From “Manufacturing must toot own horn” — MANITOWOC — Jacob Bergene, 18, didn’t need convincing.

“I get to learn something new every day,” the Lincoln High School senior said Wednesday as he operated a multi-spindle screw machine at LDI Industries.

After graduation in June, Bergene intends to complete an 8,000-hour adult apprenticeship on his way to becoming a journeyman machinist.

By the time he’s 22, he can expect to be making about $15 an hour, with more pay and advancement opportunities ahead, and he will have been drawing a paycheck while spending nine days on the job and one day in a Lakeshore Technical College classroom every two weeks.

The owners of the Manitowoc company making lubrication equipment and hydraulic components feed their talent pipeline through participation in Youth Options and other initiatives designed to attract young men and women into skilled manufacturing trades.

But too many Wisconsin manufacturers aren’t fighting misperceptions and stereotypes, Jim Morgan, president of the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Foundation, on Wednesday told an LTC audience of business owners, educators and civic officials.

Combined with other factors, Morgan said manufacturers not touting the good-paying careers they offer has led to a “work force paradox” including:

» 7 percent unemployment, yet manufacturers can’t find employees to do the work needed to fill customers’ orders.

» A trillion dollars in student loan debt, yet so many unemployable.

» Negative attitude toward manufacturing, yet it drives the Wisconsin economy.

» A great need to communicate, yet educators have never been in manufacturing plants, and manufacturers have never reached out to schools.

Morgan crisscrossed the state this past winter to conduct listening sessions in more than 50 communities with 300 Wisconsin manufacturers to better understand the problems employers were dealing with in trying to find qualified workers.

LDI Industries expects Bergene and other workers on first shift to be ready to start setting up and running the sophisticated technology in the plant at 6 a.m. — not just be onsite and talking for 10 or 15 minutes before beginning to make components for its national client base.

Morgan said having unemployment benefits extend out as far as 99 weeks has led to some workers offered jobs declaring, “Can you wait six months … I have 26 weeks of unemployment left?”

Combat the stigma

Morgan said Working Wisconsin is the WMC Foundation’s blueprint for helping the state retain its competitiveness and high quality of life.

Morgan said it is critical to battle the stigma — often of high school students’ parents — against those “with only a two-year degree.

“This is not an anti four-year-college presentation, but let’s make sure students are making an informed decision … know about technical colleges and the jobs and careers they can lead to,” said Morgan.

He lamented that technical skill opportunities are disappearing from some high schools, though LTC has formed a partnership with Plymouth High School leading to new manufacturing simulation classrooms and a tripling of students enrolled in “Tech Ed.”

“The mismatch between preparation and careers is wide,” Morgan said. “Only 30 percent of Wisconsin’s jobs require a bachelor’s degree or more.”

Morgan’s “Circle of Life” includes workforce development leading to economic development leading to a greater tax base leading to strong K-12 schools leading to enhanced technical training.

Working Wisconsin includes several elements, such as identifying exemplary business-education partnerships, launching a public awareness campaign to highlight manufacturing’s importance with companies offering tours and making presentations to schools, colleges and clubs.

“It has to be a strategic imperative, driven by ownership,” said Eric Haban, LDI’s Youth Apprenticeships coordinator.

Haban knows he has the support of Mark, John and Tom Lukas, LDI’s owners.

Mark Lukas, president of the firm, said the company has added about 30 employees in the past year, up to about 250, and has made commitments in the areas of technology acquisitions, lean-manufacturing education and bringing on board individuals, like Bergene, who see a long-term future in the industrial sector.

From “12 News goes in search of must-have apps” — MILWAUKEE – “There’s an app for that.” That saying couldn’t be more true now with thousands of apps to choose from and more coming every day.

But which ones are considered must haves? WISN 12 News’ Marianne Lyles went digging for what you need to download.

Milwaukee Area Technical College student Tiara Beasly’s iPhone is always by her side.

“Especially when I can’t use my laptop. It’s easier for me to surf the web, with and without Wi-Fi,” Beasly said.

Another MATC student, Bethany Batson, said her phone is her source for the news of the day.

“I’m studying to be a sign language interpreter, so having an awareness of what’s going on in the world, like if somebody talks about it as I’m interpreting,” Batson said.

People are hooked on mobile applications — from college students to Packers players, past and present.

Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley uses his phone for social media.

“I like the Twitter app. I don’t download too many apps. I’m a Twitter fan,” Finley said.

Former Packers defensive end Santana Dotson needs an app to track the weather for his busy travel schedule.

“It’s 40 degrees here. So I definitely need that and I’m coming from 75 degrees in Houston,” Dotson said,

“We’re having people realize, ‘Hey, I no longer just have to use it as a phone. I can use it for all these different things,” MATC IT instructor Larry Domine said.

In the last few years, his department has included mobile application development. What was once on your computer can now be used on your phone. The industry is booming.

“Recently, Instagram was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion. Ten people with a company for an app that was only available on the Apple iPhone, and now it’s available on Android for $1 billion for 10 people. That’s how big this market is growing,” Domine said.

Like computers, games are still the most downloaded applications, so Lyles went in search of the apps that can better your life.

“I feel like apps are really what’s changed how we shop,” ShopSmart senior editor Jody Rohlena said.

ShopSmart is a Consumer Reports publication, which has researched free money-saving apps. Her favorite is one called Sale Price.

“So you find this item. It’s on sale. There’s an additional discount. You have a coupon. You put in the sales tax, and this app helps you figure out your final cost,” Rohlena said.

To get an item at the best price, download Price Grabber.

“The app is really cool because you can use it right in the store. If you see something you can find out how much other retailers are selling it for and where else you might want to buy it for less,” Rohlena said.

If you’re headed out on a trip, here’s ABC News’ travel and leisure editor’s pick.

“Another one is an app called Hotel Tonight that’s good for last-minute hotel bookings. It’s same day only, but prices up to 70 percent off,” Genevieve Brown said.

Miss America does a lot of traveling too, but she told Lyles she’s like Finley. She needs to tweet.

Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun admits he keeps it simple on his smartphone.

“I don’t even know that much about technology. I have a weather app on my phone, so I always know what the weather is like in the cities we’re playing in,” Braun said.

Lyles’ favorite app is one for your health.

“I love the Lose It app. With this app I can track how many calories I take in if I want something from the vending machine, or want to eat my almonds. Maybe even if I want a piece of chocolate. It’s just another app to help you in your every day life,” Lyles said.

From “Company working with school to find workers” — ALGOMA – The small, Lakeshore community of Algoma (with a population of just 3,167) isn’t the first place you might think an aviation machining company would be located.

That’s just what Precision Machine Incorporated president Jamie Spitzer says his clients are often surprised about.

“They kind of ask, on the map, about where we are,” said Spitzer, who founded the company in 1997. “A lot of times we got to do some explaining because they’re not familiar (with Algoma). You know, once we tell them where we are, they kind of laugh a little bit and they’re like, OK, now we know.”

However, Spitzer says the location isn’t hurting the company when it comes to finding business. He says he’s actually turning work down, something he wishes he didn’t have to do.

“We can buy machines all day long, we can add on to the building, but finding good people that want to work, qualified people, skilled labor, very, very difficult,” said Spitzer.

Spitzer says a common problem he and other businesses in Algoma are facing is a lack of skilled employees to fill much needed positions.

But he hopes a program that he is involved with at Algoma High School will help machine those employees for the future.

Nathan Petersilke, 18, is one of about 100 students benefiting from the recently re-vamped technical education program at Algoma High School.

“I came into senior year not really knowing what I was going to do,” said Petersilke. “But now my mind is set.”

The senior says he’s always been interested in machining.

However, it wasn’t until this year that he could see his ideas go from an idea, to a design in an industry-level computer program and then have it created on a high-tech machine, into a finished product.

“Being able to see the finished product is, like, you’re proud of it,” said Petersilke, who will be graduating in the spring and will go on to study at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. “I took all the steps and the cutting of that metal in making this finished part. It’s kind of self-satisfying.”

“I think, as educators, we have to look at making sure what we’re doing is authentic and working with people in a collaborative sense, because that’s how we’re going to go forward,” said Algoma High School principal Nick Cochart.

There won’t be much down time for Petersilke after graduation – between getting ready for NWTC, he’ll be working as a drafter and an “all around guy” for Spitzer, in his shop.

And the job creation isn’t just on the manufacturing side.

Cochart says the technical education program at Algoma has been so successful, the school is looking to hire additional staff.

Spitzer says he’s also looking to add positions over the next 12 months, totaling up to 25 new jobs.

From “Fixing the workforce problem” — GREEN BAY – The ongoing technology explosion continues to create a paradox in the workplace.

It is an economic phenomenon where there is high unemployment, but a shortage of skilled workers.

Leaders of the state’s chamber of commerce have been trying to find ways to close the gap.

A listening session was held Wednesday morning in Green Bay.

At Bayside Machine Corp. in De Pere, co-owner Rob Salesky says he sees the paradox first-hand.

“I think it’s frustrating coming from people saying that there’s no jobs, there’s no jobs, there’s no jobs. But there really is. There’s a lot of jobs,” said Salesky.

Dozens of business leaders and educators say solving the workforce shortage begins with upgrading manufacturing’s image.

“We need to convince people that manufacturing is not dead, and not going away. It didn’t all go overseas, and the jobs that are there though are much more highly skilled,” said Dr. Jeff Rafn, NWTC president.

The president of NWTC says the school is trying to keep up. Dr. Rafn says new classes in high-demand programs are being added all the time.

“Five years ago, we had a thousand students in programs in manufacturing, today we have 2,000,” said Rafn.

Classes in welding, machining and electro-mechanics are being offered to area high schoolers and to adults who may be starting a new career.

“They’ve got to make an investment in their skills and then they will be able to take those skills anywhere, and adjust as the markets move up and down for different companies,” said Rafn.

Jim Morgan is the president of the Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce Foundation. He has met with more than 300 businesses and held 54 listening sessions.

“We’re trying to make sure that we’re putting kids in line to be successful, have jobs, and to be able to have a worthwhile life and a good career,” said Morgan.

At Bayside Machine, Rob Salesky says an expansion is in the works. He says there will be new jobs for welders and machine operators.

“If we can work collectively through the workforce development, and build up those situations, then maybe we can get those people to take a look at it. I’m excited for it. This is where it all starts,” said Salesky.

Similar listening sessions will be held at sixteen technical colleges around the state.


From “Hiring outlook bright for tech school grads” — Students who graduate with an associate or technical degree from Northcentral Technical College stand a pretty good chance of finding a job, a college official says.

The school’s annual Graduation Employment Report found 89 percent of 2011 graduates had a job within six months of graduation. The average salary for all new NTC graduates was $33,307. The report also found at least 80 percent of those surveyed said they were working in Wisconsin.

Graduates who earned an associate degree in nursing or who went into radiography had some of the highest starting salaries, according to the report.

NTC vice president of student services Dr. Laurie Borowicz thinks this year’s graduates will be able to find good paying jobs. She says the school works closely with businesses in various industries to identify what skills employers want from future hires.

“We do have more employers posting jobs, looking for graduates – even in some of our program areas that through a down economy have been a little bit more challenging,” Borowicz said.


From “Manufacturers angle for more skilled workers” — Brillion-based snowblower and lawn mower manufacturer Ariens Co. is working with local students to show potential careers in manufacturing and that those jobs extend beyond the assembly line.

Around the state, manufacturers are looking at ways to get students, educators and parents interested in job opportunities in one of the state’s leading economic sectors.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is one of the organizations working on ways to connect the public with manufacturing with the goal of finding — and creating — skilled workers to fill open positions that some company’s say they can’t fill.

“In the next five years, we’ll have some very critical retirements,” said Vicki Layde, of Ariens. “We need to get very creative and have decided to work with our local high schools more than we have in the past. One of our number one objectives is to increase awareness and build our own talent within the company — grow our own machinists, our own tool and die makers and our own automation people.”

Layde was one of about two-dozen employers and educators who attended a discussion Wednesday at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay. The discussion centered on getting people interested in manufacturing.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is trying to raise awareness of what modern manufacturing looks like by providing facility tours and highlighting the importance of the sector to the state and the types of jobs — and salaries — that are available.

WMC Foundation President Jim Morgan said some of the impact of the efforts will be immediate, while others will take time to come to fruition.

“It’s immediate in that you have people who are starting to understand this and recognizing we have to do something about it, but it’s not like we’re going to have machinists tomorrow,” he said after the meeting. “Part of it is just getting this conversation going so schools understand the expectations of employers and that employers are doing their part to reach out to the schools, ‘Here’s what we’re looking for and here’s what we need,’ and matching them up.”

The disparity between available jobs and skills in the work force has been a topic of discussion at a number of events and throughout the education and manufacturing sector in recent years. Some employers say they have jobs but can’t find qualified candidates to fill them.

WMC has met with more than 300 manufacturers as well as the presidents of Wisconsin technical colleges to delve into causes of the shortages and develop ways to help remedy the situation.

One of the things NWTC President H. Jeffrey Rafn said could help is if employers explain to students how their education is used directly in the manufacturing process.

“Our kids need to know, ‘How is it that I use that algebra, math equation or fractions in production,'” he said. “They don’t make the connection between what they are learning in school and what your process is. We need to help you help them.”

That’s something Layde said Ariens is putting more emphasis on when working with students.

“We’re not just explaining what we do there; we’re explaining what they are learning and how that will tie in and where they can take those careers,” she said. “You may start on a machine but really discover you love engineering. We have tuition reimbursement, and you may become an engineer.

“The kids are where we’re going to find our people,” Layde said.

Morgan said one of the key aspects of helping students pursue a career path into manufacturing is laying out the steps for them, telling them what classes will make them career-ready.

“If you do this and this and this, you’ll have a job making this,” he said. “For a 16-year-old kid, that’s a lot of it. You’ve got to connect the dots for them so they can at least see the path and follow it.”

From “MPTC teams compete in College Linemen Rodeo” — 

Moraine Park Technical College Electrical Power Distribution students reached great heights at the recent College Lineman Rodeo, held in Norfolk, Neb..

A total of 25 teams from throughout the Midwest competed, with four teams participating from Moraine Park. Students competing included Gordon Gossink of Beaver Dam, Tom Schultz of Plymouth, Jon Conger of Neshkoro, Jordon Born of Waupun, Eric Becker of Reeseville, Ryan Yonke of Berlin, Joe Peachy of Eldorado, Jordon Robertson of Dane, Toby Ravnum of Ettrick, Josh Roberts of Osseo, Kyle Schenkenberger of Pine River, and Jake Bergman of Watertown.

During the competition, students were able to demonstrate their unique and specialized skills in four areas: cross arm change out, obstacle climb, framing a C-1 structure and lineman knowledge test. The Moraine Park team of Born, Peachy and Roberts placed third in the cross arm change out.

From “Wood Industry Careers, Partnerships Promoted at WoodLINKs” —  Wood industry members, teachers, principals, and even students across the nation gathered to build industry/education partnerships, educate teachers, and promote the wood industry as a career of choice at local WoodLINKS USA teacher in-service events over the past few months.

WoodLINKS USA sponsored nine local teacher in-service events in Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Kansas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Ohio. Michigan and Illinois in-services will be held in the spring and one in Texas during the summer of 2012.

To promote these events, an invitation was sent to every high school in each of the nine states. The in-service events were held in a variety of locations: Mesa Community College-Arizona, Madison College-Wisconsin, Theodore Roosevelt High School-Ohio, Tiger Stop-Washington, Pittsburg State University- Kansas, and the Virginia Higher Education Center-Virginia.

Topics at the in-service events covered a wide range of industry related skills and concerns including public perception of the wood industry, veneering, inexpensive project ideas for the classroom/lab, CNC equipment, LEAF-Forestry Education Curriculum, Woodwork Career Alliance of North America Skill Standards, the impact of the wood industries “carbon footprint”, trends in adhesives, economic impact of the wood industry, software programs, spray finishing, cutting tools, applied math, and project management were some of the topics covered at the various locations.

Adjunct Professor Pat Connelly shared his reason for attending the Ohio inservice, “I wanted to learn more about teaching CNC concepts with my program and I know WoodLINKS is a big proponent of that.” Several hundred teachers, administrators, principals, and students descended on the in-service events over the past couple of months. Troy Spear’s students at Theodore Roosevelt High School gave a demonstration of Cabinet Vision driving their Omni Tech CNC router.

During the Wisconsin in-service, Patrick Molzahn hosted a WCA Skill Standards Evaluator Training session. Attendees also toured Wisconsin Built, a leading manufacturer of fixtures, casegoods, and specialty products.

Doug Hague of Pittsburg State University (PSU) exposed attendees to high tech wood manufacturing equipment used in the PSU program. One of the key ingredients to hosting a relevant teacher in-service event is industry partners. Industry partners bring expertise and business understanding to the table.

The in-service at Pittsburg State University dealt with the problem of skilled worker shortage in their, “Industry’s Perception/Demand” session. Industry partners can also help change the public’s misconception of the wood industry. Mark Roberts in Arizona said, “Our goal is to change the perception of the woodworking industry by focusing on those things that hit the parent’s pocketbook, showcase highly motivated and productive students, and the relationship with our industry partners”.

The teachers need to see and hear about the latest equipment, products and processes. At the Ohio inservice, attendees were also treated to a live video conference with Travis Allen, an instructor at Northcentral Technical College in Antigo, Wisconsin. “Video conferencing with Travis was a spectacular opportunity that I wanted to share with the attendees,” stated Theodore Roosevelt instructor Troy Spear.

“While I know there are other schools out there, NTC’s facility is a great example of industry education partnerships, as it (the NTC program) was funded in part by industry. Many of my industry partners made the comment how nice it would be if there were a program was like NTC,” Spear added.

From “Western’s evolution: It’s all in the time capsule” — Alumni and school officials honored Western Technical College’s history and uncovered pieces of the past Monday for the institution’s 100th anniversary celebration.

Community leaders praised the college’s history of educating and training students for the changing workforce.

“Western is a place where dreams begin and lives change,” said Sandra Schultz, a 1987 graduate. “Thank you for making dreams become a reality.”

Western opened in 1912 as the La Crosse Continuation and Adult Schools, after the Legislature passed a 1911 law establishing a vocational school system.

Jayme Hansen graduated from Western in 1998 and found a job at Northern Engraving. Later, he took a new a job in Western’s marketing department as a graphic designer. “They taught me the basics that I needed to get into the workforce,” he said. “I’ll be forever grateful for that.”

Western President Lee Rasch unpacked a time capsule filled with pamphlets, newspapers and other items from the college’s 75th anniversary.

Contents included:

  • Floppy disks.
  • A May 9, 1987, edition of the Tribune, with a tease on the cover for a story on page three: “Jobless rate at low point for decade.”
  • Interior design magazines. (Western officials decided to end the interior design program last year because of more than $2 million in budget cuts.)

For all the evidence of change, the time capsule was also proof of Western’s long-standing tradition of evolution, Rasch said. Many programs in the school’s history have been modified, added or cut.

“It’s in our DNA,” he said.

The centennial is a testament to Western’s success in adapting its programming to the needs of employers and of students, said Jessica Klinkner, a marketing student. “It shows how strong and determined this college is.”

More change is in store for Western as college officials continue to tweak the curriculum. More students are interested in earning credits that transfer to a four-year university, and many employers want skilled workers trained in the newest technology, Rasch said.

“Employers are looking for the full package,” he said. “They have a challenge, too.”

Eventually, college officials want the school to be more energy efficient and serve more students, Rasch said. “We’re determined to be successful,” he said. “The future of Western is one that is very bright.”

From “IT professional helps MSTC students” — Robert W. Van Dyke, Bull’s Eye Credit Union’s IT manager, works with Mid-State Technical College students as interns in order to complete their degrees.

Bull’s Eye Credit Union believes in giving back to the community. Dave Stark supports Van Dyke with his desire to help students. Stark agrees this is important to help young adults to succeed.

Anyone from MSTC or any student wishing to get into the IT field can visit Van Dyke’s office and ask anything they want about IT careers. They can see if Bull’s Eye has any openings for IT interns. Bull’s Eye takes one intern at a time for 72 hours.

Van Dyke has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and is Cisco network engineering certified. He got a two-year degree from MSTC in CIS-networking before earning his bachelor’s degree. He has worked at Bull’s Eye for almost eight years. He has served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years active duty as an aerospace technologist.

From “Western Technical College Celebrates 100 Years” — Western Technical College celebrated 100 years of education on Monday, May 14th.

Western Technical College was established in 1912 and at that time, vocational schools started in abandoned warehouses or shops. According to Western faculty and staff, Western Technical College was one of the first ‘specifically vocational’ colleges established in the country.

100 years later, faculty members, alumni, and current students who attend Western listened to stories of the past, and shared hopes for the future of their school.

Dr. Lee Rasch, the President, unveiled items from a time capsule put away 25 years ago.

Floppy disks, and a ‘state of the art calculator’ at the time were just a few of those items.

Dr. Rasch said Western has always been on the cutting edge of technology and while that’s always changing, he said the passion of the students and faculty members at Western is always constant.

“It’s in the DNA in this organization and our faculty and staff are committed to do everything that we can to help someone succeed. No matter where they are, or where they are in life it’s our absolute commitment. So you see that in 1912 and you still see that in our organization today,”smiled Rasch.

A table of items from 2012 will be placed in a new time capsule that won’t be opened until 2062.

Dr. Rasch adds that going forward, the biggest challenge is to be current and flexible in the programs they offer–but to do it in a way that is sustainable and affordable.

View video from WXOW

From “Old, new come together at BTC commencement” — BELOIT — On Saturday, more than 500 students crossed the stage at First Christian Church in Beloit during Blackhawk Technical College’s commencement.

They included fresh-faced youths and second- or third-career adults. They were single men and women without ties; they were parents and grandparents. They wore dress shoes and flip-flops.

All different kinds of people with one thing in common: They were continuing the technical college tradition that started 100 years ago when Wisconsin established a Board of Vocational and Adult Education.

It was appropriate that Saturday’s ceremony was a blend of old values and traditions with new ideas and trends.

– History repeating itself: College President Dr. Thomas Eckert reminded students that Blackhawk was first established because the state recognized the need for trained workers to meet manufacturing demands. Today, manufacturing is seeing a resurgence in the state, and the health care and technical fields are as strong as ever.

– Looking back—but only for a moment: Silvia Shephard, a legal administrative professional and the student of the year, was the student speaker.

“When I was working on this speech, I looked for words of wisdom from past graduation speakers,” Shephard said.

But after attending a leadership conference, she decided hers was the class of the future: forward looking and unafraid.

She encouraged students spend just a moment thinking about their ultimate dreams, their goals for their lives.

Then she said, “Now let go of everything you think might stand in its way.”

Don’t let those dreams collect dust the shelves of busy lives, Shephard advised.

– Tradition and change: Keynote speaker Thomas Westrick has served on Blackhawk Technical College’s board for 19 years and has spent his life working in the field of adult education.

He took a look at the early days of technical college education and shared with students some of the early educational choices such as “fountain pen tip grinding,” “cobbling” and “child psychology”—a course only offered to women.

“Police problems” was another early course.

“I’d like to see the reading list for that course,” Westrick joked.

Westrick noted that only a few of those early courses, such as “arc welding” and “automobile engine repair,” were still around.

“Blackhawk Technical College has had to reinvent itself numerous times,” Westrick said. “You may have to redesign yourselves, too.”

Unlike the job market of the 20th century, when workers often worked for the same company all of their lives, often with the same set of skills, today’s workers will have to continue to learn.

He offered students advice from Reid Hoffman, author of “The Start Up of You:”

– Don’t let the title of your degree or your certificate put you in a box.

– Build relationships both inside and outside of your field.

– Prepare for change.

Finally, don’t get caught in your past.

– New careers and new choices: Students graduated with degrees in a variety of traditional subjects ranging from accounting to welding.

Some of the traditionally female fields, such as early childhood education, continue to produce only female graduates. Other traditionally male fields, such as electric power distribution and air conditioning, heating and refrigeration technology, produced only male graduates.

Still, evidence of changing career choices were all over the program. Two women graduated from the welding program. Men graduated in a variety of health care fields.

– An old-fashioned rendering: In the past two decades, attempts to “improve” the national anthem have become increasingly disconcerting. “The Star Spangled Banner” has been jazzed up, countrified, rocked and whooped with mixed success.

From “FVTC graduates more than 850 during 100-year anniversary celebration” — It was a whirlwind week that carried over into Sunday for Rachel Werner.

The 22-year-old Occupational Therapy Assistant program student at Fox Valley Technical College finished her fieldwork earlier this week and then accepted a position where she will start in June.

But the most important part of the past seven or so days came when she walked across the stage inside the Kolf Sports Center to collect her FVTC diploma.

“It didn’t hit me until I pulled into the parking lot that I’m here to graduate,” said Werner, a 2008 graduate of Winnebago Lutheran Academy. “(The ceremony) was kind of a blur and before I knew it I was walking across the stage.

“There are no words to describe (the feeling).”

Werner was one of roughly 850 students who accepted their diplomas in Sunday’s 2½-hour ceremony, which honored the 100-year anniversary of the school.

The keynote speech was given by outgoing Chairman of the FVTC Board of Trustees, William Fitzpatrick, while James Reider, a non-traditional student who graduated from the AODA-Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Associate program, provided the student address.

“All of the speakers were very touching and moving,” said Samantha Calabresa, 20, who received her diploma in the Administrative Professional program. “I caught myself tearing up through lots of them. This experience is just so overwhelming and they hit everything right on the head.”

Both Calabresa and Werner made the walk across the stage with jobs already lined up.

Calabresa will continue to work at Northwestern Mutual where she participated in an internship, while Werner expects to start working at Mayville Nursing & Rehab.

“It’s a huge relief. I didn’t think I was going to get a job this soon,” Werner said. “I was expecting to be searching all summer long. Now that I have one, it’s the biggest weight off my shoulders.”

Calabresa echoed those sentiments.

“It’s so nice to have a job right out of college,” said Calabresa, a Berlin High School graduate. “It feels wonderful. I’m so excited to be done. The nerves are over and it’s just nice to be finally done.”

Sunday’s ceremony was not only special for the graduates, but also for the faculty and staff as FVTC celebrated its 100-year anniversary.

In addition to multiple mentions during the program, those attending the ceremony were treated to a video on the history of Wisconsin technical colleges.

“When you think about it the men and women that are going to be graduating this year it will be the only group that will graduate in the 100 year in our existence,” FVTC President Dr. Susan May said in the days leading up to the ceremony. “It’s always a special time for any organization when they stop to celebrate these huge milestone years. To think they are part of it, when our century turned, I think it’s pretty cool.”

Over the course of the 100 years, there have been obvious changes but May said the core mission of the school has always stayed the same — no matter what was being taught in the classrooms.

“How we deploy that mission, how we deliver programs and services to people has changed dramatically,” May said. “But one thing that I think is fascinating is our core mission for who we are and what we do for our community really hasn’t fundamentally changed in all of that time.”

Which means FVTC will continue to turn out graduates like Werner, Calabresa and the rest of their brethren who are ready to step right into the workforce.

Even if reaching that goal wasn’t always easy.

“Usually right around finals or when those big projects at the end of the semester were due, I would be like ‘Seriously? I could just quit and get a regular job,'” Werner said. “But it’s definitely worth it. Now, having the diploma in my hands, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

From “CVTC faculty and staff honored for excellence in education” — Chippewa Valley Technical College was well-represented at the 76th annual conference of the Wisconsin Association for Career and Technical Education held recently in Appleton.

President Bruce Barker was honored by WACTE, being chosen by the association as Wisconsin’s Outstanding Career and Technical Education Leader.

Two instructors from CVTC’s Center for Behavioral Sciences and Civic Effectiveness were honored by Chippewa Valley Association for Career and Technical Education (CVACTE) for their excellence in the classroom.  Flint Thompson received the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award and Kristi Hagen received the Outstanding New Teacher of the Year Award.

Dan Flaten, a business management instructor; Janet Goldsmith, a program assistant, and Lynne Lindbo, an admissions assistant, received Longevity Awards from WACTE for their 25 years of membership.

The award winners were recently honored at luncheon hosted by CVACTE.

WACTE is a professional organization of over 800 teachers, counselors, school administrators, teacher educators, support staff, and business/industry partners.  The organization’s mission is to unite individuals involved in career and technical education, to provide professional development, to encourage leadership in the political arena, and to promote innovative change to enhance lifelong learning.

From “Job prospects improve for college graduates” — College graduates face better job prospects this year than in any since the recession.

That doesn’t mean finding a job is easier than it’s been, but there are more of them.

“In general, we’re seeing certain occupations or sectors that are getting better,” said Jennifer Pigeon, manager of career services and K-14 relations at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.

That view is seconded by Amanda Nycz, director of career services at St. Norbert College in De Pere, and Linda Peacock-Landrum, who holds the same position at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“This past year we’ve definitely seen an increase in hiring. There have been more job postings and an increased presence (of employers) at job fairs,” Peacock-Landrum said.

St. Norbert senior Emily Collins, 21, who graduates today, said classmates who’ve gotten jobs give her hope.

“I think the jobs are out there as long as you are doing your part and looking for them,” Collins said. “It’s really helpful to at least have a little plan.”

Technical college graduates find jobs quicker than graduates of four-year schools, mostly because they often are training for specific jobs. And more of their students are older and have some work experience.

Mark Hickman will graduate Monday from NWTC. Hickman, 54, was a warehouse foreman at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay when he was laid off in September 2010.

“I always preached to my workers to keep your skills fresh,” he said.

Taking his own advice, he entered NWTC’s two-year supply chain management program, which he completed in a year and a half.

He was hired by The Manitowoc Co., where he is a warehouse supervisor.

“The manager said he hired me because I had 30 years’ work experience and I upgraded my skills. He said that was the key ingredient,” he said.

Networking remains one of the best tools for finding jobs, Nycz said.

“This is my sixth professional job. Every single one, I knew someone at the place I ended up working,” she said.

Up to 70 percent of jobs are gotten through knowing someone, Nycz said.

Social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, internships and job fairs all are ways to network.

Peacock-Landrum said some companies will post openings on LinkedIn or through other networks, but not their websites.

Collins interned at one company where she interviewed and has another coming up where at least one employee is a St. Norbert College grad.

“It makes it much more comfortable to know someone is there to help you,” she said.

Job availability is across the board; manufacturing, engineering, information technology and health care are among the leaders.

“We have a high need from employers for computer science grads,” Nycz said. “They are looking at people with high technical skills, who have that critical thinking.”

One of the few subjects to cross the divide in this supercharged political climate is the need for more qualified manufacturing employees. The administrations of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, are quick to tout the advantages of manufacturing careers.

“It’s about educating the general work force that manufacturing is a viable career and it’s right here in our backyard,” Pigeon said.

The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday released an analysis of wages and benefits of manufacturing workers that found that total hourly compensation for manufacturing workers is 17 percent higher than for nonmanufacturing workers.

“I don’t think students understand what’s available for them in manufacturing, and the support roles are fewer. I think that’s why our students don’t think immediately about manufacturing,” Peacock-Landrum said.

Nycz said middle management jobs are increasing, as are sales and marketing opportunities.

Other areas of growth include environmental and energy jobs, logistics and supply chain management, heavy equipment operation and diesel repair.

“Construction does seem to be coming back as well. I had two employers this week contact me about construction students,” Pigeon said.

From “More college grads return for a technical education” – Kim Kussow has met the cold reality of today’s job market.

The Appleton-native graduated in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in architecture, but she said she couldn’t land a job as the pool of candidates grew and the number of opportunities plummeted.

Like many recent grads struggling to find jobs, Kussow, now 27 years old, turned to a technical college to supplement her education with more career-specific skills to become more marketable to employers.

She graduated one year ago from Fox Valley Technical College with an associate’s degree in construction management and landed a job in Milwaukee within a month.

“I think the combination of the two degrees really helped put me above the rest of the competition,” Kussow said.

Technical college officials said they’re seeing a lot of students in similar situations.

Fox Valley Technical College has enrolled 2,841 students so far in 2012 who already hold bachelors or masters degrees, according to enrollment data provided by the college. In 2011, FVTC enrolled 3,107 students who already had at least four years of higher education.

Those numbers also included individuals who are taking just one or two classes, but many are pursuing additional or new degrees, FVTC officials said.

“I think this notion that any student is a completely finished product and fully prepared for their life after their initial education experience is dying. This idea that somebody is going to go and successfully complete a four or two year degree and then be educationally prepared for the rest of their life is not true anymore,” said Chris Mathney, vice president of instructional services at FVTC.

Statewide, 34,100 students with bachelors or masters degrees enrolled in a technical college in 2011, according to data provided by FVTC.

Firefighter-in-training Todd Hill said he believes about one-third of his classmates at FVTC are seeking a new degree or supplementing their current degree.

The 32-year-old from Wild Rose said he enrolled at FVTC because he couldn’t find a job related to his bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Alabama. At first, he joined the U.S. Army, but then he got married and moved to Wisconsin with his wife. Now, he’s studying in FVTC’s wild land firefighting program.

“It’s so incredibly hard to be a teacher in music. You really have to want to starve before you land yourself a job,” Hill said.

Matt Pfeiffer, 34, of Menasha, said he also struggled to find work related to his college major. He graduated in 1999 with a degree in computer science but was never able to find a job outside of retail.

He is now studying in FVTC’s General Motors Automotive Service Education Program.

“I tried getting interviews here and there and nothing really panned out,” he said. “I didn’t really pick something I was passionate about, so I guess that’s another reason I didn’t pursue (a job in computer science) too much.”

Matheny said he believes technical colleges in particular are seeing so many students returning for additional education because the colleges are affordable and dialed in to the needs of local employers.

“We know what our employers want in employees, and we design our curriculum around the types of things that are going to get people employed or promoted or on to the next stage of their career,” Matheny said.

From “MPTC sponsors contest to find longest running engine” — It was an afternoon filled with torque, horsepower and exhaust emissions as eight regional high schools participated in the eighth annual Moraine Park Technical College Endurance Challenge May 10 at the Fond du Lac campus.

Plymouth, Sheboygan North, Sheboygan South, Oshkosh North, Oshkosh West, West Bend East, West Bend West and Hustisford participated in the challenge with the goal of getting the best fuel efficiency and having the longest running engine.

Oshkosh West won the competition with their engine running for 40 minutes and 55 seconds.

Students Eric Koehler, Jim Levine, Joe Adrian, Andrew Pelot and Jacob Powers powered the winning team along with instructor Mark Boushele.

“This event was a very unique opportunity for the students,” Boushele said. “They were able to apply concepts learned in class to a live engine, applying engineering and critical thinking skills to modify the engine.”

The Sheboygan North team of Derek Patel, Josh Arnhoelter and Bill Meyer placed second.

Their engine ran for 40 minutes, 10 seconds. Sheboygan South was third with a time of 32 minutes, 45 seconds.

Local industries helped to support the event again this year with Mercury Marine, Kohler Co. and Briggs & Stratton all getting involved with the challenge.

Mercury Marine brought displays of supercharged outboards and engines for the students to view for inspiration.

Engines for the students to modify for the Endurance Challenge were donated by Kohler, and employees of Kohler, Briggs & Stratton and Mercury Marine assisted with the event.

Scott Mack, a 1987 Moraine Park graduate, is an engine trainer at Kohler and has been involved with the Endurance Challenge since it first started eight years ago.

“It’s exciting every year to see how creative the students can get,” he said. “Their ideas don’t always work, but they are able to troubleshoot and look for new options to build endurance. It’s also a great opportunity for the students to see what Moraine Park has to offer for training and career options in the engine research and development field.”

Each member of the winning team received a $250 Moraine Park scholarship.

From “Technical college graduates face bright job future” – Anthony Nedbal is bullish on his economic future.

He’ll receive his associate degree in information technology computer networking from Northcentral Technical College on May 19. As of July 1, the 20-year-old from Woodruff will be a computer network engineer earning $41,500 a year at Lakeland Union, the high school he graduated from in 2010.

Nedbal graduated from high school in the midst of the recession, and he’s graduating from NTC during a sluggish recovery, but he never really thought he would have trouble finding a job.

“It’s one of the reasons I went to NTC,” he said. “I was pretty confident.”

The employment numbers of technical college graduates across the state back up Nebal’s optimism. Among the 18,036 responders who filled out a post-graduation survey, 88 percent of the 2011 graduates from the Wisconsin Technical College System found jobs within six months of graduation. Most, 71 percent, were employed directly in their fields.

NTC reported similar results: 89 percent of 1,113 graduates surveyed were employed. When factoring in students who continued their education by transferring to a four-year college, the number jumps to more than 90 percent.

“This is great news for our graduates and great economic news for Wisconsin,” said Dan Clancy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System. “Our graduates are finding success and contributing to the economic recovery in our state.”

The average salary for all new NTC graduates is $33,307, the school reports.

NTC is producing graduates that fit well with the needs of employers, said Suzi Mathias, director of transfer and placement at NTC.

“We try our very best to connect (students) with the skills that are needed in the industry,” she said.

For Nedbal, it all makes for a good start in life. He plans to stay in the Woodruff area for a while, building experience and saving money. Then he might think about moving into an administrative level in his field.

“I’ll be fiscally ready, have a few years of experience, and a high standing to go out with experience,” he said.

From “Partnership helping CTVC students and housing needs in Chippewa Falls” —  A partnership in Chippewa Falls is helping local families with the American dream. The Chippewa County Housing Authority partnered with Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Two brand new houses for low and moderate income families are now up in Chippewa Falls, built with the help of students in CVTC’s residential construction program.

“With the residential construction program, it is a technical diploma, so there’s a lot of detail, so the majority of the learning takes place on the job site through the construction of these homes that we build,” says Brian Barth, a Residential Construction Instructor with CVTC.

“We can get the homes built, spend much less money, saves us grant money, so that we can do additional projects,” Ruth Rosenow, the director of the Chippewa County Housing Authority says.

Half of the funding for the houses came from federal grants, the other half is from a revolving loan from previous projects.

“In new construction, it gives families a chance to get into a home in an affordable way, have affordable payments, and then they have a chance to build up a home improvement escrow fund so that they can save up money, because these homes shouldn’t need repairs for quite a long time,” Rosenow says.

The projects won’t stop at these two houses. Six more are planned over the next four years.

“We have the funds in place for the two that we’ll be starting next fall, and basements and excavation done in August before they start school so when they come to school, the foundation is in, and they’re ready to start the carpentry work,” says Rosenow.

The 16 students who built the houses will be graduating tonight. The housing authority is holding an open house Friday night, where families can apply.

There are some income restrictions for the homes, which are valued at $149,000 each. For example, a family of four must make less than $51,000.

Income Restrictions

$149,900 HOUSE

Must make less than:

Family of 1: $36,150

Family of 2: $41,300

Family of 3: $46,450

Family of 4: $51,600

The open house runs until eight o’clock Friday night at 441 and 449 Pumphouse Road in Chippewa Falls.

From “Students need ‘reality check’ about jobs – Manufacturing, and manufacturing careers, have been getting quite a bit of coverage lately.

Employers have made desperate pleas for skilled workers. There is a heightened awareness of the value manufacturing brings to a community. And, there is a growing, albeit slowly, recognition of the innovation and intelligence that goes into today’s manufacturing jobs. Governor Walker has launched his College and Career Readiness Council and the President and his Education Secretary have also been extolling the virtues of college and career readiness.

That is all good. Manufacturing is critical to the future success of Wisconsin. Not only for the 425,000 employed in the sector, but for the hundreds of thousands that exist because of manufacturing. No other sector has the job multiplier effect that manufacturing does.

But let’s not let old paradigms drive our future needs for a qualified workforce.

We know that about 30 percent of the jobs in Wisconsin will require a bachelor’s degree or more. That means 70 percent do not, with the vast majority of those requiring technical education beyond high school. What seems to be missing in the current system is a broad understanding by today’s students of the jobs available. They simply cannot select an occupation that they don’t know exists. They do not know what a welder does; they do not know what a CNC Operator is; they have never seen the inside of a modern day, advanced manufacturing facility; and they do not have accurate job data and salary information. The same applies to their parents. And all of us (business, educators, parents, media) should share that blame.

The WMC Foundation recently conducted more than 50 listening sessions with over 300 manufacturers from around Wisconsin. Since completing that road trip, we have been sharing what we heard. One thing that became clear is that we need to change the definition of “success.” As a parent, you want your children to be healthy and happy, doing something they love, and able to live comfortably. Isn’t that most people’s definition of success? This is America, and everyone should be encouraged to pursue their passion. However, we owe students a reality check and perhaps even a “Job Probability Index” – what are the odds they will find a job in their chosen field. We should discuss the passion they wish to pursue, provide information on what it will take to reach it, explore the costs involved, evaluate the job prospects upon completion, study the level of demand for their degree/career, look at salary expectations and consider the return on investment.

If every 16-year-old, and their parents, have all this information and a full understanding of (and open mind to) all the occupations available, we will work through this shortage. Currently though, our definition of success seems driven by a mentality that master’s degree is better than bachelor’s degree, bachelor’s degree is better than technical degree, and technical degree is better than work experience. The workplace is not that linear and easily defined. Right now, there are shortages of engineers, welders, CNC operators, machinists, masons. Some of those require work experience, some apprenticeships, some technical degrees, some 4-year degrees or more. Let’s make sure everyone knows the market, because the market will drive us to success.

As we focus on “college and career readiness,” we might want to put “career” first.

From “High school students compete in auto repair contest” — MEQUON – Consider it the state finals for auto repair. The 20 best automotive students from 10 Wisconsin high schools put their skills to the test Thursday, May 10th, racing to fix Ford Fusions.

“They’re all bugged identically. Basically, they will get a work order and here’s the problems,” Roy Hinz, spokesperson from AAA said.

At Milwaukee Area Technical College’s North Campus in Mequon, ten teams of two worked to fix the mechanically bugged vehicles. The goal was to get them back to working factory condition within the 90 minute allotted time.

“Just checking fuses and other stuff that can go wrong,” Senior Dustin Westphal from Grafton High School said. This was Westphal’s first Ford AAA Auto Skills Competition. “Just going to take it like any other practice, I guess,” Westphal said.

Along with Grafton, West Allis Central High School, Badger High School from Lake Geneva and Washington Park High School from Racine were among the participating schools from our area.

Washington Park High School actually took home the national title in a separate competition in April.

“You can’t get too hyped up about it because you end up making mistakes. So just be calm, cool, collected like you’re doing another practice,” Senior Ryan Herman said.

For Herman, winning in the past does not guarantee the top spot in this competition. He was in charge of engine problems while his partner worked on other bugs like bad bulbs or air pressure. “Say we have a cam sensor problem where I’ll take care of that, or a maybe a misfire and I’ll be taking care of that too,” Herman said.

In order to win, the team must have a perfect vehicle, meaning it’s not necessarily who finishes first, but who cruises through the contest with no mistakes. “It’s not only a time test, but a quality test,” Hinz said.

The winners move on to the national competition in Dearborn, Mich. and they get an automotive scholarship to MATC. Grafton High School won the title last year.

The results this year are as follows…

1st place: Racine Washington Park – students Ryan Herman & Zachary Rosenquist; instructor David Dixon
2nd place: Grafton – students Dustin Westphal & Jordan Kreutzer; instructor Carl Hader
3rd place: McFarland – students Chris Allen & Jimmy Walker, instructor Dan Klecker

From “PTDI Certification Benefits Programs Facing Changes in a Technological Age” — Alexandria, Virginia – As technology changes the face of the truck driving industry, programs offering courses certified by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) are reaping the benefits, according to driver training program administrators from Wisconsin to North Carolina.

“The dynamics of individuals seeking jobs has changed,” said Robert Behnke, department chair, Commercial Vehicle Education, at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisc. “I see people choosing this as a career path who are more technologically savvy, but they don’t have a specific background in trucking, nor have they even grown up in the farm industry and been around big vehicles. We’re seeing folks from different backgrounds—accountants, doctors, and lawyers—coming into the industry because they’ve seen a tremendous amount of change in what they were doing and they are looking for a career change. Companies want to be assured that these people have specific truck driver training. I believe PTDI has played a part in that, because when it comes down to companies asking about training, safety is always number one.”

Kim Carsten, school director for Commercial Driver Training in West Babylon, N.Y., has also seen a change in the background of her students in recent years. “I’ve seen financial people, people from Wall Street, from the computer technology field, coming to our program,” Carsten said. “They need jobs, and they see from the advertisements that there is always a need for CDL drivers and that these are good paying jobs for entry-level drivers.”

And the fact that students are more technologically savvy only benefits programs with PTDI certification, as Carsten pointed out. “In the past three years, I have seen an increase in the number of students who know about PTDI, and much of that is a result of their Internet research and the fact that motor carriers mention PTDI on their web site,” she said. “A lot of our students do research the PTDI web site themselves and when they complete our critique at the end of our program, they say they came here because of PTDI. Students definitely have become savvy about industry standards, and about the industry in general, because of the Internet.”

Rudy Fox, director of truck driver training for Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, which received PTDI course recertification at two locations and initial certification at a third, has noted similar interest in his programs. “Definitely, the economy has led more people to the trucking industry. Some are changing careers not by choice but because they’ve lost their jobs. We’re seeing that especially in our area in North Carolina where the industry is textiles and furniture, and that industry’s almost gone, so with unemployment here close to 10 percent, people have turned to trucking. Companies are seeking us out because they know we’re giving our students quality training. We have more recruiters now than we ever have in the past few years because of PTDI. Our reputation has grown quite well in western North Carolina; all the major trucking companies recognize our program, and one of the reasons is the PTDI certification.”

Insurance companies as well are recognizing the significance of PTDI certification. “A lot of insurance companies, from what I understand, recommend that trucking companies hire students from PTDI programs,” Fox said. “Most trucking companies are greatly influenced by insurance companies, so they can’t hire student drivers that don’t have quality training.”

Although Behnke said it may seem “unrealistic for someone to make that type of career change, especially later in life,” he believes “the industry is turning a corner with positive changes and more emphasis on the trucking industry’s image. I think there are a lot of great changes coming our way as people look at the trucking industry as more of a career than just a job.”

Carsten, who has been with Commercial Driver Training for 28 years, adds, “I definitely think that PTDI’s making a difference in the type of drivers we’re putting on the road.”

The six truck driver training programs that recently received recertification are Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson and Hickory, N.C.; Commercial Driver Training Inc., in West Babylon, N.Y.; Delaware Technical and Community College in Georgetown, Del.; Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisc.; and Lebanon County Career School in Lebanon, Pa.  Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Dallas, N.C., received initial course certification.

From “Community Memorial Hospital honors Meyer with Values Award” — Community Memorial Hospital named Stephanie Meyer as the recipient of its Living Our Values award.

Meyer was nominated by her co-workers who say she believes in and applies the CMH core values of trust, care, respect, quality and community in everything she does.

“Stephanie’s dedication to our mission, vision, and values has earned her this recognition,” said Dan DeGroot, Community Memorial Hospital CEO.

As a registered nurse in CMH Surgical Services, Meyer cares for patients before, during and after surgery.

In addition to caring for patients in the operating room, she coordinates pre-surgical visits for patients who need lab, X-ray or physical therapy, and Meyer consults patients on how to prepare for their procedure and helps them plan for their at-home post-op care.

Meyer earned an associate degree from Northcentral Technical College in Wausau in 2004 and a bachelor of science in nursing from UW-Green Bay in 2007. She has been with Community Memorial Hospital since 2007.

“I realize how important it is to treat families and patients with respect and concern,” Meyer said. “I want patients and families to feel comfortable and know we will take the best possible care of them.”

Meyer lives in Coleman with her husband, Lucas, and sons Alexander, 3, and Beckett, 6 months.

Meyer is the daughter of Jennifer and the late Robert Forrest of Suring and of the late Keith Gruber of Coleman.

From “Stations to power green vehicles” — An electric car isn’t going anywhere when it runs out of juice, and a vehicle powered by compressed natural gas obviously needs to be refilled from time to time.

So as gasoline prices continue hovering near $4 a gallon, the question arises: Can you buy an alternative-fuel vehicle and count on finding a place to fill it up when needed?

Efforts to provide that are picking up steam.

The City of Milwaukee, for instance, has tapped $35,000 in federal stimulus funds to open five charging stations, including one at 735 N. Water St. and another outside the main entrance of Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin that are already open. Others are planned for Brady St., the Clarion Hotel near Mitchell International Airport and a west side site not yet chosen.

“We’re trying to address the chicken and the egg issue – which should go first: charging stations or people buying more of these vehicles?” said Erick Shambarger, manager at Milwaukee’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, during the Green Vehicles Workshop Friday at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Once the city’s stations are completed, there will be eight public charging stations in Milwaukee County, including two at Milwaukee Area Technical College campuses and one at Schlitz Park in Milwaukee.

The charging stations are part of a broader deployment of clean vehicles and fleets financed both by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and by major corporations.

AT&T Inc. has expanded its alternative fuel vehicle fleet to 200 vehicles, including plug-in electric delivery vans and compressed natural gas, or CNG, vehicles. That’s an increase from 50 alternative fuel vehicles two years ago, said AT&T, which aims to reduce operating costs by saving on fuel.

Lorrie Lisek, executive director of Wisconsin Clean Cities, a nonprofit that educates consumers and fleet owners about alternative fuel vehicles, said interest in shifting away from gasoline and diesel is growing as fuel prices remain high.

Forecasters at the Energy Information Administration last month projected that the price of crude oil will average more than $100 a barrel through the end of next year, and the price of regular unleaded will remain near $4 a gallon, 6% above last year, during the summer driving season.

The number of organizations that are members of Wisconsin Clean Cities has swelled to more than 60, she said, from 14 a year ago.

Working with the state government, Clean Cities aims to deploy more than 280 alternative fuel vehicles for fleets across the state by the end of next year, as part of a $15 million stimulus-funded initiative that is paying for hybrid-electric utility trucks for Milwaukee County, CNG vehicles in Bayfield, hybrid-electric school buses in Oconomowoc and alternative fueling stations across the state.

Altogether, the program aims to displace 1.6 million gallons of petroleum per year, she said.

The city is putting charging stations in high-profile spots in part to attract tourists with electric vehicles, since Milwaukee has been slower than other markets like Chicago to have electric vehicles for sale.

“We haven’t gone crazy with our investment,” Shambarger said. “Other cities have a lot more charging stations than we do. Our decision to start with five reflects Milwaukee’s demographics but is still providing that initial signal that we have the infrastructure here.”

Private investment is taking place too, whether at Schlitz Park for a charging station in Milwaukee or at Kwik Trip stations from Sturtevant to La Crosse that are adding compressed natural gas fueling capabilities.

La Crosse-based Kwik Trip will host a natural gas trade show and summit this week and unveil an alternative-fuels station that sells a wide range of fuels.

The Milwaukee workshop for the first time featured an all-electric Nissan Leaf, which just became available for test drives and ordering in recent months, said Kip Malmstadt of Boucher Nissan in Greenfield.

Malmstadt gets a lot of questions about the vehicle’s range – which is 100 to 110 miles.

“It’s really a daily driver – most people drive back and forth to work 30 miles a day,” he said. “Because of that, it’s the perfect car for that use. It’s not a car you want to go on vacation with, unless you’re going on vacation to Sheboygan.”

Compared with current prices at the pump, a typical Leaf driver may save $1,100 a year on fueling, Malmstadt said. The Leaf costs $35,000 to $38,000; tax credits can reduce the cost by $7,500.

The local network of natural gas fueling stations may also expand. The city of Milwaukee, which has eight CNG garbage trucks in service and another 13 on order, has installed several fueling stations that are used to fill the trucks.

From “Wisconsin Green Vehicles Workshop Features Propane Autogas Technology from Alliance AutoGas Partner Charter Fuels” — Alliance AutoGas fueling partner Charter Fuels shared the benefits of clean, affordable propane autogas for fleets at the ninth annual “Driving Toward 2020: Green Vehicles Workshop.” Hosted at the Milwaukee Area Technical College by Wisconsin Clean Cities May 4, the all-day event explored the latest trends in the alternative fuel industry and gave students and community members a chance to experience green vehicles firsthand.

The event featured alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles of all types from major vehicle manufacturers, including Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda and Nissan. Josh Budworth of Charter Fuels showcased a propane autogas-powered 2011 Ford F-150.

“This workshop was a unique opportunity to get younger generations excited about alternative fuel technology and educate them about the most viable options on the market today, like propane autogas,” said Budworth, who participated in a panel covering propane autogas, natural gas, ethanol and electricity. “Autogas is an American-made clean fuel that saves fleets thousands annually on fuel costs, even with as little as one autogas vehicle.”

Charter Fuels recently helped the City of Marinette, Wis., convert a police cruiser to autogas, and they expect fuel cost savings of around $5,000 annually. A partner in the national Alliance AutoGas network, Charter helps fleets switch to autogas through vehicle conversions, installation of a fuel station at the fleet base, data integration for fuel management systems, operational and safety training, and ongoing technical support. Alliance provides funding options so fleets can switch to autogas at no upfront cost.

Autogas fleets currently save around $1.50 per gallon compared to gasoline, and many report reduced maintenance needs and increased engine life. Propane autogas is 30 percent cleaner than gasoline, and 98 percent of the U.S. autogas supply is made in America. The most widely used alternative fuel in the world, autogas powers 18 million vehicles globally.


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