From marshfieldnewsherald.com: “Teaching, class sharing rises at rural schools as budgets shrink” – As rural schools deal with the reality of reduced budgets and smaller enrollments, one of the inevitable trends is the reduction in the number of classes offered as schools focus on core subjects.

A number of Clark County schools are turning toward sharing teachers in a number of elective classes as a way of saving costs, while still providing students with learning opportunities.

Sue Rudesill, a family and consumer sciences teacher, begins each day in Neillsville, and then around lunch time makes the 20-minute commute to Greenwood to continue teaching in the afternoon.

It’s the first year she’s split time between two schools and said it took a little getting used to the first semester.

She would find herself trying to help students after class in Neillsville, but that potentially delayed her getting to Greenwood, causing the first part of her class in Greenwood to be missed.

After discussions with administrators in both districts, she said she now has a little more time to make the commute this semester.

Another change that districts are seeing is the increased reliance on distance learning courses. Students will be in a normal classroom, but the teacher often will be miles away in another school.

“We do have some rooms that are now available,” Neillsville School District Superintendent John Gaier said. “A lot of the rooms that used to have classes in them are now being used as distance learning classrooms. It’s possible for a high school class period to have four online classes going on.”

Students in Neillsville take distance learning classes through a number of different institutions, including the Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.

But it’s not just courses being taught at institutions of higher education that students are taking. Sometimes schools share courses with each other through distance learning.

In Loyal, students take social studies through Granton, a required course for graduation.

“That’s a big step to go into that. Spanish is an elective, but to have a required class that’s important, the reason we did it was it seemed to be the least detrimental. The teacher would be the most able to appropriately communicate with students. You would not want to do chemistry (over distance learning),” Cale Jackson, Loyal School District administrator, said. “History seemed like something where the kids could still have a good experience even though it was over the distance learning.”

It takes a lot of work and coordination between schools to sync schedules, Jackson said, “but everybody is in the same boat, so everybody is willing to do it.”

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 lacrossetribune.com: “WTCS Board recognizes D&S as ‘Futuremakers Partner’ — The Wisconsin Technical College System Board recently awarded its Futuremakers Partner award to D&S Manufacturing of Black River Falls.

The award recognizes the unique and dynamic partnerships between Wisconsin’s technical colleges and their employer partners.

D&S Manufacturing, specializing in metal fabrication of large-scale components and assemblies, is a long-time partner with Western Technical College. While its main campus is in La Crosse, Western also serves communities throughout the region, including Black River Falls.

“It was an honor to receive this award, and particularly fitting that company president Mike Dougherty and the Dougherty family were specifically recognized for their outstanding support and long-term commitment to Western,” said John Barkley, D&S vice president and general manager.

“Many of our employee owners have taken advantage of and benefited from the educational opportunities that Western offers. We look forward to continuing our support of Western and the opportunities it provides to our community and region.”

In presenting the award, WTCS Board president Drew Petersen noted that D&S was a driving force in establishing the Jackson County Welding Skills Institute, a unique partnership formed with Western and other partners to meet the growing need for trained welders in the Black River Falls area. Without that support, Petersen noted, the initiative would not have been possible. The company has also funded scholarships at Western over many years, and provided tuition assistance for its employee owners.

“D&S Manufacturing is a true partner,” said Lee Rasch, president of Western Technical College. “Members of both their management and production staff serve on our program advisory committees. We value their support and honest feedback, which helps to ensure that our educational programming is relevant and responsive to the communities we serve.”

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Health care delegation visits Fox Cities” — APPLETON — International health care delegates will be in the Fox Cities today and Friday to gain insight into health care management best practices and tour facilities.

The Fox Cities Regional Partnership will host nearly 20 delegates from the Special American Business Internship Training Hospital Administration program. The mid- to senior-level health care executives from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Ukraine began their U.S. tour March 28 in Washington, D.C.

“We’re excited to host this prestigious delegation and have teamed up with our region’s world-class health care organizations to share their knowledge and experiences with the group,” Larry Burkhardt, executive vice president at Fox Cities Regional Partnership, said in a statement. “Our local health systems have been able to provide a variety of the best health care options in the region, and to have others outside the Fox Valley learn and benefit from our leaders is an honor.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce is coordinating the group’s visit. A Commerce Department representative contacted the Fox Cities Regional Partnership and requested the visit after finding information about the region’s health care assets on the Partnership’s website. The representative said the Fox Cities was selected for its national reputation as a leader in high quality health care at low cost.

The delegates will visit with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Fox Valley, the Orthopedic & Sports Institute of the Fox Valley (OSI), Neuroscience Group, Affinity Health System at St. Elizabeth Hospital, ThedaCare at the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value, Neurospine Center and Fox Valley Technical College’s new Health Simulation & Technology Lab.

Discussion topics will include financial management, new medical technologies and risk management, equipment manufacturers, relationships with insurance companies, medical ethics and conflict resolution, and doctor and patient rights.

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.

 

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