Milwaukee giants Johnson Controls and Rockwell Automation push for more workforce development
Count two of Milwaukee's largest employers as adding to the nationwide call for additional, well-trained workers.
The CEOs of Rockwell Automation and Johnson Controls spoke at Rockwell offices on S.2nd St. Friday afternoon at a workforce development forum organized by Business Roundtable. That's a national organization of more than 200 CEOs of big firms.
The event was held as federal laws known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Inflation Reduction Act, and CHIPS and Science Act are expected to fund and stimulate many billions of dollars in technological changes aimed at reducing carbon emissions, improving sustainability and other changes.
Johnson Controls Chairman and CEO George Oliver says his firm, which offers building automation devices, fire detection, security and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment) is going "through a major digital transformation."
"So, even though you think of HVAC as a mechanical business, it is all being transformed in digital. And the future of our solutions to solve sustainability is not only electrification of the equipment with heat pumps. But now, it's combined with the use of data. And apply AI (artificial intelligence) and change the outcomes you can achieve within a building," Oliver says.
Oliver told the forum that he expects Johnson Controls to lose 25% of its skilled workforce over the next decade. That includes technicians that go to where customers are located, and help maintain the building systems.
Rockwell Automation Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Blake Moret says one option his company has tried with success is training military veterans. The Academy of Advanced Manufacturing partners with Manpower Group and Business Roundtable to offer a 12-week residential program in Milwaukee that equips veterans with technical and workplace skills for in-demand manufacturing jobs.
Moret says 441 veterans have enrolled in the program, 348 have graduated, and 280 are employed with a Rockwell customer. Thirty-eight percent of participants are people of color.
Moret urged other firms and the educational system to try something similar: "The true scale is for other companies and learning institutions to find similar programs and to be able to knit these together into a tapestry that gets at the unbelievably large need for upskilling people to be able to thrive in these sorts of careers."
Moret and Oliver did not criticize the value of a four year college degree, but urged more partnerships with community colleges, and offering of apprenticeships.
The forum was held as the U.S. Labor Department reported U.S. employers added 150,000 jobs last month. That was about 30,000 below what economists had forecasted. But NPR reports, "The data continues to show a decent pace of growth despite the Federal Reserve's aggressive interest rate hikes."