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Racine Workforce Development Center Creates a Model Replicated Across the M7 Region

Posted 6/28/07

When the creators of the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Boot Camp put together the project, collaboration was the name of the game. They included all stakeholders in the process - from the early planning stages, through its implementation, to the final job placements. And as far as Mark Mundl of the Racine County Workforce Development Center is concerned, that collaboration has been the reason for the Boot Camp’s success and 90% employment rate. “To make this work we need a strong partnership between business, workforce development, and the Technical College. If one of the partners doesn’t cooperate or the working relationship does not function as a partnership, the probability of success is greatly reduced,” Mundl said.

CNC Operators control the machines that have an integrated computer to produce manufactured components. The CNC Boot Camp is a demand-driven program that teaches people with little or no advanced manufacturing experience how to program a CNC machine in just 14 weeks. CNC operators can see their work used in a huge variety of products, including cars, computer network routers and information technology.

In the fall of 2004, Mundl and the team saw a need. “We saw an increasing number of job listings in the paper for CNC operators and heard from employers about their need for talent. At the height of the demand, there were 250 openings listed.” And although Gateway Technical College had a two year mechanical tool tech program, for many reasons including the program length, this was not producing enough skilled workers.

A team of workforce development professionals, technical college staff and business leaders got together with and brainstormed a solution. What they needed was a training program – but one that was much more efficient at turning out trained workers than the current program. They also recognized the need to give workers training in soft skill, including a positive work ethic.

The team took this proposal right to the manufacturers. They wanted to know whether their curriculum addressed the most basic needs of training for a CNC operator, and incorporated the employers’ feedback directly into the curriculum. The result was a 14-week program of 40-hours a week. The program not only teaches workers how to become CNC operators, but also how to perform well in soft skills areas that employers considered important.

The CNC Boot Camp has gained national recognition as a good example of efficient and successful training. Since launching in 2005, 62 individuals have completed the 14-week training and 90% have been employed in industry.

Mundl says that employers have wholeheartedly joined in on this new approach. “They give us feedback on the curriculum and send their staff to assist with interviewing skills, Employers have even had interviewing booths on hand at completion ceremonies. They don’t waste any time in hiring these high-demand graduates,” says Mundl.

It is the collaboration that is at the heart of the Boot Camp’s success. “To make this work we need a strong, ongoing partnership involving business, workforce development, and the Gateway Technical College. That’s the tripod on which this venture depends for survival,” Mundl says.

Another unique quality of the CNC Boot Camp model is the diversity in the funding sources supporting the effort. The Boot Camp receives funding from the Workforce Investment Act Adult and Dislocated Worker programs, the Trade Adjustment Act, City of Racine Community Development Block Grants and individual students that pay their own fees. If funding from one source falls short, they can enroll students that qualify from other funding sources to ensure continuity of the program.

As other parts of the region explore “boot camp” style training Racine remains a strong model of success.

For further information on the Boot Camp model, contact Mark Mundl at or at (262) 638-6621.

Helen Bader Foundation University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Milwaukee Jobs