From “Madison artist selected for elite contemporary art festival in Europe” — A Madison artist who creates complex and vividly colored paper sculptures has been selected to represent Dane County in a European event that attracts a global audience.

Michael Velliquette, 40, will spend two weeks in July as part of an elite convention of artists known as EUARCA. The gathering takes place during dOCUMENTA, one of the largest contemporary art festivals in the world, held every five years in Dane County’s sister county of Landkreis Kassel, Germany.

Last fall, Kassel invited Dane County to select a working artist to be the sole American in EUARCA. Twenty artists applied, and eight finalists were interviewed by the executive council of the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, said commission vice chairwoman Jennifer Post Tyler.

The applicants were “an amazing parade of artists,” Post Tyler said.

Velliquette rose to the top for his “clear, defined vision for the kind of work he would do at EUARCA, how he would engage people there and what he would do to bring the work back to Dane County,” she said.

While at EUARCA, Velliquette plans to create a 12-by-5-foot, three-dimensional sculpture titled “The Power Structure,” along the 2012 EUARCA theme of “power and responsibility.” He hopes to build a similar piece upon his return to Madison. “I like the idea of there being these two ‘antennae’ on both sides of the globe that are connected in some way,” he said.

Velliquette, who teaches part-time at UW-Madison and Madison Area Technical College, grew up in Florida, came to Madison “on a whim” in 1997 and stayed to earn an master’s of fine arts degree from UW-Madison. He lived in San Antonio before moving back to Madison in 2007 to join his partner, organic chemistry professor Tehshik Yoon.

The dynamic use of color in his work, displayed at, “tends to give people some visual excitement — and in some cases joy — so I like that aspect of it,” he said.

Along with $1,000 from Dane County for travel expenses, Velliquette will receive a scholarship of 1,000 euros, studio set-up and a two-week stay with a local family provided by his German hosts.

From “Kickstart your culinary dream: The hottest kitchen entrepreneur challenge” — Have you ever dreamed of owning your own food-related business?

If so, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Reliable Water Services, a local provider of commercial water heaters, boilers and water softeners, would like to give you a head start on your planning. On April 2, they will launch the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge, a regional contest to find the next great food entrepreneur.

Armen Hadjinian, program coordinator for MATC’s new Entrepreneurship Center, says he has seen an increase in the number of individuals who want to break free from the corporate grind and start their own businesses. He attributes what he sees to a number of factors including underemployment, resume building, a shift in attitudes toward self-reliance and independence, and entrepreneurship, innovative thinking and creativity, which lends itself to the competitive corporate climate.

He also sees passion as a key motivator for entrepreneurs, sometimes even more so than the lure of a large income.

“Money may have limited appeal,” he suggests, “Yet entrepreneurship can bring power and control over one’s career and family. It’s sensible to start small, to test, learn and attempt.”

And that’s what a variety of local food entrepreneurs are doing.

Back in 2008, after being downsized from a corporate job, Byron Jackson turned a 30-year love affair with fiery foods into a full-time gourmet hot sauce business. Man’s Best Friend Sauces markets products to a niche market of chile lovers who crave imaginative “purebred” hot sauces, each of which is identified with its own unique dog breed.

According to Jackson, MBF’s growth is as much linked to the dogs on the bottles as the products’ inventive flavor profiles. But, Jackson’s success didn’t come without growing pains.

“Prior to 2008, MBF Sauces was more of a glorified hobby. At that time, expenses didn’t matter to me because I always had a good job to subsidize them. These days I remain a passionate hot sauce artisan, but I’m also very prudent and much more aware of my actual expenses.”

Jackson also has advice for anyone thinking about starting his or her own business.

“Before you get started, ask the question ‘Why do I need to share this with the world?'” Jackson says. “If it takes more than few seconds to answer, you may want to reconsider your idea as a hobby instead of a full-time business.”

Amber Atlee, along with two colleagues from Waukesha County Technical College, answered that question after finding that there was a demand for a service that provided fresh, upscale options for independent seniors and others who wanted heat-and-eat meals delivered to their homes once weekly.

In July of 2011, they started a personal chef and catering company called Culinary Twists, and began offering an ever-changing menu of main dishes and sides made with fresh ingredients.

Like many small businesses, the partners from Culinary Twists needed to meet a number of logistical challenges before launching their business.

First, they needed to conduct research to determine whether there was a need for their particular niche business and to determine how they would compete with current competitors in the market. Next, they needed to find a commercial kitchen that would allow them to rent space for a limited amount of time each week. Finally, they needed to ensure that they had the appropriate licenses from the state, as well as each county in which they wanted to conduct their business.

“Just because you have a good idea and really like to cook doesn’t mean that you will make a great business owner,” Atlee says. “We’re fortunate to have three partners who each bring something different to the table – one of us is great at sales, one is great at the finances, the other keeps our kitchen running smoothly.”

Do you think you have what it takes? Beginning April 2, aspiring chefs and home cooks throughout Wisconsin are invited to enter The Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge at by submitting a short application and a photo of their recipe or product concept.

All entries must be submitted by midnight on Friday, May 18. Full contest rules and details are available right on the website.

“We know there are passionate cooks who have the beginnings of a food business idea and others who may have taken the first steps but could use some encouragement and advice,” says Hadjinian.

The grand prize winner will receive $2,500 in seed money from Reliable to start their business, a comprehensive entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC and a gift certificate for professional cookware from The Boelter Companies.

Finalists will be selected in mid-June to participate in a final judging event at Cuisine, the student-operated restaurant for MATC’s culinary arts program in late summer.

Judges for the contest will include:

  • Justin Aprahamian, chef de cuisine for Sanford Restaurant and James Beard semi-finalist
  • Lynn Sbonik, co-owner of Beans & Barley Deli, Market & Full Service Café
  • Andrea Marquez-Paquin and Andrew Paquin, owners of La Luna, a local company which provides fresh, authentic Mexican food products sold in select grocers’ freezers
  • George Flees, general manager of Parkside 23, a restaurant in Brookfield featuring American food made with fresh, local ingredients

“We are so excited to help a local entrepreneur who has an innovative food business idea but needs resources to get started,” said Lynne Robinson, president of Reliable Water Services. “It’s very gratifying to know we can help kick-start someone’s culinary dream.”

From “Employers Increasingly “Like” Social Media Skills” — Geoffrey Colon rattles off the areas he specializes in: “community management,” “listening,” “social care.” Just five years ago, you might have guessed that he is a social worker or community organizer.

But Colon serves as vice president of Social@Ogilvy, a social media division of worldwide marketing giant Ogilvy & Mather. As such, he is well-versed in the field’s latest buzz words: “community management” means leading an online community on platforms such as facebook, “listening” is monitoring online mentions and “social care” is providing customer care and support via social media.

As social media becomes more integrated into our daily lives, more professionals like Colon are focusing their careers on this modern communication mode. The demand for social media skills has surged in the past year, according to research firm Wanted Analytics. There were about 13,000 job ads online specifying social media skills during January–an 87 percent increase from one year earlier.

A Must-Have in Marketing

Marketing managers and public relations specialists are the two most common jobs specifying social media skills, according to Wanted Analytics. Marketing managers accounted for 2,600 of the job ads, a 58 percent jump from a year ago. PR managers and specialists represented about 1,500 of the postings, a 57 percent increase.

“In marketing, we’re finding that social media is becoming a ‘must-have’ skill rather than just a ‘nice-to-have’ skill,” say Loan Vo, assistant director of marketing for the University of California (UC), Irvine Extension. Vo uses social media to market the school’s offerings, including a certificate program in social media. The school has several facebook and LinkedIn pages as well as Twitter accounts and a YouTube channel.

As for Colon, he creates and executes the social media strategies for a variety of business divisions within IBM. The work includes handling community management on facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, overseeing blog forums, and using “listening software” to monitor online chatter about the company. He points to the launch of Social@Ogily in February as evidence of the increasing role of social media in marketing. The 500-person division integrates social media efforts throughout marketing, communications, customer relationship management, shopper marketing and more, handling the social media needs of corporate giants like Nestlé, Unilever, UPS and Ford.

Mirna Bard, director of social media at fashion designer Guess?, views PR and social media as a perfect fit. “Social media is all about branding, reputation building and relationship building with the customer.” This spring, she will be teaching a course on “Social Media and Public Relations” for UC Irvine Extension. The class emphasizes how to use social media to build relationships with reporters and bloggers and how to push down negative comments online, so they appear at the bottom of online searches.

Wanted: Math Majors, Witty Writers and More

Other jobs specifying social media skills, according to Wanted Analytics, include Web developers, sales representatives, market research analysts, recruiters, software engineers, advertising sales agents and executive secretaries or administrative assistants. The demand for sales managers with social media skills increased more than 500 percent–the most of any occupation. Recruiters experienced the second highest growth, up 131 percent.

Industry insiders predict that the demand for analysts will surge, due to recent emphasis on measuring the effectiveness of social media. “At first, social media was all about how do we push our messages out,” says Bard. “But now, it’s time to think about whether we are getting the true value out of our social media efforts. Over the next couple years, companies will be focusing more on how we measure the return on investment.”

Colon agrees, noting “there’s always been math involved in marketing, but with social media there’s more number-crunching than ever. Almost every social media platform has a back-end that generates insights: how many people are in the community, how many are engaging per post, how many are sharing our content, how many are liking the content.”

On the flip side, Colon who has a bachelor’s in journalism and communications, also sees a demand for strong writers. “Social is a world of wit and words. I’ve hired English majors who have excelled being community managers for some of the bigger brands in the world,” says Colon, who previously worked as supervisor of digital communities at digital marketing agency 360i, serving corporate giants like Coca-Cola, Lysol and Kraft.

With the rise of smart phones and tablets, Colon also sees the need for innovative professionals who can optimize social media for mobile platforms. He notes that facebook, YouTube and Twitter have all launched recent changes to adapt to the mobile world. “There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to reshape social media for a mobile format,” says Colon. In particular, he cites a demand for engineers who can create user interfaces for hand-held devices.

Back to School

In response to the need for social media professionals, some schools are bringing facebook, YouTube and Pinterest into the classroom. Enrollment has skyrocketed in the social media certificate program at Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin, since it was introduced in fall 2010. “We have gone from offering one section of our “Social Media Campaign” course to five sections,” says Marketing Professor Steve Noll.

About two-thirds of the students are working professionals, many from small and mid-sized companies. “I’m amazed at the amount of people in their 30s and 40s coming in and saying, ‘I have to know this for my job, and I don’t know where to start,'” says Noll. “Today, every business, no matter what size, needs to be doing something with social media.” To keep up with industry demand, this semester the school introduced a second, more advanced campaign course in which students develop the social media campaigns for two local companies.

Course Critics

In online forums, some skeptics have denounced academic programs in social media–saying that the skills can be self-learned, but graduates like Nora Caldwell say that schooling makes a difference. “It’s not about just learning how to put the information online; it’s about understanding the strategy behind social media,” says Caldwell, who recently earned her social media certificate from UC Irvine.

As a fund-development manager for Human Options, a local nonprofit in Orange County, California, that seeks to break the cycle of domestic violence, Caldwell enrolled to learn how to use social media for donor cultivation. “I now know how to think of social media as another marketing tool,” including how to select the appropriate platforms, how to drive traffic to the nonprofit’s Web site and how to make the Web site more engaging. “Social media is how 20-somethings and 30-somethings are communicating,” says Caldwell. “If I’m not talking to that generation now, then five years from now when they are ready to be major donors, they’re going to be talking to someone else.”

From “State of the City: Mayor Jim Schmitt calls for education focus” — Turning a spotlight on education, Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt on Tuesday called for improving student reading scores, graduating more people from college and luring a Medical College of Wisconsin campus expansion here.

In his annual State of the City address, Schmitt said the community must focus on education as a key to both a strong economy and a high quality of life.

“It’s our duty to make sure our youth are college-, career- and community-ready,” he told an audience of about 400 people in the Meyer Theatre in downtown Green Bay.

The crowd applauded loudly as Schmitt announced his commitment to making Green Bay a better-educated place.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College President Jeff Rafn, who was in attendance, said he was pleased to hear the mayor reinforce what residents normally hear only from educators — that a college education is critical to success in the job market.

Rafn said he hoped the message would reach people with greater impact coming from a political leader who is outside the education field.

“I’m really pleased that he’s willing to step up to the plate and put some energy behind this,” Rafn said.

Schmitt vowed to meet regularly with higher education leaders in the region to explore ways of boosting college enrollment.

He also said the city is working hard with local hospitals and others to entice the Medical College of Wisconsin to build a new satellite campus in Green Bay. The Milwaukee-based school is considering several potential sites across the state for expansion.

Schmitt cited the medical school development as another way to make higher education available to all young people in Green Bay.

“We need to create a culture of college here,” he said. “When you see a student, don’t ask if they are going to college, but where they are going to college.”

Also sitting in the audience for the mayor’s address was Kathryn Kuhn, a vice president of the Medical College of Wisconsin and a member of the school’s administrative team that will choose the site for the satellite campus.

Kuhn, a Green Bay native, said she was happy to hear Schmitt emphasize the importance of education. Green Bay is competing aggressively for the planned medical school expansion, she added, citing the mayor’s leadership.

“Green Bay has opened the doors,” she said. “The mayor has just done an outstanding job.”

Schmitt told the crowd at the Meyer Theatre that he expects the medical school to announce its intentions in the coming months.

It would come on the heels of other major real estate development plans highlighted in the State of the City address, including new downtown corporate headquarters for Schreiber Foods and Associated Bank, the new Children’s Museum of Green Bay, the Watermark building and a federal veterans health care clinic.

Schmitt calculated that development under way in the city totals $130 million in new investment, which he said is approaching a record high with eight months left in the year.

“Economic development in 2012 will be our best year yet,” he said.

Citing a need for education improvements at other levels, Schmitt said the city would boost on-the-job training of city workers and would increase opportunities for college students to obtain summer internships in every department at City Hall. He urged private businesses to step up their use of college interns, too.

For elementary schools, Schmitt called on the community to set a goal of 100 percent proficiency in reading test scores for all fourth-graders in the Green Bay School District. The district’s proficiency rate among fourth-graders currently is about 73 percent.

Green Bay schools Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld was unable to attend, but she issued a statement voicing support for the mayor’s effort. She said it was consistent with the school district’s own objectives for boosting student test scores in reading.

“With a shared community vision focused on ensuring success for every student,” Langenfeld said, “we can create policy as well as community and family partnerships needed to achieve this ambitious but attainable goal.”

Schmitt said fourth-grade test scores are pivotal in planning a community’s future needs for college classrooms, dropout rates and even the number of prison beds.

Urging greater support for early childhood-development programs and continued promotion of such resources as public libraries, the mayor said a comprehensive citywide push could succeed in raising Green Bay student reading scores.

“This will take a collaborative effort,” he said. “Government, parents, nonprofits, the private sector — a whole community should be involved.”

From “Trash to Treasure” — Can one person’s trash be another person’s treasure? That’s the annual challenge for architecture students at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

View video from

WITC unveils lab home

March 28, 2012

From “WITC unveils lab home” — Douglas County handed over the keys and the deed to a tax-forfeited home in Superior Tuesday, and it became official. The Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College is a homeowner.

They bought the property to use as a lab home for students in the Building Performance Technician Program. Students are training for careers to improve energy efficiency in buildings and homes.

“In a lot of our education we focus on providing real world, hands-on activities for our students, and this is a real world hands on activity,” WITC Academic Dean Ted May said.

Students said they’re ready to roll up their sleeves, “I can’t wait to get working on it,” student, Matt Underdahl said.

One look inside and It’s clear they have plenty to rehab. They’ll use tools like a “blower door” to help fix things they can’t see.

“On this little monitor right here, it tells us what the leakage rate is for the home. How much heat you’re losing, or how much heat you could be saving in our business,” student Derek Leslie said.

From there It’s on to retro fitting the home to save energy and keep costs down. Students said after this house, they’ll be prepared to take on many more in their future careers.

The school said once this property is finished, they’ll sell it and put the money towards purchasing another home to keep the project going.


From “Engineering goes back to school” — Seventh-grader Deadrick Vance raised his hands above his head, signaling triumph.

“Success!” he said, turning to give his teacher a high-five.

Vance was among the first to construct a Morse code device for his science class at Janesville’s Edison Middle School recently. He had cut the wire, wrapping it around a nail, connected the paper clips and powered the system with a D-cell battery.

As he pressed down on the paperclip that acted as the key, another paper clip was drawn down onto the nail, which had become an electromagnet.

Later, teacher Andy LaChance would string wire between classrooms and let students take turns sending messages.

Vance had completed one small task in a curriculum that has been infused with a new kind of thinking: That kids can learn science and math with real-world technical skills while in middle and high school.

The curriculum is called Project Lead the Way. It has swept across the country in recent years.

Project Lead the Way seeks to address the concerns of industries that complain they can’t find enough workers with the right skills, as well as the dearth of American college graduates in science, engineering and math, said Ken Maguire, director of the nonprofit organization’s upper Midwest region.

Maguire said Project Lead the Way is growing fast, with a 20 percent increase in the region just in the past year.

But Project Lead the Way doesn’t want schools to jump in without committing themselves to quality.

“If they’re wanting it because a neighboring school has it, if they’re wanting it because voters say they want it, that is the biggest impediment,” Maguire said.

Startup costs might be $25,000 for a high school that has the computers to run the software, Maguire said.

Schools start with one course and add courses until they make a path that leads to classes in engineering in high school, giving them a base for college studies or even college credit.

Project Lead the Way is a part of middle and/or high school curriculums in many school districts in Rock and Walworth counties.

Clinton High School is the most developed program in Rock County, said Janesville’s Steve Huth, director of a countywide consortium that promotes Project Lead the Way.

During a recent visit to Clinton High School, students in one class were using a computer-assisted design program to create a simple, three-dimensional model of a railroad engine. Next door, students in a digital electronics class were using Boolean algebra to design circuits that would spell out a message, similar to the electronics used on a sports scoreboard.

Students who complete the Clinton program get advanced standing at Blackhawk Technical College, while others get credit in four-year programs, such as the Milwaukee School of Engineering, said teacher Tim Thieding.

Thieding said he started the year with 10 digital electronics students. He now has six.

“It’s a tough course,” he said.

Thieding also teaches a computer-integrated manufacturing course that takes students from invention to computer modeling to building a manufacturing process, with milling and robotics thrown in.

“Right now, manufacturing is something we need to build back up in the United States, so we need to get our students not only familiar with it but proficient,” Thieding said.

Clinton also offers certifications in architecture and civil engineering. It plans to introduce bio-medical engineering next year, and there’s talk of extending the program into the elementary grades.

“We’re kind of excited, as small as we are, to offer all those,” Thieding said.

Most Project Lead the Way teachers are certified in science or tech ed. They must go through a reportedly tough summer training program for each course they teach.

Thieding’s tech-ed colleague, Derek Tietz, also teaches Project Lead the Way courses. The pair also offer more traditional tech courses in woodworking, metals and construction.

“Project Lead the Way gives them a chance to see it before they have to really pay for it in college, so they see if they want to do this as a career,” Tietz said.

Two Clinton students have internships at Scot Forge in Clinton, and Scot Forge engineers volunteer with the program. Others are planning to pursue engineering at MSOE or UW-Platteville. Clinton also gets help from Gilbank Construction and Paperchine.

In some states, local industries donate to establish a particular kind of engineering course in local schools, but Maguire wasn’t aware of any relationships like that in Rock County.

Even one Project Lead the Way course might make a difference. It did for 2011 Janesville Parker High School grad Markus Murdy.

Murdy said the principles of engineering course was all he could work into his schedule. He said it helped him combine his interest in aviation with his desire to figure out how things worked.

“It was like, ‘Whoa, there’s a whole field dedicated to this kind of thing,'” Murdy said. “Coming out of that. I had a much better idea of what I wanted to do.”

Murdy is majoring in aerospace engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

At Edison Middle School, LaChance surveyed his students with a smile.

“Look at these guys right now,” he said, referring to a group hovering over one of their devices as the lunch bell sounded. “They’re still working on it. Usually these guys are the first ones in line for lunch.

“I like it. We need more hands-on stuff.”


Project Lead the Way has been introduced in several area schools, according to the Project Lead the Way online locator.

Rock County

– Beloit Memorial High School and middle schools

– Beloit Turner High School and middle school

– Evansville J.C. McKenna Middle School

– Janesville Parker and Craig high schools and all three middle schools.

– Orfordville Parkview, middle school level

Walworth County

– Delavan-Darien High School and Phoenix Middle School

– Elkhorn Area High School

– Lake Geneva Badger High School

– Whitewater High School and middle school

Green County

– Brodhead High School and middle school

From “Survey: Oshkosh good for business” — Oshkosh business executives say Oshkosh has better universities and technical colleges, fewer problems recruiting employees and a better economic outlook than their counterparts throughout Northeast Wisconsin.

In 2011, the Oshkosh Business Retention and Expansion Committee, an Oshkosh Area Economic Development Corp. subcommittee, conducted 38 one-on-one surveys with Oshkosh CEOs and business owners to determine their business outlook and to identify problems such as transportation and parking issues or training problems before they become more significant.

Northeast Wisconsin Regional Economic Partnership communities in 16 counties have conducted a total of 286 surveys since the program started in 2007.

OAEDC Economic Development Coordinator Evan Wendlandt said results from 2011 surveys indicate none of the 38 Oshkosh businesses expect to close in the next three years and 82 percent of them project sales growth in the next year. In comparison to regional results, Wendlandt said fewer Oshkosh companies reported problems with employee recruitment and retention and more expect the economy will improve in the next five years.

“We want to find out what they’re seeing now, what they fear might happen and for these interviews to be the first red flag so if any issues come up, we can resolve them right away,” Wendlandt said.

Festival Foods Manager Rick Vanderloop said his meeting with the group a few months ago helped ease some of the grocery store’s concerns about the closure of the U.S. Highway 41/State Highway 21 interchange well before construction began last week.

“We discussed how we were going to get customers to come to this side, to make it more of a destination,” Vanderloop said. “They told us about the West Side Association’s sign program and that helped us direct traffic around the road closings.”

Vanderloop called it “a good discussion.”

Melissa Kohn, director of Fox Valley Technical College’s Oshkosh campus conducted some of the interviews. She said the tenor of the interviews was positive even during the recession, when companies faced challenges at every turn.

“I’ve gone through the down time where some of these companies could have talked about doom and gloom, but there’s always been this sense of optimism about things getting better,” Kohn said. “What I often find is employers are, first, appreciative of the interest in their business and, second, reaffirmed. Employers really want to show us what they’re making, what their product is.”

Kohn said she also benefits from the process. She said she gains a better understanding of the local economy and what FVTC can do to remain responsive and helpful to manufacturers in the area.

OAEDC Executive Director Rob Kleman said the surveys also noted many companies reported financing, the state’s tax structure, public transportation and parking remain issues.

“The most important part of the program is we’re reaching out to our local businesses and wanting them to tell us the good things as well as the local issues they face, so we can help address them right away,” Kleman said. “Any issues that do come up, we incorporate into our work plans so we make sure businesses can get what they’d like.”

From “SPECIAL REPORT: Employers are desperate for applicants with technical skills” — The job listings grow a little longer daily, but that doesn’t necessarily make things easier for job seekers.

Or employers.

The work is there, but it’s tough to find if you lack the right skill set.

And in many cases, it’s just as difficult for employers to find good workers, said JoAnn Hall, executive dean of economic and work force development at Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac.

In the last five to six months, demand for highly skilled employees has spiked, and it’s still growing, she said. CNC manufacturing and programming skills are in the most demand, but skills across all fields are also needed.

Staffing company QPS, which has a location in Fond du Lac, has seen large demand for CNC machining, CNC welding, diesel mechanics, information technology and other highly technical positions, said Chief Sales Officer Mark Immekus.

‘Crisis situation’

Hall said employers have reached a near-desperate point trying to find skilled applicants. Immekus agreed that employers everywhere are almost in “a crisis situation.”

So how did Fond du Lac, which endured years of a recession and down economy like the rest of the country, wind up in this predicament?

An aging population is part of the problem, Immekus said. The average skilled trade worker is more than 50 years old. There aren’t enough younger qualified workers to fill the gaps left by retirements.

A stigma has blighted manufacturing for years, but misconceptions about the field are disappearing. For decades, youth were discouraged from dirty, strenuous, low-paying manufacturing jobs and pushed into attending four-year colleges and universities. They were told a four-year degree or higher would yield better, higher-paying work, he explained.

That’s all changed. When the economy went sour, many college graduates couldn’t find jobs in their fields, revealing that a degree doesn’t always translate to high-paying, satisfying work.

And manufacturing isn’t what it used to be, Immekus said. Technological advances have made the work cleaner, more efficient and less physically strenuous. There’s good income potential, too — employees have the opportunity to earn $60,000 to $80,000 annually.

Computer skills

With automation and advancement comes a new challenge — everyone needs computer skills.

Learning new technical skills may require going back to school, but applicants don’t need to enroll anywhere to hone their computer capabilities.

Hall said there are many free and low-cost programs available. She recommended using job centers, like the Fond du Lac Area Job and Career Center, 349 N. Peters Ave.

The Fond du Lac Public Library, 32 Sheboygan St., has the Opportunity Center to help visitors with free computer-related job hunting.

“We consider it a supplement to the Job Center,” said Annette Clark, librarian and head of the Opportunity Center.

Clark said the number of users has increased since February, possibly because more job seekers are aware of the center. It might also be because employers are starting to advertise seasonal positions.

Hall said job seekers need to at least know how to fill out applications online because so many employers are going that route. At QPS alone, 80 percent of the applications are completed online, Immekus said.

“If someone can’t fill out an application online, they’ll have a very tough time getting a job,” Hall said.

From “Webinar to highlight Gateway’s international partnership efforts” — Gateway Technical College President Bryan Albrecht will be a featured member of a webinar by the Association for Career and Technical Education from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. March 28 highlighting the college’s involvement in an international partnership to train automotive instructors in Morocco through a Higher Education for Development grant effort.

“This project includes multiple stakeholders with diverse perspectives demonstrating how, in the future, we need to leverage our partnerships to grow our college,” said Albrecht. “In the future of community colleges, growth strategies must align with national and international efforts relating to education and economic issues.”

Albrecht will be joined in the webinar by Roger Tadajewski, executive director of the National Coalition of Certification Centers, known as NC3; and Soumia Boutkhil of Universite’ Mohammed I Oujda / Ecole Superieure de Technologie.The purpose of the grant is to assist the Universite’ in the development of its automotive program. The training delivered by Gateway instructors was the second phase of the grant, with the initial phase being delivered as a Fall 2010 assessment of faculty and facility at the Moroccan college. Since then, the Universite’ has built an automotive training lab and is working to replicate Gateway’s Horizon Center for Transportation Technology facility model to educate its own students. The training of their faculty prepares them for delivery of their new auto program which has 25 students enrolled, including three young women.

From “New MATC program could help war veterans balance school and health” — All told, Savage Margraf spent about five-and-a-half hours Wednesday afternoon going to a series of appointments at the Veterans Hospital.

That meant the 25-year-old Iraq War veteran missed two classes at Madison Area Technical College in order to get treatment for her traumatic brain injury and other health issues.

But a new program at MATC may make it easier for student veterans to balance school and their health. The Madison Veterans Hospital won a grant to create a mini-V.A. at the college.

The new program, set to start in May, will embed a full-time social worker at the college. Specialists, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, addiction specialist, and a benefits expert, will drop in once a week. Wellness programs, such as yoga and tai chi, will be offered.

“It’s stressful to try to cram doctors appointments in between classes, where you have to leave the school, go all the way to the V.A., and come back,” said Margraf, who served in the Marine Corps for four years. “It makes it a lot more stressful to try to do that than it would be to just walk downstairs.”

The number of student veterans at MATC — also known as Madison College — is the highest in the state among the Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges, according to data from the Wisconsin Technical College System. There were 588 students receiving a tuition waiver under the state and federal G.I. Bills at MATC in the 2010-11 academic year, the most recent year for which state data is available. Milwaukee Area Technical College had 504 student veterans, according to the data.

MATC officials say that number doesn’t reflect the full number of veterans because there are some who don’t qualify for tuition benefits. They say there are 786 full-and-part-time students in 2011-12.

“I think it’s important to realize the reintegration process, coming back especially if they were deployed to a war zone, is a monumental task,” said Heidi Sigmund, a psychologist at the Veterans Hospital and director of a program on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “Many veterans say the journey of going from civilian or soldier or Marine is easy when you compare it to trying to come back from Marine or soldier to civilian.”

She said some veterans feel like they don’t fit in with other students. Others with PTSD may have anxiety disorders that get triggered by crowded classrooms. Many veterans are trying to juggle going to school with a family, work, and therapy, Sigmund said.

“One of the goals is to kind of just relocate a clinic [at MATC] a couple days a week where they can really get everything they would receive here, there,” Sigmund said. “Our effort is to decrease any barriers to care. To just make us as accessible as possible.”

Officials say they hope the close proximity will draw in new patients. In a survey that the hospital conducted, students said the hospital’s location is inconvenient, they don’t know what services are offered, and it’s too complicated to access benefits.

Margraf openly talks about her health issues in the hopes of helping other veterans. She said there’s still a negative stigma toward mental health treatment in the military.

The Lodi resident suffers from PTSD, a back injury, and a traumatic brain injury from her time as a turret gunner in Iraq. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last March.

Margraf — who said her father named her after the Savage Arms rifle company — is in the liberal arts transfer program and hopes to transfer to UW-Madison in the fall.

She won’t be able to get treatment for all her ailments at MATC, but she may be able to schedule appointments to treat some things, such as PTSD.

“I’m supposed to be doing a newer PTSD treatment therapy,” she said. “But I haven’t been able to schedule it because of school.”



From “WITC programs provide crucial skills for manufacturing hopefuls” — Air pumps puff while two sets of hands unscrew and connect tubes on a pneumatic unit.

Two students on the opposite side of the shop are screwing together something that looks like a motor with tubes running into a reservoir. Other students sit at computers and chat while a disk sander screams and a radio plays disco music and 1980s rock.

This is Steve Miller’s hydraulics and pneumatics class on a recent day at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Superior.

Business is looking up in Superior, with hundreds of manufacturing jobs expected to become available during the next few years. And the Superior campus of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College offers hands-on training in the fields where most of the positions will be added.

The school’s industrial programs include welding and industrial maintenance, machine tooling and technical studies, industrial automation and information technology.

Miller’s students are building a hydraulic unit from the ground up. He says this shows them how to put together and disassemble a machine to learn how it functions.

In addition to learning how things work manually, Miller instructs his students in using computer-to-machine techniques. The students complete online work with hydraulics and pneumatics theory while learning skills in a lab.

The starting salary for maintenance technicians, according to Miller, is about $40,000. As careers advance, salaries can go as high as $90,000 annually. Though there is a waiting list to get in, Miller only accepts five students each year into the program.

Another class offered by WITC is the two-year Industrial Maintenance program, which teaches the skills needed for fixing machines in a factory setting. Among these skills are basic electrical work, motor control, mechanical driving, rigging and pumping. With proper certification, students can find positions in paper mills, refineries, wood manufacturing firms and mining operations.

In Ken Jones’ machine tool class, students make tool parts not only for industrial use, but for health care and defense industries.

The machine tool technician program teaches students how machine parts work and how to use the tools needed to produce a product or perform a service. First-year students learn manual machining, using lathes to shape and cut metal parts. Most of this first year consists of making cutting tools and building gear pullers and small motors. Students also learn how parts work for lifting and pinching in the construction industry. At the end of the first year, students will build the end attachment for an excavator.

For the second year, students work with Jon Willoughby on computer numerical controls (CNCs) and a CNC lathe, for which a technician enters a program into a controller to make the right command to make a certain part. It may involve different actions that determine the shape and texture of the part.

Willoughby plays an active role in advising and retraining students: “Seeing them change over a two-year period, having them come back and visit, and say, ‘This is what I’m doing now’ is what is rewarding,” he said. “I usually tell them, ‘Bring me some parts you made’.”

A second-year student, Ross Stariha, was motivated to enroll in the machine tool technician program because of the availability of jobs in manufacturing and the course’s high placement rating, a sentiment echoed by many of his fellow students. The second-year student comes from a construction background.

“I have measured and built things,” Stariha said, “but I didn’t know much about machines until I came here.”

Cody Christianson from Miller’s class said that several things about the industrial programs appealed to him, including a family heritage. “My dad works in the same field,” Christianson said.

He likes hands-on work and teamwork — and the fact that there will be jobs waiting for graduates doesn’t hurt either. He’s already looking into BNSF Railway and openings at the Duluth airport.

And with positions flooding in from several manufacturing opportunities in the area, students have a right to be optimistic about their prospects.

From “Educators band together to support economic development” — By emphasizing workforce readiness and career placement, eight educational institutions in northwest Wisconsin are joining force to form a regional consortium, Northwest Wisconsin Educators for Regional Development or NorthWERD.

The group has been developed to respond to the needs of regional developers and students, as well as identify regional economic trends and opportunities for graduates as they choose a career path.

NorthWERD is comprised of representatives from public, private and tribal higher learning institutions and agencies, including Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College campuses, UW system schools, UW-Extension, Lac Courte Oreilles Community College, Northcentral Technical College, CESA 12 and Northland College.

NorthWERD has outlined four focus areas that will help participating institutions be more responsive to economic development needs in order to promote healthier, sustainable communities.

The consortium of educators will focus on responding to regional educational and economic development needs, assess existing research and gather additional data to pinpoint economic opportunities provide career pathways to success and offer academic advising and assessment for parents and students.

NorthWERD partners will celebrate the group’s formation in a signing event 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday at the Lac Courte Oreilles Community College, 13466 W. Trepania Road, Hayward.

It will include a presentation from Linda Bartelt about the Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance (NEW ERA), a similar consortium that is positively impacting the northeast region of Wisconsin.

Leaders of each of the institutions will participate in the signing ceremony.

From “Kestrel creates soaring optimism in local job market” – Amid worries over the local and national economic downturn and difficult employment prospects for college graduates, Kestrel Aircraft Company’s decision to touch down in Superior has students in the manufacturing programs at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College feeling confident about their employment prospects.

“You know I would never want to sit behind a desk,” said Karla Phillips, a welding student at WITC. “The job market is open to everybody. If you can weld, build, drill a hole in metal, you will make money.”

Three years ago, Alan Klapmeier, chief executive officer of Kestrel, started the engines by talking about his developing aircraft company. Those talks eventually took flight and now Kestrel’s public relations representative, Kate Dougherty, says they are hoping to break ground in Superior this spring on the first of two buildings.

A 35,000-square-foot facility is planned for Winter Street Industrial Park and will be used to manufacture airplane parts. A 50,000-square-foot building will be located near the Richard I. Bong Memorial Airport and will be used to assemble flight-ready airplanes and house the company’s headquarters.

Dougherty estimates the creation of 600 jobs, which is approximately two percent of Superior’s entire population. Job creation will take place over the course of the next five years, but more than 15 positions for engineers and a handful of manufacturing positions are already available, according to the company’s website.

Dougherty says Kestrel is currently considering utilizing the Superior campus of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College for training the employees they may need in the future.

This wouldn’t be the first time WITC helped produce employees for the aircraft manufacturing industry’s workforce. The college had adjusted its curriculum for Cirrus Design ten years ago, and some of the equipment that would be needed to train the numerous new Kestrel employees will already be there.

That’s a good thing when talking about producing the number of employees necessary to staff a production of this size, said Charlie Glazman, associate dean at WITC.

“They’re hiring a variety of different jobs,” said Glazman, “welders, machine tool operators and industrial maintenance technicians.”

Though training for most of these positions is already offered through some of WITC’s programs, the welding equipment and training needed for Kestrel employees may need a specialized program in the future because of the composite material used to build the aircraft.

According to Glazman, there are many reasons why Kestrel has advantages in the state of Wisconsin, including one that would get the company’s mechanical falcons off the ground more quickly. It only takes 90 days to get a building permit in Wisconsin; Minnesota’s process could take up to two years.

In Wisconsin, companies can receive grants to cover about 75 percent of the cost of training new employees. Douglas County also has a development team, comprised of people from the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Improvement District, Development Association and other organizations, which meets on a regular basis to discuss the various needs of local businesses.

For Kestrel, there is still a stretch of runway before it can take off, but according to Dougherty, the skies are clear, there is plenty of fuel and the engines are running smoothly.

“It is going to happen,” said Dougherty. “It won’t be tomorrow, not this week, not this year, but gradually we will get there.”

From “Wisconsin Covenant Foundation Now Accepting Applications for Wisconsin Workforce Partnership Grant” — The Wisconsin Covenant Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization committed to forging partnerships in support of postsecondary education, today announced the opening of its privately-funded Wisconsin Workforce Partnership Grant opportunity. The three-year, $4 million grant is designed to strengthen the connection between Wisconsin Technical Colleges and Wisconsin businesses with advanced manufacturing employment needs.

Through the program, currently in pilot form, the Foundation aims to support the rapid expansion or development and implementation of degree, diploma, or certificate programs that increase the number of program graduates who achieve job placement in occupations at Wisconsin businesses in need of employees with specific skills. Results will be tracked closely by the Foundation, and used to inform future funding decisions.

The Wisconsin Workforce Partnership Grant is intended to bring businesses and technical colleges together, to help close the gap between Wisconsin’s “middle-skill” jobs and available workers. Middle-skill jobs, which require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree, are projected to remain at 50 percent of the state’s workforce needs. Advanced manufacturing occupations are among the fastest growing middle-skill opportunities.

“There is an urgent need for more Wisconsin residents to secure family-sustaining jobs. At the same time, Wisconsin employers report having trouble finding workers with the skills needed to fill open positions,” said Foundation Board Chair Richard D. George. “We are pleased to make private funds available, and to spur additional private investments, to address these issues so critical to Wisconsin’s future. We look forward to gaining a better understanding of what makes such partnerships successful, to inform future efforts.”

Grant applications are available at and will be accepted through 5:00 p.m. Central, on May 9, 2012.

Joint grant applications must be submitted by a Wisconsin Technical College with one or more Wisconsin businesses as co-applicant(s). Partnerships selected for funding will be eligible for a grant maximum of $750,000. Interested technical college and business partner applicants can register for an informational webinar, April 3, 2012, at 10 a.m. Central.

To learn more about the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation’s commitment to forging public and private partnerships in support of postsecondary education, please contact Amy Kerwin at 608-246-1785.

About the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation, Inc. A private, non-profit organization, the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation, Inc., seeks to foster coordinated public and private investments in postsecondary education, increasingly a requirement for family-sustaining occupations. The Foundation was created in 2007 with a $40 million lead gift from Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and Affiliates. Initiatives include helping disadvantaged Wisconsin Covenant Scholars pay for education beyond high school and strengthening the connection between Wisconsin’s technical colleges and employers.

From “Fox Valley Technical College wants to expand to help growing workforce” — GRAND CHUTE — Fox Valley Technical College, the state’s busiest technical school, intends to get even busier over the next few years.

On April 3, voters in nine northeastern Wisconsin counties will vote on a $66.5 million building referendum that would address unprecedented enrollment growth and employer demand for trained, skilled workers at the school. The referendum comes amid a sluggish economy, but supporters stress the funds will play a critical role in rebuilding the economy by strengthening the workforce.

In 2011, FVTC served more than 53,000 people — including 20,000 local employees involved in workplace training — in crowded facilities. Some programs have been on waiting lists due to classroom space constraints.

“There’s not an aspect of any one of the five key programs they’re looking to expand that doesn’t touch your lives daily,” said Mike Weller, president of ITW Welding North America and Miller Electric Mfg., part of a Friends of FVTC advocacy group promoting its TechWorks campaign. “Agriculture, transportation, health, police, fire — all of those kind of things make a difference in our lives on a daily basis and contribute to the quality of life that we have in the area.”

FVTC’s first major building referendum in 14 years includes seven projects. The centerpiece is a $34.8 million public safety training center to be constructed on leased land on the south end of the Outagamie County Regional Airport in Greenville.

The next four largest projects are at the main campus: an $11.9 million health simulation and technology center, a $7.4 million student success center, a $6.2 million J. J. Keller Transportation Center expansion and a $3.5 million agriculture center expansion. Also proposed are $1 million to purchase land next to the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in Oshkosh, $1.4 million to buy the leased Chilton Regional Center and $300,000 to add a 2,000-square-foot classroom/lab to the existing 19,760-square-foot facility.

The main building on what is called the Appleton campus has 574,219 square feet. Other buildings at 1825 N. Bluemound Drive include the 80,992-square-foot J. J. Keller center and the 29,194-square-foot agricultural center.

Officials say the added capacity would annually allow for another 700 degree-seeking students — about 15,000 currently — and workforce training and continuing education for about 3,500 more students —about 33,000 currently.

Since the Board of Trustees unveiled its facilities development plans last October, FVTC President Susan May and other officials have referred to the projects as an investment and two key business and labor organizations tend to agree. The Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry, representing more than 1,400 businesses, and the Fox Valley Area Labor Council AFL-CIO have endorsed the referendum.

May said the shortage of skilled workers reported by employers suggests “now is the time as this economy begins to recover that we take this bold step to improve the regional economy as well.”

If approved by voters, design work would begin immediately on all projects. By fall of 2013, officials estimate the health simulation and technology center and the agriculture center expansion would be completed.

Expansion of the transportation center is expected to be finished by early 2014, while the student success center addition and the public safety training center should be ready for use by the fall of 2014.

Concerns over taxation

Robert W. Baird & Co., FVTC’s financial adviser, estimates the $66.5 million borrowing over 15 years at conservative interest rates (4.75 percent to 5.25 percent) would cost $1 a month in additional taxes for the owner of a $100,000 home. May noted that FVTC has an excellent credit rating and received a 1.3 percent interest rate for short-term capital equipment borrowing last summer.

“We just know that if we can get at this now, those interest rates are going to be substantially less than that,” she said. That would make the $1 per month cost “a worst-case scenario for taxpayers,” May said. “We don’t really have any long-term debt out there.”

Increasing property taxes is a concern for Grand Chute resident John Devos, who attended a public hearing in December.

“All I see is the money (levied by FVTC) on my tax bill and I wondered about it,” he said. “I can see expanding the nursing — we’re all getting older.”

Devos, who graduated from FVTC years ago with a degree in electro-mechanical technology, said, “I can see everything but that (public safety training center). I think the (current) facilities are adequate.”

He also was concerned about the relationship between the county-owned airport and FVTC.

“It just seems like one government entity supporting another government entity with my tax money, which concerns me about that one,” Devos said.

Staffing decisions are based on enrollment demand and other revenue sources such as tuition, grants and contracted services, May said.

The new facilities would require operating expenses of about $1.5 million. But, she said, the closure of the Neenah fire-training center, the elimination of lease payments in Chilton and other expenditure reductions or new revenues would provide an offset of about $1 million. The net $500,000 operating costs will be handled within the annual operating budget with the goal being “no additional tax impact,” she said.

Greenville resident Jon Julius, who lives near the airport, is opposed to using the airport land along County BB because it’s not an aviation use. He’s also worried about stormwater runoff from the site.

Unprecedented growth

Last October, FVTC’s administration and nine-member Board of Trustees chose to unveil details of its facilities planning process that began in 2006 with research and analysis of high-demand program areas.

The key rationale for advancing the expansion and remodeling projects were: increased demands from regional employers for skilled workers through technical education and training; unprecedented 30 percent enrollment growth over the past three years; an analysis of industry growth projections; historic low borrowing costs; and likely competitive construction bidding.

Subsequent surveys revealed high levels of support and confidence for the education and training provided by FVTC. An independent economic impact study also showed that the public safety training center would provide substantial spinoff benefits for the local economy, including job creation, new spending and additional tax revenues.

FVTC’s educational reach starts with the fact that 23 percent of local high school graduates enroll directly from high school, a number that grows to 43 percent within two years. The school also boasts a roughly 90 percent employment rate within six months of graduation.

Centerpiece projects

If the off-site public safety training center becomes reality, it would provide only limited space relief at the main campus as the forensic/crime scene classroom/lab would be relocated while the basement shooting range would be used for storage.

“We are bursting at the seams at this campus,” said Dr. Patricia Robinson, executive dean of FVTC’s public safety division. “Our general studies area is just cramped.”

The proposed off-site project would provide an integrated training platform for fire, emergency medical services and police training with 91,600 square feet of tactical labs/classrooms, indoor and outdoor rifle and pistol ranges, emergency vehicle driving range, multipurpose simulated village, forensic lab and crime scene rooms, defensive tactics training rooms, live-fire burn building, ladder tower/search-and-rescue facility, hazardous materials, confined space and high-angle rescue training and 4,800 square feet of vehicle maintenance.

The largest project at the main campus involves the 21,010-square-foot health simulation and technology center.

Sara Bell, manager of the Learning Center for Collaborative Care at Theda Care, which operates five hospitals and 27 clinics in the Fox Valley, said providing nursing or health care students the opportunity to practice simulated situations or procedures in a virtual hospital is valuable with follow-up critiques and dialogue with instructors.

“It gives them the opportunity to gain that confidence and expertise outside of the eyes of the patients and the families,” she said.

Health care facilities are constantly trying to maintain professional nursing staff levels and, Bell said, positions often come open in January or May as registered nurses graduate and leave licensed practical nurse or certified nursing assistant positions.

Considering demographics and issues with obesity and lifestyle choices, Bell said the need for hospital services continues to grow “whether it be for intervention for cardiac problems or joint replacements, things like that. We’re not getting less patients.”

Skilled worker demand

Weller said Miller Electric has long seen the value of the technical training and has enjoyed a 15-year partnership with FVTC. The school has provided existing employees an opportunity to “gain the skills needed for us to be competitive,” while the business, which has many FVTC graduates along with interns or co-op students, has donated and loaned FVTC close to a $1 million worth of fabrication and welding equipment to the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in Oshkosh.

“So we’re helping each other grow and we’re helping the community and the economic impact of the area,” Weller said.

He is impressed by FVTC’s 90 percent graduate placement rate.

“There’s not another institution that can talk about those kinds of numbers. So the employer demand is high,” Weller said.

ITW/Miller added 105 employees last year and anticipates more hiring in the future.

“This is not a Miller Electric thing,” Weller said. “Part of this expansion is enabling these students in these various programs to get great hands-on experience.

“We’re hoping to help people that are displaced, we’re trying to help people that are nontraditional careers (and) diverse students.”

Transportation expansion

From Steve Farwell’s perspective, the proposed 39,315-square-foot transportation center expansion isn’t enough to fill the current need for diesel and automotive technicians or certified truck drivers.

As general manager of Quality Truck Care Center, Farwell runs the Appleton and Green Bay locations that offer maintenance and repairs on large diesel vehicles.

“The transportation industry is the core of all businesses — anything related to deliveries and pickups, anything that’s moving merchandise,” Farwell said.

He expects to add about five new employees at Quality Truck Care Centers (others in Oshkosh and Fond du Lac) yet this year.

“There’s way more demand than there (are) students and new employees to fill those,” Farwell said.

Once hired, the technicians face frequent training and continuing education to learn certifications for dealerships on specific engines and chassis.

“So we need somebody with good basic foundation, technology and ability to be taught,” Farwell said.

“Students coming out of that program are very well prepared to be technicians in our industry. Our problem is there’s not enough.”

Student center

The new Student Success Center would encompass the existing 13,650-square-foot library and 45,727 square feet in the general studies area and new construction of about 23,700 square feet.

“We’ve been seeing just tremendous growth in our general education courses and adult basic education enrollment in the last few years,” May said.

“The education of our workforce is critically important for us to be successful,” said Wayne LaMont, human resources business partner, McCain Foods, which has 540 employees at its Appleton appetizer plant and 60 more at an adjacent research-development facility.

McCain has used FVTC to allow maintenance employees to improve their skills through apprenticeships and other classes such as electrical or manufacturing technology. Some hourly and salaried employees aspiring to be supervisors have taken various Lean courses and other classes. They have also hired FVTC to come on-site to teach English as a Second Language to some employees.

“We want to make sure as we move into the future that we have the educated workers that we need to be successful,” LaMont said. “We’re asking all of our employees to be problem-solvers, to be engaged in the business.

“We have to have an educated workforce or we’re going to have a harder time competing. Without having a well-educated workforce, it makes it harder for us to stay on that leading edge of innovation and problem solving.”

From “Programs help military veterans get back to work” – GRAND CHUTE — With thousands of U.S. combat troops pulling out of Iraq in December, for many it meant a return to civilian life and back to a 9-to-5 working routine.

But for some, there was no job waiting for them back home.

Fox Valley Technical College is reaching out to military veterans, offering programs to help adjust to civilian life and apply the skills learned while on activity duty to available jobs around the region.

“We knew with the downsizing (of our forces) in Iraq and Afghanistan that there would be increasing demand on services to help them find work,” said Bruce Weiland, a student employment services specialist at FVTC.

The state also expected a larger volume of returning veterans.

State lawmakers this month approved several bills designed to help veterans expedite the job search process.

One bill, which was signed by Gov. Scott Walker, streamlined the credentialing process for veterans in some instances allowing military personnel to apply the skills they learned while serving toward some professional credentials.

Walker, who was in Appleton on Friday, said jobless rates among veterans generally are higher than for civilians.

“What we’ve done is make it easier for returning veterans to get licenses for certain professions if they received similar training in the military,” he said. “Bills like this received overwhelming support, but just didn’t get the attention.”

The state also scheduled 15 career and benefit fairs this year for veterans.

From 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday, the state is hosting a virtual career fair.

The Department of Labor reports there were 21.3 million veterans (men and women, 18 and older) in the country as of February. The state estimates 400,000 veterans live in Wisconsin and about 300,000 are wartime veterans.

The unemployment rate among veterans in February was 7.7 percent, down from 9.2 percent when compared to February 2011, but the number may climb as more military personnel return home and enter the job market.

The country’s overall jobless rate in February was 8.3 percent.

FVTC is offering two free, eight-week sessions designed to help veterans with everything from resume writing to explaining how someone with military experience can be beneficial to a potential employer.

The first session runs March 27 through May 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The other session begins March 29 and runs through May 17 from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Both sessions will be at FVTC’s main campus in Grand Chute and are open to current students as well as any non-student veterans.

Weiland said the decision to offer the sessions grew out FVTC’s Veterans Connection, a networking group for current students who served in the military.

“We really want to reach out to any veterans and let them know these programs are available,” he said.

From “Airlines, manufacturers and tourist industry offer jobs” — ELKHORN — Nick Hayden was sent to the 21st Annual Walworth County Job Fair with one mission.

“I was told to recruit as many people as possible and make sure they get a job with us,” Hayden said Thursday in the Generac booth at Gateway Technical College.

He is a senior human resources generalist at Generac.

“We are looking for qualified employees,” Hayden said. “We have positions open.”

So much for a sluggish manufacturing sector, at least as far as the company’s generator business is concerned.

“We see market gains as a result of storms,” Hayden said. “The storms cause problems for so many people, and we are able to provide them with power while they dig out.”

Generac, with a facility in Whitewater, also is in the security business.

“We see increased sales in our products to be used as backup power in case of a storm,” Hayden said. “Our generators provide a sense of security for people.”

Hayden said Generac is hiring for manufacturing positions at all three plants in Wisconsin, especially the Whitewater facility.

“We need workers,” he said. “We are hiring for all three shifts at our Whitewater plant.”

Generac is not alone in seeing an upturn in business. The 2012 job fair features more, not fewer, employers looking to hire.

“In the 10 years I’ve been doing this, we see a drop-off in the number of employers when the economy lags,” said Denise Schneider, an administrative assistant at the college and the chairwoman of the job fair committee.

“We have 44 employers with booths at this year’s job fair compared to just 32 last year,” Schneider said. “As a matter of fact, we had to turn away some employers who wanted a booth because we ran out of space due to construction on our campus.”

While the number of employer booths has increased, the job fair this year is a continuation for traditional employers from Walworth County, Schneider said.

“We continue to see manufacturing, tourism and staffing centers holding steady,” Schneider said. “And we have some new employers joining us this year.”

One new employer is Compass Airlines, a regional passenger airline for Delta.

“We need flight attendants,” said Mary Nafeau, who works as a flight attendant for Compass. “We’re looking for men and women who have some customer service experience.”

Compass flight attendant John Suchomel said the airline is looking for people with a personality.

“For example, you can’t be shy and be a flight attendant,” he said. “With few restrictions, the field is wide open, and we’re recruiting for immediate openings.”

A veteran employer participating in the fair is The Abbey Resort in Fontana.

“We are the only full service resort on Geneva Lake,” said Chelsea Polk, the human resources coordinator at The Abbey. “That’s one of the reasons we can offer so many different types of jobs and why we’ve received a lot of interest today, including a ton of resumes.”

The Abbey is offering wait staff positions in its restaurants and spa and support staff openings such as maintenance.

“We are also offering paid intern slots,” Polk said. “We have seasonal positions open, and we are hiring.”

The job fair is a joint effort by Gateway Technical College and the Walworth County Job Center.

“Our goal is to provide an opportunity for employers to recruit and a place where job seekers can learn about opportunities,” Schneider said. “We read the employer and employee evaluations to determine our strengths and areas for further opportunities.”

The job fair cannot address all problems.

“Some things are just beyond our control,” Schneider said. “For example, some health care employers tell us they want more RNs to apply. If there’s a shortage of RNs, that’s beyond our control.

“We hear from job seekers that we don’t have employers looking for graphic artists. Well, there aren’t that many employers in that field in our area, and the ones we have aren’t hiring. Again, something beyond our control.”

But this year, the job fair looks to be a success, Schneider said.

“We have great weather and a full house of employers with immediate job openings,” she said. “For us, that’s success.”

From “Jobs available but necessary skills are lacking, central Wisconsin employers say” — Despite a global recession, some central Wisconsin employers say they have open positions — what they lack are qualified candidates and a skilled workforce.

The jobs are out there, workforce development officials and analysts say. It’s just a matter of finding candidates who have the necessary skills, and unlike in some other parts of the state and country, employers, workforce agencies and educational institutions are starting to come together to address such barriers to employment.

Engineering Solutions Experts Inc. in Marshfield announced in December it planned to expand and add about 12 employees in the next year to its staff of about 40. Its website currently shows full-time job openings for two engineers, an IT specialist and a technical support analyst.

But the company has struggled to find engineers, said Tom Walther, ESE president. The problem has been a lack of experienced applicants, as well as difficulty recruiting skilled candidates to the area.

ESE has hired recruiting companies and formed a branding campaign to spur the process, Walther said.

“It’s still a major concern for us,” Walther said.

A similar concern led some in the Wisconsin Rapids area to form alliances among businesses and other stakeholders to launch a series of partnerships to help connect potential workers with the training necessary to serve the business sectors in need of employees.

Formed in 2008, Incourage Community Foundation’s Workforce Central initiative led to the creation of a variety of collaborative training opportunities, including various certification and degree programs through Mid-State Technical College to benefit not only displaced workers — many of whom lost their jobs in the paper industry — but also up-and-coming employment sectors, such as food manufacturing, health care and technology.

“This program focuses on a strategy of retaining workers for jobs that need filling,” said Jennifer Riggenbach, project director for Workforce Central. “The key has been engaging the community in turning complex issues into a workable design that inspires and engages organizations and people at every level.”

Examples include a manufacturing leadership associate degree program and a food manufacturing science certificate, both offered at MSTC, that have helped workers at Ocean Spray Cranberries and Mariani Packing Co., which both have cranberry-processing facilities in Wisconsin Rapids. As a result of recent expansions and the certificate programs, they have been able to add jobs.

“We base our curriculum on a constant exchange with employers about what specific competencies they are requiring,” said Jane Newman, dean of MSTC’s service and health division. Officials use advisory committees, made up of employers and employees in each field, to better gauge employers’ needs.

For example, the college recently created certification programs in the health care division, specifically at the request of advisory committee members, who said they need workers with stronger customer service skills, Newman said.

From “WITC students bring health to campus” — Medical assistant and nursing students who plan to graduate this spring from Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College-New Richmond campus will demonstrate their knowledge at a Health Fair on Wednesday, March 28, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.

Students and a variety of community agencies will offer health information, including some screenings such as vision, hearing, lung capacity and blood pressure. (Tests for cholesterol and blood sugar levels are available only to WITC students.)

Nursing students will provide information about health topics, such as organ donation, immunizations, alternative health care options, and how to tell the difference between cold and flu symptoms.

Participating agencies from outside WITC include The Centre, Red Cross, Vitality Initiative, AKF Martial Arts, St. Croix County Public Health and others.

Last year’s follow-up survey from the event indicated the majority of people who attended the event ranked it very good to excellent.

Questions about the 2012 WITC Health Fair should go to Sara Yaron, RN, at WITC-New Richmond, at 715-246-6561, ext. 4259.

WITC serves the educational and career needs of more than 25,000 residents of Northwestern Wisconsin each year. With multiple campuses, WITC offers career-focused associate degree programs, technical diplomas, short-term certificates, customized training, and a wide array of courses for personal or career enrichment.

From “Firefighter Escapes From Being Buried By Collapsed Ceiling” — When a ceiling of a burning Chippewa County town of Lafayette duplex collapsed Tuesday, pinning him to the floor, firefighter John Andersen’s thoughts flashed to a similar fire earlier this month in which an Abbotsford firefighter died.

Once I realized what happened, it was the first thing that went through my mind, Andersen said Wednesday of the March 4 fire at the Abby Theatre in which a roof collapsed, killing firefighter Jamison Kampmeyer. Three other firefighters were injured in the blaze.”But I could see daylight and the door,” Andersen said. “There was no smoke in the room. It wasn’t like Abbotsford — I wasn’t deep inside a building.”Andersen, 60, is chief of inspection for the Chippewa Fire District, for which he has worked for 35 years. During that time, Andersen estimates he has battled between 200 and 300 fires.

Andersen was at home Tuesday when he received a call at 5:31 p.m. that the duplex at 5672 165th St. was burning. He immediately drove the five miles to the scene of the blaze, north of Highway J near Lake Wissota, just east of Chippewa Falls.

”We carry our turnout gear with us, but not our air packs,” said Andersen, who was the entry officer for the crew entering the north end of the burning home. “We (firefighters) waited for our engines to arrive.”Firefighters used a garage to access the fire, which was mostly in the attic. Andersen was making his way through the living room when the ceiling above him suddenly collapsed.

“It just let loose and fell on my head,” Andersen said. “I went straight down. I got buried from the sheetrock and 18 inches of insulation. One of the guys said I looked like I was tarred and feathered.”

Chippewa Fire District Chief Kent Hulett called for assistance for Andersen. Several firefighters ran to his aid and pulled him from the building.

Andersen, who was wearing his helmet, estimates the weight of the fallen ceiling was 100 pounds.

“I couldn’t move it by myself,” Andersen said. “They had to pull me out of there.”

Marcy Bruflat, a fire training instructor with Chippewa Valley Technical College, said she and other instructors make safety a priority when instructing firefighters. She is unsure whether national firefighting safety organizations will recommend changes to battling blazes based on the Abbotsford fire and others in which roofs have collapsed.

“Will training change? No, at least not immediately,” she said.

However, Bruflat is optimistic firefighters will learn from those fires.

“It is such a reality check; maybe people will be hypervigilant about safety,” she said.

But sometimes even the best prevention training can’t stave off accidents, Bruflat said.

“Sometimes you just don’t see something is going to hit you, even with situational awareness,” she said.

Andersen said he had no idea the ceiling would collapse on him.

“There was no cracking, there was no place where seams were showing up,” he said. “There was no indication of anything.”

The fire apparently started in a lower level of the duplex, where several electronic devices were plugged in.

According to the Chippewa Fire District, occupant Chris Snyder was alerted to the fire by smoke detectors. She said the fire was entering the home through an outside window.

All occupants escaped uninjured. The cause of the fire remains unknown, but it is not being treated as suspicious.

From “Kohler Eyes Tomorrow’s Technicans with Engine Donation” — In an effort to ignite a renewed appreciation and understanding of small engines among high school and technical college students nationwide, Kohler Engines recently donated more than 10,000 engines to hundreds of educational institutions across the country. The company partnered with several non-profit organizations on the one-time gift, that worked independently to distribute the engines to interested schools. All of the donated engines have been delivered to numerous schools from New York to California and almost every state in between.

“This has been a very rewarding process,” said Justin Blount, director of marketing for Kohler Engines. “We’ve been touched by the level of response this donation has received from students, facility and administrators at all of the participating schools. We’ve received countless emails, letters and photos from the people who directly benefited from this donation—and those have certainly been appreciated by everyone here at Kohler.”

The organizations that helped distribute the donated engines on Kohler’s behalf include: SkillsUSA, a non-profit partnership of students, teachers and companies working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce; the Equipment and Engine Training Counsel (EETC), a non-profit association whose goal is to address the shortage of qualified service technicians in the outdoor power equipment industry;Fox Valley Technical College Foundation, in Appleton, WI; and Hinds Community College Foundation in Jackson, MS. Each of these organizations distributed the engines only to schools that agreed to utilize the donated product exclusively for educational purposes. Individual classrooms within the participating schools were eligible to receive up to 24 engines each.

The products donated by Kohler were Courage XT7-hp vertical-shaft engines, which are typically utilized in equipment such as walk-behind lawn mowers and pressure washers. Students with access to the donated engines are now able to gain critical hands-on experience, while also enhancing their knowledge of a variety of engine-related topics, including assembly and disassembly, components, torque values, engineering processes, the general functioning of internal combustion engines, and more.

“As a leading engine manufacturer, we’re very interested in working with future generations of technicians and consumers to make sure they understand the craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into each engine bearing the Kohler name,” Blount said. “This recent donation presented an ideal opportunity to connect directly with students across the country while also aiding the administrators and faculty who play such a critical role in shaping the leaders of tomorrow with needed equipment.”

From “MATC Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition Team wins Wisconsin title” — Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) team won the Wisconsin state title February 24. The team bested representatives from Madison Area Technical College and Waukesha County Technical College.

MATC’s contingent now moves on to the Midwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition to face eight other institutions March 16-17 at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Ill. More information is available at and

From “NWTC sees growth in utilities sector” — Karen Smits flips through a report containing various pieces of research aimed at helping staff at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College determine what potential programs it could add to help fill the needs of the areas employers.

Human Resources Management is the occupation undergoing review in this example.

If it passes muster, the course could start in fall of 2013.

Research is part of the months-long process new course offerings at college undergo before they are implemented — and not all programs make the cut.

Researching what programs are needed and may be offered to the college is the work of the recently established new product research team. Input from local businesses is one of the factors rolled into the decision-making process.

College staff like Smith, who is vice president of college advancement, focus on providing education that will get graduate jobs and fill the needs of area employers and look into the future at growing occupations.

It can take a year or more to develop courses offering an associate degree to a few months on programs requiring fewer credits to earn a credential.

“For a two-year degree, we have to do our due diligence to make sure we are making the right decision and writing the right curriculum,” Smits said.

NWTC sees one of the growth areas in utilities sector, prompting the college to add a utilities engineering technologies program and to start rolling out its Great Lakes Energy Education Center that covers jobs ranging from power distribution to alternative energy.

“We found nationally about 53 percent of utility and energy workers will be retiring in the next five years,” Smits said. “In northeast Wisconsin … they figure in the next five years we’ll lose about 50 percent of our energy employees.”

Other areas expected to grow include medical, manufacturing and shipbuilding and information technology and digital media.

“That’s where we’re looking at new programming we will offer … that’s where we think we will have new kinds of jobs opening up that we don’t have training for right now,” she said. “We have had steady enrolment in our health care programs for the last 10 year or so… we’ve added a few high-demand jobs in the last six or seven years in sonography and radiography tech. Gerontology we just started this last year.

“Health care will always be a solid industry in northeast Wisconsin,” Smits said. “What’s interesting about heath care and especially nursing is the switch to wellness. We’ll be changing and adapting our curriculum so we are offering programs in the next few years that will be a wellness associate degree.”

That move — which could include specialization in fitness, nutrition and chronic disease management — is being looked at in response to area heath care providers, signaling a future change toward home health care.

In August, the college started programs in accounting, marine construction and engineering, gerontology, viticulture and enology (winemaking). Later this year, it expects to launch programs in environmental engineering focused on waste and water technology, a technical degree for ophthalmic medical assistants, a technical degree in photography and a welding and fabrication apprenticeship program.

Smits said the college also stays in touch with area school districts, letting them know what programs are being offered,

Jim Golembeski, executive director of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board in Green Bay, said it’s important students leaving primary education have a career direction and firm grasp of what what’s available in the working world.

He said too many students leave school with no knowledge of the job and career opportunities that are available.

While NWTC is looking to the future and trying to identify areas where needs will arise, it also needs to be careful about getting too far ahead of area employers, Smits said.

“It’s not fair to our students to graduate them from a program where they will be the very first employee for a company that’s not here yet,” she said.

From “Educators band in support of economic development” — Eight institutions in Northwestern Wisconsin are joining together to form a regional consortium of educational partners called Northwest Wisconsin Educators for Regional Development, or NorthWERD.

The group has been developed to respond to the needs of regional developers and students, as well as identify regional economic trends and opportunities for graduates as they choose a career path. NorthWERD partners will celebrate the group’s formation in a signing event at the Lac Courte Oreilles Community College in Hayward on Wed., March 28, at 9 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“I’m really excited about the partnership in that all the partners have a tremendous attitude in working together,” says Bob Meyer, NorthWERD chairman and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College president. “I think the combined effort and enthusiasm of everyone involved will make NorthWERD a great success as educators listen to and support the needs of economic developers in the region.”

NorthWERD comprises representatives from public, private and tribal higher learning institutions and agencies, including Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College campuses, University of Wisconsin system schools, UW-Extension, Lac Courte Oreilles Community College, Northcentral Technical College, C.E.S.A. 12 and Northland College. Meyer says the group will facilitate collaboration among partners while leveraging collective resources to meet current and emerging educational needs for students, communities, governments and businesses in the region.

“Economic development goes beyond economic growth,” says Michael A. Miller, NorthWERD vice-chairman and Northland College president. “We need to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place and enhance access to programs for students and regional developers in order to grow a vibrant business community.”

NorthWERD has outlined four focus areas that will help participating institutions be more responsive to economic development needs in order to promote healthier, sustainable communities. The consortium of educators will focus on responding to regional educational and economic development needs, assess existing research and gather additional data to pinpoint economic opportunities, provide career pathways to success and offer academic advising and assessment for parents and students.


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