Men and their machines

Gerd Poppinga Sr. (left) and Sven Klatt will be part of a trade delegation drumming up business and workforce recruitment opportunities in Germany.

Gerd Poppinga Sr. (left) and Sven Klatt will be part of a trade delegation drumming up business and workforce recruitment opportunities in Germany.

Two top executives from Vineburg Machining, both of whom are natives of Germany, returned there late last week to make contacts as part of a Nevada trade mission.

Gerd G. Poppinga, president/CEO of the Mound House corporation, and Sven Klatt, the general manager, headed for Berlin to hook up with the trade mission to Europe led by Gov. Brian Sandoval. The pair, both trained in Germany before coming to Carson City, will be on hand to promote ties and look toward planting seeds for eventual worker training and pipelines, possible exchanges and enhanced Nevada industry training programs.

“It’s going to show really nicely how big companies and small companies (there) work together to train the entire work force,” said Klatt, who also teaches manufacturing skills at Western Nevada College.

Poppinga agreed.

“I’m sure that the governor is going to be impressed,” the president and CEO said.

Poppinga, Vineburg’s founder, as a young man worked at a German firm that later became Electrolux. He did the apprenticeship training program there and at a trade school. Klatt, working for the same firm a generation later, did similar combined industry/trade school training. He subsequently joined Poppinga here and manages a staff of more than 30 working with various machines, including state-of-the-art Five-Axis units Poppinga calls the pinnacle of the trade.

Klatt chimed in the computer software involved in precision machining work the firm does has made significant advances in the past decade, so the combination means ongoing training is crucial.

He said planting seeds for worker exchange is in too preliminary a stage to talk much about, but he did share Vineburg intends to send a worker to Germany to undergo perhaps a year of advanced training.

Poppinga said the combined industry/trade school work and apprenticeship program he and Klatt went through took more than three years. One day each week was in trade school classes, the rest at the manufacturer for which they worked. Even at the firm, he said, classwork training was included along with the work. Employees took a turn in various roles to learn machining, milling and other necessary tasks, the pair said, and there were continual tests.

“It is really too bad we don’t have that here,” Poppinga said. Klatt, however, noted efforts by northern Nevada educators and others to provide pertinent education or training for people entering manufacturing are growing.

Poppinga lamented the fact workers are needed now and that “everyone focuses on engineers,” though well trained workers with proper skills also are crucial. “They have to have a skill set,” he said. “We’re not up on that. We need to do better.” Klatt said the trade mission, programs at community colleges like WNC and even at the high school in Carson City show understanding is growing and progress is possible. “This trip shows everyone cares,” he said.

Both men, however, stressed word of opportunities in industry needs to reach students and their parents so more will consider entering the manufacturing field. Poppinga cited one Vineburg employee who’s in his 20s and makes $50,000 annually, has no student debt and has the skill set that makes him valuable long term.

The European trade mission includes five nations and involves the governor, his office of economic development, others in the economic development field and various representatives of government, business and industry.

Among those in the delegation is Nick Marano, Carson City’s city manager, who’s focused on luring technology companies to Nevada’s capital from Poland.

Also on the itinerary are Ireland, England and Italy along with Germany and Poland. The pair of executives from Vineburg is spending about a week in Germany through July 30. Poppinga and Klatt said they will join the delegation in Berlin and travel with it to Dresden and Leipzig with stops that include major manufacturers like BMW, a BMW supplier, Porsche and a Collaboration Workforce Training Center.

Poppinga said his machining firm likely is the smallest from industry here joining the trip, saying larger local manufacturers like GE Bently in Douglas County and Click Bond in Carson City as also sending representatives.


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