By Melanie Rossi
GREEN BAY – Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) is expanding their partnership with Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding (FBS) to address labor shortages in the maritime manufacturing industry by providing training for the company’s employees.
Through their Corporate Training and Economic Development Department, NWTC partners with businesses in the region and “looks to customize training to meet their immediate needs,” Jim Draeger, NWTC dean of corporate training and economic development, said.
“We do this across all industries — anything that the college offers, we can customize training on.”
In the summer of 2022, NWTC began their six-month pilot partnership with FBS to train welding and ship/pipe-fitting techniques to meet their needs while in the labor shortage.
“Their production team worked with our trainers and instructors to create a customized five-week training program to facilitate for all their new hires,” Draeger said.
Throughout their two six-month training programs, Draeger said, “we were wildly successful.”
“We had almost 15,000 hours of training. We had over 100 participants go through the training, 96 or 97 successfully completing the training, and when we looked at those results, both Bay Shipbuilding and the college decided to extend that partnership for another year.”
With this new extended partnership, the college has increased the capacity of their training program and expects to see 160 participants from Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in the upcoming year.
Located in Sturgeon Bay, the FBS shipyard is “a 63-acre custom-built facility designed for efficient new construction, major conversions, repairs and sustainment of commercial, Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers’ vessels,” their website states.
As part of the Fincantieri Marine Group, FBS has played a vital role in the maritime industry since 1918.
Designated a Center of Excellence for Domestic Maritime Workforce Training and Education by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration, NWTC is the only center with that title on the Great Lakes, fully committing the college to advancing the maritime industry and allowing them to make a visible impact on the region, especially through their partnership with FBS.
“The maritime industry has been in northeast Wisconsin for generations,” Draeger said. “It’s the foundation of much of our economy up here. It’s a 2.2 billion dollar industry statewide with thousands of employees… What we’re hearing from our industry partners, and not just in maritime but in other industries such as manufacturing and healthcare, is they’re really strained by the labor shortage. What we’re able to do through this customized contract training is quickly customize this training to meet those immediate needs.”
With FBS paying for their employees to participate in the customized course, they can address those immediate needs while also training employees who can see that their workplace “invests in them.”
Draeger said, “Companies that are successfully getting through this labor shortage are not just hiring their employees and paying them more; they’re investing in their education and their training. These folks are coming in with little to no skills, and it’s a competitive market.”
By providing customized courses through their partnerships, NWTC trains employees for the businesses who can’t.
“They’re in the business of running their business; they’re not in the business of training their employees,” Draeger said. “That’s where NWTC can step in and make that profound impact.”
The customized training targets participants who may be hesitant about pursuing one or two year degrees and, instead, provides quick, focused training sessions with clear goals for both the employee and their company.
“Folks can get a taste of something new and exciting and find out if it’s right for them,” Draeger said. “If they think that it’s up their alley, they can come to the college and we can continue to meet their educational needs.”
Draeger added, “What we’re doing with [FBS] is one of the greatest strengths of the college. Our ability to have the agility and the flexibility to quickly create these customized programs has such an impact with our business and industry partners… And it’s not just limited to maritime. Any industry, any company, can contact Corporate Training and Economic Development, and we can do something similar but for that industry.”
To learn more about NWTC’s training partners and FBS, visit www.nwtc.edu.