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August 11, 2014

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From spooneradvocate.com: “Lawmakers look to lessen technical colleges’ reliance on property taxes” – by Shemane Mills, WPR -Concerns about property taxes have lawmakers looking at other ways to fund the state’s 16 technical schools. They’re also considering changes that could reduce local control of technical schools.

Historically, the property tax has been the largest source of revenue for the Wisconsin Technical College System, a sore point for some taxpayers and the Wisconsin Realtors Association. In the last budget, the state put $406 million towards technical schools in an effort to shift some of the system’s funding away from property taxes.

The WRA’s Joe Murray supports the state increasing its share of funding to 45 percent, but urged lawmakers to consider funding technical schools in the future without any property taxes.

“From our experience, after watching this debate over the last 30-35 years, the only way you ultimately start and keep property taxes going in a certain direction is to take stuff off the property tax,” said Murray.

That leaves the question of where money for technical schools would come from, according to Josh Dukelow from the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce.

“The same people who pay property taxes to support technical education pay municipal taxes to support law enforcement, pay school taxes to fund primary education, pay income taxes to fund state services, and pay sales tax when they shop or dine,” said Dukelow. “To maintain our premier educational resources in Wisconsin, we will have to pay one way or another.”

Dukelow also expressed concern about possible changes in governance of technical schools, saying a more centralized approach wouldn’t be as quick to meet the needs of local business. He said each area of the state has different workforce needs that may not be suited for state control.

From beloitdailynews.com: “Good investment at Blackhawk Tech” — IF YOU OR SOMEONE you know became a parent any time recently, chances are the job the child one day will hold hasn’t even been invented yet.

And don’t think that child will grow up, get that job and spend a lifetime performing the same work.

Most people will hold many different jobs — really different jobs — in the course of a life’s work.

Daunting.

About now parents will be wondering how the child is supposed to prepare for a career culture so thoroughly fluid and unknown.

THE KEY INGREDIENT is education. For many professional positions that means a four-year university degree, or even more. Graduate degrees will proliferate as young men and women try to gain an edge in the job market.

For many others a two-year technical and career education can be the ticket, either for direct entry into the workplace or in preparation for more specialized training.

Just as importantly, technical and career education will be the bridge for those non-traditional students who find themselves left behind as the culture of work becomes more complicated and demanding. It happens every week. Advances in technology coupled with the global realities described in author Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat” lead to massive disruptions in traditional industries.

Staying current and staying relevant in the work environment requires flexibility and constant learning.

WHICH BRINGS US to our point: On Aug. 12 voters in Rock and Green counties will be asked to approve Blackhawk Technical College exceeding its levy limits by $4 million to pay for operational needs.

The answer should be a strong, positive yes.

First of all, it’s a bargain. BTC’s mill rate is lower than it used to be and will remain so if the referendum is approved. It sounds too good to be true, but your BTC property taxes will remain low.

Moreover, the referendum seeks just $4 million, a relative pittance in the overall scheme of governance. The federal government spends trillions — and squanders much of it. State government spends billions — and squanders a fair amount. Beloit city government and the School District of Beloit together spend hundreds of millions, better managed closer to home. The school district is spending $70 million alone on rebuilding district facilities.

In a sense, $4 million is lint in the pocket for government big spenders.

WHAT THAT $4 MILLION buys really counts. It pays for more direct course offerings for in-demand jobs. It pays for the flexibility to respond quickly to changing industry needs. It pays for adapting to the needs of non-traditional students, by increasing evening and weekend class sections. It pays for the people to teach those classes. It pays for support staff for faculty. It pays for people to pursue revenue-generating grants. And it’s intended to help pay for a long-term water system need to protect taxpayers’ investments at the college.

Most of all it pays for critical needs as the region moves forward into an uncertain and unknowable future. Change is occurring at a pace never seen before on this planet, and the future belongs to those most capable of adapting — repeatedly — to that cycle. The communities have been working hard to be ready in a changing world, with considerable success — most recently marked by the announcement that NorthStar Radioisotopes is beginning construction of its high-tech $150 million plant on Beloit’s East Side. These and other jobs to come will require high-level skills. There’s no alternative to staying state-of-the-art at the region’s career and technical college.

BTC’s $4 million ask is needed and it’s reasonable. The Beloit Daily News endorses a “yes” vote on Aug. 12. Help our workers stay at the forefront.

From chippewa.com: “Obstacles don’t stop CVTC grad” — Scott Steenerson still isn’t sure he should have graduated from high school. Struggles in reading and math due to learning disabilities resulted in poor grades. But that was back in 1997. On Thursday, July 24, he graduated from Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) as a top student in the Manufacturing Engineering Technologist program, a member of the College’s honor society, and the student speaker for the commencement ceremony.

Steenerson was one of 129 graduates to receive degrees and diplomas in 26 different programs in CVTC’s summer graduating class. Welding and Radiography programs had the most graduates, with 17 each, followed by Diagnostic Medical Sonography with 16.

Last spring, Steenerson received both the achievement and leadership awards among all Manufacturing Engineering Technologist students. He was the only one scheduled for summer graduation.

It’s not as if Steenerson’s learning disabilities magically disappeared since his days at Elk River, Minn. High School, but he learned to deal with them and got the help he needed at CVTC.

“In high school, they didn’t have a lot of programs that helped with it,” Steenerson said. “There were a handful of classes I did pretty well in, but I think that had a lot to do with good teachers.”

Steenerson ended up settling in Hammond and holding a well-paying job at Andersen Windows. “I had a couple of people at Andersen who took me under their wings, and I started to catch on to things better,” he said. “That gave me the opportunity to work with the manufacturing engineers.”

When he became a victim in large layoff, two weeks after his second child was born, Steenerson knew he’d have to do better in the future to support a family of four. Eligibility for a federal program for displaced workers allowed him to enroll at CVTC. He started off scared.

“Considering my grades in high school, I was really concerned about whether I could pull off college-level classes,” Steenerson said. He had two tough ones right away in chemistry and math. “I was extremely nervous. Looking at the other students, half of them seemed young enough to be my kids.”

But Steenerson says he had two great teachers, Ron Keyes in chemistry and Dave Vollmer in math, who knew about his learning disabilities and gave him the extra help he needed. Steenerson also got help from the CVTC’s Academic Services Center. Success followed.

“When I got my final grades, I shocked myself, particularly in my math class, where I got an A when I had struggled so much in high school.”

More success followed. On Vollmer’s recommendation, Steenerson became a math tutor. When he started his program courses in manufacturing, Instructor Tom Vanderloop drew him into the student chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, where he rose to a leadership position. Twice he represented CVTC with other team members at international competitions and was the team leader in one.

His exposure to lean manufacturing at Andersen Windows made him a valuable student. Instructor Hans Mikelson would bring him in to help with workshops on the subject.

Steenerson explained that, knowing his limitations, he was never hesitant to ask for help. When he got it, he shared it. “I’d grab some of the other students and explain it to them and we’d work out problems together.” Steenerson helped in efforts to extend tutoring programs to CVTC’s Gateway campus.

In addressing his fellow graduates, Steenerson said he feels a sense of sadness leaving CVTC because it has made such a difference in his life. “I’ve loved every one of the instructors I’ve had at CVTC,” he said.

Steenerson is already getting some job offers, but he’s hoping to lands something close to his current home and at a company where he can work to improve manufacturing procedures.

Like Steenerson, faculty speaker Jon Leenhouts had high praise for the teachers he learned from in his life. “Over time, I’ve remained interested in my own career, and have actively kindled new opportunities and have been willing to try new things – because of the type of teachers I’ve been fortunate to have had,” said Leenhouts, an award-winning trainer and consultant with CVTC’s Business & Industry team.

Commencement speaker Kathy Otto, medical assembly operations manager at Phillips Medisize, spoke of the skills gap with a different perspective. She told of a recent meeting with CVTC and business community leaders to identify training needs in the community.

“But in the end, one man stood up and summed up the gap for the entire business group: ‘We just want people that care – care!’ Every business leader in the room immediately agreed,” Otto said.

From htrnews.com: “Kleefisch announces LTC prosperity grants” — Lakeshore Technical College will receive more than $1.3 million in grants through Gov. Scott Walker’s Blueprint for Prosperity program.

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch made the announcement Wednesday as part of a tour to announce the grants at each of the state’s 16 technical colleges.

Earlier this year, Walker signed legislation under Blueprint for Prosperity that added $35.4 million to the Wisconsin Fast Forward worker training program. The expansion targeted three areas, including grants to reduce wait lists at Wisconsin technical colleges, grants for collaborative projects among high schools, technical colleges, and employers to train high school students in industry-recognized certifications, and grants that enhance employment opportunities for workers with disabilities.

“These resources provide critical funding to train workers quickly for our local employer’s greatest needs, ” LTC President Michael Lanser said. “The Blueprint for Prosperity grants benefit our students, our employers and our communities by strengthening our workforce with more skilled workers.”

LTC’s portion of the grants will target eight different initiatives.

The Basic Food Production Boot Camp will provide four sections of the basic food production certificate to a total of 40 students. The boot camp will provide necessary skills to obtain an entry level food manufacturing position.

The grant will also provide two sections of the mid-level food production certificate to a total of 24 students consisting of incumbent workers and basic food production completers. Students gain skills in lean manufacturing and six sigma and are qualified to secure a job as a line leader or cell leader.

The grant will provide two sections of the nursing assistant course to a total of 20 students at partner health care facilities. Upon passing, students are eligible to sit for the Wisconsin Nurse Aid Registry and become certified nursing assistants.

Four sections of the Basic Emergency Medical Training (EMT) will become available to a total of 60 students at partnering fire stations in Lakeshore communities.

For general manufacturing, four sections of basic, entry level manufacturing courses will be available using the Manufacturing Skills Standard Council (MSSC) curriculum in a boot camp format to a total of 48 students. Students gain entry level skills for the start of a career in manufacturing as a part of this program.

For Industrial Technician Automation, the grants will provide two sections of integrated manufacturing systems instruction to a total of 24 students and targets incumbent workers.

The grant will also provide 10 information technology certification workshops to incumbent workers and IT students to serve a total of 100 students. Curriculum modifications will include faculty training to infuse or update program outcomes to include Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), Microsoft specialist, and A+ certifications.

Three industrial boot camps will target incumbent workers to include basic tools, measurement, math, print reading and maintenance to a total of 36 students. Students will obtain employment as entry level machine operators and basic maintenance and up to eight of the credits apply toward the Industrial Technician Technical Diploma.

From gmtoday.com: “$1.7 million grant slashes wait lists for popular WCTC programs” — PEWAUKEE – Waukesha County Technical College will now be able to slash wait lists and offer more class sections, thanks to a grant from the Wisconsin Fast Forward program.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch was on hand at WCTC’s Industrial building Wednesday to present the technical college with a $1.7 million award, which will be used to help train students for high-demand positions.

“There is a skills gap in Wisconsin and WCTC seeks every day to build a bridge over that skills gap – today you have some construction money,” Kleefisch said. “It is through investments like these that Wisconsin will address the skills gap today and in the years to come.”

The Fast Forward program is part of the Blueprint for Prosperity initiative which Gov. Scott Walker signed into law last year. In total, $35.4 million will be allocated by Fast Forward into worker training programs focusing on reducing wait lists, collaborative projects between high schools and colleges, and enhancing employment opportunities for disabled workers.

These grant dollars will significantly impact the journey of our students pursuing high-demand programs … and in turn benefit our local economy,” WCTC Interim President Kaylen Betzig said. “We are pleased and honored that the governor recognizes WCTC’s work as an important and valuable investment.”

The grant will be administered by the Department of Workforce Development and will go toward training as many as 168 students in the fields of welding, computer numerical control (CNC), transportation and early childhood education.

Betzig said that the funds will not only permit more students to enter these high-demand programs, but will also go toward hiring more professors and purchasing more supplies and equipment for student use.

“It is huge,” she said. “We have lots of programs – yes we can shift money – but other programs have needs too. It takes resources in order to do this and it takes resources in order to expand and offer more sections so we can get more people into the funnel.”

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