From jsonline.com: “Dual enrollment isn’t new” — By Barbara Prindeville, president Waukesha Area Technical College — The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the University of Wisconsin System and its two-year campuses made headlines recently for a dual-enrollment program that allows high school students to simultaneously earn credits toward graduation while earning college credit.

It’s good to see DPI and UW Colleges take a concrete step toward making higher education more affordable and efficient, but their approach is certainly not new. Waukesha County Technical College has had a similar, very successful program in place for more than 20 years.

WCTC leads Wisconsin’s 16 Technical College System in dual enrollment – this past academic year, nearly 5,000 students earned combined WCTC/high school credit. Through these partnerships, high school students are exposed to higher-level education at an earlier age, moving them much more quickly down the path to a degree and a good-paying career.

For students, dual-enrollment means a top-quality education in less time and for less money. For area businesses, it means a steady supply of well-trained graduates entering the local workforce. Eighty-nine percent of our graduates find jobs – right here in Waukesha and surrounding counties – within six months of earning their degrees.

Dual enrollment is most certainly a positive, and DPI and UW Colleges should be commended – after all, better late than never. But at a time when in-state tuition is skyrocketing, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging the UW System to do more to serve its students and our state faces a severe shortage of skilled workers, I would encourage a far bolder, more up-to-date strategy than adopting a “new” policy that others have used for decades.

WCTC enjoys productive partnerships with a number of four-year institutions, including Carroll University in our own backyard, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Marquette University, Mount Mary University and Alverno College – all of which grant our graduates full credit toward a bachelor’s degree for coursework already completed at WCTC.

UW-Milwaukee has begun accepting our electrical engineering and mechanical engineering technology graduates as juniors, recognizing their solid educational base and putting those students two years closer to a four-year degree and productive career. Other state universities should adopt similar policies.

If UW officials look outside their walls – and beyond their turf – they’ll find great possibilities for themselves, students and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin currently lags behind other Midwestern states in average earnings because our workforce has a lower percentage of people with four-year degrees. WCTC has tried to address that, and it’s good to see the UW System start to consider different ideas.

We need to foster economic development and job creation in our state. If the UW System is truly interested in streamlining the degree process, making higher education more affordable and more quickly producing well-trained graduates ready to contribute to Wisconsin’s economy, it should take a cue from UW-Milwaukee and others.

A more cooperative relationship between the UW System, WCTC and all of the state’s technical colleges would allow students to more easily transfer credits, earn four-year degrees and enter the “real world” ready for steady, good-paying employment.

Students would benefit from a more complete education, more specialized training, lower tuition costs, better jobs and higher wages. Local businesses would benefit by having a bigger pool of locally grown, highly educated talent with four-year degrees prepared to be a contributing part of the workforce. And Wisconsin would benefit from a stronger state economy and an environment that truly encourages and fosters business growth.

This is a great opportunity to help our state, and we should work together to take advantage of it. Our state, our taxpayers and, most important, our students will be the real winners.


From oakcreek.patch.com: “Plan commission approves MATC wind turbine” — The Oak Creek Plan Commission on Tuesday gave Milwaukee Area Technical College the go-ahead to build a 47-foot wind turbine at its Oak Creek campus, 6665 S. Howell Ave.

The turbine will be used in the school’s Energy Conservation and Advanced Manufacturing curriculum. It is much smaller than turbines typically seen at wind farms, where they can stretch more than 100 feet high. Officials said this turbine likely won’t be seen outside the campus.

Because of its proximity to the airport, the turbine could not be more than 50 feet high and needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Also on Tuesday, the commission delayed action on Aldi’s renovation plans, at the company’s request. It could come back to the commission as early as July 10.

From weau.com: “A shortage of truck drivers nationwide leads an area tech school to look at expanding programs” — EAU CLAIRE – A shortage of truck drivers is leaving jobs unfilled, delaying some deliveries, and pushing up freight rates.

According to the American Trucking Association, the annual turnover rate at large carriers rose to a four-year high of 90 percent. In the first quarter last year it was 75 percent. Turnover at small carriers jumped even higher to 71 percent – up from 50 percent

The shortage leading to Chippewa Valley Technical College looking at ways to help fill the gap. Mark Fredrickson has been driving truck and training new drivers most of his professional career.

“It’s more of a life style than a job because it does take you away from your family for longer than an eight hour day and you can be gone around a week,” says Fredrickson.

A long haul that has led to more people quitting the industry and an increasing demand for drivers.

“I was just drove for a guy yesterday that lost two drivers,” says Fredrickson.

CVTC is trying to meet the demands of the industry by expanding its training program and making it more flexible for students.

“We find a lot of people are interested in getting their CDL but a lot of people can’t afford to quit their current job to take the course so we are trying to find ways to work around that.”

CVTC currently offers a CDL certification course every 8 weeks.
“I have twelve students right now and I expect all of them to have jobs after graduation,” says Fredrickson.

And in this economy students say that’s rare and something that’s not lost on them.

“I love it, big trucks heavy loads being on the road and meeting all the people it’s just fun,” says Christian Fredrickson

From htrnews.com: “Plant closing leads to new career for TR woman” — GREEN BAY — On Nov. 18, 2009, Linda Eis drove home from her job at the Budweiser plant in Manitowoc – a place she’d worked for the last 28 years – knowing that the future she’d planned for herself and her family would be changed forever. The plant was scheduled to close and she was losing her job.

Nervous and uncertain of her prospects, she drove to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, poured over the health care program options, and decided on a new future.

Two and half years later, that decision would lead her to graduate from NWTC at the top of her class, becoming a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. She would receive two prestigious national scholarships and emerge with bright prospects for a new career as a certified surgical technologist.

“Coming back to school after all these years, you’re scared,” said Eis, who lives in Two Rivers with her husband. “But the college is very ‘adult-learner-friendly.’ After a while, it started to give me back the confidence that I didn’t know I’d lost.”

Although Eis had been out of school for 32 years, she decided success in the classroom would lead to success in the workforce. She put in extra hours in the lab, studied extensively and focused on her clinical experience. School became her new job, and her instructors took notice.

“I don’t think I have ever worked with a student that had a better attitude and stronger work ethic,” said NWTC instructor Mary C. Wessing. “The operating room is often a stressful place to work, and Linda was able to deal with whatever came her way.”

Eis’s late-career journey mirrors that of many Americans since the start of the recession. In fact, an increasing number of Americans are returning for education later in life. Seventy-eight million baby boomers soon will be entering retirement, and four out of five plan to work past the age of 65. Many of those jobs require updated skills and training. At NWTC, 20 percent of the population served – through degree programs, certificates, basic skills courses or enrichment classes – are more than 50 years old.

When Eis graduated in May with a 4.0 grade point average, she found her hard work had paid off in other ways after being told she’d won two competitive national scholarships. The Foundation for Surgical Technology awarded her $750 for its annual scholarship, and shortly after, the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting chose her as the 2012 recipient of its $500 scholarship.

Eis is still looking toward the future. She’s interviewing for positions in the health care field and is confident that her education has prepared her for success.

“My goal from the start was to get a new job,” she said. “Losing my job [led] to much more, I earned a new profession.”

From wausaudailyherald.com: “Hundreds of jobs open in Marathon County, central Wisconsin” — People looking for work in central Wisconsin have heard the same refrain over and over: Well-paying jobs abound in the health care and advanced metalworking fields.

But for those who can’t enter one of those professions, the news isn’t great. The manufacturing, medical/education and trade/transportation/utility fields are the dominant employers, representing 66 percent of the total job force in Marathon County in 2011, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce.

The second tier of jobs, based on the number of people employed in central Wisconsin, includes the financial industry and the leisure and hospitality fields, which make up 16 percent of the jobs. The number of jobs in those two fields dropped from 2010 to 2011 in Marathon County, though hundreds of related jobs were open as of this month, according to the Department of Workforce.

The good news is that employers are hiring in those fields and training and education is available in central Wisconsin. Education and skill development can be obtained in as little as a few classes for a certificate, all the way up to a four-year degree.

And jobs are plentiful. Hundreds of jobs, including loan officers, credit counselors, wait staff, desk clerks and maintenance workers in the leisure and hospitality fields, were open for applications as of June 16 in Marathon County, and even more across all of central Wisconsin.

“You can infer from that data that there are opportunities for people to make a transition — dislocated workers or people looking for employment,” said John Westbury, an economist in the Office of Economic Advisors, a division of the DWD.

Back to school

People looking for career changes have options when looking to improve their skills or learn new ones.

Students can take introductory courses at the University of Wisconsin branches in central Wisconsin toward degrees in business administration, finance, as well as hotel, restaurant and tourism management. While many majors require students to transfer to a four-year college, the University of Wisconsin Marathon County and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point allow students to complete the UWSP business administration program at the UWMC campus.

The UWSP partnership is an example of how some Wausau-area residents who work in the business field can continue their education without having to move, said Jim Rosenberg, an adult student recruiter at UWMC.

“Even if a person gets into a job with the minimum qualifications, they look at what can get them ahead in that career field,” Rosenberg said.

For some people, a four-year degree will take too long.

Students at Northcentral Technical College in Wisconsin can improve their skills by simply taking a few courses specializing in computer programs such as Microsoft Excel, bookkeeping, or food and beverage safety.

NTC offers an entrepreneurship program that teaches basic business concepts, such as obtaining financing, buying supplies and managing staff. Brad Gast, a continuing education adviser at NTC, said he recently had a man who wanted to open his own restaurant in northern Wisconsin take the entrepreneurship classes.

“Most of those people develop their skills and go out and start their own (business) and live their dreams,” Gast said of the entrepreneurship students.

From postcrescent.com: “Job demand remains rosy in some sectors” — With all the gloomy global and national economic news, it may seem like most, if not all, industries are either not hiring or even reducing their workforce.

But that’s not the case in northeast Wisconsin for high-demand professions such as nursing or metalworking and fabrication, where job opportunities remained strong throughout the recession and during the slow recovery that has followed it.

The reasons for the strength of the job market in those sectors is twofold.

In manufacturing, a historically strong manufacturing base has been buoyed in part by large government contracts to companies such as Oshkosh Corp. and Marinette Marine. Meanwhile, an aging population is driving the growing need for an array of skilled health care workers.

Companies in the 18-county northeast Wisconsin region are projected to need to fill 10,000 production and manufacturing jobs by 2016, according to a 2010 study by New North, a consortium of business, economic development, chambers of commerce, workforce development and civic and education leaders. The health care field’s numbers were expected to trend upward as well, expanding by almost 4,000 jobs by 2016.

Health care hiring steady

Aurora Health Care is maybe not in as much of a crunch for employees as Muza Metal and Marinette Marine are for fabricators, but there is still a steady need for new employees to fill open positions at locations from Milwaukee to Green Bay.

“There is always a need,” said Gwen Baumel, vice president of human resources for Aurora Health Care.

Aurora gets a lot of applicants for positions from those in the Fox Cities and Green Bay areas, and starts working with potential future health care workers while they are still in school.

“We have a very good relationship with the local schools, which really helps,” Baumel said. “We talk with them so the school stays in tune with employers and what sort of challenges there are.”

One of the good relationships is with Fox Valley Technical College, where nurses graduating from the program are finding a hot job market upon graduation.

FVTC graduates about 40 associated degree nurses and 25 licensed practical nurses per semester and roughly 800 nursing assistants per year.

Once graduated, the majority of those students find work quickly. According to Assistant Dean of Health Division Carrie Thompson, all of the college’s 2011 associated degree graduates were working within six months of graduation. Ninety-three percent of new LPNs were hired within six months of graduation, and nursing assistants placed at 69 percent.

“Most (graduates) stay in the area,” Thompson said. “They are everywhere and in lots of different companies, most of which are in the area.”

Welding in demand

The need for welders is expected to increase 26 percent by 2015, according to the 2009 New North Occupation Opportunity Projections Survey.

Even now, manufacturing companies are struggling to find skilled metal workers.

For instance, Muza Metal Products in Oshkosh, which last month completed a 47,000-square-foot plant addition is continuing a pattern of growth in a metals manufacturing industry that leans heavily on Oshkosh Corp. Muza employs 260 workers over four shifts, but still is short of workers.

“Skilled labor for fabrication is in high demand, especially in this area,” said Muza Metal Products President Dan Hietpas. “It’s a very competitive area and we are still looking for 10 to 15 workers.”

The tough part about filling those openings is that they are night and weekend shifts. Muza keeps its plant running 24 hours a day and needs enough workers to staff each shift. But even paying a premium over the company’s normal $14 to $22 dollar an hour salary hasn’t helped fill all of the positions.

“We pay a 75 cents to $1.50 premium, depending on the shift,” Hietpas said. “That can be quite the bump in salary, but it’s still a challenge.”

In Marinette, the shipbuilding company Marinette Marine is equally hard up for skilled welders, pipefitters and electricians.

The company has added 600 jobs in the past 12 months, and now has 1,400 employees, but is struggling to fill vacancies for skilled trades jobs, and is even having a hard time recruiting people to sign on to train and work for them. The company held open 40 spots for entry-level workers, reaching out to nine schools in the process, but landed only seven graduates.

A typical employee at the shipyard can earn $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

Right now, the future looks “pretty rosy for us,” Marinette Marine President and CEO Charles Goddard said. “We can easily handle 100 or more hires out of high schools in a year.”

The welding/metal fabrication program at Fox Valley Technical College, which works with Muza Metal and Marinette Marine, has a very high job placement after graduation. Ninety percent of last year’s graduates found jobs after graduation. Some of the students in the program were hired before they finished their degrees based on the high demand of the job, which is continuing to grow.

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “For some workers, job outlook is bright” – Career outlooks are sunny for those with skills in nursing or metalworking and fabrication.

Unlike other industries still recuperating from the Great Recession, there remains a high demand for the skilled professions in Northeastern Wisconsin.

In manufacturing, a historically strong manufacturing base has been buoyed in part by large government contracts to companies such as Oshkosh Corp. and Marinette Marine. Companies in the 18 counties that make up Northeastern Wisconsin are projected to need to fill 10,000 production and manufacturing jobs by 2016, according to a 2010 survey of the region.

Meanwhile, an aging population is driving the growing need for an array of skilled health care workers. A New North survey found that numbers are expected to trend upward in health care, too, expanding by almost 4,000 jobs by 2016.

Welding

Even in a time of relatively high unemployment, manufacturing companies struggle to find enough skilled metal workers. And the need for welders is expected to increase 26 percent by 2015, according to the New North survey.

For instance, Muza Metal Products in Oshkosh, which last month completed a 47,000-square-foot plant addition, continues its growth in the metals manufacturing industry that leans heavily on Oshkosh Corp. Muza employs 260 workers over four shifts, but are still short workers.

“Skilled labor for fabrication is in high demand, especially in this area,” Muza Metal Products President Dan Hietpas said. “It’s a very competitive area, and we are still looking for 10 to 15 workers.”

The challenge is filling the night and weekend shifts at the plant that runs 24 hours a day, Hietpas said. Even paying a premium over Muza’s normal $14- to $22-per-hour wage hasn’t helped them fill the positions.

“We pay a 75 cents to $1.50 premium, depending on the shift,” Hietpas said. “That can be quite the bump in salary, but it’s still a challenge.”

In Marinette, the shipbuilding company Marinette Marine is equally hard up for skilled welders, pipefitters and electricians.

The company has added 600 jobs in the past 12 months, and now has 1,400 employees, but is struggling to fill vacancies for skilled trades jobs. It’s even having a hard time recruiting people to sign on to train and work for them. The company held open 40 spots for entry-level workers, reaching out to nine schools in the process; it landed seven graduates.

A typical employee at the shipyard can earn $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

Right now, the future looks “pretty rosy for us,” Marinette Marine President and CEO Charles Goddard said. “We can easily handle 100 or more hires out of high schools in a year.”

The welding/metal fabrication program at Fox Valley Technical College, which works with Muza Metal and Marinette Marine, has a very high job placement rate after graduation. Ninety percent of last year’s graduates found jobs. Some of the students in the program even were hired before they finished their degrees.

Health care

Though perhaps not as in demand as metal workers, Aurora Health Care can attest to the steady need to fill open positions from Milwaukee to Green Bay.

“There is always a need,” said Gwen Baumel, vice president of human resources at Aurora.

Aurora gets a lot of applicants for positions from those in the Fox Cities and Green Bay, and starts working with potential future health care workers while they are still in school.

“We have a very good relationship with the local schools, which really helps,” Baumel said. “We talk with them so the school stays in tune with employers and what sort of challenges there are.”

Back at FVTC, students in the nursing program find a hot job market upon graduation. The college graduates about 40 associated degree nurses and 25 licensed practical nurses per semester and roughly 800 nursing assistants per year.

The majority of graduates find work quickly. According to Assistant Dean of Health Division Carrie Thompson, all of the college’s 2011 associated degree graduates were working within six months of graduation. Ninety-three percent of new LPNs were hired within six months of graduation, and nursing assistants placed at 69 percent.

“They are everywhere and in lots of different companies, most of which are in the area,” Thompson said of the graduates.

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