Oconto County works to attract more skilled workers

May 4, 2017

by Brittany Ford

FOX 11 News

AAOCONTO (WLUK) -- A career in manufacturing wasn't something Drew Oswald planned on, but he has found it to be rewarding.

"Personally I didn't know a lot about manufacturing; my father worked in manufacturing, but it was a good fit," he explained.

Oconto County is hoping to find more people like Oswald.

"Since we are a rural area, it's difficult to recruit a lot of people from outside," said Paul Ehrfurth, executive director for the Oconto County Economic Development Corporation.

Numbers from the State Department of Workforce show that there are currently at least 39 unfilled manufacturing jobs in Oconto County.

Ehrfurth says the number of unfilled jobs continue to outweigh the applicants, "So what we concluded, was to do the best job we can, to prepare our students for successful careers in manufacturing and other disciplines."

Dan Bickel is the Operations Manager at Nercon, which manufacturers conveyor systems and parts.

He says there is a shortage of graduates choosing a career in manufacturing, "Shortages makes it difficult for manufacturing to grow and sustain business."

Bickel says as a part of the new recruit plan, they are looking to bring students and educators into manufacturing in an effort for them to see firsthand what skills are needed to start a career in the field.

"Getting students and teachers into manufacturing facilities, to see the current state of manufactures is important," he continued.

As for workers like Oswald, he says it is a change he would recommend, "If you're looking for a career that's stable, that you'll always have work in, this is a good place."

The county says it is still working on the partnership agreements with the high schools.

It says it still needs about $70,000 to start the program.

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