Rice Lake Weighing Systems Receives the Talent Attraction and Development Award
Monday, April 01, 2019
As the provider of the largest and most robust internship program in the region, Rice Lake Weighing Systems (RLWS) is a leader in workforce development. For their continued innovation and welder training program, they have received the Momentum West 2019 Talent Attraction and Development Award.
Rice Lake Weighing Systems has several talent attraction and development programs
In addition to hosting over fifty college interns each summer, Rice Lake Weighing Systems serves as a Project SEARCH manufacturing site in the state of Wisconsin. As a Project SEARCH site, they provide entry level employment for people with disabilities who need to develop practical and soft skills for employment. This program has been beneficial for local residents and serves as a way for the company to fill their entry-level positions. Additionally, their welder training program works with high school students and graduates looking for a career in manufacturing.
Talent attraction and development begins in high school
RLWS works closely with Rice Lake High School’s Career Class Instructors and other local schools to create job shadow opportunities for high school student interns. The interns spend a few hours each day for several weeks exploring different careers of interest and observing daily activities, asking questions about the career and getting a better understanding for what disciplines they want to pursue (or don’t want to pursue) after high school. This program gives interns insight and practical skills application in career fields while allowing RLWS to develop candidates for future college level internships once they have declared a major. This has been a big win-win for students and the company.
RLWS is also involved at the curriculum level. Realizing that a skills gap existed within several hands-on technical trades in manufacturing, including welding, RLWS leadership decided to support the creation of a welding class at Rice Lake High School (RLHS). They helped to create the curriculum being taught, provided instructor training and lean manufacturing concepts. They also provide the welding class with steel supplies for hands-on learning and practical use in the classroom. The entire program has been a collaboration between the school district and RLWS’s Senior Manufacturing Engineer to develop a curriculum that adds value and teaches the skills necessary for manufacturing and production.
Over the summer months, they continued to work with Mr. Carr, the RLHS welding instructor, by providing additional training and supplying a Train the Trainer program. Together, they developed the knowledge skills and abilities (KSAs) that would be needed in the industry.
The RLHS welding program has been an incredible success, with three years of welding classes having graduated. From these classes, RLWS has been able to hire several students through the Youth Apprenticeship Program and additional students after graduation. Some have continued their welding training while others have progressed into new career roles, including robotics and engineering. By the time they were hired, these students had developed core skills, soft skills, understood productivity goals and were experienced with lean manufacturing and 5S – all necessary for preparing them to begin a career in manufacturing.
One of these students was Luke Brundidge who started working for Rice Lake Weighing Systems as a Youth Apprentice. He originally planned to become a production welder, but while working in manufacturing he became interested in robotics and engineering. From the knowledge he had gained taking SolidWorks courses in high school, he was able to do practical skills application and started working with RLWS engineers and the welding robots. Just two years after graduating high school, Luke has been promoted to a senior robotics technician. “If you have good work ethic and do the job right, the opportunities are limitless,” says Luke. “My favorite part about working at Rice Lake Weighing Systems is that I’m always learning something new, every single day. When there were opportunities to learn more and receive more training, I went for it, and today I have a good job I really enjoy.”
Rice Lake Weighing Systems depends on these programs as part of their talent attraction strategy
"Like many organizations and with the low unemployment rate in our area, we still have job openings that we continuously recruit for. These programs have helped bridge the skills gaps and developed additional candidates that likely would not have been previously available.
We are always trying to look ahead to the future of our organization and our community. By building these partnerships and hosting both high school and college level internships, we are building the foundations for the future. We help to provide practical experience to students in their career field, they gain knowledge needed to further their growth. In turn, they also may think of us when deciding on a career employer when they finish college or technical school. It is a win-win and has been a great partnership for everyone involved. The students of today are the future of our communities and organizations,” said Lori Katcher, RLWS Human Resources Supervisor and Project SEARCH Business Liaison.
And the students are enjoying participating in the Rice Lake Weighing Systems Welder Training Program. The program allows trainees to earn money while being taught how to weld by seasoned, professional welders onsite at Rice Lake Weighing Systems. The training program is extensive and extremely hands-on.
“I joined the Welder Training Program because I knew becoming a welder was a realistic and skilled job I could do after high school,” says Tony Blake. After graduating from high school and finishing the Welder Training Program, Tony was hired on as a full-time welder in Rice Lake Weighing Systems’ livestock scale welding department. Tony spends his days welding metal frames together to manufacture large animal scales used to weigh cattle and other livestock on ranches. When asked what he likes best about his job, Tony says, “Once I finish welding a livestock scale together, I can stand back and say, ‘I built that.’ There’s a lot of pride in the work I do.”
With students like Tony excited about the welding program and a career in manufacturing, Rice Lake Weighing Systems has demonstrated how to create a successful talent attraction and development program. It begins by working with students at the high school level and continuing to provide them with opportunities for training and advancement.