Wisconsin CMs Work to Introduce Students to the Industry


Wisconsin CMs Work to Introduce Students to the Industry

Student Day at BCMC is an opportunity to bring components to life for students.

“Most young people don’t have our industry on their radar. They don’t know what a truss is and don’t know the level of technology we use to design and manufacture them,” explains Steve Szymanski, president of Truss Systems, Inc. in Little Chute, Wisconsin. Members of SBCA’s Wisconsin Chapter are working to change this in a variety of ways, including their participation in Student Day at this year’s BCMC in Milwaukee. Component manufacturers (CMs) are encouraged to invite a local instructor and five students to join them on the Thursday afternoon of the show. The event will include a short presentation by members of SBCA's Emerging Leaders Committee, followed by the opportunity for each CM to give their guests a guided tour of the exhibit floor. After the tour, students will reconvene for refreshments and a Q&A session with local manufacturers, suppliers, and young leaders in the industry.

“One of the reasons we are putting this on the shoulders of the CM is that they have the most to benefit from the relationships that will be built, both with the instructors and the kids,” says Steve. “If I can use this event to more effectively reach the high school kids in our area, the better chance I have to find someone who might be interested in pursuing a career at our company.”

Justin Richardson at Richco Structures in Sheboygan, Wisconsin plans to use the Student Day event at BCMC to further his relationship with a local instructor in his community. Justin grew up with one of the tech education teachers at nearby Plymouth High School, and both are committed to the importance of making students more aware of the various career paths available to them in the skilled trades. 

“About three and a half years ago, Justin asked me if there was anything they could do to help promote both Richco and skilled trades in general,” says Greg Gritt, who has enjoyed 15 years teaching in a growing high school tech ed department. The biggest first step was getting his students over for a tour: “I told Justin that if Richco could cover bus costs, we’d be there.”

With that cost barrier removed by Richco’s generosity, Greg took their entry-level engineering students who at that time were in the middle of learning 3D modeling software. “They took us through receiving and handling and how they get the wood and cut it. Then they took us through their assembly portion. That was really neat because it was all computer-driven,” Greg recalls. “The design shop was probably the neatest part for the kids, how the trusses are modeled, and how the math works to see if the truss will handle the loads.”

When Justin invited him to Student Day, Greg was in. “From what we’ve seen, the kids do better when they go to a place and have the exposure,” he says. “A small group will be good. I’ll hand pick five students that are really interested, which will be even more beneficial.”

For Jason Blenker at Blenker Building Systems in Amherst, Wisconsin, Student Day is another tool he can use in ongoing efforts in his community. Jason, whose company also provides framing services, is working with a few different schools to help provide educational opportunities, including the development of an advanced construction class that one of his employees helps teach once a week. While he is clear that workforce development efforts at this level are “a long-term play that needs commitment and investment,” Jason believes that reaching out to local educators is something anyone can do. “We all know who the teachers are,” he says. “Call and take them out for lunch. Ask: What do you need? How can we add value to students? How can we partner?”

“Our industry is not unique in its struggle to find employees, so that means we have to differentiate ourselves,” says Steve. “If we sit back and wait for them to come to us, finding good workers will always be a challenge. I don’t know about you, but I look at our workforce and we could really use some more young people. I have to believe our company is not alone. That’s why this event can be a game changer.”

About the Author: Mindy Caldwell explores how component manufacturers find success growing market share and building their employment base.

For more information on Student Day at BCMC 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, visit bcmcshow.com/student-day. Consider emailing your local instructors with a link to this page as an invitation to the event. The page includes a registration form for them to reserve their tickets as well as links to learn more about the industry.

Not local to this year’s show? Consider hosting a plant tour that focuses on students and highlighting the career paths available in the industry. Visit sbcindustry.com/plant-tours for resources.

Looking for your next client or new hire?


Plant tours are the best way to build relationships with members of your community. Inviting groups into your plant is a great way to educate people about the benefits of components and everything your company has to offer – from faster framing to career paths for the future. 
SBCA’s Plant Tour Toolkit is a new, online resource that provides best practices for planning and hosting a successful tour. Download and print checklists and talking points to help you prepare for a variety of groups: GCs, framers, students and educators, building and fire officials, lawmakers, and more! 

Visit sbcindustry.com/plant-tours or contact staff at planttours@sbcindustry.com for help getting started!

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