When the public sector collaborates with private industry, opportunity is born. Each sector does what it does best and their combined synergy is good for both the bottom line and front line of workforce development.
In the case with Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) and Walker Forge, a model of economic development continues to morph into a better quality of life for those who call northeast and east-central Wisconsin home.
The two entities joined together to commemorate their rich history of collaboration at the recent FVTC Board of Trustees meeting in Clintonville, in which Walker Forge received the college’s 2016 Community Partnership award.
For the past two decades, Walker Forge has looked to FVTC as its go-to source for employee skill-building. Basically serving as an extension of the region’s workforce, FVTC shapes its curriculum and training based on the ever-evolving needs of companies like Walker Forge.
An industry leader in die steel forgings and 2012 Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year, Walker Forge’s recent history with FVTC is best measured by a steady dose of hiring the college’s graduates. “Fox Valley Tech graduates are Walker Forge,” says company president Rick Recktenwald. “We’ve put almost 200,000 hours of FVTC knowledge to work here.”
The hiring of FVTC graduates scratches the surface on how the college and Walker Forge have partnered to boost regional economic development. The company is a regular partner in the State’s Workforce Advancement Training (WAT) program with the college. Recent contract training services provided by FVTC for Walker Forge thanks to WAT grants through this model have included safety seminars, robotic programming, coaching skills, and leadership.
Recktenwald, an advocate of apprenticeship training as a means of developing talent and filling the skill gap, has looked to the college for journey workers. “We’ve had seventeen apprenticeship completers in the past three years in the fields of maintenance mechanic, millwright, tool and die, and industrial electrician,” he notes. “We have nine more currently in the pipeline at Fox Valley Tech.”
In addition, Precision Thermal Processing, a company overseen by Recktenwald and owned by the same Walker Group located with a plant in Clintonville at Walker Forge, helped furnish FVTC’s state-of-the-art Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center by donating heat treat furnaces. Heat treating is used to alter the physical makeup of properties, like steel, and is commonly used in metallurgic applications. The college’s Oshkosh training facility uses the technology for education and training its Metallurgy Lab.
“Our partnership with Walker Forge and Precision Thermal Processing is grounded in the outstanding leadership and vision of Rick Recktenwald and his team,” adds Dr. Susan May, president of Fox Valley Technical College. “Partnerships like this strengthen the region’s workforce and create opportunities for rewarding careers in manufacturing.”
The partnership between FVTC and Walker Forge continues to grow based on a full-circle fabric of engagement. Beyond the donated equipment to the college and FVTC’s training to the company there exists a human element to the collaboration. Recktenwald has served on both the FVTC District Board of Trustees and its Foundation board. In addition, he was instrumental in the college’s designation as a World Class Manufacturing Center in 2015—something recognized by the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance.