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Manufacturing Month Spotlight:  Husco International



October is Manufacturing Month, and Employ Milwaukee Inc., (EMI) is spotlighting one of its business champions, Husco, located in Waukesha, WI.  Husco specializes in manufacturing hydraulic and electro-mechanical control systems, has about 500 employees at its Waukesha facility, and has been named one of the “Top Workplaces” by the Milwaukee Journal for 11 years in a row and was recently named a Future 50 company by the BizTimes. 

Like many manufacturers in southeast Wisconsin, Husco faced a workforce shortage, particularly for second-shift production positions.  When Husco leadership heard about Afghan refugees settling in Milwaukee (after evacuating from their homeland when the Taliban seized power in August 2021), they put together a recruitment strategy to recruit them for production job openings.

This isn’t the first time Husco turned to refugees to fill openings in its plant said Jason Schuetz, Vice President of Operations and Advanced Manufacturing. Schuetz and other executives pointed to Husco’s experience a few years ago recruiting refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma).  

“We knew if we could get our foot in the door early and strike early, we would have a high likelihood of success and it would build upon itself, Husco has always been committed to supporting the communities we live in”, Schuetz said. While this strategy may not work for all manufacturers in a tight job market, it is an innovative approach to hiring and retaining employees.

While Husco was driving the strategy, their efforts required collaboration from multiple partners within metro-Milwaukee to make it a success.    Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan coordinated the Afghan refugee settlement, Manpower Group handled temp-to-permanent hiring for Husco and identified transportation options, and Maximus helped identify EMI’s Skillful Transitions (WAI) grant as a resource for Husco’s new hires with On-The-Job Training funds as well as transportation support for the commute from Milwaukee to Waukesha.  While hiring the Afghan refugees has been a huge boost to Husco’s hiring, they are still recruiting for employees in production and other professional roles like engineering, IT, and Supply Chain jobs. 

Husco implemented special accommodations for the new employees including hiring at least one English-speaking Afghan refugee for each shift for  translation purposes.  They also provided information on American workplace expectations and created a multi-faith space available for  all employees to use for daily prayer or meditation. 

Most of the Afghan new workers have spouses and children that remain in Afghanistan.  They admit it is extremely painful to think about their family’s lives under the current conditions in their home country,  but are hopeful of gaining asylum in the U.S. and bringing their families here. 

“Working with Husco, our partner organizations and the Afghan refugees has been an incredibly rewarding experience,” said EMI’s President and CEO Chytania Brown.  “We’re proud to be a part of building a strong workforce development system by planning, coordinating, collaborating on this innovative initiative,” Brown concluded.

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