GRAND CHUTE, Wis. — The variety of work is part of what drew Dean Truckey to precision machining.

What You Need To Know

  • Retirements have left scores of skilled trades positions open across Wisconsin

  • Colleges are working to adapt to employer needs

  • SkillsUSA is a partnership focused on building a skilled labor force

He was one of the participants in a recent regional SkillsUSA Challenge competition at Fox Valley Technical College near Appleton.

“You can make all sorts of different stuff with these,” said Truckey, who is a sophomore at Green Bay Preble High School. “You can make parts for motors. You can make a coil over spring compressor.”

Truckey’s family has a history of working in machining. 

“My cousin is in machining/lathing. My brother is a CNC machinist, and he’s got a lathe that we work with at home occasionally,” he said. “It’s what drew me into doing this kind of stuff.”

(Spectrum News 1/Nathan Phelps)

Companies around the state are looking for people who have the skills Truckey is developing.

A report from Deloitte estimates U.S. manufacturing is expected to have 2.1 million unfilled jobs in the next six years. Part of that number is comprised of gaps left by older workers who have retired, many of whom have left since the pandemic.

It’s a situation Jennifer Lanter is familiar with. She’s the vice president for learning and the chief academic officer at Fox Valley Technical College.

“We’ve got some very intentional labs, classes and partnerships set up,” she said about ways the college is helping address some of those gaps. “Like with the Appleton Area School District. Their students are coming here every day of the week and taking classes here with the idea that they’ll graduate with a technical diploma and be able to really hit the ground running out in industry.”

She said the college is also offering field-specific training through the summer to help reduce the amount of time to graduation.

“Employers don’t just want students in May when we graduate them and in December. They want them throughout the year,” Lanter said. “We’re trying hard to create shorter-term certificates that allow students to get some skills in a smaller amount of time so they can be beneficial for the employer.”

(Spectrum News 1/Nathan Phelps)

Truckey still has two more years of high school in front of him, but he’s picked a career path where the need isn’t expected to diminish.

He rattled off the names of Green Bay area companies where his skills will fit in.

“New Tech. Best Machine. D&S. Robinson,” he said. “There are all sorts of different places you can go.”

(Spectrum News 1/Nathan Phelps)