From “Western grad following farm-to-table dreams” — Josh Powell has a vision. One day, he wants to be in the kitchen of his own restaurant. A customer might compliment his pork chops and ask where they came from, “and I can just point west,” Powell said.

And then, he’ll say something like: “See that pasture with those six hogs?”

After more than a decade in the culinary arts, the 32-year-old La Crosse native went back to school to learn more about the meat and vegetables that end up in his kitchen. Powell begins an internship at Organic Valley on Monday after graduating from Western Technical College’s agri-business science technology program.

“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders,” Powell said. “There were a couple times where I really thought about, ‘Is this the right idea?’ ”

Powell is one of 1,136 graduates who will be honored at 2 p.m. today at Western’s spring commencement ceremony in the La Crosse Center. College officials will grant 527 associate degrees and 242 technical diplomas, with 321 students graduating from Western’s certified nursing assistant program.

Powell’s Western degree marks his second spin at college. He also studied the culinary arts at Fox Valley Technical College, but he realized about two years ago that he needed to return to the world of higher education to realize his dream.

Powell wants to own a farm-to-table restaurant — a place that mixes modern cooking with “old-school” butchering, Powell said.

“I think butchering is kind of a dying art,” Powell said. “People don’t eat heart. People don’t eat liver. People don’t eat kidneys.”

Powell was the type of student who always added to the conversation in his classes at Western — often to talk about his favorite food, said Tracy Harper, an instructor and department head.

“Lots of discussions about bacon,” Harper said. “Every class.”

Powell’s passion for food was obvious, and it was infectious, Harper said.

His love for food dates back to the baked goods served up by his grandma and aunt. He wouldn’t settle for anything that wasn’t as tasty as his grandma’s cuisine, Powell said.

He started brushing up on his skills with different ingredients. About 12 years ago, he got a job at Syl’s Place, a Barre Mills supper club. Powell worked in the kitchen and behind the bar.

“Pouring drinks wasn’t really my thing,” Powell said. “I like playing with fire.”

He also has worked in kitchens at the La Crosse Country Club and restaurants in the Green Bay area.

“I was pretty lucky in my 12 years in the kitchen,” Powell said.

He was the executive chef at Pogreba in La Crosse but relinquished that title when he went back to school.

An unfortunate incident with a mechanical bull forced Powell to focus on his transition from cooking to agriculture. Nursing an injured elbow — compliments of the bull — Powell took two months off to focus on his studies.

Now, he’s back where he started, at Syl’s, but the horizon is completely changed. Western instructors and the people he met there have given him the ability to pursue his goals. They taught him things he could never have learned in the small garden of his childhood home on the North Side, Powell said.

He and some of his friends are raising livestock and testing recipes on family and friends, but Powell is focused on Organic Valley, where he’ll work this summer as an intern in the quality assurance department.

“Between a couple of my buddies, we’ve got to find a plan,” Powell said. “If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right.”

From “NWTC offers mentors to minority students to help boost grad rates” – Maria Almanza is studying to be a medical assistant at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

As a busy first-year college student, the 21-year-old mother of two said she appreciates the help of mentor Alana Dallas, who talks to her about her studies and navigating the community college campus.

They are part of a new Peer Mentor program designed to help minority students succeed in school. The new program, launched in October with help from a state grant, aims to increase success by offering a variety of academic, social and personal support.

“Not only does this program provide important support to keep students successful and in school, but it gives our student mentors a chance to give back,” said Gema Garcia, program coordinator. “These students have been there and they know what’s it’s like. They’re here to provide guidance to their fellow students to help them overcome any hurdles they might face.”

NWTC’s program has 10 mentors who are helping 20 students this semester. Mentors are students who have been in school for at least a semester. Mentors were chosen for their commitment and willingness to support students as they transition to college, Garcia said. They must meet grade-point average requirements and are fully trained.

Minority students lag a bit behind other students in terms of grades and graduation rates, noted Vickie Lock, dean of student success at NWTC.

In 2012-13 about 64,000 white students were enrolled at NWTC, and 82.46 percent of them received passing grades of A, B or C. The school had 8,200 minority students that year, and 74 percent of them had passing grades.

“That’s a 5.81 percent gap that we really want to close,” Lock said.

Minority students may fall behind because they did not take adequate courses in high school and often are the first in their families to attend college, so may lack home support, she said. They may be low-income, which means they have to work one or several jobs, she said.

“All of these are factors that lead to a harder time achieving,” Lock said.

Mentors can help by providing support families may not be able to provide, she said.

Blaire Xiong, a student in the administrative professional program and a peer mentor, said the mentor relationship is an opportunity to lead by example.

“We may have come from similar backgrounds as many of the mentees, “ Xiong said. “But because we’ve already been here and know what’s available, I think we can really help them succeed.”

The peer mentor program is part of a larger NWTC initiative focusing on helping more students graduate, Lock said.

Almanza’s mentor recently guided her through preparing a resume and cover letter for a class, she said. She plans to graduate in December 2014.

“The mentorship program … makes sure you have more self confidence. Once you are feeling confident, you start doing things better, in my opinion,” Almanza said.

Some minority students may struggle if English is not their first language, she said.

“Also, high school is easier,” said Almanza, who graduated from Green Bay’s East High School. “College can be pressure. If you have someone else to cheer for you and is there for you, it makes you more likely to be successful.”

Those in the program participate as along as they feel they need help. Lock hopes students who are being mentored eventually will become mentors.

“We are looking at, do they stay enrolled? Do they complete?” she said. “We’re also looking for some intangibles, such as, ‘Do students really feel connected to college? Are they reaching out to other students?’ I think those would be important pieces for us to see.”


From “NTC receiving $550,000 grant for equipment” — Northcentral Technical College will be receiving a $550,000 grant to help buy new equipment for students.

The grant comes from The Greenheck Foundation.

Administrators at the college said the grant will cover the costs of new technology to train students studying electro-mechanics.

They said all of the new equipment will help students be ready for what the industry is looking for in new employees.

“It really shows the community that yes, there’s a need for electro-mechanical people, companies are willing to pay money to get you trained for that, they’re definitely willing to hire and our community will continue to grow,” said NTC Associate Dean, Greg Cisewski.

NTC officials said they still need to raise $300,000 dollars in the community for the equipment, to raise a total of $850,000.

View WAOW video


From  “WAT Grant initiates successful partnership between LTC and Nemak”  — CLEVELAND – Earlier this year, Nemak and Lakeshore Technical College received a Workforce Advancement Training (WAT) Grant from the State of Wisconsin.

Nemak, a supplier of high pressure die cast aluminum components in Sheboygan, began extensive training of hundreds of its workers in collaboration with LTC. The WAT Grant program, created in 2005, helps address training needs of Wisconsin businesses and enhance the skills of the workforce while recognizing the value of education and the impact a highly-skilled workforce can have on a company. The results experienced at Nemak have met those expectations, and more.

“We needed to train up to 500 employees in things like manufacturing and quality skills, OSHA safety, lean manufacturing, leadership, and computer training, says Brent Chesney, Director of Organizational Development at Nemak. “The results have been dramatic in terms of efficiency gained.”

Indeed, Nemak has documented significant savings over the first 6 months of this year. “With the help of LTC, we’ve become more productive, more efficient and more competitive,” says Chesney. “LTC has been a critical resource for our continued improvements.”

What’s more, these results are typical as recent survey results once again highlighted the value employers find in the customized training and technical assistance delivered by Wisconsin’s technical colleges.

“Employers continue to tell us that this training and assistance, which is flexible and tailored to their needs, adds value to their operations,” said Mark Tyler, President of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board.

Technical colleges periodically survey employers involved in contract training projects to gauge outcomes and employer satisfaction. Over 500 employers responded to one or more survey questions about training outcomes. Of those employers who responded, 94% were satisfied or very satisfied with the training provided, nearly 95% are likely to use these services again, while more than 96% would recommend them to a colleague. Respondents also indicated that the training improved the company’s work environment and employee retention, reduced costs, and addressed safety and compliance issues.

Survey responses highlighted the value employers place on having incumbent worker training delivered on-site, noting that technical college customized training programs allow employees to apply new skills in their actual facility and specific equipment, not to mention saving on travel time. LTC delivers these services through its Workforce Solutions Division which provides seminars, compliance training, consulting services, and entrepreneurship services in addition to customized training.

Workforce Advancement Training (WAT) grants have extended the reach and awareness of technical college customized training services. The grants, which have consistently received bipartisan legislative support, provide funds to technical colleges to support training programs developed with employer partners. Over the seven-year life of the WAT grant program, technical colleges have received about 17.5 million in WAT grants to support over 1,400 employers in training almost 77,000 incumbent workers across Wisconsin. An additional $4.0 million is available in fiscal year 2012-13. While LTC represents about 3% of the Wisconsin Technical College System, local businesses have received over 10% of state WAT grant award dollars.

“WAT grants are essential to helping provide effective worker training,” stated LTC President Michael Lanser. “We will continue to look for ways to expand our capacity to enrich our communities by providing a workforce that is skilled, diverse and flexible,” added Lanser.


From BizTimes:  “Tech College grads are landing jobs” — Students graduating from high school this month are making critical career path decisions that will determine their life’s arc at a time when such decisions have never been more complex or uncertain.

Many are questioning the value of a four-year college degree that will saddle them with tens of thousands of dollars of debt before they even earn their first paycheck.

Meanwhile, ManpowerGroup’s seventh-annual Talent Shortage Survey indicated that 49 percent of U.S. employers are experiencing difficulty filling mission-critical positions within their organizations.

Something’s got to give.

For many students, a one- or two-year technical college degree is a safer bet for gainful employment.

Despite Wisconsin’s current economic challenges, a new survey of 2011 Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) graduates revealed 88 percent of graduates were employed within six months of graduation and most of them (71 percent) were employed directly in their field of study.

According to the system’s annual Graduate Follow-up Report, 86 percent of respondents indicate they are working in Wisconsin. The WTCS includes 16 technical college districts throughout Wisconsin, including the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC).

“This is a bright spot in Wisconsin’s economy,” said Dan Clancy, president of the WTCS. “Our graduates are employed within Wisconsin’s borders and are contributing to the economic recovery in our state. The results show that the curriculum aligns with industry skill needs and that employers value our graduates’ abilities.”

The technical colleges attribute their success in large part to advisory committees established in each program area. The committees are comprised of local business and industry representatives in their respective fields. They advise the colleges on various matters based on first-hand knowledge of supply and demand in addition to skills desired for today’s job market.
The median salary for all new tech graduates is $31,822, with those earning associate degrees receiving a median salary of $36,033.

The fields with the highest median starting salaries are utilities engineering technology, technical studies-journey worker, fire science, biomedical electronics, automated manufacturing systems technician and applied instrumentation and process control automation. Several program areas have median starting salaries of $60,000 or higher.

Nancy Merrill, policy advisor and federal relations officer for the WTCS, noted some of the hottest degree programs, as documented in the new report:

* 85 percent of IT-programmer/analyst graduates who responded were employed, with a median salary of $40,000.
* 100 percent of the logistics graduates who responded were employed, with a median salary of $49,000.
* 93 percent of dental hygienist graduates who responded were employed, with a median salary of $50,488.
* 96 percent of associate degree nursing graduates who responded were employed and reported a median salary of $47,836.

Among less-than-one-year and one-year technical program graduates, 89 percent of practical nursing graduates who responded indicated they were employed, with a median annual salary of $33,745 while 76 percent of air conditioning, refrigeration and heating graduates were employed with a median salary of $32,238.

“In total, as noted in the graduate follow-up report, 45 programs had graduates who reported median annual salaries of $40,000 or more approximately six months after graduation,” Merrill said. “In short, the graduate follow-up study proves that the WTCS works for both Wisconsin businesses and Wisconsin students.”

From “New Green Bay firefighters prepared to serve the public” – Jack Bourgeois could hardly contain his excitement as his son poured water on a burning Mercury Cougar, held a water hose to a flaming gas meter and rushed into a burning building.

“Since he was 2 years old, he said he was going to be a firefighter,” he said of his son, James Bourgeois, 24, of upper Michigan. James Bourgeois was joined by eight other recruits during their last day of nine-week training for the Green Bay Fire Department academy. “My son’s been waiting all his life for this.”

The proud father was one of about 35 loved ones who recently watched as the recruits showed off their skills near the three-story burn tower at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, 2740 W. Mason St., Green Bay.

The relatives and friends sat outside the tower for nearly two hours snapping photos and recording videos as the recruits completed rounds of exercises. A graduation ceremony held June 1 at the Brown County Central Library, 515 Pine St., also honored outstanding firefighters and citizens.

Jack Bourgeois said that as a boy, James played with a toy fire truck and began visiting the local fire department at age 4.

“I’m worried (about his safety), but I’m sure they’re well-trained,” he said.

James Bourgeois started his job last week at station No. 3, 885 Shawano Ave., on Green Bay’s west side.

During the academy, recruits “go through every possible scenario that they will see out on the streets,” Green Bay fire chief Robert Goplin said.

Firefighters entering the Green Bay academy must have more than 160 hours of training and be certified paramedics.

Recruits practiced rescuing a person from a burning building, put out a car fire and confronted a blazing gas meter. Crews sprayed water on the meter fire, which acted as a shield so they could get close enough to turn off the meter by hand, Goplin said.

Firefighter strategies center around teamwork, and it’s forbidden to enter a burning building alone.

“They operate together to minimize the risks that they face,” he said.

The department, which now has 169 firefighters assigned to respond to calls, recently has seen a large employee turnover due to retirements. City firefighters are eligible to retire at age 53, Goplin said.

“The challenge is, how do you transfer that experience?” he said. “Because once that experience is gone, it’s hard to get back.”

Goplin said nine recruits also graduated last year. It’s important veteran firefighters show the new firefighters the ropes, he added.

“You lose that institutional knowledge. You lose that knowledge of people who have been here for years and, in some cases, decades,” he said. “I think we’ve got a great class. I think they are a great group of people who are going to fit in very, very well with our organization.”

Shelly Loomis, 31, of Eau Claire was the lone female recruit. She previously worked as a muscle therapist, but said she was ready for a career change.

“Firefighting is very, very physical and very demanding. You go from zero to 110 percent in five minutes,” she said of responding to emergencies.

Green Bay fire division chief Ann Watzka said the academy focuses on getting recruits accustomed to Green Bay’s policies, procedures and equipment.

“We teach them how we do it here,” she said, adding firefighting tactics often differ by department.

During training, the recruits learned how to rescue residents, other firefighters and even themselves in the case of emergency. For example, during a building collapse, firefighters can become tangled in wires, and must learn how to cut through them to escape, she said.

If firefighters become trapped upstairs in a burning building, they are instructed to find the closest window and move as much of their bodies as possible out of that opening so rescuers can see them.

Watzka said she urged the new firefighters to value serving the public.

“As a firefighter, you really have an opportunity to impact someone’s life in a really positive way — and you have to remember that’s a huge responsibility.”

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From “Wisconsin technical college grads landing jobs” – Despite Wisconsin’s current economic challenges, a survey of 2011 technical college graduates revealed 88 percent of graduates were employed within six months of graduation.

The majority of respondents to the survey, 86 percent, also said they are working in Wisconsin, and 71 percent are employed directly in their field of study.

“This is a bright spot in Wisconsin’s economy,” said Dan Clancy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System. “Our graduates are employed within Wisconsin’s borders and are contributing to the economic recovery in our state. The results show that the curriculum aligns with industry skill needs and that employers value our graduates’ abilities.”

The survey was part of the annual Graduate Follow-up Report by the Wisconsin Technical College System.

The median salary for all new graduates is $31,822 with those earning associate degrees receiving a median salary of $36,033.

The fields with the highest median starting salaries are utilities engineering technology, technical studies-journey worker, fire science, biomedical electronics, automated manufacturing systems technician and applied instrumentation and process control automation.

From “Mid-State nursing program to celebrate 1,000 graduates” – With the addition of this spring’s graduating class, Mid-State Technical College’s Nursing program will achieve the milestone of 1,000 graduates in the history of the program. A public celebration will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on May 3 in the A Building on the Wisconsin Rapids Campus, 500 32nd Street North. A brief presentation is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the adjoining gymnasium. Members of the community are invited to attend this free event.

Participants will be treated to guided walking tours of nursing facilities, student activities and projects, door prizes, trivia, refreshments and snacks, new classroom technology, and a free blood pressure screening. Attendees can also explore historical nursing equipment and memorabilia displays, see how the Nursing Station works, and meet Sim Man (simulation mannequin).

Mid-State’s Board of Directors added nursing to the college curriculum in 1989 through a partnership with Waukesha County Technical College. This first Nursing class celebrated commencement in May 1991. After receiving approval from the Wisconsin State Board of Nursing, Mid-State enrolled students into its own program beginning the fall semester of 1991, conferring its first graduates in May 1993. The Nursing program expanded in 2000, 2002, and 2003 and currently admits 40 Nursing associate degree students per semester as well as eight practical nursing students per year. More than 90 percent of Mid-State Nursing graduates are employed within 60 miles of the MSTC district.

Mid-State Technical College’s Student Nurses Association encourages participants to bring a can of food to the May 3 event. All food proceeds will be donated to the local food pantry.

From “Tech College Grads Making Financial Gains” —  Growth in earnings by Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College graduates has increased 50 percent since their graduation from the school in 2006, according to a study recently completed by the college.

The WITC Five-Year Longitudinal Follow-Up Study shows that the average yearly salary for graduates increased from nearly $29,000 to more than $43,000 for the study period.

“WITC is incredibly proud of its Five-Year Longitudinal Follow-Up Study results,” WITC President Bob Meyer said. “With these extremely positive career placement results, it is not surprising that our graduates also confidently state that their WITC training is both valuable and vital to their career development.”

In the survey, 89 percent agreed their technical college education played an important role at the start of their career and 79 percent said their training was very important or important in their career advancement. Fifty-six percent surveyed have received at least one job promotion since graduating from WITC. Also, 73 percent are employed in Wisconsin with 57 percent working in WITC’s 11-county district.

To align education with business and industry, technical colleges use advisory committees made up of business and industry representatives to provide input on their most critical employment needs. The Longitudinal Study evaluates the success of employees and their respective education.

“The results of this study are helpful to future and current students in assisting them in making career choices; helping instructors determine the effectiveness of their teaching and administration in discovering the need for possible revisions in various program curricula,” WITC Research and Planning Coordinator Jennifer Kunselman said. “The results validate that a technical college education, specifically from WITC, is worth the investment in time and expense because their education not only assists them in getting a job, but in advancing in their careers for many years post-graduation.”

The WITC Longitudinal Follow-Up Study, which looks at changes in employment five years after graduation, also found that 93 percent of its graduates are employed and that 85 percent are employed in a career that is related to their WITC training.

A total of 573 of 1,608 graduates completed the survey for a 36 percent response rate. For more information, visit WITC’s Five-Year Longitudinal Follow-Up Study Summary.

From “Man keying into new career” —  

“If you want to change your life then do it, but you have to realize it’s hard work.”

That’s what Gerald Terrones, owner of TurtleCreek Computers, said about his odyssey following a manufacturing layoff at age 59. Terrones graduated with honors from Blackhawk Technical College 10 years ago, earning his certificate to be a computer service technician, and recently started his own business.

The lifelong Beloiter, now 69 years old, has seven grandkids and a great grandchild waiting to be born. The student of life shared the story behind his business while dispensing sage therapy for those suffering from unemployment or the workplace blues.

In Terrones’ earlier years, he worked at various manufacturing plants as a machine operator and occasionally a foreman. However, he watched most of the plants he worked for slam their doors shut, including Beloit Corporation, and manufacturers in Sharon and Rockford. The final blow was when Terrones was laid off from yet-another employer at age 59.

He suspects it may have stemmed from an impending hip replacement. Despite the stress of the incident, Terrones considers the layoff the best thing that ever happened to him.

At the time, Terrones said he couldn’t afford to retire and approached the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board at the Rock County Job Center in Janesville. He tried job hunting, but suspects his age may have been working against his chances.

“This old guy walks in and they are probably wondering ‘how long is this guy going to work for us?” he said.

Staff at the Job Center referred him to computer service technician program offered at Blackhawk Technical College (BTC) and helped him cover the tuition and books for one year.

Terrones admits going back to school was a huge undertaking, and he had to retrain his brain. Shortly after he started school he found a full-time job in manufacturing in Stoughton, but decided to keep attending school anyway. He said his wife, Jan, was a tremendous supporter, and expressed gratitude for his teachers at BTC.

“I can’t thank them enough. They don’t tell you the answer, they make you work for it,” he said.

And he was working for it a lot. In the laboratory, instructors doled out parts to make computers, while requiring massive amounts of homework, tests and worksheets.

“I’m not saying it was fun, but it was interesting,” he said.

Although he said not too many kids hung around the ‘old man,’ he did find a few buddies only a decade younger than him. However, some had families and Terrones had to bid them farewell.

Terrones continued to stumble upon fellow soldiers in the trenches of post-manufacturing struggles. He fondly recalled a man he knew from Beloit Corporation who he found working as a nurse, when he finally got the looming hip replacement.

Launching his fledgling business was a struggle, as he attempted to do it while still working full-time. It pretty frustrating because he would miss computer service calls while at work. And by the time he got home, customers had found someone else to nurse their computers.

Terrones was finally able to retire from his full-time job at age 65 to devote himself fully to his business.

“Every year it’s progressively gotten better,” he said.

Terrones’ customer base grew and he attracted senior clients, who he said relate to him. He often trains them on the latest software and e-mail options available in the comfort of their own home, without exorbitant prices or judgment. He can transfer documents to new computers and can keep it under wraps if someone is still an outdated software package. He provides repairs, upgrades and virus removal.

“My number one priority is customer service,” Terrones said.

In the past three years he’s built 11 custom built computers for seniors, students and even gamers. He’s built a solid base of 50 customers, but is always scouting for more.

He said the house calls are popular for people who don’t want to unplug their computer and lug it in for service. He’ll help people make a simple repair for a much lower price than the teams at big box stores. He takes a conservative approach, opting for a simple fix rather than pushing a pricey purchase. He also prides himself on fast turnaround. If a students has to start college or get to a term paper, he’s been known to perform a miracles in short order.

“I’m very fussy. My wife thinks I’m a fanatic, and it’s probably true,” he said.

Terrones said he’s pleased with the new life he’s created. He enjoys his business and also moonlights as a crossing guard at an elementary school.

“I am busy, and I don’t like my life any other way,” he said.

He admits his journey was very difficult, but having survived it has made it all the more satisfying.

“The end result makes it really good,” he said.

The fit and spry sage encourages younger folks to pursue something they love while they still have the time, although he cautioned against obtaining education for jobs which don’t exist anymore.

“Think about a change, but it has to be the right change,” he said.

For other more mature people who are out of work, he gives a clarion call to action.

“Just don’t give up and stay home when you are laid off. Be ready to make a change,” he said.

From “Appleton single mom says becoming self-sufficient ‘a Christmas miracle’ —  APPLETON — When Jennifer Zastrow moved to Appleton in 2005, her list of goals was daunting — get a degree, find work, pay for a home, raise her kids.

But six years later, the single mother of three has a degree in interior design from Fox Valley Technical College, two jobs, a home in Appleton and the added perk of a $15,108.97 check to pay for a new car.

“It’s like a Christmas miracle that I got this far,” she said.

Zastrow, 34, was one of two women who graduated from the Appleton Housing Authority’s Family Self Sufficiency Program last week. The program helps low-income families that are receiving Section 8 rental assistance to meet career and life goals over roughly five years, and sets up a savings account for them along the way.

Most of the participants are single moms, said Rebecca Salzman, who was the program mentor for Zastrow and May Sue Lee, the two graduates.

Zastrow joined the program in 2005 after she moved to Appleton from Shawano. During her first year in the program, she met with Salzman every month.

As time went on, they didn’t have to meet as frequently but would still have coffee dates at Harmony Cafe, said Salzman, who described Zastrow as creative and humble.

Participants make a list of their obstacles and goals and meet with Salzman regularly to go over their progress. There are 33 people enrolled in the program but “not everyone finishes what they start,” Salzman said, noting that the five-year commitment can be a challenge. The first person graduated from the program in 1997 and since then 53 people have made it through.

Zastrow said the meetings with Salzman helped keep her on stay on track and meet her goals.


From “Tech grads ready for next phase” – Endurance. Accomplishment. Fun. Success.

Just a few words heard at the Chippewa Valley Technical College commencement ceremony held at the Meyer Middle School Monday, Dec. 19.

Greg Erickson, an Osceola native, wanted something more in life. He knew an education was going to give him that.

“Today is our victory. We’ve overcome challenges, but we have endured and completed our ‘marathon,’” said Erickson, the student speaker and honors nursing graduate.

“Our future now calls for a new kind of endurance. But we have proven to ourselves that we can do anything.”

Erickson worked construction and was actually a missionary for a number of years in Suriname, Paraguay, and Zimbabwe.

“But once I got back home again, I had to do something more with my life,” he said. “Getting my degree in a two-year program was a great advantage because I wanted to get out into the working world.”

Erickson, a father of four, also realized that he was setting a great example for his kids.

“It showed them that it takes hard work,” he said. “But it also showed that they can do the same thing.”

Erickson is now on the job hunt.

“Ideally, I’d love to find a job, perhaps helping cancer patients,” he said. “I just finished my clinicals working with chemotherapy patients, and I just loved it. We’ll see what the future holds for me!”


From “It’s never too late to take a little walk on the path to education” —  Last week I participated in WITC’s graduation ceremony. It was a short walk that took 33 years to complete while I first raised children and at least pointed them in the right direction.

Over those years, I amassed a good deal of education in bits and pieces, completing courses that applied to my work situations or otherwise interested me. Those pieces didn’t fit together for any completed degree program.

My latest venture into education was no different. I started out taking courses in graphic design to catch up on the rapidly changing technology in the field. I figured it couldn’t hurt to add in some marketing to fit my job at the time. I threw in business management for good measure and the next thing I knew, I was looking at a degree.

To say that I was concerned about being the oldest student at a college offering two-year degrees is an understatement. More accurately, I had nightmares of sticking out like a slow-learning, old grandmother among the much younger — and quicker — student body. As it turned out I found myself in an age-diverse population and not exactly the freak-show attraction I’d imagined I would be.


From “Jackson: New head Accelerate Madison sees hot market for programming, IT grads” —  The overall economy may be struggling, but it’s a good time to be graduating with a software or information technology degree.

That’s the word from Tammy Jackson, the new executive director of Accelerate Madison – which bills itself as the “the premier networking organization that promotes and highlights the Madison digital technology community.”

Jackson replaced Jan Moen, who left in October to co-found a new company, Madcelerator, LLC. Moen ran Accelerate Madison for eight years and remains on its board of directors.

Created in 2010, Accelerate has grown to 1,000 members as the region’s high-tech community has blossomed. That number stands to increase as area companies recruit new graduates to their staffs, said Jackson, a former broadcast journalist who spent the past four years working as the public relations director for Sonic Foundry.

She said her tenure with Sonic showed her “what can happen when an IT company … gains traction, becomes successful, creates jobs in the community and changes the way that people work and learn. It really sparked my fascination in the technology industry.”
Jackson said many Accelerate members have told her Madison is a “hotbed” in the IT world.

“There are start-ups popping up all the time and they are getting funding and creating jobs in the area,” explained Jackson.

In addition, she noted, established companies that have been around for 20 years or more and are going strong and hiring, although Jackson said members have told her it’s hard to find talent.

“It you graduate and have a degree in programming or IT, there are a lot of companies that want to talk to you,” she said.

Jackson said the IT scene industry has grown and evolved in the area over the past decade.

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From “Fox Valley Technical College graduates find success in variety of jobs in community” —  APPLETON — Fox Valley Technical College prides itself in turning out graduates who make up the backbone of the community.

Just ask Heather Vander Heyden, 33, of Kimberly. As senior business development officer at Fox Communities Credit Union, the 2000 graduate of FVTC’s marketing program handles all business accounts in the Fox Valley for the credit union.

“That means a lot of sales and public relations and a lot of networking,” she said.

There are many more alums like her. The school, which is celebrating its centennial, graduates more than 2,000 students per year with associate degrees or technical diplomas, and serves about 33,000 others annually who complete specialized training or continuing education programs.

“One unique angle we like to frame our grads in for the local community is the concept of ‘essential services’ — fire, police, emergency medical services — and ‘everyday services’ — dental hygiene, auto mechanic, nurse, nursing assistant, chefs,” said Chris Jossart, FVTC spokesman.

“So, theoretically, if you took a day off from work and got your teeth cleaned, oil changed, received a checkup from the doctor, went out to lunch, and even heard a siren — chances are, most of those services were performed by an FVTC grad.”

Tim Knight, 52, of Darboy, is a 2010 FVTC grad and works as a mechanical designer with Green Bay Packaging’s mill division.

Knight found the college a valuable resource as a “displaced worker” after NewPage Corp. closed its paper mill in Kimberly. He had worked there 22 years.

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From “Community volunteer wins Distinguished Service Award” —  Cathy Hazzard has been to over 30 of the world’s most alluring islands and countries, scouting destinations as a travel agent, but she’s never found anywhere she would rather live than Menomonee Falls.

“I have the curious mind to see what’s out there in the world,” Hazzard said. “But I love coming home to this community.”

In recognition of her dedication to the community and especially the school district, the Board of Education awarded Hazzard with their highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.

The award will not be lonely on her office walls at Travel Leaders, joining a 1990 Friends of Education Award from the school district, and a 2003 Citizen of the Year award from the Menomonee Falls Chamber of Commerce.

A Falls resident since she was 10, Hazzard’s list of accomplishments is so long it’s hard not to glaze over a few. But those who work with Hazzard attest that she approaches each task with fresh energy and accomplishes it to its fullest potential.

“She’s always one to volunteer and step up to do things when it’s not easy to get volunteers, and she makes sure they’re done the way they are supposed to be done,” Optimist Club President Larry Hebbring said. “It’s not about her; it’s about getting things done.”

In addition to sitting on the Optimist Club Board, Hazzard is the chair of the Community Development Authority, and a board member of the Village Center BID Board. She’s also a former president of the Menomonee Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Hazzard’s specialty is scholarships. She is a board member of the Menomonee Falls Scholarship and Education Foundation, a member of the scholarship committee of Bradley Corporation, and chair of the scholarship committee of the Optimist Club.

“I have a difficult time saying no when it comes to kids,” Hazzard said.

Hazzard said she is careful not to sign onto a project she doesn’t have time for, but her idea of “having time” is different than most.

“It’s a lot of early morning meetings. I work in the evenings, on weekends,” she said. “Sometimes I joke that I would like to see what it’s like to be bored.”

Ken Rutsch, Hazzard’s former teacher at Menomonee Falls East High School (before it combined with North High School), said she has always been deeply engaged in her surroundings.

“She has the same strengths now as she did in high school,” Rutsch, who is also a member of the Optimist Club, said. “She’s one of those students that you don’t forget—the personality and life she would bring to a classroom. She always has a positive attitude.”

Hazzard has been working since she was 16, when she applied at the local Walgreens. She also babysat and joined many school organizations.

After high school, Hazzard went to Waukesha County Technical College where she earned an associate degree in business accounting. During a job doing accounting for a travel agency, she realized she really wanted to be a travel agent, crafting dream vacations.

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From WFRV: “FVTC grads find success after school” – APPLETON –(WFRV) — Graduates of Fox Valley Technical College are being placed in jobs and making more money over the years according to school officials.

Eighty-Five percent of graduates get jobs in their chosen career path and their salaries have increased as well.

One hundred percent of 2010 graduates have been placed in jobs from 16 different programs the college offers.

According to a survey done by Fox Valley Tech, 37 percent of graduates after five years of working see an increase in wages.

“Our graduates are doing very well,” said Fox Valley Technical College President Dr. Susan May. “What I tie that to mostly is the great connection with our employers in the region. Our programs have to match up with what the market demands from the workforce.”

This school year the Wisconsin Technical College System is celebrating 100 years.

From “Program teaches interpreters how to translate medical jargon with sensitivity” – Years ago, when Rodney Ramos came to the U.S. from Puerto Rico he was the first one in his family to learn English. So when he was 11 years old and his grandmother became ill, it fell to him to try interpret the doctor’s diagnosis that his grandmother had a detached uterus and possibly cancer.

It was an experience he never forgot.

“A child can’t be asked to do that,” he said, adding that he often served as his family’s interpreter.

Out of his experience as a child and then as an adult interpreter at a hospital in Racine, Ramos said he continued to be dissatisfied with the training and outcomes of interpreters trying to communicate between Spanish-speaking patients and doctors.

So after doing a lot of research and consultation, he developed a yearlong medical interpreter technician program that he has taught for the last seven years at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Earlier this month, 18 students completed the two-semester program that teaches not just language fluency, but also medical terminology, cultural sensitivity, dialectical differences among various Spanish-speaking countries, ethics, values and nonverbal communication skills.

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From the New Richmond News: “Long road back: Non-traditional student ready for next challenge” – As a victim of the nation’s economic melt down, Jason Schutte was beginning to feel like he’d never scratch his way back into the work world.

But with his graduation from the diesel mechanic program at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire on Friday, the New Richmond man has completed a challenging journey from unemployment to a contributing member of society again.

The journey began in the fall of 2008, when Schutte was laid off from his construction job with Halle Builders of New Richmond.


From Walworth County Today: “Blackhawk Technical College graduates pack commencement” – BELOIT — If you got to see a friend or a relative graduate from Blackhawk Technical College on Saturday, you truly were a VIP.

Anticipating a record turnout for graduates attending the 2011 commencement at the Dream Center in Beloit, Blackhawk Technical College limited each graduate to two tickets for family and friends, according to an admissions official at the college.

Remaining tickets were put into a lottery.


From Wausau Daily Herald: “Dislocated Worker Program sees success” – Meet Jacqueline.

Workforce challenge: Losing a job, being a single mom with a slight learning disability, and beginning the journey toward a new career path, made for a very stressful and busy life for Jacqueline.

Workforce solution: Shortly after being laid-off from a local stainless steel manufacturing facility in October 2008, Jacqueline met with LETC’s WIA, Dislocated Worker Program Employment and Training Specialist, John Peters and enrolled in the program. Through a variety of assessments, Peters determined that Jacqueline would benefit most by first enrolling in a prevocational basic skills class for the upcoming spring semester. She also enrolled in an Adult Career Awareness class and worked with Peters to further develop her employment plan.

Then, Jacqueline decided to enroll into the Surgical Technologist Technical Diploma program at Mid-State Technical College in Marshfield. Jacqueline’s goal was to complete the training program and obtain full-time employment.


From WTCS: “Technical college education leads to great jobs” – 

MADISON – Wisconsin unemployment figures peaked in 2009-2010, however technical college graduates continued to find employment, according to the Wisconsin Technical College System. The System’s new Graduate Follow-up Report indicates 88 percent of last year’s technical college graduates were in the labor force within six months of graduation, up two percent from 2009.

“This strong job placement is the result of technical colleges providing our graduates the skills Wisconsin employers need,” said Dan Clancy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System. Technical colleges respond to local employers by designing programs to meet their particular needs. “Employees who may have been laid off are retraining and heading back to employment with relevant skills,” Clancy added.

The Graduate Follow-up Report by Wisconsin’s Technical Colleges details the median salary for new associate degree graduates as $35,700. The median salary overall for technical college graduates is $31,200; while graduates of high-demand service, technical and marketing-related careers invite the highest median salary. Information Systems Security Specialists call for a median salary of $72,500 and Industrial Mechanical Technicians garner a median salary of $55,300. The median salary of graduates working in Diagnostic Medical Sonography is $60,300.

Results show that Wisconsin only lost six percent of its technical college graduates to other states. The study also found 97 percent of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the education they received from their local technical college.

“After 12 years at a factory job, I decided I needed to change my future. The technical college instructors  are passionate about what they do and inspire you to do better. I hope to carry that on,” said Elisa Colson, Physical Therapy Assistant Program, Blackhawk Technical College.

The Graduate Follow-up Report survey was sent to 25,712 graduates from 2009 and 68 percent responded. It examines employment status, earnings, and other factors about six months after graduation.

From “Opportunity knocks at Gateway — Graduation ceremony held Tuesday” – 

RACINE – The last time Dawn Stombaugh was in school, she turned in paperwork she printed from a dot matrix printer.

The 43-year-old Racine resident graduated in 1991 from University of Toledo in Ohio, and moved to southeast Wisconsin in 1998 where she worked as a quality control manager in the next decade.

“Then the recession hit and I didn’t have a job,” Stombaugh said. “I tried to find other jobs in quality control but found nothing. I knew I needed to go back to school.”

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