This article is part of AEM’s Thinking Forward initiative , designed to help members prepare for and manage critical challenges like big data, advanced manufacturing and a changing workforce.


As a manufacturer, how do you showcase your facility to 2,100 middle school students who might someday consider working for you?

The answer for AEM member Kondex Corporation was participation in a virtual tour through a program called Career Connections Academy.

Organized by Fond du Lac Works, a division of the Fond du Lac (Wisconsin) Area Association of Commerce, Career Connections Academy takes students on virtual tours through several Fond du Lac-area businesses and gives them a glimpse of the many jobs that are offered in the fields of manufacturing, healthcare, services and agriculture.

Seventh- and eighth-graders from six area school districts plus three other schools took part in the program on January 11 and 12 at the Fond du Lac campus of Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC).

Not Too Early

“Knowing that it’s never too early to encourage students to think about what they might want to do after graduating from high school, this program specifically targeted seventh- and eighth-grade students, providing them with the opportunity to explore career pathways in a fun and interactive format,” said Bernadette Seefeld, director of educational programs at the Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce.

More than 100 area business representatives and MPTC faculty members came together over the course of the two-day program to teach students about careers, local businesses and the level of education needed to do various jobs.

Diane Riley, Kondex marketing manager, was present to answer questions after the company’s video was shown to students. In addition, Casey Placek, Kondex lead metallurgist, was in a separate classroom to teach students about the basics of metallurgy. Leading the virtual tour at Kondex was Ahmoni Gonzalez, a middle-schooler selected for the part based on the creativity and personality displayed in his audition video.

“Students learned that there are many career options available along with varying levels of post-secondary education and/or training needed for the different roles,” Seefeld said. “By showcasing local businesses at the event, we were able to show students that there is a lot of opportunity right in their own backyard.”

Keeping in Touch

Participation in Career Connections Academy is part of Kondex Corporation’s strategy of developing touch-points with students throughout the time when they are making career decisions, said Mike Frydryk, vice president of human resources and organizational development at Kondex.

The first touch-point is middle school, he said, because of the curriculum planning students undertake heading into their freshman year. Second is their sophomore year, when students are starting to look at elective courses in their last two years of high school.

“Senior year is also important, especially for those who are undecided,” Frydryk said. “We try to get them into manufacturing while they’re exploring careers and motivate them with tuition reimbursement.”

Altogether, Frydryk said, Kondex engages in 15 different initiatives to attract and retain student talent. These efforts have paid off, with more than a dozen well-qualified new associates coming on board in the past few months at Kondex as business begins to pick up in the agriculture and turf product industries.

 Share Your Story

Do you have a successful, unique or creative approach to connecting with your future workforce that you’d like to share with other AEM members? We’d like to hear from you! Contact Kate Huskin, AEM director, communications (, tel: 414-298-4155).