From htrnews.com: “Tech Education one key to future workforce” — Hundreds of job seekers attended a recent job fair hosted by Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland. Just as telling, about 50 employers were registered.

Companies are recruiting for a mix of permanent and seasonal jobs, including full- and part-time. Many of the major employers in Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties were represented. Opportunities are there for the taking for those with the right skills.

Jobs are certain to be a key issue in this year’s gubernatorial election. The presumed Democratic nominee, Mary Burke, has criticized Gov. Scott Walker’s jobs plan as ineffective and scant on details. The state GOP, in turn, has criticized Burke’s record as state commerce secretary, and says her jobs plan lacks substance.

Democrats often point to Walker’s inability to meet a campaign goal of creating 250,000 new private sector jobs as evidence that his plan is not working.

Those seeking and creating jobs are more concerned about results than political rhetoric, however. Job seekers want good, well paying jobs, and employers want workers with skills to do the job. Key to meeting the needs of both job seekers and employers is identifying and developing those skills.

On today’s front page, our series on how technology is dramatically changing edicatopm continues with a focus on instruction after high school. Higher education is key to many competitive jobs in our high-tech world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a four-year degree.

A 2012 report on Wisconsin workforce development quoted research by Georgetown University, which determined that up to 925,000 jobs would become available in Wisconsin in the decade ending in 2018, due to retirements and growth. An estimated 70 percent of those jobs will require less than a four-year degree, according to the study.

That makes schools like Lakeshore Technical College, which offers a variety of one- and two-year degree options, a major player in the jobs training scenario. In fact, many local manufacturers have open positions requiring the very skills that schools like LTC can teach in a one- or two-year period. There is a shortage of workers to fill these positions, that according to one LTC official can pay up to $60,000 annually.

Such training is beginning sooner with high schools in Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties having the opportunity to offer introductory manufacturing classes beginning next school year thanks to an Advanced Manufacturing Mobile Lab unveiled at Lakeshore Technical College recently.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch called the facility “opportunity on wheels” during a dedication ceremony.

The lab is one of many ways the school is seeking to prepare the workforce of the future. Experts predict future workers will be more tech savvy, highly trained in specific skills and better able to adapt to employer needs.

All of that requires the proper education, be it at the university or technical school level, but our education system faces other challenges.

Wisconsin is among the leaders in the country with its 90 percent high school graduation rates but that still leaves roughly 14,000 dropouts each year.

The problem does not end there, however. The state’s graduation rate at four-year higher education institutions is just 36 percent, and only 29 percent of those seeking associate degrees at two-year schools do so within three years. Many factors play into these numbers, but the bottom line is that a majority of post-secondary students don’t complete the course of study they embark upon.

That trend needs to reverse if employers are going to find the skilled help they need and if job seekers are available to fill those jobs.

Many students, before going the route of a four-year university education, would benefit from at least exploring two-year institutions like LTC, UW-Manitowoc or UW-Sheboygan. Cost (and resulting student debt) is a major factor in such decisions. Two-year schools are proven to be less expensive, particularly if housing costs are not a factor.

Education is key to a developed workforce and technology is key to education. Take the time to learn more about each, and use that knowledge to choose wisely the path most productive — for you and society as a whole.

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 bizopinion.com: “Demand for IT skills signals next advance in modern manufacturing” – By Jennifer Sereno — Wisconsin has been staking its claim as a center of skilled manufacturing since the 1860s. And Blackhawk Technical College intends to help the state build on that legacy for generations to come with a groundbreaking program to develop the new workforce skills Wisconsin manufacturers need to remain competitive in the global economy.

While some of the state’s earliest skilled manufacturing businesses emerged in Milwaukee — steam engine producer Allis Co. (later Allis Chalmers) was founded in 1861 — manufacturers in Rock County were not far behind.

Thanks to the arrival of rail lines in the 1850s as well as the proximity to Chicago, Rock County’s  starting with an iron works, a paper mill and agricultural equipment producers. Parker Pen Co. which ultimately became a global pen manufacturer, was founded in Janesville in 1888.

More recently, Rock County has weathered a number of manufacturing-related challenges, including closure of General Motors assembly plant. However, manufacturing remains the county’s third-largest source of employment, accounting for some 14 percent of jobs, according to the state Department of Workforce Development.

Blackhawk Technical College plays an important role in maintaining the region’s skilled manufacturing leadership. With locations in Janesville, Beloit and Monroe, the technical college offers more than 75 programs that can lead to associate degrees, technical diplomas, certificates and apprenticeships in fields such as business, manufacturing, health sciences, computers and more.

Those offerings will expand in an important way this fall when Blackhawk launches a two-year program that trains students as information technology specialists for advanced manufacturing jobs. The program will complement the technical college’s new Advanced Manufacturing Center, the first phase of which is scheduled to open in Milton this fall.

“The face of manufacturing is changing nationally, regionally and locally,” says Gary Kohn, Blackhawk’s marketing and communications manager. “Modernization is critical for survival. And what’s happening with respect to modernization is improved techniques in the plants – new quality management systems, robotics, other intelligent systems.”

In the modern manufacturing environment, skilled workers are needed for more than just operating the increasingly complex machines, Kohn says. They need to be able to integrate, program and fix the machines, as well.

Today’s manufacturing equipment is being linked together through sophisticated computer networks and operated from remote workstations. Kohn says the shift to this new, lean environment puts a premium on workers skilled in information technology with knowledge of both hardware and software.

College officials are quick to credit regional business and community leaders who serve on various advisory groups for identifying the need for such cutting-edge training. Among them is SSI Technologies of Janesville, a privately held company that designs and manufactures sensors, sensor-based monitoring systems, digital gauges and powdered-metal components for automotive and industrial applications.

“Our instructors are constantly getting feedback and seeking input” from industry, workers and community members, Kohn says. “We’ve heard about the need from our community advisory groups … This is going to be a program that should really gain a lot of traction because these jobs are applicable in so many areas.”

In developing new educational offerings that align with the emerging needs of the manufacturing sector, Blackhawk Technical College is bettering opportunities for its students while building workforce capacity for the future. If history shows anything, Kohn says, it’s that manufacturers and workers need to be adaptable.

“We use that word ‘adaptability’ with a lot of our programs,” he says. “We want our welders to be familiar with precision machining and we want our industrial mechanics to be able to weld. Our HVAC students don’t just fix air conditioning units; sometimes they have to build things requiring machining.”

If Wisconsin is to maintain its heritage as a global center of skilled manufacturing in the New Economy, advanced training such as the manufacturing information technology program offered by Blackhawk Technical College will be key.

From wxow.com: “Bridges2Healthcare” grant funds healthcare academy at WTC” – One of seven colleges to receive the “Bridges2Healthcare” Grant, Western Technical College hosts a Healthcare Academy which introduces career options in healthcare to those interested.

The four day Academy runs from April 8 through April 11, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The Healthcare Academy provides introductions to various career options in healthcare, training, and employment requirements.

The participants are additionally mentored by a Success Coach in communication and study skills, financial literacy, safety, stress management, customer service, and how to stay healthy.

Not only is it a 30 hour introduction program, but the benefits stretch beyond the four days.

Tutors and Success Coaches will be available to participants if they choose to pursue a career in the health field.

“I have seen a huge increase in the need for employees, well trained and prepared employees in the health care field,” said “Bridges2Healthcare” facilitator, Ray Heidel. “The healthcare field is huge.”

The program is partially funded by the nearly $13 million “Bridges2Healthcare” Grant from the Department of Labor, making it free to all those interested.

The grant was awarded to seven colleges in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin recognized for a growing need in healthcare employees as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program.

Those interested must be at least 18 years old, out of high school, and be interested in the healthcare field.

The next Healthcare Academy session is set to take place in June; to preregister for the event, contact the “Bridges2Heathcare” Facilitator, Ray Heidel, at (608)789-6216.

 

From wkow.com: “New Ingenuity Center hopes to connect unemployed workers with manufacturing jobs” – The Ingenuity Center at Madison Area Technical College is the 8th and final building renovation as part of the 2010 referendum. The center has been open since the beginning of Fall semester, but on Wednesday afternoon college officials held a ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony.

The ceremony itself showcased the overall goal of the new center. Instead of simply cutting a ribbon with a pair of scissors, the ceremony ended with a student-programmed robot cutting a poly cord. College officials say the poly cord symbolized the more than 50 programs that use the Ingenuity Center to teach classes. Nearly every program uses the material in some shape or form.

“It is 62,000 square feet of lab and classroom space dedicated to advancing Wisconsin manufacturing,” Interim Dean of Applied Science, Engineering and Technology Denise Reimer says.

Business analysts say manufacturing is a growing sector in many parts of the country, one that is experiencing a major gap in employment. Openings are available, but managers are having a tough time finding skilled workers to fill them. They’re workers like single mother of four Rose Appleton.

“I’m excited about what I can learn and what I can do,” Appleton says. “The robotics program and the fact that I will be able to work with metal and program a machine. To do so is just pheonomenal.”

After working many years in retail, Appleton found herself unemployed about two years ago. Through a grant she was able to take manufacturing classes and found herself a new job at Evco Plastics.

“Initially they declined me because I didn’t have the manufacturing skills. Once they found out I had the manufacturing certificate I was eligible to start at Evco,” Appleton says.

Not only is the center giving students new opportunities, it’s also causing increases in enrollment. This Spring college officials saw a 6% increase over last year, with signs pointing to more growth ahead.

“This is the answer, is bringing indviduals here to give them those job ready skills so that they can go into the manufacturing environment,” Reimer says.

College officials say more than 50 programs will use the center to teach their classes. The space is used for a variety of programs, from automotive to biotechnology.

From inwisconsin.com: “State launches expanded, accelerated training program for trucking jobs” — Pewaukee – Governor Scott Walker made a stop at the Waukesha County Technical College today to announce the launch of a new program, designed to channel Wisconsin residents, including veterans, through accelerated training courses and into guaranteed placements at companies in the growing trucking industry.  Up to 300 Wisconsinites who pass eligibility screening will earn a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and advance to a placement at one of three Wisconsin trucking firms.

“Wisconsin’s transportation industry is experiencing a significant skills gap that will continue through at least 2020, and we need to act aggressively to address this issue,” Governor Walker said.  “Innovative approaches, like this accelerated training program, are the kinds of investments we need.  The incentive of a guaranteed placement at the conclusion of the program makes this initiative a win-win for employers and Wisconsin’s working families.”

The new CDL training program represents collaboration between the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA), Department of Transportation (DOT), Wisconsin Technical College System, transportation industry leaders, and three major Wisconsin employers: Schneider National of Green Bay, Roehl Transport of Marshfield, and WEL of De Pere.

The Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) currently offers the course, and Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) will begin offering it this summer.  The Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) and Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) offer related instruction at their sites.

“As Wisconsin’s lead state agency for talent development, DWD supports innovative workforce solutions that prepare individuals for careers in growing industry sectors,” said DWD Secretary Reggie Newson.  “We were pleased to convene the workgroup that ultimately led to this new initiative.  Wisconsin workers benefit with skills training and guaranteed placements and participating employers benefit with a direct pipeline to fill their openings.  Both efforts benefit Wisconsin’s economy.”

“One of WEDC’s areas of emphasis is to work with our partners throughout Wisconsin to help expand workforce training systems, especially for the state’s key industries,” said Reed Hall, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization.  “There is no question that Wisconsin trucking companies need more qualified drivers to ensure their continued success, and the continued success of our economy.  We believe this program will play a key role in helping to fill that need.”

Up to 300 eligible job seekers will complete a four-week training course that results in a Commercial Driver’s License and a guaranteed placement at one of the three participating companies.  Once placed, the successful graduates will complete the standard introductory stage at the company and become a permanent hire.  Experienced semi-truck drivers can earn more than $23 per hour, or approximately 15 percent above the average wage in Wisconsin.

In the program, potential participants register on JobCenterofWisconsin.com and complete a series of assessments to determine their eligibility.  Those deemed eligible will complete the four-week training course offered through FVTC or WCTC, and then be matched with a guaranteed placement at one of the three trucking employers.

Given a capacity of 300 placements, DWD is prioritizing veterans, dislocated workers, workers who receive federal Trade Adjustment Assistance, and certain individuals who are eligible for programs under the federal Workforce Investment Act.  The training and placements will be at no cost to the participant.  Other interested job seekers who are deemed eligible for the program will be asked to cover the $2,500 cost of the training.

The transportation companies’ hiring needs are in line with projections showing the need for semi-truck drivers will grow by 21 percent between 2010 and 2020, to more than 55,000 semi-truck drivers.

Governor Walker recently signed legislation as part of his Blueprint for Prosperity initiative to increase funds in the nationally-recognized Wisconsin Fast Forward by $35.4 million to focus on three key areas, including:

  • Grants to Wisconsin technical colleges to reduce wait lists in high-demand fields;
  • Collaborative projects among businesses, school districts, technical colleges, and educational partners to equip high school pupils with industry-recognized certifications in high-demand fields; and
  • Programs that enhance the employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Additionally, the current round of Wisconsin Fast Forward grant program announcements includes $1 million in available funds for employer-driven worker training programs for transportations, logistics, and distribution occupations.  These funds can be used to train new workers for job openings or train existing workers that results in a wage increase.

Interested job seekers are encouraged to visit https://jobcenterofwisconsin.com/Trucking/ or contact their local Job Center, which can be located at http://www.wisconsinjobcenter.org/directory/.

From fdlreporter.com: “Professional attire offered free to local collegians” — College students living on a budget now have an opportunity to dress the part when they apply for jobs.

The Revolving Career Closet will be open to all area college students two days only: From 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 31, and Tuesday, April 1, in Room 109 at Moraine Park Technical College.

The closet will offer free professional business attire to students who present a college identification card. Clothing such as suits and ties, sport coats, dress shirts, dresses, blazers, blouses and dress pants will be available in all sizes.

The innovative project was developed by five members of Leadership Fond du Lac, a community based program offered through the Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce.

The group timed the opening of the closet so students planning to attend MPTC’s April 16 Job Fair can dress appropriately. The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Team member Patty Breister, a supervisor at Charter Communications, said the group was looking for a project that would benefit the community and identified there was a need for students in the area to dress more professionally when they went for job interviews.

Back in August 2013, the Leadership Fond du Lac team started brainstorming ideas and contacted key people at Marian University, MPTC and University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac to find out how they group could reach out to students.

“We also spoke to area businesses and surveyed about 15-20 business leaders. They told us that this was definitely something that was needed,” Breister said. “Students need more education on how to come prepared for a job interview.”

More and more young people are applying for jobs dressed in casual jeans and T-shirts, Breister said. The group felt that if it could provide free dress clothes to students it would improve their chances of being hired and teach them how to better promote themselves.

Society Insurance loved the idea so much its employees held an internal clothing drive. Marian University also sponsored a clothing drive.

“We have a large room that is filling with donations — more each day,” Breister said.

Another team member, Caron Daugherty, dean of general education at MPTC, said although the “pop-up” closet will only be offered for two days the intent is to bring it back annually.

“Even people coming in for interviews at the college level, I have seen some not wearing the appropriate dress,” Daugherty said. “And it’s so important to make that first good impression.”

The plan is to have career counselors from the area colleges available at the Revolving Career Closet to counsel students on how they should dress.

“I have heard counselors say that you should dress one step above the position you are applying for. For example, if it is an entry level position, you should dress at the management level,” Daugherty said. “Even if it were a cook position, I would not wear jeans and a polo shirt.”

Mary Hatlen, academic advisor at Marian University, said the collaboration between the three campuses underscores what can be achieved when the focus is on helping all students down the road of success.

Next year Marian will host a job fair and the Revolving Career Closet.

“It takes a team effort to ensure the sustainability of this project moving forward and we are excited about that,” she said.

Other members of the Leadership Fond du Lac Team are Marcus Butts, CitizensFirst Credit Union; Travis Van Dyn Hoven, American Family Insurance; and Sue Toll, from Aurora HealthCare.

From PriceCountyDaily.com: “NTC, partners open students’ eyes to local careers” -- The Phillips Campus of Northcentral Technical College (NTC) is once again teaming up with community partners to put on a series of events aimed at helping local youngsters at different points in their educational path explore career options available to them right here at home.

First up was Campus Visit Day, which invited local high school students to the Phillips NTC campus for an exploration of occupations and coursework offered at NTC in support of those career fields Wednesday, March 26. Event organizers were expecting around 200 students to come in from across Price County and Butternut for the visit.

A smaller scale version of the event made its debut last year. This time around the visit was expanded to include more academic disciplines and such hands-on features as simulators brought in by NTC’s health division and activities in the welding and electromechanical area of programming.

Ahead of the event, Campus Dean Bobbi Damrow explained that most visiting students would come from the sophomore grade level. Older students, in particular seniors, tend to already be set on a career path by this point in the school year, Damrow said. “So we wanted to give those sophomores kind of an early exploration experience.”

Instructors from Wausau were brought in to answer any questions students had about a specific field of study or the outlook for a particular career path. Next in the event line-up is the Price County Career Symposium, coming to the Chequamegon School District’s Park Falls campus Thursday, March 27 beginning at 5 p.m. The event is open to Price County middle school and high school students and parents of youth in those age groups.

“It’s really important that not only the students attend but that they bring a parent, adult friend or guardian in with them just so they have that support and when they want to go back and talk about that field, they have someone to talk to in their personal life.”

NTC and some of its partners, including local school districts and Northwest Wisconsin CEP (Concentrated Employment Program), Inc., introduced the event last year as an avenue for helping students discover local opportunities in the manufacturing field, nicknamed “Gold Collar” careers due to the increasing demand for a more advanced technological skillset within the occupational area. This year healthcare, or “White Coat,” employment offerings are also being spotlighted at the event due to the high demand for candidates in the career field, Damrow explained.

Students and parents will be able to explore displays set up by local representatives of the manufacturing and healthcare fields between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Attendants will have the chance to ask those professional such questions as the types of career opportunities offered at their business, competencies and skills required to clinch a job in the career field, classes students should be taking in high school and what they can do to further their exploration of those occupations, Damrow said.

The event is also set to feature panel discussions and Q and A sessions led by a sampling of local employees and employers drawn from the healthcare and manufacturing fields.  The “Gold Collar” discussion runs from 5:30-6 p.m., and the “White Coat” group takes center stage from 6-6:30 p.m.

“So, the Career Symposium is kind of one outlet that allows our high school students to connect with local business and industry,” Damrow said, adding that of course, those who have a hand in the event would be glad to see local students pursue some of the occupations highlighted there and one day, come back to work in Price County.

The last program in the event series is geared at a younger group on the age spectrum – area students from grades 5-8. Get S.M.A.R.T. (Science & Math Activities using Real-world Thinking) will be connecting students in that age range with their choice of two hands-on activities at the Phillips Campus of NTC Saturday, April 5 from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Each student needs to be accompanied by a parent or guardian at the event.

Damrow explained that the event, which was open to 20 youngsters in its debut at the Phillips campus last year, has been expanded to include two new activity offerings in order to accommodate more student participants.

Projects in welding and electronics will be back alongside a new IT Media session giving students the chance to produce their own music video and a new Mini Medic tutorial guiding students through basic life-saving skills.

“We hope that this will inspire our middle school students to actually take an active approach to early career exploration,” Damrow said.

A little over half of the 48 slots open to area students were already filled as of March 24. Anyone who’d like to be a part of the event is encouraged to call the Phillips campus at (715) 339-4555 – the sooner the better as spaces are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

“It’s just overall a really fun day for the students,” Damrow said.

There is a $15 charge per student attending the event to help cover program expenses. That fee secures students lunch, their completed projects, a T-shirt and door prizes as well as lunch for their adult companion. The Price County Economic Development Association stepped up as co-sponsor for Get S.M.A.R.T., helping to cover the cost of program materials.

“They see the importance in giving these experiences to the students at a young age,” Damrow said.

Those kind of community partnerships are really what NTC is all about, with the school needing to work with representatives of local industry and education in order to “create a pipeline” that puts future employees to work in Price County, as Damrow explained.

She noted that one major goal of these types of events is to make such vital connections with businesses and industry.

Damrow said, “We have some fantastic career opportunities here in Price County, so having the partners that we have, business and industry and the Price County Economic Development Association, is critical to the success of the events.”

She emphasized that community members are also welcome to stop by events in the NTC calendar and discover what they are all about.

From fdlreporter.com: “Green Bay hiring reflects statewide needs” — GREEN BAY — Job openings in Green Bay reflect those statewide, with truck drivers, customer service and sales representatives, and registered nurses in greatest demand.

“The top positions are almost identical,” said Jeffrey Sachse, economist with the state Department of Workforce Development. “The only thing that pops up is more welder openings than CNC openings, because of the nature of the work.”

Welders have been in demand in the region for several years. Green Bay, Marinette and Sturgeon Bay have a lot of fabrication and shipbuilding companies that require welders.

Sachse said that more than anytime during the last three years, hiring is up across the board. All industries are looking for new workers. Much of that is driven by the increasing flood of baby boomer retirements. Many boomers put off retiring during the 2007-09 recession and its aftermath when retirement funds took a hit, but now are making the move.

Construction jobs have grown the most in the region, driven by the U.S. 41, Schreiber Foods and Lambeau Field projects.

“The greatest concentration is on the Highway 41 corridor,” Sachse said.

Construction jobs increased by 7 percent in 2013.

“That’s twice the industry average,” Sachse said. “Those are per-recessionary growth numbers, and it’s more than twice the growth of any industry over that same period.”

The demand for health care workers is growing as baby boomers age and health care systems add facilities and bring older ones up to date.

In addition to nurses, the Green Bay area has openings for nursing assistants, medical and health services managers and personal care aides.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay has waiting lists for its health care programs, though not as long as they once were, and it ramped up its manufacturing programs to add weekend and evening classes.

“Some of our graduates six months out are making $36,000 a year as welders. Electromechanical technology graduates are making $50,000,” said Jennifer Pigeon, manager of career services at NWTC.

From marshfieldnewsherald.com: Fond du Lac job searchers enjoy diverse options” — FOND DU LAC — Job seekers are enjoying an uptick in employment opportunities in the Fond du Lac area.

Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce president and CEO Joe Reitemeier says the area is seeing a definite shift in momentum since the first quarter of the year.

“Coming out of the recession we were a little bit behind in gaining any traction in opportunities for employment,” Reitemeier said. “In recent months we’ve literally seen dozens of companies aggressively seeking new employees.”

While large manufacturers in the area — Mercury Marine and Alliance Laundry Systems — have undergone expansions and added to their employee base, Reitemeier says job opportunities are available across a wide spectrum including manufacturing, food service, agriculture production, financial services, insurance and health care.

“Virtually every kind of job is being marketed right now,” he said. “However, one piece consistent within all the job openings is the requirement for advanced skill sets. Those people who are available for work are going to have to come with a skill set that is desired by the employer.”

Top employers in the Fond du Lac area include Brunswick, Agnesian, Alliance Laundry Systems and the Fond du Lac School District.

Success story

Kondex Corp. in Lomira, which produces engineered cutting and high-wear components for the agriculture industry and beyond, has enjoyed job growth over the past year.

Since Kondex moved to its new plant in 2007, the company has grown its employee base by 50 percent — to 280 employees, said Mike Frydryk, vice president of human resources and organizational development.

The 2012 drought hampered plans for hiring last year.

“The drought had a lag effect on our business in 2013,” Frydryk explained. “However, as we plan ahead we do expect 2014 to bring continued growth from what we are expecting from our customer base.”

While Kondex offers entry-level positions in packaging and assembly starting at $10 and $11 an hour, the manufacturer also recruits for positions requiring specific capabilities, education and experience including machine operators, welders and engineers.

Wages

Reitemeier said most of the jobs available in the Fond du Lac area fall in the $11 to $13 an hour starting range.

“We’re not really talking about minimum wage positions but positions starting at a considerably higher level. But again, those jobs require skills,” he said.

Many companies offer on-the-job training programs while others provide tuition reimbursement for employees willing to seek additional training, Reitemeier said.

“Moraine Park Technical College offers a wealth of opportunities for developing specific skills in much of the employment arenas that we’re seeing. Oftentimes those programs are available to employees where the employer will actually pay for the instruction,” Reitemeier. “Advanced degrees at institutions like MPTC or a four-year college and experience are needed for the advanced positions being offered out there.”

Late last year, Fond du Lac’s unemployment rate was 5.4 percent, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics released in December 2013.

“Even with a 5 percent unemployment rate we’re virtually experiencing full employment right now,” Reitemeier said. “We’re going to have to figure out creative ways to find the qualified applicants for the positions out there.”

From marshfieldnewsherald.com: “Skilled trades, health care jobs among hottest in Oshkosh area” — OSHKOSH — Manufacturing technology, skilled trades and health care positions are among the hottest job prospects in the Oshkosh area, local workforce development leaders say.

In a time when jobs still are hard to come by — especially for those without specialized training — there is hope for applicants who are seeking employment in some of the high-demand sectors and know where to find the necessary training for those positions.

“We’re definitely seeing manufacturing jobs still hiring,” said Brian Covey, communications director for Forward Service Corp., which runs the Winnebago County W-2 program and serves low-income families in the region. “Through W-2, what we’re seeing is a lot of care-giving (jobs).”

For example, certified nursing assistants or in-home caregivers are among the most in-demand positions, as well as construction jobs, especially with the upcoming reconstruction of a bridge along U.S. 41, Covey said.

According to state Department of Workforce Development statistics for the third quarter of 2013, the top industries by employment in Winnebago County were food services and drinking places, transportation equipment manufacturing, papermaking, administrative and support services, and educational services.

The county experienced a non-adjusted unemployment rate of 5.1 percent in December, compared to 5.8 percent statewide and 6.5 percent nationally, according to the most recent DWD estimates.

“In the manufacturing environment, a lot has changed since the baby boomers first entered the job market,” said Paul Stelter, CEO of the Neenah-based Fox Valley Workforce Development Board. “Those jobs require a lot more technical skills. As a result, the people who are looking to enter into the manufacturing industry today need at least at technical college education.

“Manufacturing isn’t that dark, dirty place that you associate with manufacturing plants of 50 years ago.”

According to data compiled from the 2012 and 2013 Fox Valley Technical College graduate employment research reports, the top job markets in the region include criminal justice and law enforcement as well as agri-business and science technology.

Also among the top industry sectors are nursing assistant, marketing, administrative professionals, electromechanical technology and welders, all of which are offered at FVTC locations in Oshkosh, said Chris Jossart, media relations manager for Fox Valley Technical College. He said welding, wood manufacturing, aviation, marketing and medical technology also are in high demand.

The system has campuses in Grand Chute and Oshkosh; regional centers in Chilton, Clintonville, Waupaca and Wautoma; and training centers in Appleton, Oshkosh and Neenah. In addition to job-specific training — much of which is offered through FVTC — many local employers are looking for workers with soft skills, such as time management, teamwork, flexibility and the ability to learn on the job.

“Employers are looking for the best fit, and the best fit includes not only the technical part but also the person’s ability to show up on time, to work well with others, to be a contributing member of the team, and all those are contributors to hiring a person,” Stelterhe said.

Nearly 16,000 people in the Oshkosh-Neenah area work in production occupations, followed by about 13,000 in office and administrative support and about 7,000 in sales and related occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Transportation and material moving, food preparation and serving, and health care practitioners and technical occupations round out the rest of the industries that employ more than 5,000 people each.

From marshfieldnewsherald.com: “Information technology, nursing head list of local jobs” — WAUSAU — Information technology is on the A-list of in-demand jobs in Marathon County right now.

Laurie Borowicz, vice president of student services at Northcentral Technical College, says the college is doing its best to keep up with demand for positions in the IT field.

“We could take 50 more students in IT tomorrow if we could find them,” Borowicz said. “That’s probably our issue right now, is finding people, getting people into these high-demand programs.”

The technical college is trying to make it easier for students to take the IT track by offering more courses in the evenings and online, she said.

Jim Warsaw, economic development director for Marathon County Development Corp., said there’s a growing concentration of IT and technology-related businesses in the Wausau area and those employers currently can’t openings.

“NTC doubled their graduating class in IT and it still isn’t enough to keep up with demand,” Warsaw said.

In addition to IT, Warsaw said, other popular positions in the area include welding, skilled trades, manufacturing, health care, sales and nursing.

Most job activity, he said, is with companies that were prepared to come out of the recession when things turned around, most of which are larger employers.

“Small businesses are still trying to cope with the recession’s impact on their cash flows and equity positions,” Warsaw said.

The job of certified nursing assistant, or CNA, is big right now, according to Marathon County Job Center W2 job developer David Cruz.

One reason for that growth is that it’s easier to get started in a certified nursing course than in a registered nursing program, Cruz said.

Overall, the unemployment picture has improved in Marathon County over the past year.

The most recent figures from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development show the December 2013 unemployment rate for Marathon County at 5.7 percent. That’s nearly a full percentage point better than the 6.6 percent registered in December 2012.

From journaltimes.com: “Gateway offering optometry assistant programs” — RACINE – Starting later this spring, students at Gateway Technical College will be able to begin training to become an optometry or ophthalmologist assistant thanks to a federal Affordable Care Act grant.

Gateway received a five-year $10 million grant in 2010 to help pay for health programs and help students going into health related fields, said Stacia Thompson, the project director for Gateway’s Health Profession Opportunity Program.

It’s largely gone to pay for support services for Gateway students going into health fields. That included tuition assistance, tutoring, job search assistance and transportation and child care assistance.

The idea of the grant was to help prepare and train students for the growing health care industry, Thompson said.

Recently area optometry and ophthalmology professionals indicated the need for more training to help assistants learn how to use new equipment, Thompson said. Currently the closest place to receive the training is Milwaukee, she said.

“A lot of things the college does are employer driven,” Thompson said. “The local workforce came to us and said there was a need and we saw we had to respond to that need.”

Through the federal grant, Gateway was able to purchase approximately $103,000 in equipment to start offering the program at Gateway’s Racine campus, she said.

That includes equipment that checks for glaucoma, tells what prescription glasses are currently, and helps determine lens prescriptions.

The grant is also paying for the instructor for the first class and books for the first class, Thompson said, although she did not have the cost breakdown for those.

They already have a limited group of 15 students who are in the process of registering for the classes starting in May, but it will be open to the public as a whole in the fall semester, Thompson said

To complete the certificate program students must complete four classes, adding up to 13 credits.

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 beloitdailynews.com: “Walker signs plan at BTC” – By Shaun Zinck – Gov. Scott Walker signed a $35 million bill at Blackhawk Technical College on Monday morning to help fund technical college programs and train more workers in advanced manufacturing.

Walker said the bill would affect three areas in the state: bring down the waiting lists on high-demand areas of studies at technical colleges; offer more opportunities for college and high school partnerships for dual credits; and help people with disabilities find jobs in Wisconsin.

“We go out on campuses and we see what’s happening,” Walker said. “We see the relevance we talked about that are connecting not only students, but employers here in Janesville and in Rock County and all over the state of Wisconsin.”

Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, said technical colleges in Wisconsin focus on the opportunities for students to train in specialized skills, and it also helps employers have access to those workers to stay competitive in the marketplace.

“This new prosperity grant will provide another tool for technical colleges to provide help with that purpose and mission to make Wisconsin the greatest economic engine in the world,” she said.

The bill appropriates the funds to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, which will then grant the money to the technical colleges in the state. Walker said the grants are not just workforce development, but economic development, by helping technical colleges “buy down” waiting lists for popular manufacturing programs.

“You hear time and time again from employers that, ‘Not only do I need help filling that high-skilled welder, CNC operator, machinist … but I actually have the capacity to add more work if I can fill the positions I have,’” the governor said. “So it’s not just about workforce development, it’s about opening the door so our employers can create more jobs going forward.”

The partnerships between technical colleges and school districts are also very valuable, Walker said. He brought up his recent tour to the Beloit Memorial High School Technical Education Programming Space.

“It was a great example when you see the technology incorporated on campus right there at a high school,” Walker said. “One of the exciting things we were seeing is young people that are not only excited about what they are learning, but earning credits for high school graduation, and then have that apply to going on to pursuing the rest of what they need for their career at a technical college.”

Helping people with disabilities find employment is also important because no one can “be on the sidelines,” Walker said.

“With this bill we are setting money aside to expand programs like Project Search, which helps young people with disabilities start to explore what their abilities are, and plug them into those as they transition from high school to the workplace,” he said. “We want to help employers find the unique abilities of people who are otherwise identified as having disabilities. This is not a charity program. This is to find their unique abilities so you have an asset for the employer and the employee. It’s a win-win.”

All three parts will help the economy in Wisconsin grow, Walker said.

“By filling key positions, and helping companies know that when they choose to expand and grow here in the State of Wisconsin, they are going to have a steady, strong supply of well-trained, well-prepared, well-educated, hardworking employees that will make them prosperous for many years to come,” he said.

After the bill signing Walker spoke to the media, and when asked, he declined to answer detailed questions about whether he was aware a secret email system existed in the Milwaukee County executive’s office when he held the position, or whether he personally used that system.

“I’ve pointed out the district attorney spent multiple years looking at that and chose to end the report last March,” he said. “I don’t really need to go through and examine all the details. I’m not going to go through things of the past. The district attorney looked at it and chose not to act on anyone else and I think it speaks for itself.”

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Walker touts $35 million plan to bolster technical education” — Legislation signed earlier this week by Gov. Scott Walker allocates $35.4 million to help fund the education of the next generation of workers in Wisconsin.

Walker was at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay on Tuesday discussing the funding designed to bolster technical education at the college and primary education level.

“It’s all about training more the skills needed to fill the jobs today and the ones that will be coming up in the next couple of years, and this is the place to make that happen,” he said.

Walker said Northeast Wisconsin Technical College beefed up its training on computer numeric control machines after the Northeastern Manufacturing Alliance reported a need for CNC operators.

“We want to help campuses like this, and across the state, do more of that in the future,” Walker said. “We’ll also use a portion of this money to help school districts across the state get additional resources to partner for dual enrollment so young people get credit in both the high schools and technical colleges.”

This was Walker’s second stop in the Green Bay area in as many days, and he’s been a frequent visitor to the area in the past month stopping at a number of area businesses to talk about the importance of manufacturing to the state and the need to train skilled workers for immediate and future needs.

A portion of the money will also be used to help employers identify the skill sets disabled residents in the state bring to the workplace.

“The baby boom generation is at, or near, retirement and when that happens there is going to be this huge amount of openings and we’re going to need more skilled workers .. and more people working, period,” he said. “We can’t afford to have anyone who wants to work not be able to work.”

The money is appropriated through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Wisconsin Fast Forward program.

“We put $15 million in the budget there to do customized worker training, this additional money will be on top of that,” Walker said. “They’ll work directly with technical college campuses… to say, ‘What do you need? Where are your shortages?”

From jsonline.com: “MATC’s culinary programs expand, benefitting students and public” – By Nancy J. Stohs – The culinary programs at Milwaukee Area Technical College have undergone major changes in the last couple of years, and the hungry public is as much a beneficiary as the students.

When the student-run Cuisine restaurant relocated in fall of 2012 to the first floor of the school’s main downtown campus, that opened up space on the sixth floor to add a second culinary skills lab and an international foods lab, both of which opened this past fall.

That made two things possible: the addition of four course requirements to the culinary arts curriculum — regional American cuisine, European/Mediterranean cuisine, Asian cuisine, and South and Central American cuisine — and to eliminate the program’s waiting list.

“In the past, we could take 35 new students a semester, or about 70 a year,” said Richard Busalacchi, associate dean of hospitality and food manufacturing programs at MATC. “Last fall we took in about 75 students and this spring 86 students.

“Anybody who applied to the culinary arts program got in.”

The baking and pastry arts program, similarly, nearly doubled its enrollment after a new baking and chocolate lab opened last fall on the first floor. Typically, 50 students would be admitted each year; this year, it was 80.

And that’s where the hungry public comes in. The new baking lab feeds a new student-run venue, the 6th Street Cafe, located across the hall from Cuisine. Opened last fall serving coffee and breakfast, it added lunch this semester.

That was based on a recommendation from the program’s advisory committee.

In order to stay competitive, “the bakeries we knew once upon a time that just did doughnuts and cookies and cakes have evolved,” Busalacchi explained. So while the students do learn how to bake, “they also end up with a solid skill set for the café operation.”

Soups ($2 cup, $3 bowl), salads ($4.95 to $6.95), sandwiches ($6 or $6.94), plus various coffee drinks, pastries, cold beverages and seven flavors of ice cream and sorbet are on the cafe’s menu, which changes slightly every few weeks.

Everything in the cafe is made from scratch, including the breads for sandwiches and the sorbets and ice creams, and — as in Cuisine — ingredients are sourced locally as much as possible.

Last week I sampled a zesty Oaxacan black bean soup, a flavorful spinach salad with walnuts, pears, chevre, grapes and balsamic vinaigrette and an applewood smoked ham and aged cheddar sandwich. Oh, and a couple of couldn’t-resist desserts sold in the adjoining 6th Street Bakery.

Like Cuisine, the cafe is open most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the fall and spring semesters. Café hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (lunch service starts at 11:30). The café will close for the semester around the first week of May; Cuisine the second or third week.

Cuisine takes reservations (free through Open Table), while the cafe, which seats up to about 70 in two dining rooms and which also offers carryout, is walk-up service.

So far, promotion of the cafe has been internal word of mouth only.

Operating the 6th Street Cafe is the capstone class for the two-year baking and pastry arts program, just as operating Cuisine restaurant is the final course for culinary arts students. Graduation and job-hunting are next.

In addition to these two programs, MATC also added a two-year culinary management program about a year ago.

And where will all of these graduates find jobs?

Busalacchi isn’t worried. Statistics show that more than 800 new food service jobs — cooks, chefs, bakers and managers — are added annually within a 50-mile radius of downtown Milwaukee.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant and foodservice industry is the nation’s second-largest private-sector employer, employing more than 13 million people, or 10% of the U.S. workforce.

What’s next?

The school is hoping to have Cuisine restaurant open for business some evenings in the spring of 2015 and that summer, Busalacchi said.

As for major changes, “we’re done for a while.”

From lacrossetribune.com: “Lincoln students get creative with junkyard sculpture in welding contest” — Lincoln High School students are too creative to weld a sculpture of just any old fish out of scrap metal for the Chippewa Valley Technical College Manufacturing Show’s Junkyard Battle welding contest.

“I came up with the idea of the fish body,” said senior Nicki Danielson. “I just thought an angler fish would be awesome.”

But that wasn’t all. They had it in a tank of water, set up a system by which it could be raised from the tank by turning a wheel, had a spout of water coming out of its mouth through use of a pump system and integrated a little game with prizes. The effort was good enough to win second place, with another angler fish sculpture from Fall Creek taking first. The Lincoln team took first place at last year’s show.

Lincoln High School had a strong showing at the manufacturing show, with over 40 students coming in attendance. The students and other participants and visitors to the show experienced just how interesting and fun manufacturing can be. Area high school students were heavily involved in this year’s show. Besides the Junkyard Battle, students created complicated mazes in the machine tooling technics contest, and in electromechanical technology, students built robots to navigate a simple maze as fast as possible.

Visitors were able to don masks and try their hands at welding under the watch and with assistance from a CVTC student or instructor. People saw automated machines that could play guitar, set up bowling pins and make a golf putt – all designed and created by CVTC students. The chair on the flight simulator moved with the banking of the plane on the screen. In the nano engineering technology area, students demonstrated the properties of liquid nitrogen.

Nearly 40 companies from around the Chippewa Valley set up displays to show their company’s role in area manufacturing, and to recruit future employees.

“In the Chippewa Valley, close to 40,000 people make their living in manufacturing,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker in opening the show along with Gov. Scott Walker. “Ninety-one percent of our graduates have jobs within six months, 89 percent are right in the state of Wisconsin, and 70 percent are in northwest Wisconsin.”

A major purpose of the show was to present the modern face of manufacturing.

“If you go in our shops, they’re bright, they’re clean, they’re automated, and it takes a high skill level to operate the equipment,” said associate dean of manufacturing Jeff Sullivan.

To many of the young people attending, there was just a lot of fun stuff to do, like race robots and show off their junkyard fish sculptures.

The Lincoln team’s sculpture incorporated concepts of metal working, making it an educational piece as well. The tank of water, for example, can serve as a common welding shop tool.

“You can put a piece of metal you just welded in the fish’s mouth and lower it down to cool it. It’s called a quench tank,” Danielson said.

“We made a prototype of the sculpture out of cardboard,” said team member Edwin Ramos. “Nicki was the lead welder in putting her dream together.”

Team member Daniel Brown brought a lot of the junk used to make the sculpture.

“I got a lot of used junk trucks sitting around. I had an old fuel pump from a Chevy truck and an old fuel line, and wired it all up,” he said, explaining how he made the pump system for the spout of water.

Ramos explained another part of the process.

“We used an old water boiler, band saw blades, a weight bench, and a chain for the hook,” he said.

Many students in Scot Kelly’s principles of engineering class helped on the sculpture.

While many high school students took part in competitions, many students and members of the public came to learn more about opportunities in manufacturing. Jonathan Hurd, 23, of Fall Creek was eyeing up a new career by visiting the various program areas.

“I’m interested in electromechanical technology, but I’d love to learn it all,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I came, to get a feel for it all.”

Becky Larson of Eau Claire came with her husband and their son, Nick, who is in eighth grade. “I wanted to see what opportunities are out there for a job, and so many of the jobs that are coming up are going to be in manufacturing,” she said.

Larson, a middle school counselor, was also picking up information for her students who are beginning to think about careers.

“Electromechanical technology was fun with all the projects they do, like the ‘Smoke on the Water,’ one that played guitar by itself,” said Nick Larson.

Approximately 2,000 people attended the show, including Walker, who noted in opening remarks to an audience mostly of high school students that the Wisconsin flag displays the tools of manufacturing.

“It’s part of our heritage and our history, and it’s part of our future,” Walker said. “Manufacturing is leading our state’s economic recovery, and we need to encourage the next generation of workers by educating everyone about the great, family-supporting jobs available. These students are the future of our workforce; and by providing quality, highly technical training, we are setting them up for success and securing Wisconsin’s place among the top manufacturers in the country.”

From fdlreporter.com: “Skilled worker shortage drives partnerships between business, education” – By Laurie Ritger – A local business leader is stressing the need for communication and collaboration between industry and educators — especially as a shortage of skilled workers looms.

“This is a heavy manufacturing area. We may be one of the heaviest in the state and maybe the nation. Let’s support that,” said Jim Wessing, president and co-founder of Kondex Corp. in Lomira. “There are great jobs and a great future in manufacturing.”

Wessing warned, however, of a looming shortage of skilled employees during an appearance Tuesday at Business, Industry and Education Day 2014 at Marian University’s Stayer Center. Approximately 150 educators and business people turned out for the event, a program of the Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce.

Projections show that there will be 17,000 to 19,000 unfilled jobs in the greater Fond du Lac area by 2025, according to Joe Reitemeier, president and CEO of the Association of Commerce.

Perception vs. reality

Wessing was part of a panel that included Lomira School District technology education teacher Jon Marx and Lomira High School Principal Deb Janke. They discussed a business and education partnership success story that began several years ago with a Project Grill competition that pairs businesses with a school.

Marx explained how the tech-ed program has grown in the past several years and how Kondex has helped with equipment and financial support. Marx, who once taught part-time and had 55 students, now is full-time and instructs more than 100 students at the middle and high school levels.

Some of his former students are working toward degrees at technical colleges and engineering schools.

Wessing said manufacturing has a reputation as a “dark and dirty and dangerous” profession. The reality, he said, is that it is very clean and high-tech with the advent of robotics, high-speed cameras and computers.

Wages can be very high. Wessing said educators and business leaders need to connect with parents of students who are considering their career paths to explain options and show them realities of the work world.

Options

Reitemeier said nearly all parents of incoming high school sophomores expect their children to attend college, but a year later only half of the students will take a college entrance exam. That leaves half of a graduating class to make plans for technical college or immediate entry into the workforce.

Janke said a Career Fair was held at Kondex that exposed students to careers in many fields, including manufacturing, human resources and sales. She said the school also is trying to work with other key employers in the community, including Michels Corp. and Quad/Graphics. Staff are visiting employers so educators and counselors are aware of available businesses and career opportunities.

“We’re interested, at the school level, how can we (prepare) better employees for you?” Janke said about the partnership between business and schools. She said students need to be exposed to careers and the tools and equipment they may be using. Girls that have an interest in math and science need to enter engineering and manufacturing fields.

Wessing said 85 percent of his employees are from within a 35-mile radius of Fond du Lac. Kondex is a product design and manufacturing partner for agriculture, lawn and turf, and other areas, producing custom-designed metal components.

National speakers for BIE Day included Kimberly Green of Rockville, Md., who has worked the past 18 years on federal policy impacting career and technical education; and Patrick McGaughey, an international speaker from Idaho with a background in broadcasting and business association management who led a two-part workshop: “Business + Education = Education, Development: How Education Closes the Deal.”

The connections established between business representatives and educators during BIE Day are intended to help the partners develop solutions to economic and community issues — including the expected skilled labor shortage facing Fond du Lac.

From weau.com: “Walker attends Manufacturing Show at Chippewa Valley Technical College” – How technology is used in manufacturing was the major focus of a show at CVTC Thursday.

The manufacturing show featured more than 20 companies and a number of programs at the college. It also included a junkyard battle competition where area high school students showcased their talents.

Governor Scott Walker was at the event to see all the college had to offer. He said it’s great to have the connection between the technical college and area high schools to show younger students the opportunities available after graduation.

“It’s amazing to see the things they make, really incredible work, and its great to see all the high schoolers coming by to see the oppourtunities in manufacturing,” said Governor Scott Walker.

More than 40 regional manufacturing businesses were also at the event to talk to guests about career opportunities.

View video from weau.com

From postcrescent.com: “Fox Valley Tech opens expanded transportation center to fill industry need” — GRAND CHUTE — Automotive students at Fox Valley Technical College have made themselves at home in the newly expanded J. J. Keller Transportation Center.

With the goal of helping to meet a growing demand for automotive careers, the school enlarged the facility by more than 20,000 square feet. The $6.2 million addition created 10 learning bays for automotive programs; three drive-through learning bays for diesel programs; classrooms; an instruction bay for the school’s truck driving program; and a learning bay for a trailer technician program.

The bigger transportation center is the third of five major building projects completed at FVTC so far since 2012, when voters approved $66.5 million in spending.

Aric Van Ess, a second-year diesel technology student from Cedar Grove, likes having more room and using new tools.

“There’s a lot more activities you can work on,” Van Ess said. “You’re not all bunched up working on a truck.”

Van Ess works part-time in the industry, and he sees the same things in the classroom that he does on the job. Students work on trucks that are driven on roads, so the problems they fix in school are the same ones they would see in the real world.

Van Ess plans to take courses in the new transport trailer service technician program after he completes the diesel technology area.

The new program is possible because of the extra square footage added to the facility and was started at the request of local industries, said Dan Poeschel, associate dean at FVTC.

The referendum allowed the automotive program to double in size, accommodating every student who enrolls. In the past, officials had to put students on waiting lists because there wasn’t enough room.

Most students will have jobs lined up immediately after graduation. FVTC automotive students who graduated last year have a combined job placement rate of 98 percent, according to figures provided by the college.

Poeschel said graduates can earn starting wages of $15 per hour or higher.

“[The addition] provides education and good jobs to students coming in who can really have a lifelong career in this industry,” he said.

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 greenbaypressgazette.com: “Walker checks out manufacturing program at Green Bay West” — A future Green Bay West High School program expected to give students a hands-on look at a career in manufacturing is one of the ways public and private partnerships are helping support the state’s manufacturing sector, Gov. Scott Walker said Monday.

Walker said the Bay Link Manufacturing program, and its partnership with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and the Northeastern Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance, offers a unique, real-world, teaching opportunity to help fill future job positions.

“We’re making it relevant and we’re making a real-world connection to the valuable careers in manufacturing. Our hope is that more young people see this and want to pursue those careers,” Walker said Monday. This “will not only help us fill the jobs that are open today, but … help employers and manufacturers here, and across the state, open the door to creating more jobs in the future.”

Bay Link Manufacturing is being set up at West High School to give students real-world manufacturing experience. That includes hard skills such as welding and fabricating parts for area businesses to “soft” skills like interviewing for a job, sales, and communication with co-workers, said Andy Belongia, the Bay Link Manufacturing instructor.

The program is expected to launch this fall. Twelve to 15 students will apply for class as they would for a job and will have job reviews, Belongia said.

Profits will go back to the program and potentially to scholarships for students.

This is the second stop for Walker in the Green Bay area in a matter of days. Both stops have focused on a manufacturing in the region and state and the need to build on the existing workforce. Last week the governor was at MetalStorm, a De Pere metal fabricator.

“I repeatedly hear from manufacturers not only the need to fill existing potions, but if they could fill those on a consistent basis they’d take on more work … and that would help us put more people to work,” Walker said.

The state Senate is scheduled to vote today on Walker’s proposed property and income tax cut plan.

The tax cut bill and one that makes $35 million available for a variety of worker training initiatives are the only proposals before the Senate today.

Walker’s proposal would reduce property taxes for the owner of a median-valued home by $131 on the bill mailed in December. The income tax cut would reduce the lowest bracket from 4.4 percent to 4 percent, saving the typical taxpayer $46.

Democratic critics have argued that the tax cuts need to be more narrowly focused to benefit the middle class, increase spending on worker training programs, reduce debt and address projected shortfalls in Medicaid and transportation funding.

From leadertelegram.com: “Manufacturing in the spotlight” — A group of high school students stood wide-eyed as a Chippewa Valley Technical College student dropped a metal ball that seemed to defy gravity as it fell through a simple copper tube. It fell slowly through the tube as if moving in molasses, never touching the sides.

The demonstration of electromagnetic forces took place in the Nano Engineering Technology area of CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center last March at the annual Manufacturing Show, which returns for a third year Thursday.

That simple ball-and-tube trick will have to take a distant back seat to other high-end demonstrations this year. For instance, CVTC now has equipment that uses streams of water under extremely high pressure to cut metal in precise detail, without the harmful effects heat-based metal cutting can leave behind.

Manufacturing Show demonstrations also will include a three-dimensional printer that doesn’t use ink. Instead, it produces, layer after layer, at high speed, a 3-D plastic model of items drawn up with paper and numbers.

“It gives us an ability to replicate a concept or design, showing the working parts,” said CVTC Associate Dean of Manufacturing Jeff Sullivan. “The printers are being used a lot in the medical field.”

New machine tool program equipment that will be on display is capable of speeds up to 12,000 rpm. “The purpose of the high speed is higher accuracy and tighter tolerances,” Sullivan said.

And the purpose of students working on such a machine is to prepare them for the kind of equipment being used in the industry today, important given the prevalence of the machine tool industry in the Eau Claire area.

Welcome to the world of modern manufacturing. People who still picture manufacturing as taking place in dark, dingy places with low-skilled workers doing simple repetitive work will have their minds changed by attending the show, people affiliated with the event said.

“The entire show will present a good overview of manufacturing careers in western Wisconsin,” said Roger Stanford, CVTC vice president of instruction. “We have a great diversity of manufacturing companies in this area, many of them producing products that are getting attention worldwide. Attendees can learn more about these companies at the Manufacturing Show and how CVTC prepares workers for lucrative careers in manufacturing.”

About 20 manufacturing companies will have displays about their role in their industries and in the Chippewa Valley economy. They will use the show to recruit new workers as well.

Joining those companies will be representatives of CVTC’s manufacturing programs: electromechanical technology, industrial mechanic, industrial mechanical technician, machine tooling technics, welding and welding fabrication. Some of the physical science programs, such as nano engineering technology, manufacturing engineering technologist and industrial engineering technician also will be involved.

Students play a vital role in the show. As part of regular course work, they have constructed and programmed robotic equipment that performs such tasks as playing a guitar, making a golf putt or resetting bowling pins.

Area high school students also will be heavily involved in this year’s show. Back again will be the Junkyard Battle, in which high school welding students will compete with their creations made of scrap metal. Last year the contest featured student-made sculptures of their school mascots. This year’s show will feature several more competitions.

Machine tool students will compete in the Amazing Maze event, creating complicated mazes in competition for the best design. Engineering students will use computer-aided design programs to draw up plans for devices. The top design will be reproduced on the 3D printer.

In the electromechanical area, students will create robots that work through a maze without human intervention. The industrial mechanics program is working on a competition involving development of miniature cannons.

“We are reaching out to our K-12 school district partners to develop agreements and programs that expose younger students to manufacturing and prepare high school students for entry into CVTC’s manufacturing programs,” Sullivan said.

The event has been well-attended by the general public since its inception, and area school districts take advantage by using it as an educational experience for students. Some parents bring their children who are starting to think about careers.

The show offers plenty for attendees to do, such as trying out simulators, watching robotic welders, learning what local manufacturers are producing and witnessing student creativity.

From wxow.com: “WMC Foundation looks into 20-year strategic plan for Wis.” – LA CROSSE – With the baby boomers retiring, Wisconsin will soon lose it’s largest group of workers.

The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Foundation is looking for ways to replace them.

WMC Foundation President Jim Morgan traveled to Western Technical College Tuesday to find out where there is a job shortage in La Crosse, and discuss ways to train students to fill those positions.

The foundation will use that information to create a 20-year strategic plan for the state, called “Future Wisconsin.”

“And we’re trying to look at a couple of key areas like talent attraction, business competitiveness, globalization, entrepreneurship. The types of things that I think if we’re going to be successful in 20 years, we’ve got to start planning for now,” Morgan said.

There’s already a need for welders and machinists, he added.

The WMC Foundation will be meeting with 16 technical colleges, along with other schools, businesses and commerce associations for input.

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