Walker said he gets "particularly excited" when he talks about manufacturing in Wisconsin, so he felt right at home when he addressed the annual Manufacturing Advantage Conference on campus.
Speaking in the Great Hall of the Memorial Student Center, he detailed his administration's efforts to boost manufacturing, one of Wisconsin's traditional economic pillars, through helping lower costs and making the state a better business partner.
Walker was excited, then, to hear Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen announce that UW-Stout is stepping up to further meet the regional and state needs of business and industry. Sorensen said planning is underway to bring three new engineering degree programs to UW-Stout: mechanical, electrical and chemical.
UW-Stout will work in the coming months with its Faculty Senate, the UW System and Board of Regents to implement the degrees. If approved, the degrees would be available for the first time in Wisconsin north of Madison.
"It's early on in the process, but I told Chancellor Sorensen that I love it," Walker said. "For this campus to take on even more degrees in that area would be a tremendous boost for us."
UW-Stout currently offers manufacturing, plastics and computer engineering undergraduate programs. These programs are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, previously known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
Furthermore, UW-Stout offers engineering-related Bachelor of Science degrees in packaging; game design and development; engineering technology; and applied mathematics and computer science. The university also offers a master's degree in manufacturing engineering.
As Wisconsin's Polytechnic University, the school's mission is to provide programs that help grow the economy. A recent report indicated a state jobs gap, or openings that are going unfilled because candidates lack the proper education.
"This is one of those campuses that really focuses very effectively on the types of skills and training that people need to get not just jobs but to have great careers in the state of Wisconsin. We are heavily dependent on manufacturing, and we're going to be even more dependent as the economy grows," Walker said.
Sorensen also announced that UW-Stout plans to develop a graduate certificate program in medical devices.
"These are needed programs for the region," Sorensen said. "We plan to continue to strengthen our service to Wisconsin and society. Continued progress can only be made by visionary, aggressive planning.
"I am pleased to be able to make this announcement in front of Gov. Walker, who has challenged education at all levels in Wisconsin to be more responsive to the needs of business and industry. It is clear that UW-Stout is working hard to meet that challenge," Sorensen said.
Walker also complimented UW-Stout on its longstanding history of producing graduates who find jobs.
"We're very proud (of UW-Stout) not only for its impact here in northwestern Wisconsin but across the state. Its 97 percent job placement rate is one of the best in the UW System," Walker said.
"Having a placement rate of 97 percent …that's an incredibly significant record, one that the faculty, staff and student body and all those in the private sector who support UW-Stout should be proud of," Walker said.
Sorensen, the longest-serving chancellor in UW-Stout's 122-year history, said the Manufacturing Advantage Conference directly reflects the school's mission to produce skilled graduates.
"We have built upon our rich past and transformed this university to become Wisconsin's Polytechnic University, reflecting our dynamic, applied educational philosophy. We partner with such schools as MIT to train the next generation of workers in modern, futuristic fabrication through our FabLab.
"We are mission-driven and market smart," Sorensen said.
Sorensen said UW-Stout's Discovery Center had an economic impact of $34 million in the last year.
Walker noted that since he became governor more than 11,000 new companies have opened in Wisconsin. He said the average manufacturing job in the state pays $52,000 a year, 25 percent higher than the average for all jobs, and that 87 percent of manufacturing jobs come with benefits.
"Manufacturing is a long and proud part of Wisconsin's heritage. It's going to be an even greater part not just of our future but of our recovery. Manufacturing will help lead the way."
The Manufacturing Advantage Conference was sponsored by the UW-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center.