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Investing in Our Communities and Nurturing the Future Workforce

November 30, 2020

As our Oconto facility was upgrading equipment, the idea to donate our current CNC machine to Oconto High School’s Tech Ed programs to help students get access to equipment used in industrial settings seemed like a smart investment in our future workforce—our equipment would get a second life and students would gain valuable hands-on experience using a professional-level CNC controlled press brake.

“As we looked at the equipment’s outdated safety features, large size and limited ease of use, however, we didn’t feel it would be a good fit,” said Jim Eckes, Operations Manager—Nercon Oconto Facility. “But the idea of investing in a future workforce still made sense. That’s why we decided to purchase a brand new Baileigh Hydraulic Press Brake and donate it to the school. Its safety features and smaller size made it a much better fit for the shop.”

The Baileigh Hydraulic Press Brake delivers 33 tons of pressure across its 63” table so students can learn how to use a CNC machine to make precise bends in metal and other materials. The machine is valued at more than $15,000, and Nercon employees supervised the installation of the brand-new press brake and continue to provide support and resources to the school’s tech ed classes.

“Since Nercon prides itself in providing a safe working environment for their teams, it only made sense to ensure that the equipment they were providing to the school met those same standards,” said Shawn Porath, Oconto High School Tech Ed teacher.

Students are gaining experience using the press brake by making equipment for the tech ed shop, such as stools and welding benches. In addition to the press brake, Nercon donates materials for students to work with each year. 

“We know that some families may not have ability to pay the additional fees and costs associated with buying materials for shop classes,” Jim said. “We want to make sure students aren’t limited by finances when it comes to exploring tech ed classes, which could lead to a potential career in the manufacturing industry.”

Nercon also provides facility tours to raise awareness of the career possibilities—from positions on the shop floor to office staff—available in a manufacturing setting, as well as to break down some stereotypes.

 “A lot of families don’t realize the opportunities manufacturing holds, or how clean and safe of an environment it really is,” Jim said.  

Building a strong relationship with Oconto High School not only helps students get a jumpstart on career exploration, but it helps Nercon bridge an education and workforce gap in its manufacturing facility.

“For businesses to be successful, you have to have a stable employment pool to work out of, and if you can make that pool deeper, you can keep your business strong,” Jim said. “Kids are the future, and we won’t be around for long unless they are here to help us.”

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