Representative Mike Gallagher toured Fox Valley Metal-Tech in Green Bay on Monday and talked to company leaders about their skilled worker shortage and how tariffs on steel and aluminum are affecting their business.
Fox Valley Metal-Tech specializes in steel and aluminum parts for military vessels, such as Naval aircraft carriers that have $20 million worth of parts made by the Green Bay company.
It takes highly skilled workers, and zero margin for error, to build and contribute parts for such vessels.
The problem is, there aren’t enough of those workers in Northeast Wisconsin to fill the jobs, and Fox Valley Metal-Tech has had to turn down orders from customers simply because they can’t get them filled fast enough.
“You know skilled labor in some of our operations on the shop floor, it’s a difficult challenge to solve right now, particularly welders,” Kevin Gosselin, Director of Business Development at Fox Valley Metal-Tech, said. “A lot of the work that we do on the shop floor involves welding, and welding to very tight specifications.”
The company currently has 140 workers and is looking to hire more.
Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Green Bay) pointed to how more high school graduates are choosing four-year colleges over technical ones.
“We have to do a better job of elevating the role of our career and technical schools, relative to a four-year college,” Rep. Gallagher said. “There’s nothing against four-year colleges, I went to one myself, if that’s what you want to do go for it, but I think we’ve got to do a better job of telling kids in high school that there are other options available.”
Meanwhile, the international trade war has jacked up prices of steel and aluminum, which Fox Valley Metal-Tech said affects the prices they quote for its customers.
“Kind of puts us in the crossfire,” Gosselin said. “We can’t absorb the increases in material, so we have to pass those increases along to our customers.”
Rep. Gallagher said Congress has given too much power to the executive branch when it comes to making policy decisions, especially with trade.
“It reminds me of the fact that Congress should be demanding a voice in these things, right,” he said. “The key perversion of our Constitutional system of government has been, over in the recent years, has been the way in which Congress has surrendered most of its authority to the executive branch, both on foreign and domestic policy.”