Training progams for manufacturing jobs top Schneider agenda
Panek Precision President Gregg Panek (Left) gives Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10) a tour of the Northbook precision machine shop Thursday. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 26, 2013 12:57PM
NORTHBROOK — U.S. Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10) visited two North Shore factories Feb. 21 for a personal look at their challenges and opportunities.
He listened intently to the concerns of Gregg Panek, president of Panek Precision, and his son Brian, vice president of the business at 455 Academy Drive, Northbrook, before going on to
Rexam PLC, a consumer packaging company at 800 Corporate Grove Drive in Buffalo Grove.
The employees of Panek Precision explained and demonstrated the intricacies of their sophisticated machines and how they worked with them.
Schneider watched as they performed high-precision machining, metal tube cutting, end forming and assembly.
“During the height of the recession people were calling, looking for jobs and there were jobs to be filled, but they didn’t have the training for them,” said Brian P. McGuire, president of the Tooling and Manufacturing Association, which has offices in Park Ridge.
“Manufacturing businesses like this need people with math and problem-solving skills who can pass a drug test and know how to show up for work on time,” he added.
Schneider noted that the bipartisan AMERICA Works Act — his first bill — was written to bridge the growing skills gap at small businesses.
The Act urges national industries to work together to agree on standards that define the skills needed in their work places, Schneider said.
Once the skills have been identified, curriculums can be created to provide students and workers with industry-recognized credentials, ensuring that they have the skills that are in demand, he added.
“This visit has given me a deeper understanding of how pervasive the skills gap is,” Schneider said after touring the factory and talking to its owners and employees, as well as manufacturing association representatives.
“We need to work on industry and education to identify the skills needed to fill empty jobs and create a nationwide certification of those skills.”
Brian Panek noted that the manufacturers and Palatine High School teachers are trying to encourage students to become interested in manufacturing technology careers, which don’t require four years of college and could lead to salaries of almost $75,000 a year.
In fact, a new, advanced manufacturing technology program has been proposed at the school this year.
Mark Hibner, applied technology chairman of Palatine Township High School District 211, said in a letter to parents that the mission of the program is to give students the opportunity to obtain industry credentials and dual college credit with Harper College.
“Palatine High School is working with local manufacturers to make sure that we implement an advanced manufacturing program that meets the needs of our community,” he added.
Zach Motti, director of development for Atlas Tool & Die Works, Inc., of Lyons noted that high school graduates who take on manufacturing jobs can start at $15 or $16 an hour, go up to $22, then $30 to $35 an hour.
They can make $100,000 a year with overtime, benefits and bonuses, he added.
Gregg Panek offered Schneider any support he could provide to make the AMERICA Works Act a reality.
“In all the many years I’ve been in business, this was the first time a Congressman has ever cared enough about my problems to stop in and discuss them,” Panek said.
“We are competing with India and China. This means a lot to us.”