Wisconsin yard says it’s struggling to fill jobs

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A northern Wisconsin shipyard - one of the region's largest and best-paying employers - is struggling to find graduates to fill jobs.

Marinette Marine Corp. officials told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they’re not only trying to attract new graduates, they’re also offering to pay $12 an hour for them to undergo a training program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College that earns graduates college credits.

Company officials said that despite the lack of interest they’re holding 40 positions open in the training program for welders and other shipyard jobs because they hope to attract recent local high school graduates.

The company has reached out to nine high schools to find candidates, but so far only seven recent graduates have applied for training that begins in July. That's in an area where about half of the graduates go on to college.

A typical employee at the shipyard can earn $30,000 to $40,000 a year. With overtime, some earn more than $60,000. Yet many companies are struggling to persuade young people to enter the skilled trades, including welding, pipe fitting and electrical work.

To fill jobs, companies recruit each other's employees, said Mark Kaiser, president of Lindquist Machine Corp. in Green Bay.

"If we don't find enough talent, the fact is we are not going to be able to grow our businesses," Kaiser said.

Marinette Marine has added 600 jobs in the last 12 months, largely for work contracted to build Navy ships, but also for other projects. It has hired people from across the country, but still worries about attrition as older employees retire.

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