From “Rising local higher education enrollment reflects trends” — Local campuses are part of a national trend that has seen college enrollment shoot up as the economy has struggled.

For the past five years or so, colleges across the country have been inundated with applications and from 2008 to 2009, enrollment in college grew by more than 7 percent to just less than 21 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. New figures show that rates of enrollment still are increasing, though at a slower rate. In 2010, the number of students in postsecondary institutions was 21.6 million, up 2.8 percent from 2009.

At the same time, many colleges and other institutions have made their admission process more competitive, a trend described in a January 2008 Newsweek article titled “Getting in Gets Harder.”

The economy has played a significant role in the increased interest in college, because students realize they need more than a high school diploma to get a job, said Laurie Borowicz, vice president of student services at Northcentral Technical College, who has just completed a doctoral dissertation on enrollment trends.

NTC has nearly doubled in size within the past four years, enrolling 6,070 students last year in either one- or two-year programs, up from 3,149 in 2008.

Mid-State Technical College, which has facilities that include a Wisconsin Rapids campus and a center in the city of Adams, has seen a 30 percent increase in full-time students since the 2007-08 academic year, something officials said is directly correlated with the economy’s dramatic downturn.

“It is certainly in line with unemployment,” said Connie Willfahrt, vice president of Student Affairs and Information Technology at MSTC. “When the recession hit, we (saw) higher enrollment.”

The University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County reported a 16 percent increase during the previous four years, adding about 100 students. Nearly 70 percent of the members of UW-M/WC’s student body are first in their families to attend college.

“We see more students pursuing practical majors,” said Annette Hackbarth-Onson, interim assistant campus dean of Student Services at UW-M/WC. “They are looking toward a destination.”

MSTC has added more sections and hired additional part-time faculty to cope with increased demand for classes, Willfahrt said.

MSTC and NTC both see more students pursuing degrees in health programs. At NTC those programs were so popular there were waiting lists, Borowicz said, some stretching several years.

“That wasn’t serving us or the students well,” Borowicz said. Now students take an admission test and are accepted to NTC health programs based on the results.

MSTC is seeing enrollment start to level off, something Willfahrt said can be attributed to the economy slowly recovering. However, she said MSTC doesn’t plan to pull back on faculty as the need is still great.

MSTC operates three campuses in central Wisconsin and the center in Adams. NTC operates six campuses.

From  “Workforce Corner: “Building Bridges and Life Skills” — Summer is finally here in the northland! And, with this season comes employment opportunities for regional youth. The Crex Meadows Youth Conservation Camp, located in Grantsburg, Wis., is a very unique summer option for eligible teens from northwest Wisconsin. Over the past five years, applications for camp have steadily increased. This year, camp received its highest number of applications ever—125 applications for 76 available openings. Nearly every school within the ten county region the camp serves will be represented.

Campers work with the DNR on a variety of projects at the 30,000-acre Crex Meadows Wildlife Area and Governor Knowles State Forest and are paid for their labor, which is an unusual feature for a summer camp and holds great interest for campers. In the past, campers have removed invasive plant species, performed native seed collection, built bridges to increase trail accessibility, and assisted in the entire Canadian Geese banding process.

“Last year, there was a severe wind storm in Grantsburg. The campers during one of the sessions worked on post-storm clean up, which was a great experience because the campers got to work and be involved in the community and with the community members,” said Suzannah Crandall, camp director.

In addition to their work with the DNR, campers participate in a hands-on science and life-skill based curriculum. Some of the science activities have included plant and animal identification, radio telemetry and triangulation, and analyzing and examining water samples. Local school districts support the camp by rewarding the campers with science or elective credit that can be used towards high school graduation. A distinctive aspect of the camp curriculum is that it is delivered by people from different organizations, allowing campers to be exposed to a diverse wealth of knowledge.

“The life-skill based curriculum is a tremendous learning opportunity,” said Crandall. “This year one of the topics we will discuss is career development. The class will involve looking at the skills and education you need for specific jobs, the process of applying for jobs, and how to prepare a resume and cover letter. Part of this lesson will also be on social media and how others perceive you based on your personal profiles.”

Some of the organizations participating in this summer’s upcoming activities are: Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC), Crex Meadows Education Staff, and DNR Interns. WITC staff will be involved in the career development activity and will be performing career assessments. Crex Meadows Education Staff aid in supervising campers during their conservation projects while working alongside them and leading lessons and other team building activities. DNR Interns share information about the projects they are currently working on.

Campers don’t just work and study, however. There is also plenty of fun and recreation including swimming, sports, trust and teambuilding activities, campfire games, storytelling, movies, canoeing, and hiking. The camp is a partnership between CEP, Inc., the Northwest Wisconsin Workforce Investment Board, Inc., and the federal Workforce Investment Act.

From “CEO group fosters collaboration” — In an effort to help workers gain the skills they need to fill open positions, local employers are coming together to benefit each other and the community.

Known as the Workforce Central CEO Peer Council, a group of business executives representing about a dozen local manufacturers in south Wood County, meets once a month to discuss the issues they are facing and to share best practices and ideas for specialized training programs.

“It all starts on a collaborative level,” said Rick Merdan, manufacturing facilitator for Workforce Central. “It’s a good example of how when we come together, we can do more than we can apart.

“It’s been a good, vital cog in the community to have that group,” Merdan said.

Several training programs have resulted from those discussions, including leadership courses, supervisory and project management training, a food manufacturing science certificate, Manufacturing Skills Standard Certification and an industrial manufacturing certification program, all through Mid-State Technical College.

Many participants are employees of the companies that helped inspire the courses, and for them, the courses offer first-of-their-kind or supplemental training to existing company programs, local executives said.

“The opportunity to send our current and future leaders to these training opportunities allows them to gain these (sets) of skills and add them to their toolbox,” said Geoff Bertin, plant manager for ERCO Worldwide in Port Edwards, noting about a dozen employees have participated in leadership and supervisory training programs.

At Ocean Spray Cranberries in Wisconsin Rapids, the supervisory training programs have contributed to increased production and even led to the local facility garnering the company’s Plant of the Year title for the fourth year in a row, plant manager Kirk Willard said.

“You don’t do that without getting better,” Willard said.

The programs fill an immediate need to attract skilled workers as an increasing number of manufacturing employees retire or find themselves the victims of company downsizing, said Bruce Trimble, employer services director for the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board.

“There’s lot of employers that are not taking on new orders that they could if they had (skilled) employees,” Trimble said. “The work is out there, but the skills aren’t. These kinds of programs meet that immediate and short-term need that keeps them going or helps them expand.”

The ability to collaborate with their counterparts at other local companies allows both members of the CEO Peer Council and training program participants to gain insight into improving their own work, Willard said.

“For them to be able to learn from all the manufacturers in town to be able to talk about problems and troubleshooting … it’s important,” he said. “Very few communities and very few industries do that.”

In addition, to be able to present an idea to company officials along with information about what other local manufacturers are doing can make the ideas more attractive, Willard said.

“If I can say here’s what’s collectively going on in our community, the corporate office is going to say, ‘We don’t want to be an outlier in our community,'” he said.

From “Column: Skills gap slowly closes with training program” — Much is being written about, talked about and even campaigned about regarding the “skills gap.” What is it, how did it occur and what is the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, or NCWWDB, doing to address this issue?

The skills gap is occurring in our Workforce Development Area 6, or WDA, in three sectors.

Manufacturing is the sector garnering the most publicity. In a nutshell, manufacturers in our area have many openings for skilled positions and yet the majority of those looking for work do not possess the skills needed. Welders and machine tool operators are at the forefront of this demand right now.

How did this disparity occur? For a long time in our WDA, we had many family-supporting positions available in our area. There were nearly as many jobs for people of all skill levels as available workers. These jobs were thought of as lifelong opportunities, and many indeed were.

At the same time, parents (myself included), encouraged our children to attend college and never gave a thought to the good-paying careers available in manufacturing. Some parents’ trepidation was based on a conception that manufacturing involved dirty conditions, hot environments and monotonous work, none of which are the norm today. From climate-controlled shops, state-of-the-art robotics and computer-controlled machines, our area’s manufacturing facilities look more like show rooms. And jobs in these skilled areas provide solid, family-supporting wages.

NCWWDB offers training programs and support to the workforce we serve. At the front of the list are the short-term training programs in machine tool and welding we are sponsoring with one of our partners, Northcentral Technical College, or NTC, in Wausau. NTC shortened a curriculum to 20 weeks, and we are running our third sessions of both programs, which are geared primarily for workers recently dislocated.

At the end of each of these short-term programs, NCWWDB facilitates a roundtable with local manufacturing employers allowing the graduating students an opportunity to display their work samples and talk with the employers.

We also provide support to dislocated and adult workers in two-year programs to train for both these and other careers. We partnered with Mid-State Technical College in a food science manufacturing program to fill a need in the area’s food industries. We are working with Nicolet Area Technical College to put together another short-term program (similar to one we ran a few years ago) to fill that area’s manufacturing needs. And, we recently began a customized training program within one company where upon successful completion of the training, the graduates will be given full-time positions with benefits.

As I meet with employers from the nine counties we serve, I’m on the lookout for other opportunities as well as just listening to employers. Our workforce partners also are working diligently to help fill these gaps. WDA 6 employers are eager for our participants to complete their programs and for more to enter. Eventually, these gaps will fill, but they took years to develop and will take some time to fill.

For more information about NCWWDB’s Employer Services, call me at 715-422-4706 or email

Bruce Trimble is the employer services director at the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board.

From “Some college graduates return to tech school for job training” — Ericka Seastrand graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in consumer science. She beat the pavement for nine months, and the only job she could get was retail sales associate at a mall.

“The market was really competitive,” the 26-year-old from West Milwaukee recalled last week. “My degree was a generic business degree – nothing technical or tangible in the skill set. So I decided to get another degree with a hard skill set.”

Seastrand is one of a surprising number of 20-somethings who graduated from college in recent years, couldn’t find good-paying jobs with their four-year degrees, and enrolled in a technical college to earn a second degree or diploma geared toward specific job opportunities.

In the last three years, 6.4% of the total number of degrees and diplomas awarded at Waukesha County Technical College went to 20-somethings who self-reported they had at least 16 years of education before enrolling at the technical college, according to data analysis requested by the Journal Sentinel. Twenty-somethings represented 79.5% of all WCTC’s grads from 2009 to 2011 who already had bachelor’s degrees.

The percentages of 20-somethings with bachelor’s degrees who graduated during the same time from other technical colleges in the state – Madison (5.5%), Milwaukee (2.9%), Moraine Park (2.3%) and Gateway (2.1%) – were lower, but still noteworthy.

Connecting college degrees with jobs is a high-stakes challenge as graduates compete for fewer jobs while facing the prospect of repaying hefty student loans because financially strapped parents couldn’t help pay for college, and tuition at four-year universities has risen faster than the rate of inflation.

The Legislature, starting next year, will require the University of Wisconsin System to report job placement for its grads as part of new accountability measures.

Those who are strategic from the start of college – networking through campus activities, tapping career counseling services early and gaining practical experience through undergraduate research, volunteer work or internships – have always been the most successful at landing jobs right away, college officials agree.

But those who aren’t as purposeful in their pursuit of a career have an increasingly difficult time in this economy, though college grads overall still fare much better than those without a degree. The government reported the April unemployment rate for college grads was 4%, compared with 7.9% for high school grads.

After finishing an associate degree in graphic design with an emphasis on Web design at Madison Area Technical College last December, Seastrand, of West Milwaukee, quickly landed a job at Pilch & Barnet in Madison.

Hers is a cautionary tale.

She didn’t use UW-Madison’s career counseling services beyond seminars on résumé writing and interview skills during her four years there. She also didn’t realize the value of networking early enough. She did have opportunities to do unpaid internships, but could not afford to take them because she needed a paying job, she said.

A paid internship gained through Madison Area Technical College helped Seastrand land her Web design job at Pilch & Barnet.

Now paying off more than $50,000 in student loan debt, Seastrand’s advice to graduating high school students is to be strategic about college:

“Get connected in the community and really understand what you want to do, then pursue it. I didn’t have a clear idea of what my future job would entail, so I could have the network and make myself more competitive,” she said.

A tech degree has made her more competitive, she said, “though I gained a lot of experience from my four-year degree that I think will pay off in the long run.”

Competitive job market

Companies can be very specific about what skills they want in prospective employees because they’re flooded with applicants in a tight economy, said Alfonso Studesville, a career counselor at Madison Area Technical College for the past 18 years.

“A technical college minimizes the academic and focuses more on hands-on skills and applications for a particular field,” he said. “We have a lot of students who want to get going quickly with a career. It’s an employer’s market; they have so many applicants with specific experience to pick from.”

UW-Madison frames a college education around critical skills and competencies “rather than knowledge of a subject,” said Wren Singer, director of the university’s Center for the First-Year Experience, which helps freshmen get off to a good start in college.

“Students are going to end up doing five to six different jobs in their career,” Wren said. “National research shows employers want problem-solving skills, critical thinking and the ability to get along with people. Majors in any number of areas can teach that.”

UW-Madison is starting earlier to impress upon college students the need to be strategic about networking and gaining experience through internships, volunteering in their field, and undergraduate research opportunities, Singer said.

She’s concerned that more students are choosing professional programs because of their direct links to jobs.

“I don’t know if they’re making the right choice, because they may not be happy if they haven’t really explored,” Singer said. “We want them to expand their thinking that you’re not preparing for the first job, but for the long run. . . . An education is intended to prepare them for the second job, the third job, being a citizen in the world and being part of a democracy.”

Today’s students aren’t that much different from generations before them, said Mark Nook, senior vice president for academic affairs for the University of Wisconsin System.

“They know there’s a value to their education,” Nook said. “But a bigger portion wants a job at the end and isn’t looking for an education, where – when I was a student – we knew if we got an education, we’d find jobs. There are more students coming for very specific reasons and really wanting that job waiting for them.”

Degree but no job

Jake Staral, 23, graduated in December 2010 from UW-Madison with a degree in biology, spent about six months applying for jobs, and enrolled in Moraine Park Technical College’s water quality technology program on the advice of a family friend.

A first-generation college student, Staral said he had to figure out a lot for himself.

“I thought it would be easy to get a job that paid $30,000 to $40,000 a year, so I was a little bewildered after I graduated,” he said. “But I know the four-year degree will help me, along with the hands-on experience I’m gaining at Moraine Park.”

Staral plans to graduate from Moraine Park next year. He wishes he had taken advantage of advising services at UW-Madison.

That’s a step in the right direction, according to Katee Longmore, 26, who graduated from UW-Milwaukee in December 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in architectural studies.

Last weekend, Longmore graduated from Milwaukee Area Technical College with a second degree – an associate degree in landscape horticulture. She has a job at Kelly’s Greenscapes in Sussex.

She has no regrets about first earning a bachelor’s degree.

“These two degrees together are getting me where I need to be,” Longmore said. She wishes she had gotten involved with student organizations, and gained experience through internships before finishing a degree she wasn’t sure she wanted, she added.

Megan Gardner, 27, graduated from UW-Whitewater in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a minor in marketing.

She worked for four years as a marketing assistant at a local lighting manufacturer before it went out of business in May 2011.

“I knew it would be hard to find another job because of the economy, and I was scared I could lose my job again if I found one, so I decided I needed a career with more stability,” Gardner said.

Her parents own a dental lab in Waukesha, and suggested she think about becoming a dental technician.

Gardner graduated from MATC’s dental technician technical diploma program a week ago, and works at the family dental lab.

“I’m still interested in marketing and graphic design, but I really like being a dental technician,” she said.

“I have no regrets about my four-year degree, because I have a well-rounded education.”

From “Students snap pictures behind the pictures” — The assignment for Pierre Stephenson’s students was simple: To photograph photographers taking photographs.

A Madison Area Technical College instructor and photo pro himself, Stephenson paired each of the 27 students in his advanced Location Lighting classes with a professional working in the field. The students were in the final months of the college’s photography curriculum — a two-year associate degree program so popular it has a two-year waiting list, Stephenson said.

Their homework was to capture a working photographer juggling all the tasks it takes to run a successful business — “anything from actual photography to meeting with clients to post-production and building albums to editing on the computer,” he said.

“There’s this general belief — and a very strong push by manufacturers and labs to say that ‘Anybody can do it — if you buy this camera, you’ll be a professional photographer.’ What we really wanted to document was the vast array of skills that goes into being a professional,” Stephenson said.

“A lot of those have not changed from the film days — all the skills with lighting and posing and making your client comfortable and to flatter them. All the technology in the world doesn’t make a difference.”

For student Phoebe Guenzel, the real-world experience was to contrast her own interests in editorial and commercial photography with the photojournalism of sports photographer Todd Olsen. “I got to follow him to a basketball game and he’s sitting right there on the court,” she said.

Student Nicholas Hanson shot pictures of portrait photographer Michael Mowbray at work in his studio. Hanson’s task wasn’t easy, Mowbray said, because of the extra challenge “of working around us without getting in the way, and being able to utilize the available light and not contaminate any of the lighting that I’m using with my client.”

From “State awards $638,216 to train workers for ‘green’ jobs” — More than $638,000 in grants aimed at training workers for “green” jobs such as building solar panels and wind turbines has been awarded by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, state officials said Friday.

At the same time, the department said it is awarding $232,500 in grants to help ensure the state has a skilled labor force for industries such as manufacturing and health care.

The green job training money is part of a $6 million U.S. Department of Labor allocation to Wisconsin in 2010 to fund its Wisconsin Sector Alliance for the Green Economy, or SAGE, project. The $638,216 award represents the latest round of funding.

In all, the three-year SAGE initiative will provide training to approximately 4,500 new and ex isting apprentices for “green” energy jobs, the department said. In addition, more than 1,000 journey workers will receive green skills training.

“As more homeowners, businesses and utilities opt for renewable energy sources, we will need skilled workers to build, install and maintain renewable energy systems,” said Reggie Newson, secretary of the Department of Workforce Development. “These grants will also help meet the need for welders. In addition, we are taking steps to make the training programs themselves more energy efficient, safe and environmentally friendly.”

Various trades

The grants fund training in six trades: carpenter, construction craft laborer, construction electrician, ironworker, sheet metal and steamfitter. Grant contracts authorize funding for curriculum, equipment and supplies, as well as training needed by the instructors for either the technical colleges or independent training agencies.

Of the $638,216, $326,420 was awarded to the apprenticeship and training trust of the Associated Builders & Contractors of Wisconsin Inc. Most of the money will be used to purchase heavy equipment and welding simulators. Apprentices will undergo computer-simulated training rather than use the more costly heavy equipment in the field. The simulators will reduce fuel costs and let apprentices safely learn basic operations before using heavy equipment at excavation work sites, the department said.

Other SAGE grants supporting training: $186,770 to Plumbers, Steamfitters, Refrigeration Workers and Service Technicians Local 434; $67,900 to Ironworkers Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee Local 8; $49,126 to Moraine Park Technical College; and $8,000 to Mid-State Technical College.

Separate grants totaling $232,500 will go to 10 regional workforce development boards, funding their efforts to develop strategies and customized training programs to meet the need for skilled workers in manufacturing, health care and other high-growth sectors, the department said.

The grants, ranging from $22,500 to $25,000, will go to workforce boards in various regions of the state.

From “Moraine Park holds first annual Distance Challenge” —  Ballistas, slingshots and trebuchets filled Moraine Park Technical College’s courtyard at the first annual Distance Challenge at the Fond du Lac campus.

Students from Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah High School, the Fond du Lac Home School Association, West Bend East and West High Schools and Slinger High School formed teams and built contraptions with the goal of launching a rubber ball the greatest distance.

“We wanted a competition that required students to design, build and troubleshoot,” said Tom Roehl, Moraine Park Process Engineering Technology instructor. “We’re hoping to grow this in the future because local employers are very concerned about the skilled labor shortage, and it’s young people like this that are the future of manufacturing.”

The Fond du Lac Home School Association had a team of two sets of brothers: Isaiah and Sam LaVanway and Noah and Josiah Poss. Their giraffe-like contraption used a counterweight and two hockey sticks to make a trebuchet design. The giraffe ended up launching the rubber ball 88 feet and 2 inches.

Dawn Poss, mother of Noah and Josiah, said it was an excellent learning experience for the team.

“Through the building process, they learned endurance and patience. They had to see what wasn’t working, analyze it and learn from it,” Poss said.

Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah High School came in first by launching their object 184 feet and 2 inches. Students Ethan Hau and Jordan Kissinger’s winning device was a slingshot design. The duo used surgical tubes, two-by-fours and canvas to create “Slingshot 5,000.”

Slinger High School’s Zach Rueckl came in second at 111 feet and 4 inches. Rueckl’s “Proto II” contraption used a ballista design. Rueckl’s distance goal was to break 100 feet, which he accomplished.

Coming in third at 111 feet was a team from West Bend East and West High Schools consisting of students Nathan Groth, Austin Pelzman, Isaac Theis and Samuel Nagrocki. Their “Second Chance” resistance slingshot got its name because they scrapped their first machine when they weren’t happy with the results.

Rob Bauer, who works at Waukesha Metal Products in the tool and die area, said the competition sparked both excitement and creativity.

“We are always looking for skilled workers, and this is a great way to get students thinking about careers early. If they have an interest in this type of field, we can get them to the right career path early on,” he said.

From “Wausau West students share stories from apprenticeships” — More than 60 high school juniors and seniors are working in part-time positions in the Wausau area through Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship program. I’ve written a number of articles about the YA program for the paper in the past year, but for this article, two current YAs have agreed to share their experiences, in their own words.

Morgan Zernicke,
Wausau West senior

I’ve been in the Youth Apprenticeship program for two years. My first year, I worked at Zernicke Farm, doing field work, barn chores and feeding calves. Currently, I’m working at Marathon Feed, where I provide customer service and do anything I am asked to do. I always wanted to go into the agricultural field, but my job at Marathon Feed has made me think more about what I really want to do for my future career. I’ve made the choice to stay in the agri-business area. I’ve been accepted to Northcentral Technical College this fall. I will graduate with an associate degree in Dairy Science Agri-business and hope to work in Marathon or Lincoln County after graduation. The YA program has helped me discover that a career in agriculture is a good fit for me.

Michaela Ketchum,
 Wausau West senior

Not many students could say their senior year has been as victorious as mine has been. As a full-time student at Wausau West High School working as a certified nursing assistant at Kindred Transitional Care, I have strived better to be not only a family member and a student, but a friend to many new patients that I care about deeply. The Youth Apprenticeship program has taken me down numerous exciting and new roads that have helped direct my future. Without this program, I would never have been so eager to plan my future as a registered nurse. While being a CNA, I have had so many opportunities to understand how essential the health field is and what struggles are truly out there. The Youth Apprenticeship program is such an important milestone for a student’s life and can even help them to find the key to their future.

If you’d like to connect with a student looking for an apprenticeship or want to learn more about the YA program, contact your local high school YA coordinator or Donna Schulz at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau at

From “Medical colleges target Fox Cities for expansion” — Appleton may be among a handful of cities across the state to land the first wave of expansions by medical colleges trying to cope with a projected physician shortage.

The city could learn next month whether months of discussions will lead to its selection by the Milwaukee-based Medical College of Wisconsin for one of two satellite campuses in the state. Appleton officials said the new campus could translate to 100 new jobs.

“We’re looking at eight possible sites,” said Maureen Mack, spokeswoman for the Medical College of Wisconsin. Green Bay, Eau Claire and La Crosse are among the cities also under consideration, along with Janesville/Beloit; Racine/Kenosha; central Wisconsin, including Marshfield, Stevens Point and Wausau; and northwestern Wisconsin.

She said the college’s board of trustees may make a decision on the location of the first two satellite campuses on June 22.

The Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine, which has been looking at establishing a campus in Wausau, also is considering opening a campus in Appleton.

Karen Harkness, director of community development, said the city has been in talks with the college for about two years.

The college’s website says the Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine continues to work with Wausau and Marathon County to open a campus there. A representative for the college declined to comment about whether it has expansion plans in Appleton.

Harkness said city leaders met with both schools because of the opportunity to bring new development and jobs to Appleton.

“We don’t know if the colleges would be located in the same city,” she said. “It was important to pursue both with the chance to get at least one.”

Favorable location

Dr. Mark Kehrberg, chief medical officer at Menasha-based Affinity Health System, which operates St. Elizabeth Hospital, said Appleton and the Fox Valley have amenities sought by the Medical College of Wisconsin, which is proposing an accelerated program for its satellite locations.

“I think there’s a good chance of having one of their (satellites) here in the Fox Valley,” said Kehrberg, who is familiar with the college’s expansion plans.

He said the Medical College of Wisconsin’s accelerated program would condense the time a student spends in medical school from four years to three. Students could complete some coursework at Lawrence University, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh or Fox Valley Technical College to aid that process.

“In our case, those are the advantages we have,” Kehrberg said. “These schools all provide different levels of education that can enhance and benefit the experience of the medical students.”

The Medical College of Wisconsin’s program also would include some distance learning. Kehrberg said medical school can cost between $40,000 and $50,000 annually, so the college’s program, could reduce that cost by 25 percent.

Mack said proximity to other colleges will factor into her school’s decision.

“One reason we’re doing this is to limit having to raise tuition,” she said. “This model (involves students) training and living in the community where they are based and going to some of the local colleges to cut their costs.”

Scramble for physicians

Findings in a 2011 report from the Wisconsin Hospital Association show the state will face a severe physician shortage by 2030 if nothing is done. The report says the state needs to attract and retain at least 100 physicians annually to meet growing demand.

The findings served as a catalyst for private medical schools looking to expand. Mack said the goal is to have facilities in place to accommodate 100 new doctors entering residency programs annually, beginning in 2015 over a 20-year period, to avoid a physician shortage in the state.

The Medical College of Wisconsin plans to add satellite campuses beyond the two it will announce next month. The six sites that aren’t initially selected would remain in the running.

“Our hope is to expand further,” Mack said. “Our goal is that we would like to graduate 25 students a year out of these (satellites).”

Jessica Hancock, 28, of Elkhorn, supports providing more opportunities for people interested in practicing medicine. She is a first-year resident through the Fox Valley Family Medicine Residency Program, part of the School of Medicine and Public Health at UW-Madison.

“I think expansion (of medical schools) to get more doctors into the system always is a good thing, especially when there’s talk of physician shortages,” said Hancock, who will spend time at hospitals operated by Affinity and ThedaCare as part of her residency.

Strategic planning

Medical professionals say getting more doctors into the system only considers part of the problem. The journey to become a family physician traditionally includes four years of undergraduate studies, followed by four years of medical school and a three-year residency. Specialists may require more education.

Expanding residency spots for medical students is imperative, says Brandon Boehm, 28, of Stevens Point, who is wrapping up his second year of residence through the Fox Valley Family Medicine Residence Program.

“I’m only looking in state for work and I do definitely want to stay in Wisconsin,” said Boehm, who has spent the past month at Appleton Medical Center. “A lot of residents do end up practicing where they do their residency.”

Kehrberg said Affinity, along with its parent, Ministry Health Care, is working on a plan to accommodate the influx of residents who likely would enter the program by 2015. The first students from the Medical College of Wisconsin’s satellite campuses would begin their residencies by 2018.

“The hope is there will be enough residency spots,” Kehrberg said.

Affinity and ThedaCare partner with the Fox Valley Family Medicine Residency Program and have at least 18 residents working in their respective facilities annually.

Kehrberg said the Fox Valley’s higher learning and medical institutions have a good track record of collaboration.

“We have to make sure the support infrastructure is in place,” Kehrberg said. “Obviously, connections with UWO, Lawrence and Fox Valley Technical College, I suspect, will be key.”

From Opinion: “NTC enrollment boost a good sign for central Wisconsin” — College enrollment is up nationwide, but the increase at Wausau’s Northcentral Technical College is especially striking. The number of students enrolled in one-year or two-year programs at NTC nearly doubled between 2008 and 2011, going from 3,149 students to 6,070.

That’s a stunning number. And it likely speaks to the long-term economic health of our region.

Many factors are driving enrollment increases. Without a doubt one of these is the tough economy over the past several years, which has led displaced workers to seek more schooling and has discouraged others from trying to strike out into the job market.

But there’s more to it than that. People recognize that the economy is changing and that increasingly it’s necessary not only to extend your education beyond the high-school level but also to be prepared for lifelong learning and training.

At the same time, it’s our observation that respect for technical education programs seems to be on the rise. It’s nothing against traditional liberal education, which remains extremely valuable, to say that for many people, education in a trade or technical school program is a better fit and one that offers them strong, lifelong employment opportunities. That’s true of nursing programs, various manufacturing programs and many more.

This is a positive development, and we’re glad people see technical school as a legitimate higher-education opportunity.

Still, these trends alone would not explain the absolutely dramatic growth at the Wausau-based technical college if it weren’t for one other major factor: dynamic leadership from NTC President Lori Weyers.

The school has actively gone to employers to find out what skills they need from workers and what programs would make students a good fit for the jobs they have available. It has actively made room for alternative schedules and has set up programs across the sprawling area of its coverage.

Students benefit from that type of flexibility. They also benefit from program offerings tailored to real-world skills they’ll need in the workplace.

There is no realistic way for the economy to grow in the long term without a strong base of education. In this light, the increase in enrollment in local higher-ed programs is a very good thing.

From “WITC students bring technology skills to Guatemala” — It’s a different country and a different culture, but the need for technology is the same. A school of about 70 students in Guatemala only had a few computers that weren’t exactly up to snuff, “Most of them were around ten years old. The computers were very infected with viruses,” recent WITC graduate Jacob Koval said.

So every morning for ten days, the tech savvy students fixed them up. They also donated twelve laptops, “It was a way for me to take the skills I just learned and actually put them into a real world application,” recent WITC graduate Carl Haughn said.

But their itinerary had room for fun too. During lunch, the five students took a break to see the sights, and play a few pick-up games of soccer with locals. Roles reversed in the afternoon. Students became teachers, demonstrating computer and software skills to staff. As they worked to close the digital divide, they also had to overcome a language barrier.

“We had already kind of figured out what to say to get them to do what we wanted to do when giving the lessons,” Haughn said.

And they were completely immersed, living with spanish-speaking host families, “It’s always ‘buenos dias’,  or ‘buenos tardes’, they’re all very friendly,” Haughn said.

Students said it was a once in a lifetime experience, “I really enjoyed being able to use my skills to help other people out. That’s half the reason I wanted to do this program, I like helping people out,” Koval said.

And the people in Guatemala appreciated the help, and the company, “In addition to helping them with the computers, just interacting with people from somewhere else, I think they really enjoyed it,” WITC IT Network Specialist Instructor Paul Gordon said.

The students graduated just before the trip. Some are now looking for IT careers while others are looking to continue their education.

From “Need for nurses grows as population ages” –There’s a reason why local college nursing programs are so popular.

Fond du Lac educators say nurses are in high demand, and the need for nurses will only grow as the population ages.

Nursing is the largest program enrollment-wise at Moraine Park Technical College. Dean of Health Sciences Kathy Van Eerden said 900 students have indicated that nursing is their choice of study.

It’s also a major field at Marian University, said Julie Luetschwager, dean of the school of nursing.

“(Enrollment) has been pretty stable, which is a good thing,” she said.

It’s not just high school graduates choosing nursing. Luetschwager said many nurses are also returning to school for advanced degrees.

Opportunities for highly skilled nurses are available in community and public health. And with doctor shortages anticipated in the future, nurse practitioners will be needed to fulfill some of their responsibilities.

Van Eerden said more and more students pursuing nursing already have a degree in another field, but are going back to school because they’re underemployed. Others who were laid off during the recession are hoping to land a diploma — and a career — in a stronger, more lucrative industry.

It helps that opportunities abound for nurses, and since credits transfer, it’s easy for them to advance their education if they so choose, she added.

“The beauty of nursing is that it has a clear career ladder for people,” she said.

The health care industry wasn’t immune to the recession; some medical providers froze hiring as a result of the economy, Luetschwager said. But sooner, rather than later, they’re going to have to hire again in response to the rapidly aging population.

Nurses too will retire, creating additional gaps that will need to be filled. Unless it’s addressed, there’s going to be a nursing shortage in the near future, Van Eerden said.

“We are clearly seeing continued high demand locally and nationally,” she said.

From “Wausau college, UWGB make transfer deal” – GREEN BAY — A partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Adult Degree program and Wausau-based Northcentral Technical College hopes to bring NTC graduates closer to earning a bachelor’s degree thanks to a guaranteed credit transfer agreement between the two schools.

The One Degree Closer initiative allows students who have earned an associate degree at NTC to transfer at least 60 credits to UW-Green Bay in pursuit of a bachelor of applied science degree.

UW-Green Bay will accept the credits no matter what NTC associate degree the student earned or when.

Students who choose this program will apply credits toward a bachelor of applied science degree, selecting one of six areas of emphasis within its broad-based interdisciplinary studies major.

In addition to NTC’s main campus in Wausau, UW-Green Bay is working with the community college’s regional campuses.

Visit, or call (800) 621-2313 or (715) 803-1410 or send an email to for information about the One Degree Closer initiative.

From “Wood tech program caps first year” — Northcentral Technical College is wrapping up a successful first year for its wood technology programs, which are based out of the state-of-the-art Wood Technology Center of Excellence on the Antigo campus.

The program’s advisory committee recently convened and reported that it was very pleased with the progress of the program and reaffirmed its direction, specifically citing a 100 percent student retention rate and noting how that spoke directly to students’ interest in the program.

“NTC is committed to supporting the wood products industry in north central Wisconsin,” Larry Kind, dean of NTC’s Antigo campus, said. “The response from both our students and industry leaders has been overwhelmingly positive in our first year of operation. We’re excited to continue serving the community by providing our students with the skills needed to succeed in this important field.”

According to Kind, several business leaders also noted that they were anxious to hire students from NTC’s wood programs when they graduate a year from now. In fact, a number of students have already been offered summer jobs within the industry due in large part to their unique skill sets.

The Wood Technology Center of Excellence, which opened in 2011, provides training in wood manufacturing technology, innovation and commerce to program students and incumbent wood technology workers.

NTC Antigo offers a wood processes associate degree, a wood technology technical diploma and a basic wood manufacturing certificate. Included in the programs is coursework that develops skills and specialized knowledge required for the manufacturing, marketing, distribution and end use of wood products.

Students work on state-of-the-art computerized wood manufacturing equipment, including CNC routers, CNC moulders and optimizing saws, while also learning about lumber grading, buying and merchandising.

The wood programs offered at the NTC Wood Technology Center of Excellence are unique to the Wisconsin Technical College System and are not offered anywhere else in the state. Wisconsin is the top state in the nation for wood-related jobs, while the Langlade County region is one of the worldwide leaders in forest products manufacturing.

NTC Antigo is now accepting applications to its wood programs for the fall of 2012. For more information on NTC’s wood programs or to apply, contact Kimmie Kretz, Enrollment Advisor, at 715 623-7601, Ext. 7308.

From “Wisconsin technical school and local business team-up to create journeyman welding and fabrication program to help fill welder gap” — A Welder-Fabricator apprenticeship program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) is underway thanks to part of a $6 million federal green energy grant to the state of Wisconsin and collaboration between local industry and educators. The goal of the program is to fill the critical need for journeyman welders in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s (DWD) Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards (BAS) and NWTC introduced the new Welder-Fabricator apprenticeship program in January.

NWTC has a big impact in Wisconsin, serving more than 42,000 students in the Green Bay area on a variety of disciplines including welding certification and fabrication courses. The school has been educating students in northeast Wisconsin for 100 years, providing an avenue for a skilled workforce since 1912. New in 2012 is the apprenticeship welding-fabrication program that will give employees the chance to become highly trained experts, and give employers the opportunity to keep workers on the job while the beginner welder builds on knowledge and skills.

“This program complements our current introductory technical programs and will deliver benefits – we bring introductory welders up to the experts’ level of skill and knowledge,” says Scott Massey, AWS Certified Welding Instructor, NWTC. “It’s on the job training that will help speed up the learning curve and help the welder receive journeyman status in a shorter amount of time.”

The learning curve may be shortened but it is still intensive. The apprentice program is a four-year trek that includes 8,000 hours; 7,560 of on-the-job training and 440 hours of in class training. The NWTC program will provide the classroom time for training on Fridays while the apprentice will continue to work Monday through Thursday for their employer. The program goal is for participants to attain an American Welding Society certification and be a journeyman welder.

“The apprentice program will include blueprint reading and metallurgy classroom time,” says Massey. “The apprentice will study math and effective communication. The target is a well-rounded individual who can weld, fabricate and lead.”

Industry Need

Wisconsin’s manufacturers, like many companies across the country, are in need of journeyman welders. The transition to greener technologies means delivering employees that are trained in the latest environmentally friendly techniques and tools. The apprenticeship combines two of the high-demand occupations in manufacturing—welding and fabrication The hybrid is helping students not only attain journeymen cards but give the student the ability to become a versatile, and more valuable employee.

“Technology and green initiatives are driving the trade. The existing workforce has the opportunity to be more multitalented and successful,” says Todd Kiel, apprenticeship manager trades & industrial, NWTC. “The graduate will bridge that gap that existed before between a welder and a fabricator.  He will be a multifaceted skilled worker and even more valuable to an employer.”

The program will be filled with participants from local manufacturers in and around the Green Bay area including ship repair and building, the paper industry, automotive and others. With nearby ports and associated manufacturers and repair shops, pipe and ship techniques will be a concentration of the program.

“We expect the demand to steadily increase as more and more employers become aware of the program,” says Kiel. “We have 17 other successful apprenticeship programs and we expect this one to be very popular given the concentration on welding and fabrication.”

The Curriculum

The classroom time will include plenty of attention on the traditional TIG, MIG, Stick and Flux Cored processes of welding.But according to Kiel the overall goal of the apprenticeship program at NWTC is to turn the somewhat experienced welder into a critical thinking expert who can work independently on their own, troubleshooting and solving problems. At the end of the 8,000 hours the student will be a journeyman welder-fabricator who is critical to his employers operation.

“There’s always a concern that you are creating an employee who will then take his practice elsewhere. But we believe the opposite is true that instead you are creating a more loyal employee because you have invested in his skills and his ability,” says Kiel. “You have a higher-skilled employee who could eventually move up within the organization and become a leader.”

The apprenticeship participants will be working with some of the latest in welding technology thanks to the grant. Miller Electric Mfg. Co.’s headquarters is in nearby Appleton, Wisc. The decidedly blue welding machines inside the lab have nothing to do with proximity and more to do with giving his students an opportunity to work with the same equipment they will find at modern hi-tech manufacturers, fabricators and construction companies.

“We love to TIG with the Dynasty 350’s and 200’s with the modern pulse arc and advance squarewave technology,” says Massey. “When these students get here, low and behold, there’s the same machine they have at the workplace. It makes the learning easier and the practice at the workplace and classroom compatible.”

Dan Niemela, district sales manager, has been at Miller Electric Mfg. Co. for four years. Niemela sat on the committee of educators and local industry leaders that developed the curriculum and supported the $1.2 million dollar investment in equipment.

Niemela leaned on his own recent experience as a welding student. A scholarship winner in 2008 at Ferris University in Michigan, he can trace the line between quality welding education and his success today at Miller.

“The students need to have a diverse education in welding to attain that journeyman card,” said Niemela. “Using the right tools is essential in the learning process. If you’re fighting your machine, you’re not learning.  I’m glad we were able to provide the best in Miller products that will help the student learn the right way to weld.”

The Welder-Fabricator apprenticeship program is the fourth of six new apprenticeship programs to be developed through a $6 million SAGE (System to Administer Grants Electronically) project grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. SAGE grants are focused on pushing green technologies into Wisconsin’s workforce. The partnerships between businesses, educators and industry leaders like Miller will help identify and address clean energy job opportunities in construction, manufacturing and utility industries.

From “Times may be tough, but Fond du Lac restaurants are thriving” — Fond du Lac is bucking a national trend when it comes to restaurants.

When times are tough, consumers start scrimping and saving instead of splurging at a restaurant. A Harris Poll released last week found that seven in 10 Americans, or 71 percent, are cooking more meals at home to save money. The poll also found that 57 percent of respondents used to eat out regularly, but now it’s a luxury.

In Fond du Lac, locals haven’t stopped supporting their favorite places. Restaurateurs and food educators say many factors — including more affordable restaurants, frugal spenders and family values — have driven sales despite the downturn.

Too busy to cook

Business dropped a little when the recession hit in 2008, but Fond du Lac residents still went out to eat, said Heather Linstrom, co-owner of Linstrom’s Catering in Fond du Lac and Seasons Restaurant in Peebles. They’re still dining out; Linstrom said she’s seeing “nice clientele and nice business.”

She said many people, especially families with two working parents, are so busy that they don’t have the time or energy to prepare home-cooked meals. By Friday night, it’s easier to take the kids out to eat.

“At the end of the week, they think ‘Can I afford to do it?’ The question is ‘Can you afford not to do it?’” she said.

In Fond du Lac, going out for dinner is a social occasion, she added. The weekly fish fry isn’t popular just because of the fish; it’s a chance for everyone to meet after a long, stressful week.

“People are passionate about family and food,” she said.

Saavy spenders

The ever-popular pizza had even more fans when the recession started, said Angie Antkowiak, who owns Ang an’ Eddie’s Pizza with her husband Eddie. The couple started the restaurant, at 7 14th St., in March, but has had a wholesale and consulting business for two years. During that time, the Antkowiaks talked to their restaurant clients, discovering that pizza was a way to feed a lot of people for not a lot of money.

The couple has restaurant experience — they ran Boxcar Eddie’s in North Fond du Lac for six years before closing due to health problems in the family.

So far, Ang an’ Eddie’s has been busy with orders. Pickups are very popular, Antkowiak said. Many customers are college-age to early 30s and have families.

They’re still cautious, using coupons and looking for deals whenever possible, she said. But after sacrificing so much, consumers are itching to spend a little on themselves.

“It’s one thing they can still do that isn’t that expensive, especially (ordering) pizza,” she said.

Pizza is a hit at Gino’s Italian Restaurant, 584 W. Johnson St. Jack Knipple, who owns the restaurant with his wife Jan, has noticed fewer customers since the economy slowed. Customers are also being more selective with their spending, but specials do drive sales. Half-price pizzas on Sunday and Monday are a big draw; the restaurant is selling record numbers of pizzas on those days, he said.

Customers have also signed up for text alerts for specials on their cell phones, Knipple said, another sign that they’re hungry for good food and good deals.

Growing interest

A healthy restaurant industry is welcome news for job seekers as well as customers. At Moraine Park Technical College, enrollment in the culinary arts program has never been higher, said instructor James Simmers.

He said the interest may stem from the popularity of cooking shows and networks. Shows like “Top Chef” illustrate what many are finding out about working with food.

“It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s stressful,” he said.

Simmers said cooks are in demand right now, and food science is a growing field. More companies are looking at ways to prepare healthier foods, including pre-packaged products. Those manufacturers are going to need workers skilled in food technology and research.

He added that food experts are going to be needed as people take greater interest in their food. They want to know where it comes from and how it’s handled.

Linstrom agreed that customers care about their food. It’s one of the reasons why Seasons Restaurant’s mission is to serve as many locally produced ingredients as possible.

It’s not just about trying to lose weight, Linstrom said, but also living with health conditions. More and more restaurant and catering customers are being diagnosed with celiac disease and other conditions that affect what they can eat. Linstrom said requests for gluten-free meals have spiked 50 percent from two years ago. Now, almost every event she caters requires a gluten-free option.

Does that mean the popularity of Wisconsin staples like cheese, beer and butter will diminish?

Absolutely not, Linstrom said.

From “Students with disabilities get help facing workaday world” — Mequon - In a classroom at Milwaukee Area Technical College last week, student Sonia Fischer offered her teacher some examples of good and bad job interview behavior.

Good: keeping your hands on your lap or on the table. Bad: talking on your cellphone.

Fischer, who is 20, and the four other students in the class that day attend Homestead High School, where they receive services until 21 years of age because of their disabilities.

But a new partnership between Homestead and the MATC Mequon Campus is aiming to enhance the high school’s existing transition program for young adults with cognitive disabilities by educating students at the college a few times a week and having them spend afternoons working at MATC or visiting local businesses.

The eight-week pilot program, STRIVE, or Students Taking Responsibility for Independence and Vocational Education, is nearing the end of its run for about eight students at Homestead High School. Supporters say the experience has been a success and that they’re hoping MATC might expand the partnership to allow overage students at other local high schools to participate in the coming years.

More broadly, the program underscores an emerging push to help expose students with cognitive disabilities to postsecondary educational experiences, perhaps even with some traditional education students in some scenarios.

The private Edgewood College in Madison was one of the first to experiment with this design by offering a postsecondary track for students with significant intellectual disabilities.

“We’ve never done this before,” said Lucia Francis, vice president of the MATC Mequon Campus who worked with Homestead to design the new program. “Part of it has been a mind shift for all of us.”

Transition programs have been in place for years for students with disabilities who receive additional years of service in public schools. They aim to help such students move into adulthood with skills that could lead to steady work after they exit the K-12 system.

But Homestead staff wanted to take that transition period a step further. They approached MATC with the idea, and with Francis, they made it happen the second half of spring semester.

Starting in March, the participating students, their aides from school and Barbara Dedrick, a Homestead special education teacher, traveled from Homestead to MATC three days a week. There, Dedrick taught about different career options, proper workplace behavior and etiquette, such as a firm handshake, good hygiene and eye contact. After lunch, students worked at the college, such as helping out in the student services office or cleaning the tables in the cafeteria.

Other afternoons featured visits to job sites. These were primarily hosted by members of the Mequon-Thiensville Sunrise Rotary Club, a supporter of the new program. According to Mequon-Thiensville School District officials, the program has cost about $8,000, or about $1,000 per participating student, and was covered by federal funding.

Services to age 21

While traditional-education students generally exit high school around age 18, federal law allows students with disabilities to stay in the system longer. Public schools are required to offer services to these students until age 21.

Statewide, school districts serve about 6,000 overage students with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 21, according to data from fall 2010. The state’s largest district, Milwaukee Public Schools, serves about 890 students who meet that criteria, about 280 of whom have cognitive disabilities.

Claudia Weaver Henrickson, the interim director of special education, said that while MPS offers a variety of work training programs for these students, it does not currently have an avenue for them to seek postsecondary experiences.

Reflecting on news of the new program in Mequon, Weaver Henrickson said it could be a “great thing to add” in Milwaukee.

“I think there’s a need for more of our students with cognitive disabilities to do an actual class at MATC, with an MATC instructor and other students, not just with special-education students,” she said.

Ginger Moerschel, the mother of one of the students in the STRIVE program, called the experience a dream come true.

Her 20-year-old daughter, Katie, has spent her educational career mainstreamed with other children in Mequon-Thiensville schools and earned enough high-school credits to graduate with her peers.

But then her friends went off to college, and Katie returned to high school.

“But Mom,” she would say, perplexed. “I’ve graduated.”

At MATC, Katie has gotten exposure to a new environment and new people, Ginger said.

With light guidance from librarian Patrick Mundt, she has been getting the mail and organizing books and doing other tasks.

On a recent day in the cafeteria, 20-year-old Cory Zamora was meticulously moving from table to table with a rag and bucket.

His aide from Homestead, Brent Manor, kept an eye on him. He said Zamora has made progress over the eight weeks in learning how to focus on a task.

“At first it was tough for him to get through a whole shift, but now he’s getting more independent,” he said. “I would put him in a restaurant industry job after seeing him do this kind of work.”

Dedrick, from Homestead, said the program has been a success and they hope the collaboration with MATC will expand so more high schools, such as Cedarburg and Grafton, can allow their students to participate.

“We want to give these students an opportunity to navigate a world of higher expectations,” she said.

From “Downtown residents get a look at plans for Madison College culinary school” —  At a meeting of downtown Madison’s Mansion Hill neighborhood association Monday night, representatives from Madison College and design company Strang presented preliminary plans for a new culinary education center located on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and West Johnson Street.

While just nine residents attended the meeting, the possible expansion was greeted with praise from most.

“This is going to be fun to have downtown,” said neighborhood steering committee member Gene Devitt.

Devitt said Strang has been “easy to work with” and open to criticism from the steering committee, and many suggestions were reflected in the plans presented Monday.

Originally, the expanded building was expected to take up 10,000 square feet, but Madison College public affairs manager Tim Casper said the plan was reduced to 8,250 square feet to accommodate some recommendations made by other committees.

Strang principal architect Peter Tan, who presented the plans at the meeting, highlighted large windowed areas on the street level, which will allow pedestrians walking by to look into the demonstration kitchen located on that floor.

The opportunity to bring the culinary school back to the downtown area presented itself because of a “competitive bidding climate,” which led to other building projects coming in under budget, according to Casper. The budget for the new building, which will house programs and courses related to culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, hotel and restaurant management, and meeting and event management, will be $8 million.

One issue that proved contentious was the plan for deliveries. Currently, the plan calls for trucks to come in off Dayton Street, where deliveries are already made to the current Madison College building. However, the Concourse Hotel is also on Dayton and some residents at the meeting expressed concern about traffic problems caused by trucks pulling in and out of the delivery zone.

One solution offered was to have the hotel and college coordinate delivery times to avoid overcrowding, which Casper said Madison College would be willing to talk to the Concourse about.

Madison College director of facility services Mike Stark assured the residents that most deliveries would happen in off-peak hours, usually before 8 a.m.

A second point of contention came when resident Fred Mohs questioned the design of the roof, which he worried would draw attention away from the rest of the building.

“This building shouldn’t be all about ‘what’s this thing on the roof?’” he said. “That can be an effective feature or a fiasco.”

But after Tan showed views of the structure from other angles and assured Mohs they “have the same goals” in the design of the roof, Mohs was “feeling better.”

The next steps for the project include approval from both the Urban Design Commission and the Wisconsin State Technical College Board. Casper hopes both of those committees give final approval at their July meetings.

If approved, the project will begin in November or December of this year, with plans to open for classes in January of 2014.

From “Fox Valley manufacturers face uphill battle to find workers” — GRAND CHUTE — If 10 highly skilled machinists were to walk into Pinnacle Machine today, co-owner Don Miller would hire them all on the spot.

“There’s just a tremendous amount of work out there,” said Miller, who also manages the plant that produces components used in power generation and water purification.

The plant, which employs 32 people, needs more workers to grow, but Miller — along with other manufacturers — says the Fox Valley lacks workers with the right skills to perform the job.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business advocacy organization, and manufacturers like Miller say the problem must be addressed now to meet today’s needs and keep the state competitive in the future.

Luring a younger generation of workers into manufacturing will take some convincing that good careers are available, said Jim Morgan, president of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Foundation, who was the keynote speaker Monday at Fox Valley Technical College. He discussed findings from about 50 listening sessions on current and future workforce needs with more than 300 manufacturers around the state.

Morgan said the consensus among manufacturers is orders are picking up, but expansion is hindered by a lack of available workers with the skills to operate computer-assisted equipment. The existing workforce also is aging and fewer people are pursuing manufacturing careers.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce estimates that 70 percent of all the available jobs in Wisconsin do not require a four-year degree. Younger generations, however, are taught not to pursue skilled-trade careers and are encouraged to attend college.

Plant closures and layoffs in the Fox Cities in recent years, including those by consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark Corp. and papermaker NewPage Corp., also hurt manufacturing’s perception in the community.

“Today’s young generation may have been touched by someone in their family being laid off,” Miller said. “The respect and trust in manufacturing may not be there today like it was when I got into it.”

But manufacturers acknowledge outreach initiatives targeted at youths to spark their interest in manufacturing at an early age have been lacking.

“We aren’t telling our story,” Morgan said. “We need to change the perception of what manufacturing is like today.”

In October, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce will roll out a public awareness campaign to highlight manufacturing’s importance to the state.

“We recognize that we have to open people’s minds to our profession,” Morgan said.

Miller said though the starting salary for an entry-level machinist at his company ranges between $12 and $14 per hour, a highly skilled Class A machinist could earn “in the neighborhood of $70,000.”

But he said many workers perceive a job at a plant as less glamorous than an office or executive-level job.

“I’ve offered jobs to people who work in a fast-food restaurant and they stayed in that job because they didn’t want to work in a shop,” Miller said.

Susan May, president of Fox Valley Technical College, said the college offers numerous programs, including Girl Tech and a high-mileage vehicle competition, to introduce youth to the skilled trades.

“We’ve been working on this issue for the past 10 years,” she said. “And we recognize that more needs to be done.”

From “The Apprentice Dunn County Winners Announced” — A team of Chippewa Valley Technical College students took first place in The Apprentice Dunn County with their project for a website design for the Dunn County United Way.

Team members included Gloria Koroghlanian, Tyler Bauer, Adam Lowe and Gregory Haug.

This was the third season of The Apprentice Dunn County, a program that connects small businesses with students who work together to build realistic strategies that can help the participating companies become more successful.

Twelve student-led teams from CVTC and UW-Stout presented solutions to eight area businesses.

The program is coordinated by the Greater Menomonie Area Chamber of Commerce through volunteer members of the Workforce and Education Committee. It is based in concept on the popular NBC television show. Employers submit real world project challenges and are matched with student teams. Project challenges ranged from working on websites, database systems, facility plans, marketing plans and market research.

Teams presented their solutions in early May. A panel of judges scored each team based on how well they met the needs of the business they were paired with.

Second place went to the UW-Stout team made up of Paul Mulligain, Kyle Pieters, Nicholas Geske and Joradan Cepress, Rebecca Iverson and Jason Kern for their facility plan for Arbor Place. Third place went to the UW-Stout team of Sue Her, Nou Chee Her and Kalvin Chue Yang for their promotional video for Optimum Therapies.

From “Program creates ‘Pathways’ to overcome employment barriers” — Note: This is part of a weekly series about jobs, local businesses and the economy.

Between working, going to school and raising three young children, Kristina Robertson has little free time.

The 25-year-old Wisconsin Rapids resident also is going through a divorce, doesn’t have a vehicle and is living with her mother while she earns her certified nursing assistant certificate from Mid-State Technical College.

Those obstacles might seem daunting, but Robertson said after participating in a local program that helps dislocated workers in south Wood County overcome such barriers, her outlook has become more positive.

“If I had my certification, I could get a little bit better-paying job and hopefully support myself,” she said.

Robertson is one of about 100 people participating in the Pathways program — a partnership among Incourage Community Foundation’s Workforce Central initiative, MSTC and other service-related agencies in the community — to help them overcome employment barriers and gain the skills they need to get a job, said Stephanie Bender, who coordinates the program.

“One of the primary things I’ve heard is that people have gained confidence in themselves and confidence in their ability to continue their education further,” Bender said.

While Robertson had to quit her full-time position at Creative Community Living Services — she became a relief worker there in order to go to school — the Pathways partnership has been an invaluable resource, she said.

“They help me out by providing day care, gas (money); they pay for the books and everything like that,” she said.

In addition to the certified nursing assistant class, which is part of the gerontology and memory care program, Pathways case managers also work with students in the customer service office technology, an accelerated GED class and a college preparation course, Bender said. In June, a manufacturing certification will be added to the list.

To others who are in similar situations but have reservations about whether to take the first step, Robertson had one piece of advice.

“They just have to have the encouragement to do it and the willpower,” she said. “Don’t let anyone put you down.”

From “Rising, UWMC, NTC enrollment reflects trends” — The University of Wisconsin Marathon County and Northcentral Technical College are part of a national trend that has seen college enrollment shoot up as the economy has struggled.

But the two public colleges differ from many four-year and private universities across the country because they have generally kept the same admission standards for years and rarely turn students away.

For the last five years or so, particularly during the recession, colleges across the country have been inundated with applications and from 2008 to 2009, enrollment in college grew by more than 7 percent to just under 21 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. New figures show that rates of enrollment still are increasing, though at a slower rate. In 2010, the number of students in postsecondary institutions was 21.6 million, up 2.8 percent from 2009.

At the same time, many colleges and other institutions have made their admission process more competitive, a trend described in a January 2008 Newsweek article titled “Getting in Gets Harder.”

Laurie Borowicz, vice president of student services at Northcentral Technical College, has just completed a doctoral dissertation on enrollment trends. The economy has played a significant role in the increased interest in college, Borowicz said, because students realize they need more than a high school diploma to get a job. And colleges are facing budget cutbacks at the same time, so many have tightened admission standards.

NTC has not changed its admissions standards significantly, Borowicz said, except for students who want to enter health programs. Those were so popular there were waiting lists, Borowicz said, some stretching several years.

“That wasn’t serving us or the students well,” she said. Now students take an admission test and are accepted to health programs based on the results.

In other programs, no one ever is turned away, Borowicz said. Students with poor high school grades are allowed to enter remedial courses to qualify for NTC.

From”Black hawk Tech sees role in expanding economy” — The local economy will rebound, expand and prosper.

To make that happen, it will need a place where workers can improve their skills for 21st century needs.

That’s the feeling at the top echelons of Blackhawk Technical College, which has a new master plan that calls for greatly expanding the school.

“We have faith in the economic growth of this region,” BTC President Tom Eckert said in a recent interview.

Blackhawk Technical College’s last expansion ended seven years ago with the completion of $17.5 million in referendum projects at the main campus in central Rock County and in Monroe.

Since then, BTC has added its Beloit Center at the Eclipse Center, recently increasing its classroom space there.

But needs have grown and are expected to continue to do so, Eckert said.

“We envision getting bigger and serving more people,” he said.

The referendum project left room for about 3,000 full- and part-time students, Eckert said. But that was before General Motors and related employers closed their doors and the national economy took a nosedive.

Enrollment increased 54 percent as workers tried to reinvent themselves, Eckert said, and even though the economy seems to be strengthening, enrollments have dropped only slightly.

Computers, health sciences, even the culinary department are crowded, Eckert said. The Monroe campus is at capacity. Prospective students are being told there’s no more room.

“When you have no place to put anybody, you have to address it,” Eckert said.

BTC officials and Strang Inc. of Madison have been working on the master plan for about two years.

Strang’s research included an assessment of buildings and grounds, collection of data on how and when rooms are used, interviews with staff and students and alignment of the plan to the college’s strategic goals, said Renea Ranguette, BTC’s vice president for finance and operations.

Strang, which was paid was paid $123,410 for the work, also wrote a five-year maintenance plan that covers projects such as replacement of roofs, parking lots, windows and various parts of the heating/cooling system.

One of the recurring themes Strang heard from staff in all divisions was a lack of general-purpose classrooms, Ranguette said.

Classroom space is at a premium, even though classes are scheduled in the evenings and on weekends.

Other areas for expansion the study identified by talking to staff and students:

– More large, tiered lecture halls, especially for general-education classes.

– More spaces for staff and students to collaborate. The ability to work in teams is said to be a key skill employers want.

– More conference/meeting rooms for the college’s frequent guests.

– More dual-purpose rooms—for example, a room with traditional seating along with computer stations.

– More lab space for health services classes with an increasing emphasis on simulating what goes on in hospitals and clinics. Health professions continue to be one of the highest-demand areas at BTC.

– More interactive training spaces for police and firefighter training.

– The library is small but used intensively. More wireless Internet access and small rooms for study groups are needed, Ranguette said.

– More space for the information technology division.

– Students are more active at BTC than at a typical commuter, two-year campus, so more student-activities space is desired.

– Student services wants a tutoring/testing center.

The five-phase plan is a big-picture look at future needs. It does not include details such as floor plans or costs, Eckert said. Rather, it sets a tone and direction.

Here’s breakdown of the plan:


Description: Build an advanced manufacturing center by remodeling 130,000 square feet in the Beloit Ironworks building, now owned by Hendricks Commercial Properties, in downtown Beloit. Move classes there from the main campus, freeing up 30,000 square feet to remodel at the central-campus building. Demolish two pole buildings—18,000 square feet—attached to the rear of the central-campus building.

Timeframe: Advanced manufacturing center work could begin before the end of this year or sometime in 2013, officials said. Students would begin taking classes there in late 2013 or sometime in 2014.



Description: Build a 56,000-square-foot health sciences building facing what is now the main entrance on the central campus. The multi-story building also would house a library. The building would simulate a hospital to make learning as realistic as possible. Once the building is complete, classes would move in, freeing up 36,000 square feet in the main building for remodeling.

Timeframe: About five years from now, although projections are uncertain this far into the future. This phase likely would require borrowing through a referendum-authorized bond issue.



Description: A 32,000-square-foot addition on the west side of the central-campus main building and a 4,000-square-foot addition to the administrative center. At about the same time, the Monroe campus would be expanded, with the oldest part of the building to be demolished, leaving 15,000 square feet built in 2005, and 54,000 square feet would be added.

Monroe would have new space for health sciences and advanced manufacturing.

Timeframe: About 10 years out.



Description: Two 70,000-square-foot buildings, built to the west and downhill from the current main campus, with no purpose specified at this time. An outdoor amphitheater between the two buildings would be dedicated to student activities. These and the buildings in Phase 5 would ensure capacity for expansion. Parking would be added along with the buildings.

Timeframe: About 20 years.



Description: Two 70,000-square-foot buildings built farther to the west.

Timeline: 50 to 70 years.

The plan assumes no more expansions at BTC’s Center for Transportation Studies on Janesville’s north side, the BTC Center at Beloit’s Eclipse Center, which recently was doubled in size, or at the aviation center at the airport.

The aviation mechanics program recently was suspended as a cost-saving measure.

The plan also assumes that a new advanced manufacturing center would be built in Beloit and that the noncredit training and customized courses that BTC sets up for local businesses would move from the central campus to a building close to some of its customers, perhaps in an industrial park.

Manufacturing center would be based in Beloit

Blackhawk Technical College plans to build one of the country’s best training facilities for manufacturing workers.

The advanced manufacturing center, as it is being called, would be in the old Beloit Corp. building now known as the Ironworks along the Rock River in downtown Beloit. Construction could start as early as later this year.

The plan is based on the belief that manufacturing will continue to be a big part of this area’s economy but that workers will need to be more highly skilled.

The ability to deliver a skilled workforce to local companies will be crucial, BTC President Tom Eckert said.

Renovations to make the 130,000-square-foot Beloit facility a reality could cost upwards of $10 million, Eckert guessed, but don’t expect Blackhawk to ask taxpayers to finance the work through a referendum.

Eckert has been discussing a public-private partnership to get the job done, which means large, private donations and grants.

Eckert said he is working with the Ironworks owner, Hendricks Development, to get an affordable lease.

Eckert said he planned to meet with Hendricks officials at the end of this month to work on fundraising.

The advanced manufacturing center would be state of the art and feature large windows into the hands-on classrooms to combat the perception that manufacturing is a mindless, dirty job, Eckert said.

The center would allow BTC to double the capacity of its welding program, Eckert said. Welders are expected to be in high demand for some time. Fabrication welding courses would be added to the curriculum.

The center also would house programs in precision machining; heating, air conditioning and ventilation; electro-mechanical/robotics; and industrial maintenance.

The facility would be built like a wheel, with various skill areas being taught in the spokes. The hub would contain a laboratory where students from the various disciplines would join to build manufacturing processes from the ground up.

The lab also could be used to develop small-scale manufacturing prototypes for local companies looking to produce new products.

From “State looks to address skills mismatch in manufacturing industry” — As the candidates in the gubernatorial recall election spar over how best to measure job growth, manufacturers in the state are trying to find employees with the skill-sets to match rapidly advancing technology.

“We’ve turned work away because we didn’t have enough of the right people,” said Mary Isbister, president of GenMet, a metal fabrication company in Mequon.

The million-dollar question facing manufacturers and educators in Wisconsin right now is how to address the mismatch between worker skills and job openings. At the heart of the issue is how to develop a workforce with the skills that manufacturers need in the 21st century.

The problem isn’t one that is unique to Wisconsin, but failing to solve it before other states could have huge consequences. According to Buckley Brinkman, executive director of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the number one issue for companies that are considering relocation is the supply of labor.

“The state that solves that issue first has a huge leg up,” Brinkman said.

Brinkman said the number of jobs available for skilled workers is hard to determine because it isn’t aggregated anywhere. He added that nationally there may be between 160,000 and 600,000 jobs available in skilled manufacturing.

Part of the problem is a transition to a more technologically advanced way of manufacturing.

“The way that we have been able to drive production in this country is phenomenal,” Brinkman said.

But that increase in production has partially resulted in the problems faced by manufacturers today. Isbister says things have changed dramatically in the last decade or so.

She said 13 years ago, GenMet had one machine involving a laser and a paper-based blueprint system. Today, Isbister said GenMet has three laser machines and a completely computer-based blueprint system.

“It was much less complex than it is today,” Isbister said.

As an example, Isbister said to operate a laser-cutting machine on GenMet’s floor, a person would have to be able to understand different types of metals, how to set up software, tune the laser, inspect pieces after they were cut, and troubleshoot potential problems with the machine.

“There’s an awful lot that goes in to it,” Isbister said. “It’s not something you can walk out of high school and do.”

Isbister said it is hard to find job seekers with the skills needed to operate GenMet’s equipment. She said GenMet has begun bringing in candidates and training them to figure out where they would best fit in the company. The upside, according to Isbister, is that the employees who complete the training are well-versed in GenMet’s practices. However, the downside is training one employee can take between six months and a year.

According to Isbister, there are two factors that prevent her company from taking on more work. The first is the acute shortage of workers with the right skills available today. The second is a diminishing workforce with workers retiring over the next five to 10 years. Isbister estimated that 20 percent or more of the workforce will need to be replaced over that time.

Isbister said in her view there are three main factors to addressing the workforce issue, although she said there are probably at least 100 other ideas for how to do it. She said the solution will involve education, leveraging the programs that exist, and promoting a better understanding of manufacturing.

The biggest and most complex factor is education, according to Isbister. She added figuring out the educational aspects could have the biggest impact on the workforce paradox.

Isbister said she has seen a variety of skill levels in the graduates coming from the state’s technical colleges.

“They’re not all equally capable,” Isbister said of tech school graduates.

She said she would like to see the establishment of standards in areas like welding, so that all graduates will have a basic level of proficiency. She added that technical schools’ curriculum don’t always match what manufacturers want.

“In my experience, they are not all aligned with what industry needs,” Isbister said, adding that it would be “nirvana if all of the technical colleges shared curriculum.”

Morna Foy, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Technical College System, says the technical college system tries hard to connect with the needs of industry.

“Every one of our 300 programs has an advisory committee,” Foy said.

She said these committees are made up of employers from the area around a particular school. All ongoing programs are guided by the recommendations of the committees, according to Foy. She added that before a new program is started there has to be a demonstrated need for the skills that will be produced. Finally, Foy said WCTS routinely discontinues programs and makes changes based on the recommendations of advisory committees.

Foy said that one of Wisconsin’s strengths as a manufacturing state is that there are a lot of smaller employers. As a result, the state’s economy isn’t tied up with one or two large companies. She added that these smaller companies have a lot of distinct needs. For example, Foy said there are at least 13 different kinds of welders that manufacturers might need. This variety means it is important for the technical college system to pay attention to the diversity of local economies. At the same time, Foy added that companies should engage with the educational system to make sure that their skill needs are known.

“It’s really important for all of us to keep that communication line going,” Foy said.

Manufacturers have also said they need to do more to attract people to careers in their industry.

“I think we have a lot of that hangover where we have sold the idea that a four-year degree is how you get ahead,” WMEP’s Brinkman said.

Former Bucyrus CEO Tim Sullivan said at a recent state manufacturing conference that a philosophical shift to an all college-preparatory K-12 system in the 1980s has disenfranchised at least two generations of students.

“The students in MPS in Milwaukee, if they haven’t gotten rock-solid reading skills, math skills, by the time they graduate eighth grade and go into high school and their only choice is college-preparatory courses, kids are smart, by their sophomore year they say ‘There’s no way I’m getting to college, might as will quit now’ and they do. That’s been happening for many years,” Sullivan said.

Isbister said the industry needs to make sure guidance counselors, teachers, and parents all understand what is available in manufacturing.

“People want to call it branding, creating that image, I think its about educating people,” she said.

Foy expressed a similar sentiment, noting that some may shy away from manufacturing if they, or someone in their family, had lost work because of a mass layoff.

“Manufacturers, for lots of unfortunate reasons, they are are battling lots of negative perceptions of their industry as a career choice,” Foy said. “Advanced manufacturing is pretty high-tech these days.”

She also pointed to WCTS’s Graduate Follow-up Report as evidence that manufacturing can provide high-paying jobs within six months of graduation. For example, there were 211 graduates of the one-year welding program who were employed according to the survey. Eight-four percent of them were employed in their field, with a median salary of $35,149.

“If you look at the statistics, there’s such a wage premium on manufacturing,” Brinkman said.

For example, in 2010, the most recent year with yearly data available, manufacturing accounted for roughly 15 percent of total non-farm employment in the state, according to data on the Department of Workforce Development’s website. In the same year, manufacturing accounted for roughly 20 percent of total wages. In contrast, the leisure and hospitality sector accounted for about 9 percent of non-farm employment, but just over 3 percent of total wages.

Isbister said there are a lot of stakeholders involved in solving the workforce dilemma, including entities at the federal and state level, industry, job seekers, and educators. She added that workforce development is not really an issue of money.

“I am just floored at the amount of money there is for workforce,” she said.

Isbister added that it might be worth considering driving the workforce development system more from the side of industry. She said right now solutions are being driven by the public sector.

“They’re well-intentioned, but they’re not best placed to determine what industry needs,” she said.

Brinkman said finding a solution is “going to take many different things.”

“This is a much more complicated issue than it looks the surface,” he added. 


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