Over $400,000 awarded in grants to Minnesota State College Southeast, Winona Manufacturers

Computers have made manufacturing easier for companies across the country.

But manufacturers are finding that it’s the lack of people behind working machines that’s giving them problems.

Joshua Mertschin and Tom Lorenz are two students studying CNC Machinery. It’s a process where a computer uses tools like gears and valves during manufacturing.

“I took a few classes, thought ‘hey this is kind of fun,’ next thing I know I got a job that started and continued here,” said Mertschin.

But there aren’t enough students like Josh and Tom.

“It’s a high-demand job,” said Trainer-Recruiter for Fastenal Manufacturing Willie Lubahn.

Local companies need more students who know their way around thousands of dollars in machinery.

“It’s how manufacturing has become efficient, and we need to continue to have technicians who are up to speed on that technology,” said Lubahn.

Which is why five Winona area manufacturers are the recipients of a grant that will allow them to train their employees to better handle this kind of equipment.

“We need to have folks in our business to be able to hop onto a repair if that happens,” added Lubahn.

The businesses will also be supporting the college’s manufacturing program.

“Programs like this are in desperate need and that’s why you see the industrial community in general stepping up and pumping money into these programs,” said Lorenz.

Manufacturers hope that this can create a workforce in Winona, that can help put the area on the map in this high demand field.

“I don’t think it will be too long until we’re going to have some heads turn in greater Minnesota,” hopes Lubahn.

So the next product you buy, may have been made in Winona.

“Someone in a machine shop made a tool, mold, work piece to make everything you use today,” said Lorenz.

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