From wdio.com: “WITC-Superior receives $900K State Grant” — Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Superior is getting state dollars to fund their high-demand welding programs.

The Department of Workforce Development awarded the campus with a $884,362 grant under the Wisconsin Fast Forward Blueprint for Prosperity initiative.

The grant will fund two new sections of WITC’s high-demand welding program at both the New Richmond and Rice Lake campuses.

DWD’s Assistant Deputy Secretary David Anderson said the job market is looking up in Wisconsin, but not all workers have the right skills.

“One of the things we hear from employers though is that there is a little bit of a skills gap that is holding them back in finding skilled workers for a lot of the jobs that are available,” said Anderson.

Last week, Governor Scott Walker announced all 16 technical schools in Wisconsin will get more than $28 million in state dollars to fund programs in high demand.

From haywardwi.com: “WITC-Hayward plans hospitality seminar Apr. 26″ -- In a joint effort, WITC-Hayward and Sawyer County UW-Extension will host a customer service seminar designed specifically for tourism employees from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at WITC Hayward.

Andrew Nussbaum of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism will present a full-day of informative tips on how employees in the tourism industry can help employers generate customer loyalty. This seminar, Northern Hospitality, will be held at WITC-Hayward. Materials, lunch and snacks are included in the fee of $35 per person or $16.67 for individuals 62 or better.

Employees will hear and be involved in the discussion of the importance of personal job success, customer relations and selling. Some of the specific topics will include: honesty; teamwork; loyalty and job performance; punctuality and attendance; work ethic, selling products, personal image, social media interaction and the job, dealing with customer complaints, and the top 10 customer relations strategies. This seminar will be appropriate for all ages, including high school students.

Seating is limited so register early. For more information or to register, call WITC at (715) 634-5167. You may also view course information at www.witc.edu/classfinder.

From newrichmond-news.com: “Lt. Gov. Kleenfisch visits NR businesses” – Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch spent the day in New Richmond last Wednesday keeping company with local business people at a breakfast meeting and during tours of WITC and three local manufacturers.

On the lieutenant governor’s itinerary were a Business Breakfast at WITC with 50 area business owners, a tour of WITC and visits with Wisconsin Lighting, Antlers by Klaus and Phillips-Medisize.

At the Business Breakfast, which was sponsored by WITC, the City of New Richmond and the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce, Kleefisch talked about tax reform and Gov. Scott Walker’s “Blueprint to Prosperity” he unveiled during his State of the State Address earlier this year.

“Everyone in Wisconsin who pays taxes is going to see tremendous tax relief based on that,” Kleefisch said. “If you add it all up, between the $58 for the income tax relief, the $101 of property tax relief, the $57.90 per month people are going to get from withholding changes, that’s about $681 for the average Wisconsin family when you add it all up in April. That’s a big deal.”

Kleefisch’s New Richmond visit was part of a tour to spread the word about the tax relief Walker has brought to Wisconsinites, and how much more can be done.

“After the blueprint is signed into law, the governor will have signed about $2 billion of tax relief into law,” Kleefisch said. “It’s extraordinary and people are thankful for it, but we want to do more, because we know taxpayers know what to do with their money better than government ever could.”

Part of the tour was also meant to solicit ideas from business people around the state, Kleefisch said. And the Business Breakfast was a good opportunity for her to hear directly from those business owners. She said she is urging people to come to tax reform roundtable sessions and also to visit taxreform.wi.gov.

After the Business Breakfast, Kleefisch took a tour of the WITC campus with WITC Senior Director Larry Gee and Campus Administrator Joe Huftel.

Next, Kleefisch and her entourage — including New Richmond Mayor Fred Horne, City Administrator Mike Darrow and Community Development Director Beth Thompson — toured a couple of businesses in the city’s former WeTEC building.

Todd Loehr, owner of Wisconsin Lighting, told the lieutenant governor about the history of his company and showed her the ins and outs of his custom lampshade manufacturing process that takes online orders from around the country.

Loehr also took Kleefisch to another business in the building that not too many people know about: Antlers by Klaus.

Antlers by Klaus touts itself as the largest antler replicating company in the nation with more than 250 replicas. The company meticulously creates each replica to appear just as the original set of antlers and each set is painted by hand in a space inside the former WeTEC building.

Owner Klaus Lebrecht told Kleefisch his company’s story from how he got his start to how he got his work into some of the biggest sporting goods chain stores in the United States.

Before leaving town, Kleefisch reminisced about one of her earliest trips to western Wisconsin.

“I love New Richmond,” Kleefisch said. “St. Croix County was one of the first counties I ever campaigned in during my very first week on the trail back in 2010. So, I have very fond memories of being here, but I think the memories I’m building today are even fonder still, because we are talking about the growth potential of a community that is really on the cusp of something special.”

From ricelakeonline.com: “Work ethic, character issues are problems for employers” — There isn’t a lack of jobs in Barron County. There’s a lack of employable people.

That was the theme of the Barron County Workforce Skills Conference, which gathered business, education and community leaders together to discuss local workforce issues Monday, March 17 at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.
The problem, often called a skills gap, is only expected to worsen as baby boomers retire.

In Northwest Wisconsin there are now more people who are 65 than who are 18. That ratio is expected to broaden for the next decade or more.

The results of a survey of 46 Barron County employers were presented at the conference. Many reported a lack of qualified applicants for jobs.

“Businesses are looking to add or recruit people they can’t find,” said Beth Mathison of Manpower Eau Claire.

The skills most needed according to respondents were in customer service, general maintenance, office skills, computer/technical skills, skilled trades, banking/accounting, sales, welding and machining.

In predicting future needs, employees with general office, robotics and masonry skills were mentioned the most.

But it was a lack of basic or “soft” skills that got people talking.

Survey respondents made such comments as “don’t seem to have a strong work ethic,” “nobody wants to talk anymore; they want to email/text everything” and “lack of interpersonal skills is appalling.”

Conference attendee Dane Deutsch, owner of a gymnastics center and IT company, said, “I’ve never fired one person for a tech skill. It has always been a character issue.”

Another attendee said, “If you gave me a choice, I’ll take the person with the critical skills. I can teach the tech skills.”

The survey showed the biggest soft skill deficiencies, in order, were ability to organize and use information, integrity/honesty, speaking, creativity, customer service, reading, writing and problem solving.

In regard to improving the workforce, soft skills was rated ‘most important’ by more than 50% of respondents, followed by occupational skills, specific competencies and educational skills.

Respondents said the most important soft skills, in order by percentage, were attendance/punctuality, initiative/motivation, integrity/honesty, productivity, teamwork and customer service.

Education
Barron School District Superintendant Craig Broeren said soft skills are emphasized in the school system, but home environment is also key to what kind of adult a student becomes.

Some survey respondents suggested the next generation of workers doesn’t have the right attitude toward work and finding work and aren’t being prepared accordingly in schools.

But Chetek-Weyerhaeuser High School principal Larry Zeman said the average adult would not fare well in the advanced placement calculus or chemistry classes students are taking now.

“What kids know now far surpasses anything I knew when I graduated in 1981,” he said.

But even that may not be enough to guarantee career success.

“The last time we hired someone with just a high school diploma was 10 years ago,” said Dan Conroy, an executive at Nexen Group, an advanced manufacturer with a site in Webster.

Conroy said 70% of Nexen employees have a 2-year degree and can get a starting wage of nearly $20 an hour and work up to $35 an hour.

“We’re successful because we’ve gone high-tech, have well-educated employees and pay well,” he said.

Zeman agreed a 2-year degree is a good option for many students.

“We’ve made a concerted effort in out school district to not fool kids into 4 years or nothing else,” he said.

Zeman also said his district is investing $250,000 to upgrade technical education equipment and offer more welding and machine tool classes in a partnership with local technical colleges.

The school district is also trying to build connections with local businesses to create more learning opportunities.

Jim Woods, representing Wisconsin Voices from the Classroom, presented the results of a survey of 1,973 state teachers, 80% of which said there should be more interaction between schools and business.

The survey also showed 67% of responding teachers believe the educational system is on the “wrong track.” Many also said schools do not have enough money to educate students well, and many feel unappreciated as teachers.
“It is a population who thinks they’re not getting enough support from the general public,” said Woods.

But he also said the survey also showed many teachers, particularly younger ones, are willing to change to better student education.
“The only way we’re going to get there is having more discussions like this,” said Woods.

Skill Survey
The survey was conducted by the Barron County Economic Development Corporation in partnership with the Rice Lake Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

The survey was distributed through other chamber of commerce groups, the BCEDC website, meetings, individual requests and business newsletters.
Most respondents, in order by percentage, were in the manufacturing, construction, health and community services, hotel/restaurant/entertainment or retail and sales industries.

Nearly 75% of respondents had been in business more than 20 years. About 80% had experienced increased or unchanged sales from 2012-2013. About one-third planned to add employees in 2013.

 

From northlandsnewscenter.com: “Businesses in Wis. eligible for $15 million in grants to close skills gap” – Wisconsin businesses are now eligible to apply for a grant to help close the workforce skills gap.

The Fast Forward worker training grant program is providing $15 million worth of funding to help businesses address the need for skilled workers.

On Tuesday, Shelly Harkins from the State Department of Workforce Development spoke about the program at Wisconsin Indian Head Technical College in Superior.

The grants enable businesses to deliver customized training to workers and local job seekers.

Bob Meyer, president of WITC, says this new program will help address the shortage of skilled labor which many businesses in the state are facing.

“It has been estimated that if we can match the right skills and talent with vacant jobs, we can actually reduce unemployment by 2.5 percent in the Minnesota, Wisconsin region,” said Meyer.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed the program into law last March.

Walker is proposing to add another $34 million to the program.

So far, two rounds of grants have been given out.

In round one, $2.6 million was awarded to 32 grantees in the targeted training sector.

Almost half of the grants partnered with a technical college to provide training in their area.

In round two, $7.5 million will be awarded to seven areas of Wisconsin.

From uwsuper.edu: “WITC and LSC students find home at UW-Superior” — The residence halls at UW-Superior aren’t just a home for UW-Superior students. Students from Lake Superior College and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College also call Crownhart, Curran-McNeill-Ostrander, and Ross/Hawkes Halls their “home away from home.”

“I chose to live in the res halls because I feel it is a cost effective way for college students to live,” says Cole Oksa, a LSC student living in Ostrander Hall. “You have a meal plan, a place to sleep, and in the time that you are here you make many new friends.”

Just down the street from the UW-Superior campus is Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College campus for Superior. Many WITC students chose to live on the UW-Superior campus due to the proximity to their college. “The residence halls are where I’ve met all of my friends since attending WITC,” says Garret Hodd, resident of Hawkes Hall.

In addition to having rooms, meal plans, and friends just like any other student, non-UWS students are also able to work out at the Marcovich Wellness Center and participate in intramural sports, just like any other resident.

“We build in the cost of the MWC membership into the non-UWS student rates in the halls so they, too, can workout and play at the MWC,” says Mickey Fitch, Assistant Director of Residence Life. “We want these students to be active residence hall students as well, and heard the feedback from other non-UWS students a few years ago that they wanted access to their resource, so we made it happen.”

For more information about living on campus, contact Residence Life. All housing contracts go through Live@UWS, an online contracting, roommate matching and room selection service directed by the student. Consult room rates online through the UW-Superior Residence Life webpage. Students can find more information on the Residence Life Facebook page as well.

From northlandsnewscenter.com: “WITC ranks among top 150 community colleges” — Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College is among 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community Excellence and one million dollars in prize funds.

WITC was chosen from more than one thousand community colleges across the nation.

WITC President Bob Meyer says, “this ranking recognizes the dedicated efforts of WITC’s entire staff and its continued focus on excellence.”

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