Photo by Joseph ShulzFox Valley Metrology uses this inspection lab in its Oshkosh facility for making spherical measurements.
The high-wage, low-skill factory jobs that have shaped Northeast Wisconsin are being replaced by high-wage, high-skill jobs, but it isn’t clear that either workers or employers are ready for the shift.
Local companies currently have 1,500 tech jobs that they cannot fill, according to the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Economic Report. A new wave of automation, known as Industry 4.0, is emerging, but 88% of local manufacturers either have no plan or only a partial plan for implementing this technology.
Some of today’s high demand jobs include process engineers, data management analysts, cybersecurity officers, industrial computer programmers, data engineers, data architects and application developers. These jobs and the lack of employer preparation were shown in a 2019 survey of 104 manufacturers conducted by the NEW Manufacturing Alliance (NMA), an organization that promotes the industrial sector in Northeast Wisconsin.
The need for a new type of worker is likely to increase as more businesses begin to adopt Industry 4.0, which combines production and operations methods with smart technology, creating an autonomous and interconnected digital business, according to NMA.
“Even Oshkosh Corp. says, ‘We’re a tech company that builds trucks,’” said Rob Kleman, the Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of economic development.
Ann Franz, director of NMA, said the organization is working to increase awareness about Industry 4.0 because she expects it to take three years for supply chains to begin implementing it.
“By helping [businesses] be proactive now, we'll be able to, hopefully, make them successful three years from now,” she said.
NMA’s survey found that automation-robotics and cyber security were the two areas that companies plan to invest the most heavily in over the next two to three years, with 62% planning to invest in automation and 56% planning to invest in cybersecurity.
Locally, the state Department of Workforce Development’s 2019 Workforce Profile for Winnebago County says 61% of the job tasks in the Fox Valley have the potential to be automated.