Sevastopol Leads Effort for Industrial Training Partnership

Coping with record growth, a Sturgeon Bay industrialist wants a few more neighboring manufacturers to invest in putting Door County graduates to work by training them to contribute to and grow with the local industries.

This month, the Sturgeon Bay School District joined Gibraltar and Southern Door in partnering with Sevastopol High School to set up a sophisticated training program for high school students and a training center for local workers. 

Chris Moore, president and CEO of N.E.W. Industries, already has supported that training center with a financial investment, and he’s eager to support additional student and worker training programs.

“Literally, if we could get 40 to 50 people right now, we would bring them in as fast as we could train them,” Moore said. “It’s really become a stifling situation with our business. It’s very concerning.”

The company is investing millions this year on additional higher-output machines and CNC (computer numerical control) equipment and automated systems. That investment will help, but it won’t meet the accelerated customer demand the company is facing – one that outpaces all previous forecasts. 

“No matter what you do as far as automation and sophistication, still, you’ve got to have people,” Moore said.

Within the past year, Dun & Bradstreet listed N.E.W. Industries with $45 million per year in sales, but Moore said that figure “isn’t even close” to 2021 sales. The unprecedented demand for precision-machined parts for American manufacturers and products has helped N.E.W. Industries and additional businesses in Sturgeon Bay’s industrial park grow tremendously, but they’ll need highly trained workers as they invest in sophisticated equipment to keep up with demand.

Training Center at Sevastopol

Area school districts are trying to do something about the problem. Sevastopol High School Principal Adam Baier said he has been involved in discussions for 15 years about local manufacturing needs for employees who are trained and conditioned to grow with the business. 

He’s persuaded all Door County school leaders to join a Sevastopol-based partnership to get students trained for high-paying jobs in industry. Local manufacturers have job openings for students right after high school, but entry-level jobs may not be rewarding long term.

Instead, Baier is trying to help students quickly land in life-changing careers.

“It’s a collaborative project across the county, in partnership with the Door County Economic Development Corporation, local businesses and our school districts and NWTC,” Baier said of the effort. “A lot of our technical work in our industrial park is with CNC machines. It can be applied to a welder; it can be applied to a cutter; it can be applied to a grinder. In manufacturing, there are so many applications for that skill.”

When Sevastopol renovated and expanded its school facilities, the district built the needed space into its career and vocational education rooms and equipped that shop to accommodate training equipment. 

“NWTC has identified that the most-growing industry right now is manufacturing via CNC,” Baier said. “The challenge we have is putting all of the equipment and this space together in a training facility; we have never had a training facility in Door County.”

Initially, using programmable, computer-controlled manufacturing machinery in Sevastopol High School’s new shop, the county schools could train eight students per year for careers helping local manufacturers to grow and adapt. 

In addition, Sevastopol could allow Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) and local manufacturers to send workers to the school’s training center on nights and weekends. That would solve a problem for manufacturers and workers who must schedule time and commutes to Green Bay for similar training. NWTC has a mobile training semi trailer, but it’s not available on a regular basis in Door County and doesn’t have the capacity to train the number of people needed.

Joe Draves and Brooke Halbrook with NWTC helped Sevastopol get the needed equipment and simulators into place. In addition to N.E.W. Industries, Pro Products has pledged support. Baier will also contact additional employers in the county during the coming months seeking to offset costs of the program and add three more business partners.

“From my perspective, you can hire anybody to watch one of these machines,” Baier said. “What we want to do is create kids who can problem solve; we want to create kids who can help build these businesses and help them grow. If they have the ability to problem solve, the ability to make processes more efficient and the ability to grow within that business, I think our students will have better job satisfaction.”

If the program works as intended, the path to that rewarding career also will not require a major financial investment in initial training.

“I really think that working with our community this way can provide some good opportunities for our kids and help grow this community in a positive way,” Baier said. “All the schools have students in the pipeline for this type of work, but the advanced training isn’t there.”