and administered by the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). Each year, the WTCS awards WAT grants to the state's 16 technical colleges in conjunction with Wisconsin businesses. WAT grants are designed to help promote increased investment in the development of incumbent workers, improve Wisconsin business productivity and competitiveness, augment the state's economic base, and expand technical college training services to business and industry.
WAT grants range from $2,500 and $200,000 per company for general businesses and from $2,500 to $50,000 for small businesses. Occupational skills are the main focus of the grants, but "soft skills" also may be included in the training. Grants are awarded to a technical college in conjunction with an individual business or a consortium of employers who require the same training. When the WAT grants were originally created, businesses were required to provide matching funds for training, but that requirement has since been eliminated.
MATC has Trained More 2,500 Workers with WAT Grant Funds
MATC's Office of Workforce and Economic Development has administered WAT grants totaling more than $600,000 and trained more than 2,500 workers from dozens of companies since the program began.
The WAT grants are very important to this state, according to Cheralyn Randall, MATC director of grants and development. "Wisconsin's economic strength depends upon the education and skills of its workers," Randall said. "The Workforce Advancement Training grants address specific industry needs and also play a major role in providing a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Customized training provides workers with the opportunity to significantly upgrade their skills. Everybody wins. WAT grants help industry and incumbent workers, while enhancing Wisconsin's economic development and global competitiveness."
(l to r) Kinetic employees Bryan Barbian, Richard Kusisto, Dean Pogorzelski and Dave Ortiz inspect parallels for flatness during training in an MATC machining lab.
MATC instructor David Simonson (l) reviews machine controls with Kinetic employee Chris Henry during surface grinding training.
Kinetic Employees Received MATC Training in Four Areas
Kinetic Company makes industrial knives for paper processing and steel manufacturing. Forty-five Kinetic employees received specialized training from MATC through the WAT grant that ended in August 2013. Training included blueprint reading, shop math, surface grinding and MasterCam (a computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing program). The training was done at MATC and offered to entry-level workers as well as long-time employees.
When Kinetic manufacturing manager John Sobocinski began working at the company in January 2012, one of his first goals was to identify which skills Kinetic workers needed to enhance and what training MATC could offer. He helped draft the WAT grant proposal.
"My goals in providing these workers additional training included improving and increasing job satisfaction and morale, increasing safety awareness, reducing employee turnover and fostering increasing skill levels," Sobocinski said. "The MATC training was tailored to what workers in our company needed. For instance, we provided our own drawings for use in the blueprint reading classes so the training would be more useful for our workers."
Sobocinski said that the customized training helps to improve the overall work environment at Kinetic. "The workers get uniform training in these classes. Now they have the knowledge to look at a part and a common operating procedure to deal with it."
He said that both the hands-on and theoretical training were helpful. "The employees are now better able to provide input into process improvement and to suggest cost saving approaches."
Kinetic employee and current MATC student Lazar Vukicevic was interviewed for a Wisconsin Technical College System video on the value of the skills training he received at MATC.
Jared Masters, Kinetic Company CEO, was interviewed about the benefits of working with MATC on customized training for his employees.
MATC's Established Curriculum Saves Companies Time and Money
Kinetic could have developed the training programs themselves, according to Sobocinski. "But MATC offers a defined training program," he said. "They gave us a road map. If we had to develop a training system ourselves, it would have been a huge effort. The pre-existing curriculum saves us time and money. We are also very impressed with the instructors and facilities at MATC."
Kinetic workers also have been pleased with the training. Chris Henry, who has worked at the company for nearly three years, found the training he took in blueprint reading, shop math and surface grinding beneficial. "The classes have all been great and the instructors were very informative and helpful," he said. "I don't use blueprint reading much at work yet, but I learned a lot about it in class and will have more knowledge when I have the opportunity to use it in the future.
"MATC offers a defined training program. They gave us a road map. If we had to develop a
training system ourselves, it would have been a huge effort. The pre-existing curriculum saves us time and money.
We are also very impressed with the instructors and facilities at MATC."
--John Sobocinski, Kinetic Company manufacturing manager
"The training I received at MATC makes me more versatile," Henry continued. "Now I am able to work on different machines and train to make smaller parts. I have been doing rough grinding, but I am learning to do finish grinding as well." Finish grinding requires working within smaller tolerances and with more precision.
"I think the training will be helpful in expanding my work opportunities and helping me advance in the company," Henry said.
Sobocinski believes that the MATC training has helped prepare his workers to advance and take on some of the jobs being vacated by Kinetic's most experienced workers who are retiring. "The training is helping our employees to build up and improve their existing skills and to gain new skills," he said. "Our current machine operators now have the foundation to move on to programming."
Kinetic managers are already considering other training opportunities to help their workers advance their skills. Based on the success of their collaboration with MATC, they hope to apply for another WAT grant in the future.
The Wisconsin Technical College System is producing videos showing how each technical college provides customized training for local business and industry. The story of MATC's work with the Kinetic Company is the first video in the series. Watch it here: