$25 an hour jobs await MATC West Allis two-year electronics grads at Foxconn, elsewhere
Jane Ford-Stewart, Now News Group Published 4:16 p.m. CT Jan. 10, 2018 | Updated 11:15 a.m. CT Jan. 11, 2018
WEST ALLIS – When the massive Foxconn plant opens, the MATC campus in West Allis is in line to play a major role in training people for electronics jobs there that are likely pay $20-25 an hour starting, officials said.
The two-year electronic engineering associate degree, which MATC officials predict will fit what the Foxconn Technology Group will want, is a specialty at the West Campus,1200 S. 71st St., said Tom Heraly (pronounced Hurley), MATC electronics department chairman.
However, the associate degree that possibly will be in even more demand is the electronics-technician degree with an automation focus, he said. That is offered at the MATC downtown campus.
However, students can start at West Allis for that degree and all take courses in West Allis no matter where they start and which degree they are pursuing, he said.
To speed up training for electronics positions, MATC two years ago inaugurated its Pathway fundamentals program. It only takes a year to complete.
Because the electronics positions are in such high demand by manufacturers all over the area, they are hiring the Pathways graduates and then paying for them to complete a two-year electronics degree, Heraly said.
One manufacturer was so anxious to fill an electronics position, it offered $32 an hour, he said. But the average is $20-25 an hour starting for two-year electronics graduates, he said.
Pathways graduates might be what Foxconn will look for to fill its assembly plant needs, he said, guessing starting pay might be $15-17 an hour.
A lot of guesswork
In fact, when it comes to Foxconn there is a lot of guesswork right now, he acknowledged. But MATC is snatching up every bit of available information to be ready and for its students to be ready when the time comes, he said.
Rather than direct contact with Foxconn, MATC is working through a consortium of Wisconsin technical colleges and four-year universities led by Gateway Technical College, which is closest to the Foxconn site in Racine County, Heraly said.
“They realize they’re not going to be able to supply enough people, so it’s working with other schools,” he said.
The electronics giant expects to employ as many as 13,000 workers in its $10 billion liquid-crystal-display-panel plant in Mt. Pleasant.The company hopes to start its first assembly operation in a year.
However, the most sophisticated plant in the Foxconn complex will probably not be ready for four to six years, Hearly said. It’s there that the bulk of the $20-25 an hour jobs are likely to be, he said.
“We’re trying to get students ready for that,” Heraly said.
The MATC West Campus at 1200 S. 71st St., West Allis, is line for a major role in training skilled electronics workers for Foxconn. (Photo: Sefton Ipock/Submitted)
Tweaking for Foxconn
As more becomes known about what skills Foxconn will need, adjustments can be made to the MATC curriculum, keeping in mind other local manufacturing needs, Heraly said.
To generate enrollments, MATC is working on a marketing plan that will include communicating with high schools describing the opportunities waiting for students with MATC associate degrees in electronics, he said. That marketing plan could be ready by March or April, he said. If the time is right, it will be kicked off right then, he said.
And if there is a resulting flood of students, MATC officials said they can handle it.
Some courses could be exported to the Mequon and Oak Creek campuses, said Dorothy Walker, MATC interim dean of the school of technology and applied sciences.
Some classes also could be held in the evenings, on weekends or online, she said.
At this point, it’s even hard to tell how many of what kind of skills Foxconn will need, she said. Out of the potential 13,000 workers, how many would be engineers, how many electronics technicians and how many assembly? she said. It’s not known, yet, Walker said.
MATC student Marcus Lewandowski works on complicated machinery in the electronics degree program. (Photo: MATC/Submitted)
$11K for degree
Although attending MATC is less expensive than a four-year college, it still will cost $11,000 for a two-year associate degree, said Al Pinckney, vice president of the MATC West Allis Campus. He quickly added, however, that financial help is available.
Federal Pell grants and state grants are available, along with scholarships from MATC, he said.
“We try to graduate students with the least amount of debt,” he said.
With the opportunity for jobs that Foxconn brings to the entire region, MATC will continue to reach out to organizations serving the unemployed and the under-employed, Walker said.
“There are a number of community-based organizations we work with and we will get the information to them,” Walker said.
Employ Milwaukee, the workforce development board serving Milwaukee County, is one of them, she said.
Foxconn isn’t the only destination for MATC grads, Heraly said.
“MATC has worked with companies that Foxconn has identified as needed suppliers for their efforts, such as Rockwell Automation and Corning Glass,” he said. “These employers have their representatives on our advisory committees to make sure our programs maintain the technological skill level associated with electronic manufacturing.”
As Foxconn gets closer to a reality, MATC’s applications for the electronic technology programs have increased about 5 percent from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018, Heraly said.
“We are expecting to see higher applications in 2018, but we need to get the word to prospective students about the opportunities,” he said.