Skills they need to succeed: Rockwell Automation opens doors to students

MEQUON (WITI) -- Manufacturing is a different world from what it was decades ago, and the changes have left companies with thousands of job openings that go unfilled.

Rockwell Automation opened its doors to about 25 high-school students from Bradley Tech and Riverside University on Friday, October 3rd.

Before settling down for a hands-on project, they toured the Mequon facility and many facets of manufacturing.

"It's real stuff and companies must really do their due diligence in trying to design the product to conform to the market requirements and customers' need on a day to day basis," said Anthony Ross.

Anthony Ross is a professor, and Rockwell Automation Endow Chair at UWM. He divided the students into six groups and embarked on a supply chain adventure -- basically taking the products you buy back to their beginning stages.

"Your product must be able to roll down this ramp and maintain its structural integrity. The big penalty is try and use less of that, but we have to make it mobile as well which is yet to be the confusing thing," said Ross.

Each team was given the same parts to build a prototype for a renewable energy collection tower. The students had to put on their engineering and business hats to adhere to product specifications and market requirements, then conceptualize and design.

"Within each of those domains there are multiple careers, a variety of careers students can pursue," said Ross.

Rockwell Vice President, Mike Laszkiewicz says there are opportunities in contemporary manufacturing. The key is exposing young people to those opportunities early.

"So they're dealing with global problems relating to supply chain. A tsunami, a plant has a fire and suddenly you have to change your design. You have to change the way you're doing business, and you need to do it fast so that you can beat the competition," said Laszkiewicz.

Laszkiewicz says in Southeast Wisconsin, 16% of employment is driven by manufacturing companies.