December 11, 2013
From beloitdailynews.com: “BTC: Either cuts or $4M referendum” – by Hillary Gavan - A $4 million referendum for Blackhawk Technical Colleges (BTC) annual budget would enable the college to offer more career pathways to job seekers and more skilled workers for businesses looking to hire, according to BTC President Tom Eckert, Vice President of Finance & Operations Renea Ranguette and Foundation and Alumni Association Director Kelli Cameron.
In a recent interview, BTC officials explained how enrollment has increased while state funds have been cut causing an estimated annual budget shortfall of $3.5 million. The voters have a choice to either move forward with a referendum or reduce programs and services.
“Our only other option is to shrink,” Ranguette said.
The proposed referendum would mean a tax increase of $37 for a home with an assessed value of $100,000, translating to $3.08 per month. The board would have to approve the potential referendum by the Jan. 16 board meeting in order to get it on the ballot for the April 1 election.
In 2009, Eckert said enrollment increased 54 percent at BTC when General Motors (GM) closed. During the years that followed BTC increased certain programs to meet student needs while making a total of $3.2 million in cuts to services, programs and personnel.
“It was a combination of offering more of the right programs our community needed while making reductions to those that weren’t in high demand,” Cameron said.
Now, in 2013, enrollment remains relatively high as state funding has been cut. For example, the 2011-13 state budget reduced Wisconsin Technical College System aid by 30 percent, reducing state aid to BTC by $1.5 million. And the local operating property tax levy was frozen in 2010.
“Our increased enrollment was bigger and longer than we thought,” Eckert said.
Eckert also noted that there still are many part-time students enrolled at BTC who may be under-employed and are trying to gain more skills as the economy still recovers.
During the time of the enrollment boon, Eckert said many positive changes were made to better address the educational needs of students and employers, which BTC hopes to continue. For example, during its increase BTC implemented more comprehensive student services such as tutoring, advising and career counseling.
“We thought they were key things to students staying in school, and things employers told us they needed,” Eckert said.
An example of an expanded program is welding, which now is offered from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily and on Saturday to push out welders as quickly as possible due to a welder shortage.
BTC officials also want to keep their focus on health occupational offerings as well including a pharmacy technician program.
Although some programs and services have been increased, Eckert stressed how BTC has scaled back other programs. Employees have increased their benefit contributions and personnel have been reduced. For example, about 30 employees brought on via two-year contracts during the enrollment increase were not kept on board.
However, there are more staff overall since 2007 to support additional student services. Eckert noted about 80 percent of the operational budget is for staff salary and benefits.
The following are examples of operational savings: closed aviation program, $370,000; reduced the size of the electrical power distribution program, eliminated leadership program, and office systems tech position, $270,000; closed day care center, $72,000; increased employee contribution to Wisconsin Retirement System, $1 million; made personnel changes through attrition, $372,000; and cuts to operational accounts and activities, $169,000.
Historically, Eckert said BTC has received less local revenue on a per-student basis than all other small technical colleges in the state. BTC has 2,774 full time equivalent (FTE) students, second only to Moraine Park and Wisconsin Indianhead in its peer group of small technical colleges. However, BTC is eighth in its operational costs per FTE at only $11,745, compared to the average of about $14,000 among its peers.
“Even thought its the third largest among its peers, it charges the least per student,” Eckert said.
He added that the state sets the amount of tuition BTC can charge prohibiting the college from generating additional funds that way.
The Blackhawk Technical College Foundation has sent out surveys via mail and e-mail to more than 12,000 residents in Rock and Green counties to gauge community support for a potential referendum. On Dec. 19 the company conducting the surveys — School Perceptions — will present findings to the BTC Board in an open forum at 6 p.m. in the Board Room at the Central Campus’s administration building.
Eckert maintains it’s critical for BTC to continue its current programming to keep the local economy strong.
“We are a player in attracting businesses,” Eckert said.
He said for every tax dollar spent, communities get about $1.40 back in terms of what students spend. However, some figures put the figure as high as $14 back because of a higher educated populace which leads to a better healthcare, lower crime rats and less reliance on local taxing sources.
December 11, 2013
From wsau.com: “Salvation Army, NTC recognize successful students” – A celebration was held Tuesday for a group of students that have been working hard to improve their futures. The Salvation Army works with Northcentral Technical College to help people they serve have a more positive future.
Stan Steckbauer heads the program, and says they help teach skills needed in today’s world. “Things like getting a G-E-D, improving their computer literacy activities, being able to apply for jobs online, and teaching them how to fill out resumes, and also doing things like college preparation.”
The educational program also helps people get regular and commercial drivers licenses, so people can get to and from their future jobs.
Steckbauer says their program helps the recipients decide what their future should be, and helps them achieve it. “We try to assess their situation and then determine what they might be best suited for, and how to eliminate any barriers so that they can accomplish their academic or vocational goal.”
The program recognized 40 students for reaching their educational goals in a ceremony at the Salvation Army in Wausau Tuesday evening.
December 11, 2013
From chippewa.com: “Governor Walker signs two bills at CVTC ceremony” – Governor Scott Walker signed two bills into law Tuesday aimed at increasing the number of students who graduate ready to enter the workforce.
The bills signed at a ceremony at the Chippewa Valley Technical College Manufacturing Education Center in Eau Claire create a scholarship program for students who demonstrate excellence in technical education, and create incentives for K-12 school districts to graduate students with industry-approved technical certificates.
“Many employers are still facing a shortage of skilled labor, while too many of our neighbors are still unemployed or underemployed,” Governor Walker said. “Our emphasis on workforce development looks to find a solution to both situations.”
“These bills are a positive for the K-12 system, they are a positive for the technical college system, and they are a positive for the business community. I call that a win-win-win,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker.
Act 59 provides incentive grants to school districts that promote career and technical education programs. On an annual basis, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will work with the Department of Workforce Development and the Wisconsin Technical College System to identify industry sectors that are facing workforce shortages including shortages of adequately trained, entry-level workers.
For every pupil who completes an approved, industry-recognized certification program, the DPI will award grants of $1,000 per pupil to school districts. Grants will be available beginning in the 2014–15 school year.
“This will be a great incentive for K-12 systems to create programs or expand programs, or to work with the technical college system on dual-credit programs,” Barker said.
Act 60 awards scholarships in conjunction with the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB) to students of excellence who are enrolled fulltime at a technical college. Between one and six scholarships will be available at each school, depending on the number of students. HEAB will fund $1,125 of the scholarship with a matching contribution from the technical college.
“We want to provide an equal incentive to some of our students with outstanding technical skills. We want our best and brightest not only in our universities, but in our technical colleges,” Walker said.
December 11, 2013
From fox11online.com: “FVTC culinary students create elaborate gingerbread houses” – Culinary students at Fox Valley Technical College are creating elaborate gingerbread houses for a unique fundraiser.
The houses will be on display in the college’s commons area the week of December 16th.
They’ll be auctioned off, with proceeds benefiting the Culinary Arts program.
Instructor, Chef Sue Horvath, and student Jason Sargeant from Neenah joined Good Day Wisconsin Tuesday to give some tips on constructing and decorating your own gingerbread house.
December 11, 2013
From wbay.com: “NWTC students send care packages to service members” – A group of students at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College spent Tuesday creating care packages for deployed service members.
It’s part of a project designed to bring a smile to those service members’ faces.
George Wehausen, president of the veterans club at NWTC knows what it’s like to get a care package while being deployed.
“I was overseas in the late 90s. I always enjoyed getting care packages. Cookies, stuff we can’t get our hands on,” explained Wehausen.
That’s why he jumped at the chance to help supply chain management students with their service learning project “Patriot Smiles.
They collected items and are now turning into care packages for service members.
“We had three boxes here at the college and we had businesses and companies. We also had companies donate money,” said student Nathan Whiting.
The students collected a variety of items. Everything from footballs to snacks, based on the units’ wish lists in order to bring them a little piece of home.
“I think it’s good because they’re fighting for our country and they deserve something that makes them feel like they’re at home and not over there without their families,” added Whiting.
The care packages are just one part of the project.
Students from local elementary schools also wrote letters that will go in the packages.
Money was also raised to help children of deployed service members.
“That have a hard time dealing with there parents being gone. So, if they have lost a brother, sister, mom or dad to the war, we send these kids to camp,” said Wehausen.
The packages will go in the mail Tuesday.
December 11, 2013
From weau.com: “Walker signs bills encouraging more technical education” – Governor Scott Walker visited the Chippewa Valley Technical College to sign bipartisan bills SB 334 and SB331 into law today.
The first one provides scholarships to promising students who are looking go in technical education fields. The second sets up a grant program to help high schools provide more students with advanced technical educational opportunities.
He says there is a tremendous need in our state to train workers for the jobs that are available. Many of those open jobs are in technical fields like IT, health care and manufacturing.
“We want our best and our brightest not only in our four year colleges and universities; we want them in our technical colleges as well” Walker said.
Walker added, “The earlier we start people thinking about those career paths, the earlier we will see what they are good at and plug them that, the more likely they are going to be to fill those positions in the future.”
But we all know education and training is expensive, and that’s where Walker says these grants and scholarship will help bridge the gap.
“That’s not only good for education it’s good for the economy,” said Walker.
SB331 sets up an incentive grant program to have career and technical education programs in high schools. It says schools will get $1000 for each student enrolled in an advanced technical program.
Chippewa Valley President Bruce Barker says he hopes the legislation will also help build more partnerships between high schools and tech colleges across the state.
“The entire technical college system was created to meet the employment and training needs our business and industry that was specific design so programs like this again highlight that partnership,” said Barker.
December 10, 2013
From thefabricator.com: “Press brake training helps build a foundation for success” – Robbins Manufacturing of Fall River, Wis., has invested in an extensive training program, including machine-specific training, especially on the press brake. The company also has invested heavily in new technology, including a brake with automatic tool change. Both investments are paying off.
During a given day, the 17 press brake technicians in Robbins Manufacturing’s bending department form an impressive range of materials, on a range of machines—from 20-gauge to 1.25-inch-thick mild steel, bent on equipment from a 55-ton electric brake to a 320-ton hydraulic system (see Figures 1 and 2).
By the end of the year, the company expects to install a new press brake with automatic tool change capability. The controller downloads programs, and the system’s mechanization automatically sets up the punches and dies for a job. And thanks to sensors that detect the bend angle in real time, the first part should be a good part. An operator should be able to perform a job consisting of, say, five pieces, then another job of a dozen workpieces, and so on, with mere seconds of changeover time in between. Managers expect the new technology to really help their efforts to reduce batch sizes, to ensure workpieces reach the weld cells at the right time. No one wants a welder waiting around for a missing component.
Here’s the rub: The Fall River, Wis., contract fabricator plans to put one of its most talented, experienced operators on the new press brake. At the same time, the shop has invested in cross-training. The company has worked with Madison Area Technical College and the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International® (FMA) to provide classroom training on various topics. This includes a comprehensive certificate program on the intricacies of press brake operation.
Some may purchase a new machine tool to deal with the lack of skilled labor available. It’s not an ideal situation; managers are just adapting to a business reality. The people at Robbins, though, are tackling the skilled-labor crisis a little differently.
The art of improvement in manufacturing often involves identifying a constraint, discovering why it’s a constraint, then devising ways to eliminate it. Robbins enjoyed a busy time earlier this year, but as capacity levels increased, inefficiencies became glaringly apparent, especially in bending. The press brake department needed to increase its throughput.
The problem, sources said, was that certain operators learned on specific machines and became specialists on that equipment. The company has different brands of press brakes, and each has its own control-interface idiosyncrasies—nothing dramatic, but just enough to throw off throughput goals on a busy day (seeFigure 3).
“We were struggling with the everyday logistics of running the shop,” said Eric Parks, plant manager. “When people were sick or on vacation during a busy time, we ran into constraints that seemed to be avoidable if we had training.”
Up until this point, Robbins’ training regimen had been mostly hands-on. A new employee would shadow an experienced operator and be trained to run a range of products on one machine. But that hands-on training didn’t necessarily cover why a certain forming program worked the way it did. Knowing the reasoning behind forming would give an operator a good foundation for learning how to operate every brake on the floor.
Robbins employs press brake operators in their 20s, 60s, and every age and experience level in between. The company tends to hire brake operators based in part on their blueprint reading capability. Operators may have experience in other trades, be it construction or carpentry, but if they can read a blueprint, managers figure these employees have a good foundation for learning the sheet metal bending craft.
“We generally taught our operators how to bend a family of products,” said Travis DeBussey, fabrication manager. “They understand how to make a group of parts at a specific machine. And in the past, unfortunately, that’s where we’ve stopped. With experience, they evolve to the next step and start to visualize a new setup, so they can bend a part that they’ve never seen before.” But he added that, until now, the company hadn’t offered formal classroom training.
A Common Language
Technical aptitude—knowing what has to be done—hasn’t been a problem. Instead, it was about the why, and about communicating that reasoning in a common language, be it bend radius, bend angle, bend allowance, bend deduction, tangent point, outside setback, or any other term in sheet metal bending. No matter the operator, press brake make and model, or company, everyone should speak the same bending language.
Many aspects of brake setup have become automated. Software can calculate the bend allowance and deduction and, ultimately, determine the correct die opening and punch for specific bends. But why is that die opening the way it is for a particular job? Why is the minimum flange length this measurement for this workpiece? Why is the radius pitch (the distance between hits made when bump-bending a large radius) specified this way? Why exactly does a bend become “sharp” at 63 percent of the material thickness, and why can’t you put a sharper radius in the bend without digging a ditch into the bend line?
“We’ve always had press brake operators, turret press operators, and laser operators,” said Parks. “We’re starting to migrate toward having fabricators.”
The ultimate goal is to have a flexible workforce capable of operating any machine in the fabrication area. So managers reached out to Madison Area Technical College. MATC’s outreach program, through grants, partially funded Robbins’ training initiative, which included a press brake operator certificate program from FMA. As part of this program, Steve Benson, president of Salem, Ore.-based ASMA LLC (and frequent contributor to this magazine), conducted a training program over two weekends in August. Several days focused on laser and punch press operation, but most instruction focused on the press brake.
The 20-person class had many of the company’s brake operators, but also other machine operators, including several turret operators who had never operated a press brake before. Most attendees passed the certificate course’s press brake exam with flying colors.
This isn’t to say the exam, or the training course, is a cakewalk. As Parks explained, even the shop’s most experienced operators learned something new. “Some of the more experienced people were reluctant because they’ve been [operating a brake] for a long time, and they understand how to do it. But they picked up on quite a few things, including some of the basic foundations, including some of the math that showed why they do what they do.”
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