From “Fox River Lighted Sculptures To Be Unveiled on Saturday” – Appleton - Lighted sculptures designed by Fox Valley students will turn on Saturday night in the City of Appleton to spotlight hydroelectric history.

Just off of water street in Appleton, a group of volunteers makes final preparations setting up the lighted sculpture displays before they are unveiled and lit up at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

It’s part of a celebration highlighting the first usage of hydroelectricity along the Fox River.

“We’re just getting these power lines set up that we’re going to connect to our house and run back towards the river to represent hydroelectricity lighting up the house,” Joey Stammer, Appleton East senior said. Students from Fox Valley Technical college along with Appleton and Little Chute high school students began designing the lighted scenes including a lighted flag in September.

Light Up the Fox, INC. raised close to $10,000 for the project.

“Many people in the area don’t realize how rich it is and unique it is…for example being the first place in the world to have a central electric system that used Thomas Edison’s system,” Barb Sauer, Light Up the Fox spokeswoman, said.

And, they hope to commemorate the Appleton’s historical third ward neighborhood over the years by adding more light displays.

“We’re looking at in the future growing this every year, school by school by school and just adding displays throughout the year and making it a bigger and bigger and bigger display,” Mike Cattelino, FVTC Associate Dean of Manufacturing and Agriculture programs, said.

The lighting of the displays will kick off on Saturday starting at 6:30 p.m.  The public also will be able to participate in a candle light walk.  The lighted displays will be featured through February 11th.

From “FVTC culinary students create elaborate gingerbread houses” – Culinary students at Fox Valley Technical College are creating elaborate gingerbread houses for a unique fundraiser.

The houses will be on display in the college’s commons area the week of December 16th.

They’ll be auctioned off, with proceeds benefiting the Culinary Arts program.

Instructor, Chef Sue Horvath, and student Jason Sargeant from Neenah joined Good Day Wisconsin Tuesday to give some tips on constructing and decorating your own gingerbread house.


From “Press brake training helps build a foundation for success” – Robbins Manufacturing of Fall River, Wis., has invested in an extensive training program, including machine-specific training, especially on the press brake. The company also has invested heavily in new technology, including a brake with automatic tool change. Both investments are paying off.

Press brake training helps build a foundation for success -
Figure 1  Most employees in Robbins Manufacturing’s press brake department recently underwent in-depth training that covered not only how to operate a machine, but also the reasoning behind those procedures.

During a given day, the 17 press brake technicians in Robbins Manufacturing’s bending department form an impressive range of materials, on a range of machines—from 20-gauge to 1.25-inch-thick mild steel, bent on equipment from a 55-ton electric brake to a 320-ton hydraulic system (see Figures 1 and 2).

By the end of the year, the company expects to install a new press brake with automatic tool change capability. The controller downloads programs, and the system’s mechanization automatically sets up the punches and dies for a job. And thanks to sensors that detect the bend angle in real time, the first part should be a good part. An operator should be able to perform a job consisting of, say, five pieces, then another job of a dozen workpieces, and so on, with mere seconds of changeover time in between. Managers expect the new technology to really help their efforts to reduce batch sizes, to ensure workpieces reach the weld cells at the right time. No one wants a welder waiting around for a missing component.

Here’s the rub: The Fall River, Wis., contract fabricator plans to put one of its most talented, experienced operators on the new press brake. At the same time, the shop has invested in cross-training. The company has worked with Madison Area Technical College and the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International® (FMA) to provide classroom training on various topics. This includes a comprehensive certificate program on the intricacies of press brake operation.

Some may purchase a new machine tool to deal with the lack of skilled labor available. It’s not an ideal situation; managers are just adapting to a business reality. The people at Robbins, though, are tackling the skilled-labor crisis a little differently.

A Skilled, Adaptable Technician

The art of improvement in manufacturing often involves identifying a constraint, discovering why it’s a constraint, then devising ways to eliminate it. Robbins enjoyed a busy time earlier this year, but as capacity levels increased, inefficiencies became glaringly apparent, especially in bending. The press brake department needed to increase its throughput.

The problem, sources said, was that certain operators learned on specific machines and became specialists on that equipment. The company has different brands of press brakes, and each has its own control-interface idiosyncrasies—nothing dramatic, but just enough to throw off throughput goals on a busy day (seeFigure 3).

“We were struggling with the everyday logistics of running the shop,” said Eric Parks, plant manager. “When people were sick or on vacation during a busy time, we ran into constraints that seemed to be avoidable if we had training.”

Up until this point, Robbins’ training regimen had been mostly hands-on. A new employee would shadow an experienced operator and be trained to run a range of products on one machine. But that hands-on training didn’t necessarily cover why a certain forming program worked the way it did. Knowing the reasoning behind forming would give an operator a good foundation for learning how to operate every brake on the floor.

Robbins employs press brake operators in their 20s, 60s, and every age and experience level in between. The company tends to hire brake operators based in part on their blueprint reading capability. Operators may have experience in other trades, be it construction or carpentry, but if they can read a blueprint, managers figure these employees have a good foundation for learning the sheet metal bending craft.

“We generally taught our operators how to bend a family of products,” said Travis DeBussey, fabrication manager. “They understand how to make a group of parts at a specific machine. And in the past, unfortunately, that’s where we’ve stopped. With experience, they evolve to the next step and start to visualize a new setup, so they can bend a part that they’ve never seen before.” But he added that, until now, the company hadn’t offered formal classroom training.

A Common Language

Technical aptitude—knowing what has to be done—hasn’t been a problem. Instead, it was about the why, and about communicating that reasoning in a common language, be it bend radius, bend angle, bend allowance, bend deduction, tangent point, outside setback, or any other term in sheet metal bending. No matter the operator, press brake make and model, or company, everyone should speak the same bending language.

Many aspects of brake setup have become automated. Software can calculate the bend allowance and deduction and, ultimately, determine the correct die opening and punch for specific bends. But why is that die opening the way it is for a particular job? Why is the minimum flange length this measurement for this workpiece? Why is the radius pitch (the distance between hits made when bump-bending a large radius) specified this way? Why exactly does a bend become “sharp” at 63 percent of the material thickness, and why can’t you put a sharper radius in the bend without digging a ditch into the bend line?

“We’ve always had press brake operators, turret press operators, and laser operators,” said Parks. “We’re starting to migrate toward having fabricators.”

The ultimate goal is to have a flexible workforce capable of operating any machine in the fabrication area. So managers reached out to Madison Area Technical College. MATC’s outreach program, through grants, partially funded Robbins’ training initiative, which included a press brake operator certificate program from FMA. As part of this program, Steve Benson, president of Salem, Ore.-based ASMA LLC (and frequent contributor to this magazine), conducted a training program over two weekends in August. Several days focused on laser and punch press operation, but most instruction focused on the press brake.

The 20-person class had many of the company’s brake operators, but also other machine operators, including several turret operators who had never operated a press brake before. Most attendees passed the certificate course’s press brake exam with flying colors.

This isn’t to say the exam, or the training course, is a cakewalk. As Parks explained, even the shop’s most experienced operators learned something new. “Some of the more experienced people were reluctant because they’ve been [operating a brake] for a long time, and they understand how to do it. But they picked up on quite a few things, including some of the basic foundations, including some of the math that showed why they do what they do.”

Read more from The Fabricator

From “Milestone reached in FVTC job search program” — APPLETON - The JobSeekers Network program at Fox Valley Technical College welcomed its 1,000th participant in November, making the free offering to the community one of the fastest-growing job search efforts in the Midwest.

JSN started as a support group at FVTC four years ago, and it has now grown into a curriculum-based job search program that teaches how to land a career using skilled networking practices and more.

The program also developed an optional textbook for participants and the community, the Human Search Engine, and its LinkedIn social media group has grown to more than 1,000 active members as well.

JSN if offered weekly at FVTC’s Appleton and Oshkosh campuses. For more information on the sessions, visit


From “From mind to model: 3D printing puts form, fit and function on the fast track” – When companies can turn ideas into reality within 24 hours, it’s not hard to imagine the powerful impact 3D printing can have on the manufacturing industry. Simply put, 3D printing technology turns 3D computer models into prototypes by “printing” the model, layer by layer, using various substances such as powder or plastic to create a tangible object.

“It’s an easy way to visualize your parts to check them for form, fit and function,” says Dean Sommerfeld, instructor of mechanical design technology at Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC). “You can model something on computer and it looks good, but it’s hard to tell scale. If you’re designing something to fit in your hand, does it fit?”

There is plenty of demand for workers trained in this technology. FVTC’s Mechanical Design Technology program has a consistent 90-plus percent graduate employment rate. The college is the only institution in the state with three fabrication laboratories (Fab Labs) and one mobile Fab Lab, according to Steve Gallagher, program specialist and Fab Lab manager at FVTC.

The University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley is also targeting the growing need for 3D printing skills and technology with its recent launch of the Center for Device, Design and Development. Officially dubbed “3DC,” it’s been described as “a platform for developing ideas into reality.” 3DC is a private-public venture seeking to connect small businesses and inventors in Wisconsin with the technical expertise and resources necessary to develop their ideas into marketable products.

In return, the inventor provides his or her support and agrees to share royalties with all involved parties.

“We do a good job of preparing our students for the technical skills they need to be successful in industry, but one aspect that could use further development is the ability to take a simple kernel of an idea and turn it into a marketable product,” said Dr. Michael Zampaloni in UWFox’s September announcement of the program. Zampaloni is 3DC’s co-director and professor of mechanical engineering for UW-Platteville.  “Through 3DC, students, working with engineers and local small businesses and manufacturers, will gain some of this invaluable experience as part of an entrepreneurial team bringing new products, ideas, and businesses to the Fox Valley area,” he added.

By supporting the Fox Cities and Northeast Wisconsin small businesses, entrepreneurs and engineering students, each product developed has the potential to directly impact the Wisconsin economy through the expansion of existing businesses, and the creation of new businesses, all supporting high-tech jobs in the local area.

“People hold on to great, innovative ideas that are just waiting to become great, innovative solutions. However, individuals may not have the technical resources or even know where to begin. The 3DC is designed to guide these individuals through the entire product development process,” said Dr. Ranen McLanahan in the statement issued by the school. McLanahan is assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UWFox and 3DC co-director.

Read more from Insight on Manufacturing


From “New industry trend in forensic science” – GRAND CHUTE – Many of you have likely seen the hit TV show Bones on FOX.

The program illustrates how evidence must be logged and secured to preserve its integrity.

An increasing interest in forensic science led Fox Valley Technical College to start an associate degree program in 2011.

A soon-to-be graduate, is finding her future with Grand Chute police is part of a new industry trend.

Back in 2011, Holly Schultz was watching FOX 11 when a live report caught her attention.

“They had kind of talked about some of the other trainings and forensic spotlights that they were doing here at the tech at the time, and that kind of sparked some interest with me,” said Schultz.

That segment spurred Schultz to enroll in the tech college’s forensic science program.

“People are more interested in forensics. Victims of crime, and people in the community, expect police officers to be doing more forensic related skills,” said FVTC Forensic Science instructor, Joe LeFevre.

LeFevre says the typical police academy training only provides eight hours of evidence training.

So the college created the degree program to enhance scientific expertise.

“Also seeing the trends utilized on the east and west coasts of going to civilians in the property and evidence room, and even civilians doing crime scene technician work,” LeFevre said.

The Grand Chute Police Department is believed to be the first agency in the state to take the leap in hiring a full-time evidence technician, without the typical police background.

“Holly is our latest hire in the property and evidence area,” said Chief Greg Peterson. “We’ve known that we needed to move in this direction, and hire a full time person probably for a couple of years now.” According to Peterson, “There’s a lot of trust involved because back in this room, you’re in the property room, you know how secluded it is, there are large quantities of cash, there are drugs, there is jewelry.”

Not only will Schultz be responsible for around 10 thousand pieces of physical evidence which have passed through these lockers, she will also be trained as a crime scene technician.

“It’s one of the reasons why the forensic science program at the tech is appealing to us, because that’s the type of training and education that they get. It prepares them for that type of field work,” Peterson said.

Schultz interned at the department before her hire last month, and has already done quite a bit.

“I’ve been to a few, and kind of a variety of scenes. I also help with their property and evidence department, making sure evidence is submitted correctly, that it’s packaged properly, that it’s stored properly,” Schultz said.

That includes evidence from major cases, such as the Road Star Inn homicide last year.

“I have been helping with the discovery process with that, and making sure that evidence for that gets submitted to the lab,” said Schultz.

Peterson says using sworn officers is tradition, but he thinks in time demand will grow for people with specialized skills, like Schultz.

“You’ll see more agencies in the future moving in that direction. But it hasn’t taken off in a grand way yet in this particular area,” Peterson said.

However, LeFevre tells me a number of police chiefs and sheriffs, are exploring the idea of a civilian evidence technician.

“We need somebody in there full time, who that’s their only job and their only mindset. And so it pays a chief to get a civilian in there, so they can get another officer out on the street, and not have them stuck in the basement of the police department,” said LeFevre.

Schultz is just thrilled to have finally landed her dream job.

“I can’t even begin to describe how awesome it is,” said Schultz, who graduates next month.

Fox Valley Technical College says it’s forensic science program is the only one of its kind at the two-year college level in the state.

From “Streetwise: Oshkosh growing out of the old Sawdust City image” — By Jeff Bollier - Oshkosh may have a ways to go before it competes with Silicon Valley, but the former center of the logging industry has quietly lumbered into the 21st century.

Companies like DealerFire, Oracular and ImproMed continue to add good-paying jobs while economic development agencies have sought ways to help bolster information technology as an industry in Oshkosh.

Meanwhile, Fox Valley Technical College has recently launched a partnership with Oshkosh North and West high schools that could help build interest — and necessary skill sets — in the IT field.

FVTC, North and West have established help desks staffed by students and monitored by FVTC mentors to help build an understanding of IT careers and the required skills. FVTC also has started to develop curriculum for the high schools that will allow interested students earn college credits while taking early courses vital to IT careers and courses of study.

These activities are the building blocks on which a successful industry can build for years to come. Let’s hope collaboration like this continues into the future and the vision comes to fruition.

• Oshkosh Corp. has been designated a Green Professional under the Wisconsin Sustainable Council’s Green Masters Program. The program recognizes companies that promote sustainability and healthy workplaces. In Oshkosh Corp.’s case, the council applauded the company’s increase in recycled materials, a reduction in items that end up in landfills and its wellness programs.

From “Tribal police gather in G.B.area” – Fox Valley Technical College is helping train tribal police officers from across the Midwest this week, at a conference in the Green Bay area.

Brad Russ is the director of the school’s national criminal justice training center. He says it’s the 25th annual event, and they’re focusing on issues like human trafficking and drugs.

Russ says it’s one of the premier tribal training conferences in the country.

The conference runs through Friday, at the Radisson hotel and conference center in the Green Bay area.

From “New high-tech classrooms at FVTC” – GRAND CHUTE – Fox Valley Tech is going high tech in its classrooms.

KI paid $150,000 to help bring four new learning labs to the school at the start of the fall semester.

An official dedication was held Tuesday afternoon.

The rooms include multi-media screens and walls and desks that can be written on.

“We have learned through a lot of research and education that collaboration is key for student learning and I think these classrooms really give us the opportunity to provide the students with a lot of different ways to collaborate with each other,” said Cris Gordon, social science instructor at FVTC.

School leaders say general education courses are taught in the new classrooms.

From “Police officers take seriously commitment to protect, serve” – My daughter raised her right hand to be sworn in.

“On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the Constitution, my community and the agency I serve.”

I always knew this day would come. Before she could write, she scribbled “tickets” to offending family members. Lights and sirens evoked heartfelt prayers and a million questions. Halloween “uniforms” were easy. Unusual gifts included handcuffs and police scanners. Most mothers encourage children to avoid traffic. As a Police Explorer, my daughter’s whistle and expertly executed hand motions finally allowed her access to busy intersections. It really struck home when a bulletproof vest hung in my laundry room.

Some public servants, like my daughter, are born for policing, ingrained with a sense of justice, an undeniable passion to help and an unwavering commitment to goodwill.

The police badge represents the shield medieval knights carried into battle. Daily, they strapped on armor, shields and weapons as they protected the people. Brave law enforcement officers do the same today.

None of us know what we may face when we walk out the door on any given day. Neither do our public servants. The difference is when they get ready for work; they strap on a gun, bulletproof vest, and shield and rush to help with unforeseen tragedies. They walk out their door in the morning with a noble purpose — to protect and serve.

I interviewed dozens of law enforcement officers, looking for the proverbial bad apples — the power-hungry bullies above the law whom the media loves to vilify. I couldn’t find one. Although the media would have us believe most citizens resent police officers, I found the opposite.

Grand Chute Police Chief Greg Peterson confirmed most people respect police officers.

“We consistently deal with 2 to 5 percent of the population in their worst moments — people with tremendous needs,” he said.

Safety agencies want feedback to prevent negative perceptions. Peterson said, “We encourage people to contact us if they were treated unprofessionally. We only get a handful of complaints and we take them very seriously. We want the best for our community and demand it from our officers. That is why the hiring process is so rigorous.”

Mark Kohl, the Law Enforcement Recruitment Academy director at Fox Valley Technical College, trusts the academic system.

“We set extremely high standards for these young men and women,” he said. “The recruit process weeds out candidates with wrong motives. Abilities to multitask, problem solve, collaborate and meet high cognitive standards, along with physical stamina and precise technical skills, are what graduates must prove.”

Though part social worker, health care provider, translator, counselor and advocate, police officers are also fathers, sons, brothers, sisters, mothers and daughters just like us. The difference is their commitment to a job most of us would never consider.

Academy recruits from FVTC shared their perspective about policing. They agreed values like honor, courage and commitment to community have been passed down through legacies of law enforcement. Eager to uphold values from their oath, they trust the training, academics and character tests that prepare them to take their place as the next generation of public servants.

While visiting New York City, I met NYPD Officer Lawrence DePrimo. You may remember him as one of People Magazine’s Heroes of the Year in 2012. A tourist’s photo of DePrimo giving shoes to a homeless man went viral. DePrimo humbly said, “It was just a normal day on the job. I got up, went to work and helped someone. Any officer would have done it. We do it every day.”

Most police officers are men and women of integrity who honor the badge and oath they swore to uphold. So the next time you see flashing lights in your rear-view mirror, get cited for a traffic violation or are asked to inconveniently detour, remember these men and women are working to protect the community, ensure public safety and save lives.

Today, they may provide that service to you or someone you love.


From “Technology takes hold in agriculture” – GRAND CHUTE – The fall harvest is well underway.

And before many farmers even enter the field, they’re using technology to plot their strategy.

As combines roll through the farm fields of Northeast Wisconsin, many are guided by GPS. Not necessarily technology that’s new to the farming industry, but technology that has taken off in the last five years.

“It really depends on the grower, how progressive they are, but we are seeing huge leaps and bounds on the precision ag side of it,” said Brad Birzer of Larson Cooperative in New London.

Birzer should know. Precision farming technology is his specialty.

He’s testing planter row units for accuracy, the kind of technology used in the spring that produces results like this in the fall. The kind of technology being taught in the only program of its kind in the state at Fox Valley Technical College in Grand Chute.

“Precision ag is the bridge between the iron that you see behind me and the agronomists that help the farmers make their cropping decisions,” said Fox Valley Technical College Precision Ag Instructor Joe Sinkula.

As technology takes over more aspects of farming, students are getting a first-hand look at the future.

“It takes farming to the next level as far as I’m concerned and it helps the farmer to be more efficient,” said Shawn Wesener of Cleveland.

Birzer says the technology can range from just a few thousand dollars to $40,000 or more, but farmers will see the benefits in increased yields and greater efficiencies.

Birzer says most farmers are using at least some enhanced technology these days. And these students are getting hands on training for what is becoming a hands off industry.

The one-year precision agriculture degree program officially begins at Fox Valley Technical College in January.

From “New FVTC medical training center dedicated” – Fox Valley Technical College held a ceremony Wednesday afternoon to officially dedicate the campus’ health simulation and technology center.

The $66 million facility allows students in numerous medical fields to perform real-life simulations in a realistic hospital setting. The center is the state’s only virtual hospital training center, designed to integrate numerous medical fields into one facility.

The ceremony today honored the completion of the building, as well as the people who made it all happen.

“This building wouldn’t exist without our taxpayers,” Human Patient Simulation Coordinator Bob Sternhagen says,”and they approved the referendum by a major large majority and we’re very happy they did that so we’re going to give them the best possible health care providers we can with this facility.”

The center includes fourteen human simulators, a new ambulance simulator, and a full ER .  

From “Grant helps minority student program” – GRAND CHUTE – Fox Valley Technical College is making a difference for some of its minority students.

The school recently formed a brother-to-brother program designed to help African American men finish college.

The program just received $105,000 from a Madison organization.

Program leaders say it’s all about helping each other through study groups and progress meetings.

“Over the years, studies have been done to show that African American male students have the lowest retention rate in college and completion rate, so what this grant aimed to do is to guide the students, and to remove, hopefully, some of the obstacles out of their way,” said Rayon Brown, FVTC minority student services.

Fox Valley Tech says recent rates show 20 to 25 percent of these students graduate from the school.

There are currently 94 African American men enrolled this semester. 25 of them are in the program.

From “FVTC creating apps for students” – Fox Valley Technical College will create about 375 apps to help students learn the information technology skills that they’ll need in their future career.

Jay Stulo is the school’s learning innovation and technology manager. He says they received a $1.5 million dollar grant from the federal labor department, for the project. He says students at all of the state’s tech schools will use the apps.

He says one application would help students in an agriculture program learn how to program tractors. using GPS technology. Stulo says some students need to catch up to current technology.

Stulo says teachers will be able to incorporate the apps into their lesson plans, and they should all be finished within three years.


From ” ‘Virtual hospital’ opens at Fox Valley Technical College” – GRAND CHUTE – In a mock emergency, paramedic, EMT and nursing students work together at Fox Valley Technical College to treat Mary Roberts’ possible heart attack. Roberts is a human simulator at the Grand Chute college.

The mock emergency took place Wednesday in FVTC’s $12 million Health Simulation and Technology Center. The virtual hospital also features occupational therapy and a clinic.

“We can do a lot more with our students, we can expose them to a lot of different situations that they might not have been able to see in the past,” FVTC simulator coordinator Bob Sternhagen said.

“It’s extremely life-like,” nursing student Daisie Hanson said. “It’s got pulses in all the places that a human being has pulses. You can listen to the heart, you can listen to the lungs, you can listen to their stomach.”

The virtual hospital is geared toward more than just students at the college. Other health care professionals may use the facility as well.

“It is a re-certification process. For others, it’s just the world of health care is changing so rapidly, so what we thought we knew a couple of years ago, well there’s new information, new research,” said Sharon Schumacher, director of talent development at Appleton-based ThedaCare health system.

The emergency may be an exercise, but the training is very real.

“You can kill the simulator as many times as you want and it comes back,” Hanson said. “And then you know what not to do on a real patient.”

“It helps prepare not only those students to have more competence, so that when they actually come into the clinical setting, they’re much more prepared,” Schumacher said.

And in this virtual case, Mary Roberts is going to make it.

The simulator center is part of a $66.5 million referendum voters passed in the spring of last year.

From “Fox Valley Technical College receives grant from trucking group” – The Trucking Industry Defense Association awarded a $2,500 endowment fund grant to the Fox Valley Technical College’s Truck Driving Academy in Grand Chute.

Fox Valley Technical College is a first-time recipient of the grant, which was established to help pay for programs that prepare students for careers in the transportation and trucking industry.

“After reviewing all of our highly qualified applications, TIDA determined that Fox Valley Tech’s industry-relevant programs and plans for the grant were a perfect fit for this award,” said Frank Stackhouse, TIDA Past President. “We were also particularly encouraged by the college’s success in graduating students with CDLs (commercial driver’s licenses) and attracting immediate interest from employers.”

Other schools awarded a 2013 endowment grant were the University of Memphis in Tennessee; Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland; Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and Palo Alto College in San Antonio.


From  “Area farmers affected by shutdown” – APPLETON – The shutdown of the federal government is causing headaches for many.

One group affected by the stalemate in Congress is farmers, and depending on how long the shutdown lasts, you could pay more at the grocery store.

Appleton dairy farmer Mark Petersen told FOX 11 he is ready to put Congress out to pasture.

“No matter what side of the aisle they are, because their job is ironing these things out and sitting down and compromising and talk and come up with a solution. They’re not doing it,” said Petersen.

Petersen and farmers like him rely on the government for a lot of their business planning.

Randy Tenpas with Fox Valley Technical College’s Agriculture Department told us the federal shutdown is frustrating.

“The real impact will be felt the longer we go from this,” Tenpas explained.

Tenpas told us 23 agencies affiliated with agriculture are shut down right now. Even the USDA’s website is offline.

“You’re looking for a federal loan, for example, for expansion. That’s on hold right now,” Tenpas explained.

According to Tenpas, certain permits and subsidy payments will also be delayed.

Tenpas said, however, the widest-felt impact would likely be food inspections. He told us there will still be inspections to ensure national standards, but with fewer federal staff, those inspections will happen at a slower pace.

“What if we can’t ship and export products because it’s not inspected? That’ll have an impact and we may see that in commodity prices,” said Tenpas.

Tenpas told us at this point there’s not much farmers can do but wait and see what happens next.

“Just going to have to have a little patience,” said Tenpas.

Petersen told us no matter what happens in the federal government, farmers are going to keep doing what they do.

“Farmers are going to keep producing and they’re going to keep taking care of their business,” said Petersen.

On top of that, Congress has yet to pass a new farm bill.  An extension expired Sept. 30. That means dairy farmers will have to wait for their checks from the federal milk income loss program.

From “FVTC dedicates expanded agriculture building” – Fox Valley Technical College dedicated an expanded agriculture facility Tuesday.

Officials say the Service Motor Company Agriculture Center has been upgraded with state-of-the-art equipment and offers the state’s only precision agriculture program that teaches how to use GPS technology to optimize farm production.

The expanded facility was funded in part by a public referendum passed last year.

“Agriculture is really the legacy industry in the state of Wisconsin. It’s been around forever. And we intend to be a part of maintaining and growing that, quite frankly, for the future,” Mike Cattelino, Associate Dean of Manufacturing and Agriculture Technologies, said.

Officials at Fox Valley Tech say enrollment is skyrocketing. It’s up 87 percent from 2009 to 2012.

From “Robotic welding program brings Walker to FVTC” – Learning to weld is normally a hands-on experience, but 14 Fox Valley Technical College students are taking a very hands-off approach to a new course.

Fox Valley Tech has introduced a course in robotic welding at its Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center on Oshkosh’s south side this semester as it responds to changing demands of area manufacturers.

The new program, and the eight robots mounted with MIG welding guns, caught the attention of Gov. Scott Walker, who toured the manufacturing campus Tuesday afternoon.

“We can compete with anybody in the world, anywhere around the world, but we’re not going to compete the way we used to,” Walker said. “Advanced manufacturing means people who have multiple skills that can be applied using not only crafts they’ve learned here, but also all the technology that goes with it.”

FVTC Metal Fabrication and Welding Instructor Ben Cebery said the college was able to use a portion of a three-year, $3 million Advanced Manufacturing Pathways Plus grant the U.S. Department of Labor awarded FVTC earlier this year to develop the robotic welding course’s curriculum.

“We’re seeing more automation in manufacturing,” Cebery said. “Surveys with local companies suggested it was a good idea for students to be exposed to automation. This program prepares students for what we’re seeing and the demands of industry.”

Jay Manufacturing CEO Matt Jameson said the company has six robotic welding stations and a lot more manual welding stations at its west side fabrication shop. He said the company has hired several welders recently, and needs to hire as many as 20 more. He said the company views robotic welding training as a definite plus.

“The more versatile a person is, the more we can do with them,” Jameson said. “If they know manual and robotic welding, that’s just a bonus. In addition, the people we have interviewed who tested well almost all had some form of technical college training.”

Joe Serio, of Menominee Falls, and Austin Kopplin, of Oshkosh, both said they’re excited to learn how to program the robots and get them to execute precision welds. Serio said he knows welders are in high demand, but learning more advanced skills like computer programming is vital to finding a good job.

“Usually, we don’t get to deal with computers much while welding, but there’s always someone who needs to run the robot in case something happens,” Serio said. “This comes easy and it’s a pretty nice skill to learn.”

Kopplin said he’s been impressed by the amount of programming required to get the robots to work and the precision with which they execute commands.

“It’s consistent and perfect every time,” Kopplin said. “You get jittery welding for six hours at a time, but these things can run all night.”

Cebery said the college reached out to companies who said students need to be familiar with robotic welding and asked them to provide one or two robots they use. He said Ariens Co., in Brillion, and Muza Metal Products, in Oshkosh, are just two of the companies that stepped up to help out.

“Getting eight robots on the floor would have cost an astounding amount of money,” Cebery said. “Finding another way was vital. Fortunately, we were able to find a way via donations and gifted equipment that exposes students to the different types of robotic welders. They get to learn on each of them.”

From “Good news for Wisconsin job seekers” – There’s good news on the horizon for Wisconsin residents looking for work.

Though the state’s labor market continues to recover from the Great Recession of 2007-09, Wisconsin economists say prospects for job seekers are looking up.

“The picture is improving significantly,” said Jeff Sachse, an economist for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) who monitors the labor market in northeastern Wisconsin. “We’re seeing demand pretty much all over the place in fairly large numbers statewide. We have about 42,000 job openings on our Job Center of Wisconsin website right now.”

Wisconsin’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July 2013 was 6.8 percent, unchanged from June and down from 7.0 percent in July 2012, according to the most recent numbers from the DWD and the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Across the U.S., the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July 2013 was 7.4 percent, down from 7.6 percent in June and 8.2 percent in July 2012.

While Sachse anticipates Wisconsin’s unemployment numbers would remain relatively high in August because of the number of high school and college students looking for summer work, he predicts the jobless rate will dip below 6 percent in fall in many parts of the state, including the Fox Valley.

“That’s an indication that the labor market itself is getting back to normal,” Sachse said. “The real growth areas in the state are the Fox Valley into Green Bay. If you’re looking at central Wisconsin, there’s a lot of activity in Wausau around insurance as well as metal manufacturing.”

Wider range of manufacturing jobs

Economists continue to see strong hiring activity in manufacturing, especially in the Fox Valley and Sheboygan.

In central Wisconsin, economists are beginning to see an uptick in metal fabrication and machinery manufacturing jobs.

“We got hit pretty hard in paper manufacturing and wood product manufacturing over the course of the recession,” said Tom Walsh, a DWD economist who monitors the labor market in north-central Wisconsin. “But we’re now starting to see some other manufacturing sectors start to grow.”

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From “Fox Valley Technical College building specialized skills” — Fox Valley Technical College’s Board of Trustees recently approved the state’s only Precision Agriculture program, a new offering designed to train the next generation of agribusiness and agronomy professionals.

The concept of precision agriculture takes data collected from industry equipment and generates prescribed maps for fields through the use of GPS technology and related software.

This innovative method of farming results in better tilling, planting, and harvesting due to variable rate applications.

Each soil and topographic makeup on any given parcel of land is unique, and precision agriculture pinpoints these distinctions to optimize the growing experience for stakeholders of production agriculture.

“Precision agriculture is the 21st Century management tool for production Ag,” says Mike Cattelino, associate dean of FVTC’s Manufacturing and Agriculture Technologies division. “This technology enables agriculture professionals to become better micro-managers of their own soil.”

Service Motor Company (SMC) in nearby Dale has been a strong proponent of the new offering, validating the need for advanced skills in farming.

“The whole landscape of agriculture is changing rapidly,” notes Jim Sommer, president of Service Motor Company.

He added, “Fox Valley Tech focuses on technology, which is needed to advance today’s agriculture industry by lowering costs and increasing productivity. Essentially, ag professionals now need to be visionaries when it comes to crop management, production, farm operations, and more to meet the intricacies of an ever-changing industry.”

One current challenge in the industry calls for more partnerships like SMC and Case IH uniting with FVTC to address a skills shortage in agriculture. The organizations continue to work in collaboration with FVTC’s agriculture programs to shape the college’s longstanding tradition of nearly 65 years as one of Wisconsin’s training leaders.

SMC and Case IH officially ventured into a new partnership in 2010 with FVTC by providing the state’s largest technical college with a plethora of new equipment over a 10-year span.

“The company is more engaged with us than ever before,” adds Cattelino. “The Sommer family and its staff helped us blueprint the precision Ag program based off of recent experiences they’ve encountered within the industry. It’s a model working relationship.”

FVTC’s Agriculture Center is currently undergoing an expansion due to the passage of the April 2012 public referendum, which advanced several facility-related projects for the college by nearly a 2-1 margin.

The center’s 7,600 square-foot expansion supports a nearly 87 percent growth in full-time equivalent students in FVTC’s agriculture-related programs since 2008.

The completion is set for September, in time for students this fall to experience the added learning labs, not only in agriculture, but in horticulture and outdoor power equipment as well.

In addition, strong graduate placement rates reaffirm the steady growth and need for newer programs that require advanced skill sets.

For example, all 37 graduates of FVTC’s Agribusiness and Science Technology program over the past three years landed careers, and all 12 graduates from last year’s class in the Agriculture Power Equipment program earned new jobs as well.

Cattelino says it’s an exciting time to be involved in agriculture. “With so much technology at one’s fingertips, the possibilities are endless in an industry that will never go away.”

From “New computer training lab opens” –MENASHA — Job seekers will receive free computer literacy training at a new lab that opened Monday at the Fox Cities Workforce Development Center.

Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson said the new lab is among more than $100 million in additional investments being made as part of Gov. Scott Walker’s workforce agenda.

“The new lab serving job seekers represents more investments to come, from new worker training grants, to a state-of-the-art labor market system and a renewed funding for apprenticeships,” Newson said in a news release. “Under Governor Walker’s leadership, and in collaboration with legislative partners, we are making strategic investments to help ensure a skilled workforce that will sustain and promote economic expansion and job growth in Wisconsin.”

Figuring prominently in Walker’s workforce agenda is Wisconsin Fast Forward, an initiative approved by the Legislature that includes a new state-funded $15 million grant program to deal with the skills gap by helping employers train new and existing workers. The initiative also includes a new labor market information system to provide real-time data and better connect job seekers to jobs by keying on skills.

The new computer lab at the Fox Cities Workforce Development Center is a collaborative effort by the Department of Workforce Development, the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board and Bay Area Workforce Development Board, Fox Valley Technical College, Outagamie County, Goodwill and the Forward Service Corp.

Starting Oct. 13, Wisconsin residents who file an unemployment insurance claim who by law must register for work will have 14 days to register with Wisconsin Job Service to receive benefits. They can do so online through or by visiting their local Job Center.

The registration process, which takes about an hour to complete, includes completing a job profile and identifying skills, abilities, work experience, education, training and other crucial information that can help Job Service staff connect them to new opportunities.



From “From referendum to reality” – These are heady times at Fox Valley Technical College, as finishing touches are being put on two major projects authorized in a 2012 referendum.

By a 2-1 margin, voters approved a $66.5 million referendum that called for the construction of three new facilities and the expansion of two existing buildings.

The college will host a media event Wednesday at its Appleton campus to unveil the $11.9 million Health Simulation and Technology Center.

The focus this week was a naming rights agreement with Service Motor Co. of Dale for the agriculture center, which received a $3.5 million expansion from the referendum. The facility is almost completed. An open house for both facilities is set for Oct. 1.

Nearly 2,800 square feet of classrooms and computer labs were added for agribusiness courses. Existing spaces were renovated into labs for hands-on learning.

Dustin Korth, a 20-year-old agribusiness and science technology student from Waldo, likes the flexibility of the new spaces.

“This is beautiful … the new classrooms are 10 times better than they were before,” Korth said. “It’s nice to have more room to accommodate more students. Like last year, packing 28 students into some rooms with four rows of tables was not comfortable at all.”

The agriculture industry is not just alive and well in Wisconsin, but flourishing, said Jim Sommer, president of Service Motor Co. The increased demand for agriculture programs — which has grown at FVTC by 87 percent since 2008 — is why the company continues its 30-plus year relationship with the college.

The equipment dealer solidified its ties to FVTC even further by donating $1.1 million for naming rights to the newly expanded agriculture center, now known as the Service Motor Co. Agriculture Center at Fox Valley Technical College.

The gift is a combination of student scholarships, equipment donations and financial support, Sommer said.

The need for skilled workers in precision agriculture, agricultural power and agribusiness will increase as technology advances, Sommer said.

“We know there’s going to be a growing need. Over the next 10 to 20 years, we’ll need employees,” Sommer said. “By providing financial support, we’re hoping to ensure quality graduates.”

The new Health Simulation and Technology Center will be a hub for the college’s medical-related programs. The three-story building features a virtual hospital, classrooms, a computer lab and physical therapy suites.

The facility will provide students with experience in real-world situations.

Bob Sternhagen, human patient simulation coordinator, said every major institution that trains medical professionals has a simulation lab.

“That’s the beauty of simulation: students can mess up, they can make mistakes and nobody gets harmed,” Sternhagen said.

Students also will learn how to work with professionals in other areas, including police officers, firefighters, paramedics, medical assistants, nurses and occupational therapy assistants.

“This is patient care as a cooperative type of event because whatever a police officer does on the scene of an auto crash will impact what a paramedic or EMT does, which will impact what an ER doctor does … it may mean the difference between a patient not surviving or surviving with a poor outcome,” Sternhagen said.

Officials invited members of the Fox Valley Healthcare Alliance to tour the facility earlier this week. Education consultant Jen Meyer represented ThedaCare, and she was impressed.

“It’s unreal,” Meyer said. “This is such a valuable asset for our community. Not only will it provide an amazing opportunity for area students, but for our existing health care workforce as well.”

From “5 Quick Questions: Mike Weller, President, Miller Electric” – Miller Electric, a leading manufacturer of welders and welding supplies, recently announced that its president, Mike Weller, has been recognized by the Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association for his service to the Wisconsin Technical College System. Mr. Weller received the Technical Education Champion Award for his work with Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Given the constant pressure that manufacturers face in attracting and replacing skilled workers, we asked Weller for some perspective on the future of the skills trades and what the manufacturing sector can do to increase interest in the field from the next generation of workers.

Mike Weller, President, Miller Electric

Mike Weller, President, Miller Electric

5. What led you to get involved so heavily with the vocational schools in Wisconsin?

I’ve been involved with the technical colleges for 30 years now. My relationship with them, particularly the Fox Valley Technical College, started when I began teaching there part time. Some years later, as our products at Miller Electric Mfg. Co. were evolving, we found we needed electrical/mechanical training for our employees. FVTC offered a solution: they built a classroom and hired a full time instructor to train our employees in the skills they needed to help the company remain competitive.

The relationship has been building since and has been a win-win over the years. We’ve provided them with equipment in exchange for the training and the partnership has evolved from there. Our company now works in a similar capacity with Northwest Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay and supports other vocational schools throughout the state.

4. What have been some of your most rewarding experiences?

There have been so many rewarding experiences; it’s difficult to narrow them down. Helping FVTC completely refurbish its welding and manufacturing center in Oshkosh was great!

Being able to set up the training programs for our employees was also rewarding. It really allowed us to remain competitive and give our employees the right skills for their jobs. That was such a change in paradigms about how training was delivered. It was the first time FVTC had done something like that and it was great to be a part of a new program. I saw what it did for our employees, in terms of their careers and for our company to be competitive.

I’ve also had the pleasure of giving speeches and symposiums on behalf of the vocational schools to high school guidance counselors. I’ve been able to share with them the ways that they can link business and education together so they can provide students with better career guidance.

3. Finding qualified workers in manufacturing continues to be a challenge. What do you feel are some ways the manufacturing community can help remedy this situation?

Education. In middle school and high school, giving kids access to classes and having guidance counselors share the career opportunities in this field is key. Giving high school students the opportunity to take hands-on classes or participate in internships is also important so they can build experiences to take into the workforce.

These opportunities help students understand that the work environment in manufacturing is good. The more we can educate students about the industry the better. Plus, if we can get educators and business people linked about the skill sets, ethics and work habits required to go into the manufacturing sector, it can open up a lot of doors for a lot of young people.

2. Given only one of the following options, which do you feel is the better way to go: invest in training current employees or spend more to find and attract the right, qualified person for a position?

I would invest training in current employees. These are the people who have helped build our company. At Miller, our average seniority is 19 years with less than two percent turnover. We believe in giving people the chance and the skills to build their careers and want to continue to see them grow. Our employees aren’t shy about learning skills and are always up for that challenge — they learn everything from how to read our company financials to streamlining work processes and developing better decision-making and communication skills.

1. If you could give U.S. manufacturing one thing, what would it be?

It would be a combination of things: One, encourage manufacturers to empower their employees to take the company to the next level and two, the implementation of the 80/20 principle. This is a dynamic combination to significantly improve their profitability, as well as increase their competitive position — strengthening the heart of companies’ performance in the manufacturing sector.

From “Service Motor Co. given naming rights to FVTC training center” – A long-time partnership between Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton and Service Motor Company, a Case IH dealership with six locations in eastern Wisconsin, has just gotten stronger. Last week, the school granted SMC naming rights to its recently expanded agriculture training center after a recent $1.1 million gift in the form of scholarships, equipment and financial support.

Company officials said forming another partnership with FVTC made sense–especially since the college passed a $66.5 million public referendum in April of 2012, which included construction of the new 2,800 square foot training center.

“Great education requires the latest technologies,” said SMC President Jim Sommer. “Our support of the college exemplifies its vital role in developing a skilled workforce built on efficiency and innovation.”

SMC is a fifth-generation family owned and operated company that specializes in the sales and service of agricultural, construction, and lawn and garden equipment. In 2010, the company teamed up with Case IH to pledged $15 million in training equipment to FVTC over 10 years. The college uses that equipment to prepare learners in agri-business programs, along with agriculture outdoor power equipment, farm operation, natural resources and horticulture.

“Service Motor Company’s support helps us improve farm management systems in soils, field production, harvesting and more,” notes Mike Cattlelino, an associate dean at FVTC.

Cattlelino adds that over the past five years, 99-percent of the school’s agriculture program graduates earn jobs within six months after graduation.


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