From “State grant to help train 45 welders” — Milwaukee contract manufacturer Super Steel LLC has teamed up with Milwaukee Area Technical College and staffing agency Aerotek to attain a grant for training new welders.

The state Workforce Advancement Training Grant will provide $45,000 to MATC to train employees with basic welding experience in a week-long class to prepare them for entry level positions at Super Steel. Wauwatosa staffing agency Aerotek will help find qualified candidates among its clients.

The grant allows for up to 45 welders to receive additional training through a 40-hour, one week course. Candidates for positions at Super Steel who are a good fit for the job and have potential will be referred to the course, said Dirk Smith, chief operating officer.

“Within 40 hours, if you have basic weld skills you can pick up on (American Welding Society D 1.1), which is the entry skill level for us,” Smith said.
The grant provides an opportunity for both the underqualified employee and Super Steel, he said.

“In the past we’ve just turned them away,” Smith said. “Typically there were others waiting in the wings to fill that void, but with the welding industry being as tight as it is you’ve got to get creative.”

Super Steel, founded in 1923, has locations at 7800 W. Tower Ave. in Milwaukee and 7900 W. Calumet in Milwaukee. The company manufactures large construction, agriculture and transportation equipment that must be welded by a certified welder, Smith said. After achieving an entry level certification, employees improve their skills through in-house welding school.

The company currently has 400 employees, and Smith hopes to hire 45 to 60 new employees by the end of the year with the help of the grant training.
Increasing demand is driving Super Steel’s growth, he said.

“Our volume is up significantly from last year—our volume is almost doubled,” Smith said. “It’s good to be a metal bender right now.”

From “FVTC relieving women’s worries” — At 24, Cassie Behrend of Oshkosh is the single mother of a 5-year-old son. Nineteen weeks into a high-risk pregnancy she lost her job as a certified nursing assistant.

“I can’t lift, push or pull,” Behrend said.

Unfortunately, the duties of a CNA include plenty of lifting, pushing and pulling.

And now, her employer is telling her she may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

She has stress to spare.

Behrend has faced numerous hardships in her life, including a brutal rape back when she first started college. It led her to the brink of suicide, she said.

She had not learned good coping skills as a child. Back then, her way of coping with stress was to not talk about it.

Today, she is older and wiser.

She doesn’t worry about false modesty when seeking help from food pantries, thrift stores and other social agencies to help her make her way and to provide for her child. She has looked for and found ways to fill her physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

“God never gives me something I can’t handle,” Behrend said.

She has worked since the age of 15. If she finds a source to help her over a rough spot, she will accept it.

One recent gem Behrend stumbled upon came from Fox Valley Technical College, where she is enrolled studying to become an occupational therapy assistant with hopes of one day working with disabled children.


From “State proposal would let high-schoolers study vocations” — A state proposal that would allow high school seniors to receive vocational degrees instead of traditional high school diplomas has educators concerned, but others say it could help graduates succeed in the work force.

A bill before the state Legislature would allow students to skip requirements in math, science and English and instead earn vocational credits to graduate. The vocational program’s makeup would be decided by school boards, and the state Department of Public Instruction would approve any curriculum changes.

The measure, proposed by state Rep. Mark Radcliffe, D-Black River Falls, is being considered as part of special session on job creation called for by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“I would be very excited about something like this,” said James Golembeski, executive director of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board, which serves 10 counties in Northeastern Wisconsin, including Brown. “Our school system is very much geared to college preparation, but only about a quarter of people in Wisconsin have a bachelor’s degree and only about a quarter of the jobs need that, so we’re giving them a lot of stuff they don’t need.”


From “Employees of local industrial companies finish MATC robotics class at Enterprise Center” — Madison Area Technical College and employees of several local industries recently wrapped up another technical course.

The latest was “Robotics for Industrial Automation Level 2,” which helped the employees learn more about industrial robots. Knowing how they work makes it more likely they’ll be able to diagnose problems in-house and, even if they can’t fix problems themselves, cut down on the amount of time outside experts must spend.

“We’re seeing the application,” said Dr. John Lalor, Economic Development Administration liaison for MATC. “We’re seeing a lot less having to outsource.”

On Oct. 19, the last day of the course, students were finishing projects that made us of FANUC robot arms and a pack of magic markers.

“We’re drawing numbers,” said Tony Montgomery, a Brakebush employee.

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From “Gateway student selected as president of statewide technical college student government” — Gateway Technical College is pleased to announce that student Rebecca Gement was elected president of Wisconsin Student Government.

Gement, Racine, is enrolled in Gateway’s Information Technology-Computer Support Specialist program as well as the Programmer/Analyst program. Gement in May graduated from Gateway’s Information Technology-Network Specialist program.  She is a member of the Gateway United Student Government where she serves as the Kenosha Campus vice president.

“I look forward to meeting with legislators to let them know how important the success our technical college system is to the state of Wisconsin’s economy,” said Gement. “Technical colleges touch on every aspect of the working class.

“They give young students the hands-on training necessary to enter the workforce with real-world skills. They give older, displaced worker students the opportunity to garner new skills in a timely fashion to return to the workforce. Finally, they also offer the opportunity for current workers to take specialized classes needed for them to continue on their career path.”

Wisconsin Student Government calls itself “a strong statewide organization that opens the lines of communication between the 16 technical college districts. WSG addresses political and other issues that affect students, faculty, the system’s financial concerns, and its existence.”

From greenbaypressgazette: “Northeastern Wisconsin finds nursing balance” — Recession and the continuing difficult economy put nursing shortages in Wisconsin on hold, but it’s a situation not expected to last.

In the meantime, there seems to be a balance in Northeastern Wisconsin between nursing graduates and available jobs.

Bellin College in Bellevue and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay each reported near 95 percent placement rates for recent graduates.

It might take a little longer to land a job, and it might not be the preferred category or work shift, but the jobs are there, said Kay Tupala, dean of Health Science at NWTC.

“We are not hit nearly as hard by the nursing shortage as you are seeing in other urban centers across the United States,” said Matt Rentmeester, vice president of development and public relations at Bellin College.

NWTC graduates about 150 students annually, Bellin College graduates 90 and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay graduates 70, though its most recent class had 83 graduates.

Inmates earn degrees

October 31, 2011

From “Moving forward: Stanley Prison inmates earn degrees, plaudits for work” — STANLEY – Lance Schneider didn’t want any part of the education programs at the Stanley Prison when he was sent there in 2004 on a 22 year sentence for arson.

Eventually, he changed his mind. “I settled down and realized I had to have a good education,” he said.

He passed all of his courses except one: Math. Actually, basic algebra.

So he took the course test. He flunked. He took it again. He flunked again. And again, and again.

Ten times he took the test. Ten times he flunked.

On the 11th time, he decided it was sink or swim. He studied with the help of the 10 Windy Meadows School tutors.

This time, he passed the test.

On Friday, Schneider, 33, was given a honorable mention for a 2011 Courage Award for Achievement in Correctional Setting. He received it at a graduation ceremony for 41 inmates, including Bennie Harvey, who is also 33.

Harvey has been at the Stanley Prison for five years on an armed robbery charge. He graduated from a custodial program offered by Chippewa Valley Technical College.

“It means a lot,” he said of completing the CVTC program over four months. “Today’s lessons are a stepping stone for tomorrow’s blessings.”

Eventually, after he leaves the Stanley Prison, Harvey would like to start his own business.

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From “Wind tower erected in Jefferson” — JEFFERSON — As today’s tough economy fosters creativity and innovation almost everywhere, partnerships continue to sprout up around the region to get things done. On Friday afternoon, one of these latest liaisons — between county government and Madison College — was working toward the construction of a wind-speed measurement tower at Jefferson County Fair Park. By Friday evening, the tower was in place.

With Jefferson County Fair Park Director Paul Novitzke looking on, Madison College Industrial Maintenance Instructor Cris Folk and a number of his students undertook the task of erecting the 100-foot, portable wind-measuring tower in the southwest corner of the fair park.

The device has a small turbine on top to measure wind velocity, direction, temperature and other data that will be made publicly available over the Internet. After one year, the Jefferson County Fair Park Committee will have enough data to determine the feasibility of erecting a full-size wind turbine at the fairgrounds. Madison College, also known as MATC, in turn, will use the tower and data gathered in Wind Turbine Safety and Introduction to Wind Energy classes taught at its Watertown and Fort Atkinson campuses.

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From “Video Gaming Program Coming to Carroll, MATC” – On Tuesday, representatives from Carroll University and Milwaukee Area Technical College will meet on Carroll’s campus to sign an articulation agreement for a joint program in information technology with an emphasis on computer game development. This is the first four-year program in southeastern Wisconsin that focuses on gaming.

In addition to recreational uses, game technology has been used for educational tools and business strategies software, as well as for training soldiers, pilots and surgeons. Although this program is themed on game development, students are exposed to many other applied and problem-solving skills that prepare them for a broad range of jobs in rapidly changing technology fields, such as software development, multimedia development, digital media and film production.

The Bachelor of Science degree in information technology with emphasis on computer game development will include two years of courses taught in Carroll’s computer science program, and the courses from MATC’s two-year associate degree in applied science in computer simulation and gaming.

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From “Implementing a ‘tactical fitness’ program” — The law enforcement profession presents a variety of unique physical challenges which can cause serious — sometimes career-ending — physical injury. For just one example, you may spend two straight hours seated in your squad car, followed immediately by a foot pursuit which ends in a wrestling match. Some departments are good at giving officers the time and the equipment required to work out and prepare your body physically for the many outside physical forces which will be placed upon you in the line of duty — other agencies leave it entirely up to the individual officer.

I’ve recently been in touch with some folks who have implemented a program that piqued my interest. Dubbed “Tactical Fitness” this health and wellness program targets specific muscle groups with exercises created specifically for situations officers encounter in the line of duty, with the objective of preventing injuries and health-related issues. Tactical Fitness was created by staff members of the criminal justice program at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College and instructors at Orange Shoe Personal Fitness (based in Fitchburg, Wisconsin). The program’s goal is to bring a new culture to departments and recruits using a cost-effective wellness model with stability balls, resistance bands, and TRX Suspension Trainers, a versatile piece of exercise equipment that is portable, lightweight, and can be used in a minimum amount of space.

Southwest Tech received a grant through the Wisconsin Department of Justice to offer a workshop for local Wisconsin law enforcement agencies providing Tactical Fitness training designed to give officers the tools to train their individual departments. Local agencies that participated include the Iowa Country Sheriff’s office, Dodgeville Police Department, Fennimore Police Department, Dubuque Police Department, and Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office.

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From “FVTC partnering with district to make students more employable” — Tucked into the back sleeve of her binder is a piece of paper mapping out Miranda Martinez’s class schedule for the next few months.

Between classes, lab work and clinical sessions, Martinez will be busy. And that’s in addition to her regular high school coursework.

The 17-year-old is going through nursing assistant classes through Fox Valley Technical College that will give her the skills she needs to land a job after she finishes her high school studies. For Martinez, that means she won’t have to take food and drink orders while working her way through college.

“I can see myself working as a CNA as I work through my (general studies),” she said.

Martinez is one of six students from the Oshkosh school district’s Riverside Program, which allows students to earn a high school diploma in an alternative high school setting. Martinez and three others are involved in the nursing assistant program. Two other students are taking welding classes.


From “Panel: Perception of ag jobs needs changing” — To protect Wisconsin’s $59 billion agriculture industry from a crippling workforce shortage, leaders need to kill the negative image that’s keeping young people from entering the field, industry experts said.

During a panel discussion today at a conference about economic development in rural Wisconsin, educators, business leaders and economists highlighted a grim reality: Wisconsin’s top industry is struggling and will continue to struggle to find qualified workers.

Much of that concern stems from young people’s misperceptions that jobs in agriculture, including food processing, are all low-paying, require no education and equate to long hours on a farm.

The panelists said that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“The jobs are there,” said Lori Weyers, president of Northcentral Technical College in Wausau and a proponent for drawing students into agriculture work. “We can’t get the people interested in the careers.”

From “LTC-Manitowoc gateway for high school diplomas, associate degrees” — MANITOWOC — Until three weeks ago Steve Senovich’s three adult children didn’t know their father had dropped out of Mishicot High School after 11th grade.

“Now, that I’m going back to school they’re happy for me,” said Senovich, 52, who works in shipping for ThermoFisher Scientific in Two Rivers.

He has 34 years of seniority — laid off just one day in his career — but figures when the company’s steel plant shuts down by year-end his job at the downtown wood plant may be in jeopardy.

“These decimals and fractions some of them I can catch on pretty quick but other parts I can get confused,” said Senovich, in the learning lab at Lakeshore Technical College-Manitowoc, as he studies for his HSED (High School Equivalency Diploma).

Senovich and several hundred other LTC-Manitowoc students may earn dozens of different professional certificates or even associate degrees.

They may never have to leave Manitowoc for the primary campus in Cleveland, studying with instructors and other adult learners in the classrooms at the Manitowoc Job Center, 3733 Dewey St., which LTC has used since 1997.


From “Close to 100, including Sen King and Reps Spanbauer and Hintz, attend jobs hearing” — Frustration with present economic conditions and a desire to see Democrats and Republican work together permeated a jobs hearing with elected leaders Monday night.

The close to 100 people in attendance told personal stories of layoffs, a lack of opportunities for work, mounting health care bills and dissatisfaction with lack of progress spurring job growth to the four area legislators that attended the hearing sponsored by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. There was criticism during the hearing for programs such as corporate tax breaks and technical college system funding cuts, but also pleas for cooperation on legislation that spurs job growth for the future.

“Make some kind of promise to me that you’ll do something to help me in six weeks. Not two years. You’re all so disconnected from the rest of us,” Appleton resident Tanya Adams said. “I have professional skills. I want to work. It’s not a Democrat or Republican issue. Work together. You’ve got to find common ground to help someone like myself.”

Adams moved to Appleton in search of opportunities in the Fox Valley after running her own business for 27  years in Minneapolis. She said she finally found work in 2008, but developed health problems and was eventually laid off.


From “Update: Business execs share regulatory, health care concerns with Gov. Walker” — Business leaders told Gov. Scott Walker Monday that everything from cumbersome regulatory processes to increasing health care costs impede job creation.

During a forum at Northcentral Technical College, a mostly supportive group of central Wisconsin executives reiterated what the business community has said for years: Do away with redundant regulations, increase access to capital, and make it cheaper to business in Wisconsin.

That, in turn, will help companies create jobs, according to business leaders.

“We’re working on building affordable housing, and they create more regulations,” said Sid Sorensen, owner of Sorensen Construction, a homebuilder in Wausau.

The forum included business leaders from a variety of sectors, including manufacturing, agriculture, real estate, construction and health care.

Ken Heiman, president of Nasonville Dairy, has 100 workers and buys milk from 184 farmers. For him, a top priority should be making it easier for farmers to expand in Wisconsin, because the need for milk is increasing.

He said he recently spoke to a farmer from Texas who wanted to come to Wisconsin, and open a 4,000-cow dairy farm, but was hesitant because of the regulatory climate.


From “Retired LTC instructors receive apprenticeship awards” —  Two retired Lakeshore Technical College employees received state honors at the 25th Wisconsin Biennial Apprenticeship Conference and Centennial Celebration in Madison.

Jack Mattner, who led LTC’s apprenticeship programs until his retirement in 2008, received the Hall of Fame award for his distinguished record of contribution to the apprenticeship system.

“Jack could answer any question you had about apprenticeships,” said Mike Thompson, dean of Trade & Industry and Apprenticeship at LTC. “Even today, I’ll give Jack a call.”

Mattner was innovative in developing LTC’s apprenticeship program and sponsored many initiatives to expand and improve the program, Thompson said.

Richard Schmidt, a millwright, machine maintenance, and maintenance mechanic instructor who retired this year, received the Centennial Educator award.


From “Nicolet College working on dental profession offerings” — A two-year dental hygienist associate degree could become the newest offering at Nicolet Area Technical College. Nicolet officials are in the very early stages of developing the new program.

Earlier this week, at the monthly meeting of Nicolet’s board of trustees, Vice president of Teaching, Learning and Student Success Kenneth Urban and Lenore Mangles, dean of Health Occupations at the college, gave an update on the progress toward establishing the new associate degree.

“At this point we don’t know what the need is,” Mangles said.

But Mangles projects that the data will ultimately show there is a need for a dental program offering in the Northwoods. She shared statistics from the State Department of Workforce Development estimating a 31.2 percent increase in dental hygienist positions from 2006 to 2016 due to new jobs and retirements.

It remains to be seen whether that is indeed an accurate portrayal of the dental job market in the Northwoods. That is all part of the process Nicolet College officials are just now readying to embark on, a requirement of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS).

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From MATC students looking up to future in renewable energy” — 

FT. ATKINSON (WKOW) — For the first time in the Madison area, a class aimed at training electricians for work on wind turbines is up and running.

Eight students at Madison Area Technical College’s Ft. Atkinson campus learned basic safety and rescue techniques Saturday in hopes of earning a certification that could put them above their competition.

“Having the certification makes an individual ready to go to work sooner,” said Clay Tschillard,   training director for the Madison Area Electrical Apprenticeship Committee.

“There are times when you can go ahead of other workers that are out of work because you have the certification.”

The course is paid for by a federal grant, all part of a $6 million effort to make Wisconsin’s trades greener.

The two-day class costs $56.

From “Bill aims to boost worker training funds” —  A bill that would increase the amount of money the Wisconsin Technical College System can give each year to help companies train their employees is one step closer to becoming law.

The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore, would increase the minimum amount state-funded technical colleges allocate in the form of advanced manufacturing skills training grants by $400,000 for each of the next two years to $2.4 million.

“What we’ve been hearing from business leaders all across the state is that they’re really having difficulties getting people with the skills they need,” Lassa said Friday, a day after the state Senate passed the legislation on a bipartisan vote.

Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, was the only member to oppose the measure.


From “Naval contract opens doors, jobs in Northeastern Wisconsin” —  MENOMINEE, MICH. — Just off 10th Street in Menominee, Mich., North Motorsports is on the verge of opening a business focused on selling Bombardier Recreational Products ranging from all terrain vehicles and snowmobiles to three-wheeled motorcycles.

The decision to expand from the existing line of Honda products sold in a nicely appointed retail store a few blocks up the road has been reinforced in part by the award of a U.S. Navy contract to Marinette Marine Corp. late last year. Marinette Marine will build as many as 10 littoral combat ships at the northern Wisconsin shipyard just across the river from Menominee.

“You can see the effects of it, slowly,” said Eric Bellisle, one of the owners of North Motorsports, 3229 10th St. “It helped our decision to go ahead and expand the product line. We’re now going to have products like snowmobiles, which we didn’t have before, … filling some of the holes we had in our product lineup.”

The award of the Navy contract last year is expected to create new jobs and have a ripple effect through the community — both in terms of area companies providing products and services to Marinette Marine and the general economy.


From “Experts say dismissing the ACT is a gamble” — 

BLACK RIVER FALLS — Katie Ross has no plans to take the ACT, even as she nears graduation. Her post-secondary ambitions are practical: Earn a two-year business degree. Find steady employment. Then, hopefully, make good money.

“I’m not looking into any four-years,” said the senior at Black River Falls High School. “It’s not for me.”

About 71 percent of Wisconsin high school graduates take the ACT, widely considered necessary for entering four-year colleges. But only three public school districts in the Coulee Region have test participation rates above state averages. In 11 districts — all rural — more students skip the test than take it.

Just 26.9 percent of high school seniors took the exam this year in La Farge. Low test rates also beset districts in Black River Falls (35.5 percent), Alma Center (36.7 percent), and  Royall (37.1 percent), where each school had its lowest participation rate in 15 years.

“I was sad, upset,” said Ashley Jilek, a counselor at Royall. “I thought we needed to do more on our end to get these kids involved.”

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From “Local students spend Saturdays at Nicolet College” —  RHINELANDER – Area High School students are getting their feet wet in a college atmosphere.

These High School students are giving up their Saturdays for more than a month to gain some valuable training.

“The Academy helps give students, freshman and sophomore particularly, in high school a college experience. We talk about college success skills, we talk about what it’s like to be a college student. Putting in mind, so they can plan for college in their career pathways,” says Rose Prunty, Dean of University Transfer Liberal Arts & Academic Success at Nicolet College.

This Academy, formed in collaboration with the DNR and UW-Stevens Point, focuses on Science and Digital Media. They’re studying aquatic invasive species, and how to prevent them.

“We’re also studying lake turnover. Which is, the warm water and the cold water, as the seasons shift, those shift over and that brings more oxygen to the lake,” says Jacob Blodgett, from Tomahawk High School.

Rose Prunty says the course might encourage someone who wasn’t thinking about college to reconsider.

“I do think the students have gotten a good sense of what it might feel like to be in a college class, and have that idea of what it’s like to be on a college campus,” says Prunty.

Better preparing high schoolers for what lies ahead.

Nicolet College is offering two similar academies early next semester for health care and engineering. All of these programs are planned for the next school year as well.

From “FVTC eying major expansion plans” — GRAND CHUTE – An area technical college is eying major expansion plans.

Fox Valley Technical College is considering five major projects to the tune of more than $65 million.

With enrollment up 30 percent over the last three years, the school says it will soon be bursting at the seams.

“We’ve done everything that we can do to meet the demand of the public and dislocated workers coming to us to get retrained for jobs,” Chris Matheny, Vice President of Instructional Services said.

Matheny says many of the school’s facilities are at capacity. He feels the time is right for an expansion.

“Even in a down economy, 85 percent of our graduates when they leave here are getting jobs, so I think it’s really a time to ask ourselves is it worth making an investment in the future so that continued generations and continued people in the Fox Cities can have access to those services,” Matheny added.

The college wants public input on the $65 to 85 million expansion plan.


From “7th annual GEMS Conference set for Nov. 5″ — The seventh annual Girls, Engineering, Math & Science one-day conference for girls in Grades 6 to 8 will be held Nov. 5 at Moraine Park Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac.

GEMS is designed to help increase awareness of careers in math and science, help young girls develop confidence in these fields, raise awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and provide interaction with female role models.

The day begins with registration at 8:45 a.m. Two morning workshops will be held on the Moraine Park campus.

At 11:45 a.m., students and chaperones will be transported to UW-Fond du Lac for a social luncheon, fashion show, GEMS Young Woman Leadership Award presentation and a college student panel.

After the luncheon, participants will be transported back to Moraine Park to attend a final session.

A total of 22 workshops are available. Enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The conference cost is $25, and scholarships are available from the UW-Fond du Lac Foundation, Moraine Park Technical College Foundation and Marian University Foundation for those qualifying for the 2011-12 free /reduced lunch program at their schools.


From “Editorial: Economy has dire consequences on student debt” –  Sometimes a headline seems to unexpectedly reflect the problems of a prior. Two this week: “Aging workforce poses a problem, WMC report says” and “Student loan debt hits record levels.”

Wisconsin’s economy supports an 88 percent higher manufacturing job concentration than typical state economies, according to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article about the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce report.

While that presents opportunities, it also suggests the state’s aging workforce can’t sustain that percentage without enough skilled workers replacing retirees.

At the same time, students and workers seeking retraining are borrowing extraordinary amounts of money through federal loan programs, USA TODAY reports. Student loans taken out last year crossed the $100 billion mark for the first time; total loans outstanding will exceed $1 trillion for the first time this year. For comparison, Americans now owe more in student loans than they do on credit cards.



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