Non-profit’s manufacturing camp trains an untapped resource of workers

10 young adults with disabilities are learning on-the-job, networking and job interview skills in the 4-week camp
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 4:21 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - An Appleton non-profit hopes a camp it’s hosting will help fill vacancies in manufacturing by training an untapped resource of potential workers.

VPI is a non-profit that already works with individuals who have disabilities or are disadvantaged. When an opportunity arose to continue its mission and help even more people, as well as the manufacturing industry, VPI was on-board.

A group of 10 young adults are part of Inclusion Manufacturing Camp in Appleton.

“I like it here a lot because I like to try new jobs,” camper Noah Berken said.

Created by the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation, Inclusion Manufacturing Camp is funded by Mitsubishi Electric and Nestle.

The idea of the four-week camp is to train and prepare young adults with disabilities for jobs in manufacturing.

“A lot of times young adults with disabilities might not get the same opportunities that their fellow students had,” Tara Havlicek with the Mitsubishi Electric Foundation said, “and we’re seeing the manufacturing industry rise within the United States, and there’s more jobs that need to be filled, and we want to make sure students with disabilities are included in those opportunities.”

Campers are not only learning the ins and outs of assembly line work and getting on-the-job training at VPI, they’re also working on communication, networking, and job interview skills.

Monica Allaback is an instructor for VPI. ”We’ve seen a lot of improvement in social skills, talking to their supervisor, being able to ask questions if they need to, and just learning the jobs. They are doing great,” Allaback said.

The lessons learned here are showing local employers that this group of individuals is a viable option to meet workforce demands.

“Personally, I probably have been a little bit biased in my -- it’s been more about special needs instead of special abilities,” Jeff Schroeder of Miller Electric said, “just learning that it is more about special abilities and what these people can help us accomplish. And they’re capable of far more than I ever thought they would have been.”

”For manufacturers like Miller Electric to understand what are the opportunities that these people have to come into our organization and help us figure out how we can expand our workforce and just be more versatile in how we help those people and how they help us,” Jeff Schroeder with the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation said.

And by building the skills, campers say they’ve built up confidence that will help to empower them as they search for jobs and careers.

“It taught me that I can go, be what it’s like in the real world and be OK with it,” camper Keegan Glaser said.

Inclusion Manufacturing Camp wraps up this Friday with a special celebration.

VPI hopes to continue this camp for many years to come.

”It gives people purpose in life. It gives people a sense of being part of the community -- and just plain old cash. The other reason why we’re doing this is, we really want to encourage people to find a job in manufacturing. There’s a lot of great jobs out there and a lot of great people to do them,” Allaback said.

10 young adults are learning on-the-job skills. Employers are learning about an untapped opportunity.

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