Grafton manufacturing company has gained skilled workforce for decades through program
The cameras may have been focused on Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, but Grafton’s RAM Tool also found itself in the spotlight last week.
The company based at 1420 Cheyenne Ave. was the site of a Friday, Feb. 24, press conference as Kleefisch announced the availability of Youth Apprenticeship Grants for the 2017-18 school year.
She was joined at the event by Department of Workforce Development Assistant Deputy Secretary Dave Anderson and local lawmakers.
More than simply providing a manufacturing backdrop for the technical training program announcement, RAM Tool was chosen for the event because of its ongoing support of apprenticeships.
Company President and Co-Owner Michelle Polum said the Youth Apprenticeship program operated by the county’s school districts and the state’s indentured apprenticeship program have been warmly embraced at RAM.
Polum noted two graduates of the Youth Apprenticeship program have been with the company for 20 years, and 19 employees have been through the state apprenticeship program at RAM or some other state manufacturer.
She said the company’s connection to the high-school program dates back more than 20 years, and its involvement with the state program dates even further back.
“Both programs have proven to be win-win situations for us and the apprentices,” Polum said.
“The program works because it is a true partnership between the employer, the schools, the parent and the students.”
She said apprenticeship programs are an effective way for the manufacturing sector to meet the growing need for a skilled workforce.
The Youth Apprenticeship program is part of the state’s School-to-Work initiative, designed for high-school students who want hands-on learning in an occupational area at a worksite, along with classroom instruction.
Polum said the media event was only minimally disruptive of the company’s normal workday.
“We shut down production for about a half-hour for the event, but I think everyone liked being part of it,” she said.
“The programs have been an excellent way for young people to decide if a career in manufacturing is right for them without spending four years in college or two years in a technical school.”
After the formal announcement, Kleefisch toured the manufacturing plant with State Sen. Alberta Darling and State Rep. Jim Ott.
Adding additional significance to the visit, Kleefisch noted that Gov. Scott Walker also proclaimed February as Career and Technical Education Month, highlighting training provided by public schools throughout the state.
RAM Tool was founded as a machine shop in 1976. Now operating out of an 80,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art plant, the company specializes in building aluminum and zinc dies and tools.
WISCONSIN LT. GOV. Rebecca Kleefisch (above) and Department of Workforce Development Assistant Deputy Secretary Dave Anderson held a press conference at RAM Tool in Grafton on Friday, Feb. 24, announcing the availability of Youth Apprenticeship grants for the 2017-18 school year. The company has been a long-time supporter of the apprenticeship program. After the announcement, Kleefisch and other state officials toured the plant. Photos by Sam Arendt