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A group of 25 Oconomowoc High School students this semester visited three Oconomowoc manufacturers as part of a Waukesha County Business Alliance Schools2Skills tour.

Eric Huemmer from the Waukesha County Business Alliance served as tour guide for the students as they visited Bruno Lifts, Sentry Equipment and CL&D Graphics, to see firsthand the innovative environments of modern manufacturing businesses.

Schools2Skills is an opportunity for students to learn about different careers at each site, from CNC machining to welding, printing and graphic design. After seeing the operations up close, students traveled to Waukesha County Technical College to tour manufacturing classroom and lab spaces.

OHS guidance counselor Susan Verhagen was instrumental in connecting Oconomowoc students to local manufacturers with Schools2Skills.

“We feel that it’s so important to create relevancy for students – they want to understand that the classes they are taking in high school are directly related to a future job,” said Verhagen. “Working in manufacturing is not limited to the factory floor. On the tour, students were able to see the wide variety of job opportunities available, such as accounting, engineering, marketing, and sales, to name a few.”

This year’s Schools2Skills day was open to any Ocononowoc High School student, not just those who are in the engineering or building trades classes. One student remarked that by getting out in the field, she gained a better idea of what her career path in engineering could be.

Verhagen stressed the importance of developing career and life-skills that are important to success not only in manufacturing, but also in any future job.

“Skills that employers are looking for are critical thinking, problem solving, perseverance, being able to think outside the box, take initiative, and collaborating with others,” she said.

One of the benefits of the School2Skills tour is that it encourages students see there is not always a straight line to success, there are many different paths to a fulfilling career. For example, someone who may have started on the manufacturing floor on a printing press could end up working in sales for that company or even becoming plant manager.

“It’s a great opportunity for career exploration,” she said.

OHS will have a college and career symposium in March, when technical colleges are invited to participate.

“We are very grateful for the business partnerships in our community,” Verhagen said.

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