Brian Lewis, Executive Director, Foundry Educational Foundation
Brian Lewis is the Executive Director of the Foundry Educational Foundation, an organization established in 1947 that strengthens the metalcasting industry by fostering partnerships between educational institutions and industry to ensure today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders.
I am pleased to share my thoughts with Waupaca Foundry customers, suppliers and associates to mark yet another achievement for our industry. For the first time, the Foundry Educational Foundation (FEF) has established an endowed faculty chair at one of its certified schools! The faculty chair was created in the Industrial Studies Metals Processing Technology program at the University of Wisconsin—Platteville. This important milestone was reached thanks to a lead gift from Waupaca Foundry, and several major contributors including Badger Mining, Neenah Foundry, Kohler Foundation, American Colloid Company, Magma, and Aarowcast, along with other companies, alumni, and friends of FEF. The endowment, aligning with FEF’s mission, will ensure the university continues to educate the next generation of foundry leaders. The UW-Platteville foundry program is under the leadership of FEF Key professor, Dr. Kyle Metzloff. Earnings from the endowment will underwrite his salary to ensure this top tier program continues to produce outstanding technical graduates for the metalcasting industry.
As an organization, FEF provides support for 20 certified universities with foundry programs through donations from partner companies and individuals. We have awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships, and FEF supported foundry programs have placed over 400 graduates in metalcasting jobs in the last five years. A number of those graduates are employed at Waupaca Foundry and other foundries throughout the Midwest—many are alumni of the foundry program at UW-Platteville.
This endowment is a precedent for FEF and would not have been possible without support from Waupaca Foundry, our campaign cabinet, and our many generous corporate and individual donors. Our goal was to create a sustainable model to ensure those passionate teachers—the FEF Key Professors—stay at reputable universities. These educators are critical to igniting passion for metalcasting in talented and highly qualified students.
With the support from Waupaca, our organization chose UW-Platteville and Dr. Metzloff for this groundbreaking endowment because his leadership has created excitement and curiosity in students. This is something that Waupaca has experienced for many years in hiring UW-Platteville graduates. Dr. Metzloff’s program focuses on hands-on experience in the foundry lab and real-world exposure to working foundries along with a broad-based curriculum. These aspects encourage graduates to realize the potential of a career in metalcasting. Manufacturing in the United States is graying and we all know it’s essential to our partners to continue to attract the best and brightest into technical curriculums like the UW-Platteville program. Beyond that, the metalcasting industry needs people who have a passion and interest for foundry work—young people who look at manufacturing and get excited about the durable products made.
Several graduates of the program credit Dr. Metzloff’s passion and enthusiasm for hooking them on foundry work. Kelsey Schwantes is a lead process engineer for Waupaca Foundry and said the program gave her unlimited opportunities. “It’s not only how Kyle teaches, but his industry connections. It’s not just classroom instruction, it’s the tours and the lab work that drive everything.”
Ryan Hansch is an assistant tooling manager at Waupaca Foundry and credits the real-world experience he got as a student with his success. “Platteville is regarded as one of the better schools in the nation for its foundry program because a lot of what happens in the real world actually does happen in that lab.”
Steve Nygaard is a tooling engineer who got early exposure to working foundries in Dr. Metzloff’s program. “We got exposed to industry professionals while we were still students so we got used to talking to everyone from the guy who runs the molding machine to the guy who owns the foundry. It got me comfortable talking to people who I would eventually be asking for a job.”
Graduates from the Platteville program are at some of the nation’s largest manufacturers, like Mary Cartier who is a continuous improvement coordinator for Kohler Company. She said the foundry program opened her eyes to a career in manufacturing. “There are a lot of misconceptions about jobs in metalcasting. Millennials don’t want to sit in a cubicle all day long and in my job I’m only at my desk 25% of the day. I’m always doing something different, talking to people, and using my creative skills.”
Dr. Metzloff credits hands-on lab work with generating great enthusiasm in the students, but he’s keenly aware of the program costs. The space and operational costs required for a foundry lab are an investment for any university, but updated facilities and quality teachers are critical to sustaining successful metalcasting programs. In Dr. Metzloff’s words, he’s grateful for the investment in his program. “This shows that Waupaca Foundry and Hitachi Metals have confidence in our program to supply their needs into the future. Their foresight is amazing and allows Platteville to build a program that will continue for generations, well beyond my time.”
Since 1947, FEF’s goal has been consistent in its mission to contribute to the success of the metalcasting industry starting with investing in our young people. With inspirational teachers like Dr. Metzloff and collaborative partners like Waupaca Foundry, we will be able to continue to steer our best young technical minds into the foundry field.