“Hit the ground running:” Colleges, tech schools in SE WI set to train students for Foxconn jobs

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin is welcoming Foxconn, as officials finalize plans for the multi billion-dollar facility to come to SE Wisconsin. The next step will be finding skilled workers to keep the plant running. Officials with tech schools and colleges in the area said Thursday, July 27th they'remore than ready for the challenge.

Foxconn on Wednesday announced plans to build a $10 billion factory in SE Wisconsin that officials say can transform the state's economy. But lawmakers still have to seal the deal by approving a package of incentives for a company that hasn't always followed through on its plans. The electronics giant known for making Apple products in China Foxconn has not said what type of jobs it will offer in order to produce liquid-crystal display panels that are used in televisions and computer screens. But some of the higher-end positions could be for engineers and software developers and those jobs aren't always easy to fill.

Foxconn

Instructors at the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) will help train students to build and use the equipment at the plant, while universities like Marquette will teach students the skills to engineer the assembly process.

MU President Michael Lovell

On Thursday, less than 24 hours after the tech company announced it will be building in Wisconsin, officials with higher education institutions said they're already stepping up to train and educate the workforce.

"So that they're well prepared to hit the ground running when Foxconn opens," said Michael Lovell, president of MU.

The tentative deadline for the plant to be built is 2020. Foxconn plans to initially hire 3,000 people, with the possibility of employing 13,000 workers over time.

"This is a historic event happening here in Wisconsin," said Lovell.

Marquette University

Lovell said engineering students will make up the majority of the graduates who may look for jobs at Foxconn. He said he'll work with faculty to align the curriculum to match the company's needs.

"Maybe actually bring some of their problems into our classroom so that they're already starting to be trained in that skill set even before they graduate," said Lovell.

The plant will manufacture LCD panels commonly used in television or cellphone screens. The engineers design the equipment and those in the factory put it together. That's where MATC electronic instructor, Tom Heraly, comes in. He teaches students how to test and repair circuit boards for the panels.

MATC

Tom Heraly

"I'm thinking that it's going to be quite a bit of different operations," Heraly said.

With only about 40 MATC students completing the program each year, Heraly said the demand for the positions far exceeds the number of people who are interested in applying.

"I'm hoping that Foxconn will give more light on the real need for students to understand electronic technology and the opportunities that are there," said Heraly.

MATC students still have until August 15th to enroll. For those looking to get a job working in the assembly line, they can complete the program in two semesters. For jobs testing and repairing products, that requires a two-year degree.