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'Definitely hurting for welders': the Northwoods shortage, and a Rhinelander company's effort to fill the voidSubmitted: 06/11/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

'Definitely hurting for welders': the Northwoods shortage, and a Rhinelander company's effort to fill the void
RHINELANDER - Many companies in the Northwoods know they could expand, except for one thing.

There aren't enough skilled workers to go around.

Sometimes, well-paying manufacturing jobs go unfilled for months.

Welders are in especially short supply. One Rhinelander plant manager said eight welding jobs have been open since the fall. A welding instructor says he gets calls every day, looking for welders.

"[Welders] are fundamental to what we do," said Keith White, the president of Rhinelander-based AirPro, an industrial fan company. "It is a core competency of our company, so we're very, very serious about having the highest quality in world."


Finding those high quality welders is a challenge for White. But he hopes a scholarship awarded by AirPro might help.

On Monday, White presented 19-year-old Brandon Lambert with a $5,000 scholarship to Advanced Welding Institute in Eagle River. One of the requirements to receive the scholarship is a plan to stay in the Northwoods after graduation.

"We currently live in Lake Tomahawk. That's where the house is. I'd really like to stay there," Lambert said.

He first started welding in class at Lakeland Union High School.

"It fit me very well. I never got bored of it," Lambert said. "I was always in there welding."

"I have such high respect for people that are good with building things," White said. "That's what I saw in him."

Craig Deer, a welding instructor at Nicolet College in Rhinelander, wishes for more people like Lambert in the area.

"The Northwoods is definitely hurting for welders," Deer said. "Every day, we have employers calling us, contacting us, trying to find welders for open positions."

In part to attract more welding students, Nicolet started a new format this year called Nicolet My Way. Students can start in any month and work at their own pace.

"They decide how many hours they want to put in a week," Deer said. "A student could essentially put in 40 hours a week. They could put in five hours a week, depending on their lifestyle and their needs at the time."

Lambert will start classes at Advanced Welding Institute in Eagle River next year.

White hopes, bit by bit, new skilled workers like Lambert will help the Northwoods, and his company, AirPro.

"We want the people employed here to be the best," White said. "We're not after good enough. We're after the best."

Welders in the Northwoods generally earn good wages. Many local companies start welders above 16 or 17 dollars an hour.

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 IN OTHER NEWS

RHINELANDER - A man died after a house fire in Rhinelander on Friday night.

According to a press release from the Rhinelander Police Department, Rhinelander police and firefighters responded to the fire at 320 Rose Street near Hodag Park around 7:30 p.m.  

Firefighters went inside the house soon after they arrived and found an unresponsive man on the floor.  Firefighters and paramedics tried to revive the man, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

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RHINELANDER - Kids ran throughout the Woodpecker Bar and Grill in Rhinelander on Saturday for the third annual Harvest Hoedown.

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HAYWARD -
A 16-year-old girl is missing from Sawyer County according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Angel Marie Simonson is reported as an endangered missing person. She is a white female, 5'7", and 220 lbs. 

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MADISON -

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ROME -

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THREE LAKES - After 30 years, Dr. George Karling decided it's time to retire as the Three Lakes District Administrator.

He plans to leave after the school year ends, but the school board is already preparing to find his replacement.

Early next month, the Three Lakes School District will host two input sessions for the public.

Three Lakes residents can go to give their opinions on what they want in a replacement. 

Karling's decision to retire comes about a month after he faced criticism for allowing the district to be featured in a campaign ad for Gov. Scott Walker. 

People who can't make it can still send their thoughts to the Three Lakes Board of Education. People can submit comments by writing to:

Board of Education, Three Lakes School District
6930 West School St. 
Three Lakes, WI 54562 

or email: tr@threelakessd.k12.us.



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WOODRUFF - Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport hosted a fun-filled day for family and friends on Saturday.

This comes about five months after one of its helicopters crashed, killing three Spirit employees.

Regional manager Charles Kotke said those men were in mind today,

"Today is a day of bringing people together, as well as a celebration of our 25 year anniversary," said Kotke. "This team did an amazing job getting us back to caring for our patients and doing what we need to do to care of our community."

Flight paramedics showed off the aircrafts to people and the helicopter was a big hit.

"They definitely like to look at the aircrafts. See how we transport patients from point A to point B," said Northern Region Supervisor Ryan Short.

Next Saturday, Spirit is celebrating with more associates. The second part of the celebration will be in Stevens Point.

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