What’s your job? Employee technical training with Lorraine Schwager

What’s your job? is a new series focused on the work of FP&M employees. As the largest and most diverse nonacademic unit on campus, it can be challenging to learn everything our division is responsible for. These stories shine a light on FP&Mers and what they do to keep campus safe, sustainable and successful.

person with short grey hair stands smiling wearing safety glasses and wearing a Wisconsin "W" shirt in a white room with machinery and equipment in the background
Lorraine Schwager, CEFP in the stainless steel welding area at 30 N Mills used by the sheetmetal workers for welding stainless steel. Photo by Veronika Dethart.

Facilities Planning & Management is committed to employee growth and development through top-tier technical training for various trades. However, who is responsible for translating these ideas into action?

Meet Lorraine Schwager, a technical training program manager in FP&M Physical Plant’s Operations & Maintenance (O&M) team. Her main responsibilities include collaborating with vendors, manufacturers, unions and internal staff to provide skill training.

Lorraine’s efforts are focused on planning training sessions for more than 300 individuals spread across over 20 different positions and trades in O&M. Training ranges from the specific, such as brazing during the recent Plumbing Workshop — to the general, like lift training for safely operating hydraulic lifts used by various FP&M staff.

person with hat, safety glasses, beard, moustache wearing sweatshirt holds up two metal pieces that were cut in half
Nick Foulk attending NIBCO Plumbing Workshop, Nov. 2023; inset: before and after pieces of joint from brazing. Photo by NIBCO

On a typical work day, Lorraine responds to staff requests, schedules meetings, tracks training progress, and partners with FP&M Human Resources to facilitate class registrations and payments. Given the variety in her job, every day is a new adventure, filled with interactions, problem-solving and strategic planning.

Though she’s been with FP&M for only eight months, Lorraine has been establishing new programs to improve the employee training process at FP&M by collaborating on a skills gap analysis to figure out which skills are most needed by O&M staff and creating training programs around those needs.

In July, Lorraine organized a workshop with NIBCO, a provider of flow control products, who provided detailed training for FP&M steamfitters and plumbing staff on press-sealing pipes and valve installations.

metal valves stacked on metal rack in warehouse
Assortment of valves used to make repairs inside the university’s facilities — from smallest on the top shelf to largest on the bottom. Photo by Veronika Dethart.

She orchestrated another workshop with Viking Electric, FP&M’s vendor for power panels and electric boxes. This session covered safety features and showcased the latest tools in the field and the attendees were able to receive continuing educational units for the training sessions.

Last month, NIBCO came to FP&M again for an on-site plumbing workshop involving brazing techniques.

In addition, Lorraine planned the National Fire Protection Association 25 course for plumbers and National Electric Code Update training.

Looking ahead, she is also working with leadership to support the lead workers within the trades by obtaining their Maintenance and Reliability Management Certificates through the College of Engineering Interdisciplinary Professional Programs, which will help the trades maintain their equipment for longer life and running times as well as decrease downtime.

Group of people stands smiling with arms folded at waist in industrial shop full of equipment and metal parts
Adam Kundert (Plumber Lead), Spencer Bylsma (NIBCO), Jim Krause (Plumber), Brent Kelley (Plumber), Lorraine Schwager (TTPM), Jay Maier (Plumber Lead), Aaron Kilburg (NIBCO), Pat Brunker (Plumber) attending NIBCO Plumbing Workshop, Nov. 2, 2023. Photo by NIBCO.

Lorraine is coordinating more skill-building for early 2024 — which includes actuator training for facilities technicians and maintenance mechanics, Compact Door Operator’s training for locksmiths and carpenters, and Level 1 Machinery Lubrication Technician training.

Lorraine’s drive to learn shows — she earned the Certified Educational Facilities Professional (CEFP) credential from APPA in October. The CEFP is the only certification that validates the specific knowledge and competency required for ongoing success in the educational facilities-management field.

Person with short hair and glasses stands smiling leaning over with their arm around a life-size the Swedish Chef puppet toy holding a musket gun
Lorraine at Disney’s California Adventure with the Swedish Chef Animatronic from Muppet Vision 3D 2005.

Lorraine loves the opportunities that the university offers, as she applies her previous experiences into her new role. She developed a passion for training and mentoring through 35 years of experience building strong teams in the U.S. Navy, Disneyland and the public school system at Sun Prairie Area School District.

Years before meeting the tradespeople of FP&M, Lorraine worked with the trades at Disneyland, where her team “made the magic happen” for the enthusiastic park visitors.

Lorraine also looks back to her 20 years of service in the Navy, with two deployments to the Gulf and visits to 31 countries, as important learning moments that equipped her with teaching skills and lifelong connections.

Person with short grey hair and glasses smiles seated in an office cubicle with two photos of military ships in the background
Lorraine Schwager, CEFP sits at desk with photos of USS O’KANE (DDG-77) and USS CAPE COD (AD-43). Photo by Veronika Dethart.

After deciding that a year of retirement was too dull for her, she moved to Neenah where she could frequently attend women’s basketball games and other sporting events. (She’s a huge fan of coach Moseley and the Badgers!) In five years, Lorraine envisions traveling and discovering more of Wisconsin’s charm. Her travel bucket list includes Italy, especially its northern regions.

As an FP&M colleague, Lorraine showcases her dedication, leadership and commitment to fostering excellence and diversity within the campus community. Her journey that led to Wisconsin and the impactful role she plays at FP&M are a testament to her passion for making a difference.

by Megan Wu

Long metal pipes of different sizes are inside a metal rack within an industrial show with machinery
Rack of pipe used by the trades to make repairs inside the university’s facilities, photo by Veronika Dethart.

Want to talk about training opportunities for tradespeople? Get in touch with Lorraine at lorraine.schwager@wisc.edu.

Want to learn about other training opportunities related to your work?

All FP&M staff can explore learning opportunities on the Inside FP&M Training & Development page. Start by talking to your supervisor about areas for development that you are interested in and then explore the Position Specific Training lookup tool, campus classes, LinkedIn Learning, professional organizations relevant for facilities professionals and career management resources.