Luann Bartley spent 22 years in marketing and management support for Productivity, Inc., the largest machine tool distributor in the Upper Midwest. “I learned a lot about manufacturing in that environment,” she said. Back in the 1990s, she was asked to be a member of the Publications Committee for the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association (MPMA). “I was a volunteer committee member and then committee chair. At that point they asked me to be a board member,” she said.
In 2004, Bartley went to work for the association management company that managed MPMA. She continued that role when IntrinXec Management, Inc., over. She was recently named MPMA’s Director of Workforce Development, “a title that better reflects my role,” she said.
“I refer to this time in my career as the dessert phase,” Bartley said. “I love working for IntrinXec, but my passion is MPMA and workforce development, working toward the goal of a skilled workforce. How are we going to get there, and what are we going to do to maintain the level of manufacturing in Minnesota?”
Bartley said there’s a need for better understanding of the role of manufacturing. “We are faced every day with the idea that all kids have to go to college and have to get a four-year degree. We have to let the influencers — the career counselors, the high school teachers, the middle school teachers, the parents — know about the highly skilled, wonderful jobs that are available in manufacturing.
“People don’t know what’s available today. They think of it as what it was 20 years ago, 30 years ago. It’s come so far. Manufacturing today is highly paid, highly skilled clean environment. Yes, jobs did go to China, but those jobs aren’t what we have today, especially in Minnesota.”
What are some of the initiatives that MPMA supports?
We are involved in the Supermileage competition — high-mileage car racing at Brainerd Speedway. We support the SkillsUSA Minnesota Chapter by providing funding for the manufacturing-related skills contests. We support the “Dream It. Do It.” marketing campaign that focuses on middle school and high school students. We’re involved with Project Lead the Way, a curriculum that focuses on the engineering portion of manufacturing. The one that really touches my heart is the MPMA Educational Opportunities Foundation that provides scholarship money for manufacturing-related programs at a technical college in Minnesota.
What are some new initiatives?
Down in the Mankato area, we have a welding internship program in partnership with two high schools. High school kids are in class part of the day, then go work in some of the member companies. There’s a group of manufacturers that are working with the Wright County Technical Center on a youth apprenticeship — we’d like to see that happen more and more.
What’s the best part of your job?
We’re making a difference. We get thank-you letters from students that just absolutely warm your heart. In one case a young high-school instructor told the MPMA president that a machine had been donated to his school, but he had no way to run it. I compiled an e-mail and sent it to some associate members at 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. By 5:20, I had donations of work holding equipment, tooling — items needed so that machine would run. We ended up with donations worth $75,000. That high school program just exploded. That’s my best feel-good story. □