MANITOWOC, Wis. (WFRV) – The Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry (WAF) received a large grant to help with training and hiring entry-level employees from diverse backgrounds to sand and finish metal castings and now are showing off its new training center.

Like many industries in 2021, the WAF faced many challenges with employee recruitment and retention, resulting in its on-time delivery rate dropping from 99.6% to 61% and negatively affecting the industry supply chain.

The WAF’s management team recognized the need to better train new hires, without burdening experienced employees and adding stress to meet production goals and with the $194,000 grant, they had the opportunity to build something exciting.

WAF was able to create a dedicated employee training center and curriculum, which provides a learning environment where people can learn foundry basics, again finishing and production skills, improve their understanding of customer specifications, and acclimate to the physical demands of the job.

At the end of the program, trainees gain transferable skills and earn a certificate of completion for internal career advancement.

“The fast forward grant has been a huge part of our ability to reduce our turnover rate,” said Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry CEO Sachin Shivaram. “What we found was we weren’t giving employees the proper environment to train on a new job. We were putting them on the shop floor and saying learn while you work.”

WAF has been training its employees that way for the last several years but with the everchanging labor force, it was time to make a change.

“We realized that we need to do something different to help give these people a welcoming environment to the job and spend more time training them to learn the skills,” said Shivaram.

The training center has been beneficial to WAF, especially to employees whose first language is not English. The WAF has been able to bring in translators to help.

“We have many employees who do not speak English and previously we wouldn’t have had any support for them,” added Shivaram. “Now we have translators full-time and an environment where they can just focus on learning as opposed to having to produce jobs in a certain way.”