Right now the veteran work force only has so much time to pass on their knowledge to area youth. But eager younger learners are few and far between. Area educators and manufacturers continue to work together to save the industry.
Tom Busse, with Rockford Toolcraft, Inc. says, "We have blocks ready to go so we can fix the problem and be back to work in a matter of hours. So let's continue on."
Tom Busse is a product of the Rockford Public School district. He graduated from a Vocational school at Jefferson which is no longer in existence. Now Tom and his father lead Rockford Toolcraft, Inc., a company proud of their $60 million in sales. But area manufacturers are having a hard time finding more people like Tom. Instead it's a constant battle to overcome the picture of a dying industry.
Gary Peters with the Rockford Area Chamber of Commerce helped organize a Manufacturing Tour. Peters states, "Sometimes we live with an image that is not real in today's world and I think that's what people saw today. But those images are no longer there."
This is the first time area manufacturers and educators are asking each other for help. Over the next 5 years manufacturers expect the pool of younger skilled employees to hire to be scarce. In order to change the future it all starts with a first hand look at what skills students need to have one of these jobs. Once the manufacturing tour is complete Rockford Public School district principals, vice-principals, and administrators will have toured 28 manufacturing sites in Rockford, Loves Park, and Machesney Park.
On the tour educators wanted to know if a high school degree was required to be hired. Other wanted to know what subjects teachers need to stress. Rockford Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson stated, "I learned today that the skill sets you need to be successful whether you go to college or whether you don't go to college are the same. You still need reading, math, and computer technology."
Courses area educators can now emphasize to specific students who are most likely to shine in the manufacturing industry. Rock Valley College and the Rockford Public School district are looking at trying to provide internships. Manufacturers would also like to offer various ways for students to become certified in just a few months as a machinist of CNC operator.