Training partnership teaches welding — and life skills

Rick Barrett:

Growing up about 30 years ago, Super Steel Inc. President and CEO Dirk Smith says, he learned a work ethic and other essential skills that he believes are missing now in some job applicants.

“My parents instilled that in me,” said Smith, adding that he didn’t have to learn many of the “soft skills” in the workplace because he had already been taught them at home.

Now, Smith says, he sees young people lacking knowledge of basic things such as showing up to work on time. Sometimes they don’t have a bank account, which is a problem because Super Steel, a Milwaukee manufacturer and metal fabricator, has a direct-deposit payroll.

“We can teach kids the technical skills, on how to weld or operate a brake press. … But if they are missing the essential life skills, then all of that training is lost,” Smith said.

Addressing the issue, Super Steel has partnered with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin in a welder skills development program where the curriculum includes classes in areas such as communication, teamwork and conflict resolution.