Creating a Community in Manufacturing

 Tom Schulz, VP of Manufacturing at Krones, is doing amazing things in the manufacturing industry in terms of recruiting and retaining employees.  During his conversation with Strategy House, it’s clear he is passionate about engaging with young people in the community and educating them on the many opportunities available in manufacturing.

Read on to learn more about how Tom is debunking the stereotypical view of manufacturing, creating pathways to career advancement and building from the ground up to attract loyal employees.


Community engagement in the manufacturing industry

In the beginning, Tom was met with disapproval from schools. If it wasn’t a four-year degree program, they weren’t interested in teaching their students about manufacturing. Now, things are starting to change.

Tom realized how important it is to educate young people on the other options outside of a four-year degree program. Currently, he’s engaged with high schools in the southeastern Wisconsin area like Union Grove, Franklin and South Milwaukee. But high schools alone aren’t enough to replace the outgoing workforce, he’s thinking big and has started expanding into technical schools such as MATC.

It wasn’t long before he collaborated with Barbara Wesener, Executive Director of the South Suburban Chamber of Commerce, to create the Heavy Metal Tour. The Heavy Metal Tour was formed to give students an inside look at the day-to-day in manufacturing. The program brings people into the plant where they can see what’s going on and ask questions at the various booths set up.

Programs like this coupled with apprentice programs at local schools have been working well for Tom. He’s even gained a few long-term employees who began working for Krones in an apprentice program in high school and gained full-time employment after graduation.


Collaboration and expansion

Community engagement is a high priority for Tom but he also believes in investing time and money into current employees. Providing workforce development and career advancing opportunities is Tom’s number one recommendation on building employees from the ground up as a business leader.

In his words, “You reap what you sow. If you put someone through a trade school, they’re going to come work for you. If you stand in line outside of a trade school looking for people. That’s not going to happen. You have to be there.” This is the exact reason Tom has joined forces with two other leaders in the manufacturing industry.

Along with Tom, Dave Dull, CEO of Allis-Roller LLC, and Rich Simonson, COO of Carma Labs Inc. has recently founded The Franklin Business Park Consortium (FBPC). The FBPC plays a role in growing local talent and providing business opportunities to members while giving back to the community. For example, the FBPC provides opportunities for members’ current workforce to take classes at MATC that will help advance their careers while on company time.


Building a strong future in manufacturing

Overall, Tom and his colleagues are focused on making a difference and building a strong future for manufacturing. Or as Tom put it, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today. That’s kind of where we’re at and that’s what we’re working on.”

Post by: Katie Felten

As a Digital Strategist and Co-Founder of Strategy House, Katie serves as our team visionary. She works directly with executive teams, participating in strategy meetings, and translating the vision for growth into clear brand strategies that align with their growth goals.