“We’ve been involved with the local high school for about 10 years now,” said Tim Tumanic, president of J&R Machine in Shawano, a rapidly-growing 30-person company that makes complex metal parts. “One of our challenges is to find employees with technical aptitude and the right work ethic,” he said. “Unfortunately, it seems with all of the tight budgets for schools, the industrial arts programs are the first to be hit with cuts and are completely strapped for funds and resources.”

Tim Tumanic, president of J&R Machine of Shawano

Tim Tumanic, president of J&R Machine of Shawano

This chronic lack of support is what spurred Tumanic to donate two Haas Computer Numerical Control (CNC*) Machine Tools to the Shawano Community High School. (Haas provided a $15,000 discount on the machines). The school serves more than 900 students wishing to attend college, technical school, the military and those who will immediately enter the work force after graduation.  To complement Tumanic’s donation of the $70,000 state-of-the-art machines, the Shawano County Job Center donated another $10,000 to provide the programming software Master Cam as well as Solid Works, a high-end Computer Aided Design (CAD) application.  These donations are the basis of a whole new machine shop curriculum for the school. “Previously, the program only offered lathes and other machines that haven’t been used in the real world for years.  Now, students can develop the skills that will enable them to get good jobs right out of high school.” With this new curriculum, students can design, program and build parts – a complete package that stimulates creativity, technical aptitude and precision – all attributes that serve any student well in today’s job market.

As an employer, and as a community member who has worked with the schools for more than a decade, Tumanic sees a mismatch between the general view of what a manufacturing career offers, and what a manufacturing career actually entails. “The perception of students is that manufacturing is dirty and nasty,” said Tumanic.  In reality, manufacturing is technologically demanding, infinitely variable and continuously improving.  It also offers the highest wages and the best benefit package of any sector – as well as great opportunity for career advancement.

For example, Tumanic cited the career path of one J&R’s employees.  Hired in 2005 after high school graduation, he began as a CNC machine operator, working full-time while attending NWTC to train for a career in the building trades.  After two years, this employee decided that manufacturing was a better career choice.  Soon, he was promoted to 2nd Shift Supervisor, and today, he is a Production Manager, earning substantially more than Wisconsin’s median household income** of $52,000 per year at age 27. “The company is growing so rapidly that I expect him to continue to advance – he’s now learning the ‘business side’ of our operation, so the sky’s the limit,” said Tumanic.

Great wages are just the start at J&R Machine.  Benefits include:

  • Full health insurance after 60 days of employment
  • Dental Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Short & Long Term Disability
  • 401k plan with company match
  • Annual bonuses each year based on the company’s profitability and job performance. (Paid for the past six years)
  • Regular raises & promotions as on-the-job training is completed
  • Work-out facility on-site
  • Employee lounge featuring Direct TV on a 52” screen
  • Four-day work week (4 ten-hour days with Fridays reserved for overtime at time and one-half)
  • Company outings to Packer games, quail shoots and more

“We only promote from within, so everyone has the opportunity to develop their career – it all depends on what they choose to put into it,” said Tumanic. The average age of employees at J&R Machine is just 28, and the company is growing rapidly. “We expect to hire another 15 people in the next 5 years,” said Tumanic, “We look to the local high school for students with the right attitude and skills.” Tumanic prefers to hire high-school graduates in order to train them in the methods that have made J&R Machine a very successful company.

A CNC operator  checks parts after machining.

A CNC operator checks parts after machining.

Tumanic encourages teachers to take another look at manufacturing “Now is the time for a manufacturing resurgence in the US,” he said. “Technology is the basis for today’s manufacturing, and there are plenty of great jobs available right here, right now for students interested in computers, technology, design, and who want to create something new.” He suggests that schools develop “feeder programs” similar to the programs now used to develop strong high school football and wrestling programs. “These top programs begin in middle school,” said Tumanic.  “It should start with a technical aptitude test that reveals abilities many students do not know they possess. Once the aptitude is discovered, these talents can be developed with targeted curriculum, similar to what is done in sport feeder programs,” he said. Unlike sport feeder programs, these technology feeder programs would benefit the vast majority of students who participate.  Few students in sports feeder programs will go onto careers in professional sports, while technology/manufacturing feeder programs would benefit all of the participants, the local employers and the economy.

Tumanic’s thirty-plus employees are doing very well indeed. “They all own their own homes, they buy new vehicles every year, have plenty of toys and the time to play with them,” he said.  Another benefit is that Tumanic’s employees can stay in the place where they grew up, providing stability to their families and the community – pumping their salaries into the local economy, generating benefits that go far beyond their own earnings (that are competitive with salaries in the Green Bay/Fox Cities area). Manufacturing is the growth industry that drives the Wisconsin economy, and more and more schools are investing in helping their students prepare for an interesting, fulfilling and well-compensated career in manufacturing.

* CNC machines are automated milling devices that make industrial components without direct human assistance. They use coded instructions that are sent to an internal computer, which allows factories to fabricate parts accurately and quickly. There are many different types of CNC machines, ranging from drills to plasma cutters, so they can be used to make a wide variety of parts.

** Statistic from the US census Quick Facts, Wisconsin 2007-2011.

Story retrieved from: http://www.teachingtodaywi.com/MT-Fall-2013.pdf