We hear the words engineers and engineering tossed around a lot. We won’t be discussing train drivers today. We are going to address engineering, manufacturing and the supply of engineers in our region of western Wisconsin.
Manufacturing needs engineering majors or engineers. Reach out and touch the first inanimate object you come to and chances are 100 percent that an engineer or engineering skills were involved in that manufacturing of the product. To name just a few, the engineer makes use of applied sciences and mathematics to design products, test specifications before productions and remediate problems as they occur.
Manufacturing is a huge part of our economy. It has the potential for being and even greater part of our local economy. However, in order for that to happen, we need more engineers.
There has been a good deal of discussion on the subject and one of the strangest notions is there is no engineering in the area. Actually, this is far from the truth. University of Wisconsin-Stout, Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, currently has a number of engineering bachelor of science programs. They include Computer Engineering, Plastics Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, Engineering Technology and Packaging. With more than 900 students in these programs, engineering is huge. With a placement rate of 100 percent, it is phenomenal.
Our neighboring universities in River Falls and Eau Claire do not have these offerings, which may result in the misstatements regarding the lack of engineering. On the other hand, perhaps it is the fact that we currently do not have the number of the engineering majors that are available at UW-Madison, Platteville or Milwaukee. The three majors in particular are Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and the extremely prized B.S. in Electrical Engineering. (It is worth noting that Stout’s Packaging and Computer programs could be view a specialty degrees of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.) These three programs are extremely valuable in manufacturing, and it would certainly be beneficial for our region’s economy.
Madison, Platteville and Milwaukee are at capacity for their programs. The other school closest to us is the University of Minnesota -- and they face the same problem: all spots are taken.
Good students, who would be great engineers, are not being accepted into programs and are forced to earn their degrees elsewhere. The farther away they are from our region, the larger is the chance that they will not build their careers in the region. In the same vein, students who receive degrees in the southern part of the state are likely to stay in that part of the state.
Numerous positive outcomes could result from adding these degree programs to Stout’s already impressive list of degrees. As just mentioned, a great number of would be engineers would be produced. In addition, a healthy percentage of engineers would remain in the area following graduation and build professions. And there is also a chicken and the egg type effect -- manufacturers locate where there are a large number of engineers. Look at Marquette, Michigan and NMU. It’s doubtful that the balmy climate draws the industry.
When you speak with your local legislators, ask for their support in bringing these three majors to UW-Stout. The whole western Wisconsin region will benefit.