From chippewa.com: “Obstacles don’t stop CVTC grad” — Scott Steenerson still isn’t sure he should have graduated from high school. Struggles in reading and math due to learning disabilities resulted in poor grades. But that was back in 1997. On Thursday, July 24, he graduated from Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) as a top student in the Manufacturing Engineering Technologist program, a member of the College’s honor society, and the student speaker for the commencement ceremony.

Steenerson was one of 129 graduates to receive degrees and diplomas in 26 different programs in CVTC’s summer graduating class. Welding and Radiography programs had the most graduates, with 17 each, followed by Diagnostic Medical Sonography with 16.

Last spring, Steenerson received both the achievement and leadership awards among all Manufacturing Engineering Technologist students. He was the only one scheduled for summer graduation.

It’s not as if Steenerson’s learning disabilities magically disappeared since his days at Elk River, Minn. High School, but he learned to deal with them and got the help he needed at CVTC.

“In high school, they didn’t have a lot of programs that helped with it,” Steenerson said. “There were a handful of classes I did pretty well in, but I think that had a lot to do with good teachers.”

Steenerson ended up settling in Hammond and holding a well-paying job at Andersen Windows. “I had a couple of people at Andersen who took me under their wings, and I started to catch on to things better,” he said. “That gave me the opportunity to work with the manufacturing engineers.”

When he became a victim in large layoff, two weeks after his second child was born, Steenerson knew he’d have to do better in the future to support a family of four. Eligibility for a federal program for displaced workers allowed him to enroll at CVTC. He started off scared.

“Considering my grades in high school, I was really concerned about whether I could pull off college-level classes,” Steenerson said. He had two tough ones right away in chemistry and math. “I was extremely nervous. Looking at the other students, half of them seemed young enough to be my kids.”

But Steenerson says he had two great teachers, Ron Keyes in chemistry and Dave Vollmer in math, who knew about his learning disabilities and gave him the extra help he needed. Steenerson also got help from the CVTC’s Academic Services Center. Success followed.

“When I got my final grades, I shocked myself, particularly in my math class, where I got an A when I had struggled so much in high school.”

More success followed. On Vollmer’s recommendation, Steenerson became a math tutor. When he started his program courses in manufacturing, Instructor Tom Vanderloop drew him into the student chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, where he rose to a leadership position. Twice he represented CVTC with other team members at international competitions and was the team leader in one.

His exposure to lean manufacturing at Andersen Windows made him a valuable student. Instructor Hans Mikelson would bring him in to help with workshops on the subject.

Steenerson explained that, knowing his limitations, he was never hesitant to ask for help. When he got it, he shared it. “I’d grab some of the other students and explain it to them and we’d work out problems together.” Steenerson helped in efforts to extend tutoring programs to CVTC’s Gateway campus.

In addressing his fellow graduates, Steenerson said he feels a sense of sadness leaving CVTC because it has made such a difference in his life. “I’ve loved every one of the instructors I’ve had at CVTC,” he said.

Steenerson is already getting some job offers, but he’s hoping to lands something close to his current home and at a company where he can work to improve manufacturing procedures.

Like Steenerson, faculty speaker Jon Leenhouts had high praise for the teachers he learned from in his life. “Over time, I’ve remained interested in my own career, and have actively kindled new opportunities and have been willing to try new things – because of the type of teachers I’ve been fortunate to have had,” said Leenhouts, an award-winning trainer and consultant with CVTC’s Business & Industry team.

Commencement speaker Kathy Otto, medical assembly operations manager at Phillips Medisize, spoke of the skills gap with a different perspective. She told of a recent meeting with CVTC and business community leaders to identify training needs in the community.

“But in the end, one man stood up and summed up the gap for the entire business group: ‘We just want people that care – care!’ Every business leader in the room immediately agreed,” Otto said.

From chippewa.com: “State funds to help CVTC cut waiting lists” — EAU CLAIRE – Cassie Blechinger’s future is arriving sooner than expected. She has dreams of becoming a nurse, but has been on the waiting list for the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) Nursing-Associate Degree program since last year. Now she will be able to start in the fall term next month, thanks to a state grant designed to get people off waiting lists and into the workforce faster.

In a visit to CVTC’s Health Education Center Friday, July 18, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced the intent to award more than $28 million in Wisconsin Fast Forward grants to all 16 colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). The grants will train more than 4,900 workers for in-demand jobs.

CVTC’s share of the grants will be $1,223,540.

“It’s for about 200 more students,” Walker said. “It’s about the students getting the training, not only for a job, but for a career.”

Blechinger, a 2005 Boyceville High School graduate, has been biding her time working as an EMT and in the phlebotomy lab at Mayo Health Systems, but she’s been anxious to get started on a new career, perhaps in pediatric nursing.

“I was scheduled to start the Nursing program in January 2015, Blechinger said. “Now I’ll be able to graduate months early and join the workforce.”

“Our administration has made worker training a top priority, allocating more than $135 million in new resources to equip Wisconsin workers with the skills needed to fill jobs that employers have available,” Walker said. “This substantial investment in the Wisconsin Technical College System will help our top-notch technical colleges build the capacity to train thousands of workers across the state with skills we know are in high demand by employers.”

“It is a vital part of CVTC’s mission to support the workforce needs of the region, and to do so we must constantly keep up with a changing economy,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker. “The additional funds will increase our ability to respond rapidly to the needs of both our graduates and the employers who want to hire them. Shorter waiting lists in high demand fields serve everyone’s interests.”

Most CVTC programs do not have waiting lists, and there are openings in the fall term for programs in some of the high demand fields. A complete list of the programs with waiting lists that will be positively affected by the grant will be determined by CVTC and the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), which will administer the grants. Capacity will be added in 100 programs throughout the WTCS system. Training programs cover key industry sectors such as manufacturing, health care, transportation, construction and architecture, and education.

“I think it’s great the waiting lists are going to be shorter,” said Blechinger.

“With this announcement, the State of Wisconsin is giving workers the chance to increase their skills and move into a new job or a better job,” said DWD Secretary Reggie Newson, who also attended Friday’s announcement.

A better job is what Nai Nou Her is hoping for. Her has been expecting to be on the waiting list in the Dental Hygienist program for three years, but now has hopes that the grant will help her move up.

“I just graduated from the Dental Assistant program,” Her said. “I might go to school part time while I’m waiting.” She’s working as a dental assistant, but becoming a hygienist will result in higher pay.

Technical colleges submitted initial lists of programs for grant consideration earlier this year. DWD developed processes to validate wait lists for grant eligibility purposes, evaluate each technical college’s funding request, make award decisions, and monitor taxpayers’ investment. Grant funds can be used for expenses such as course development, instructor wages and purchase of materials. Individual grant awards will be announced for each technical college over the next two weeks.

Funds for the grants were allocated in legislation Walker signed into law in March as part of his Blueprint for Prosperity initiative. The legislation allocated an additional $35.4 million in funds to the Wisconsin Fast Forward worker training program, with the funds for this grant being part of that.

From leadertelegram.com: “CVTC unveils mobile major” — Chippewa Valley Technical College prides itself on keeping its students up-to-date with new and emerging technologies. But to do so, sometimes faculty and administrators must listen to those students.

That willingness to listen and adapt has led to the introduction this fall of a third major in CVTC’s Information Technology program. The IT-mobile developer major will focus on preparing students to serve the growing need for individuals and businesses to communicate via handheld mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers.

“The popularity of mobile devices has just exploded, and Apple is No. 1 in that area,” says IT Instructor Jon Cooley. “We haven’t had anything in our program to deal with that, and our students were telling us that.”

There will be significant overlap in the required courses in the new mobile developer major and CVTC’s existing software developer major, but several new courses are being introduced specifically to address the world of mobile communication devices.

Cooley will teach the first course to be offered in the mobile developer major. Called Objective C Programming-Cocoa, it will teach students the underlying language for programming Apple’s iPhones and iMac computers.

Development of the mobile developer major was undertaken with input from the IT Department’s Advisory Committee, which consists of representatives of various businesses and industries within CVTC’s 11-county region.

“Most of the companies on our Advisory Committee are using, or are at least planning to introduce, mobile (communication) applications,” Cooley says. “So the base for mobile applications is already here and it will expand.”

As a result, there projects to be a growing number of jobs available to graduates with the mobile developer major at a variety of local companies, including Menards, JAMF Software, IDEXX Laboratories and Menards in Eau Claire; TTM Technologies in Chippewa Falls; and Sajan in River Falls.

But graduates with the mobile developer major won’t face geographic limitations when it comes to seeking employment, Cooley predicts.

“Mobile development has exploded nationally and internationally,” he says. “So learning the skills we’ll teach in this program is basically a passport to getting a job anywhere.”

George Andrews, who also will teach courses in the new major, agrees with Cooley, saying the need for people with mobile developer skills “has pretty much been skyrocketing in the past few years.” That trend will continue, he says, because companies that have an online presence will need to incorporate a mobile aspect.

“The direction technology is heading means that anything you can do on a desktop you will be able to do on your phone with the proper mobile app,” Andrews says.

Shawn Creviston, who chairs CVTC’s IT Department, says the mobile developer major will limit instruction to the Apple and Google Android platforms of mobile technology.

“There are others, like Blackberry and Microsoft, in the smartphone universe. But they don’t have nearly the market share that Apple and Android have,” Creviston says. “For most of the consumers and the businesses around our area, those are the two they focus on.”

The mobile developer major will prepare students for jobs with all kinds of companies, not just those strictly related to computers, Creviston says.

In the CVTC region, graduates will be able to find jobs with many manufacturing plants and retail outlets, he says. And they will find themselves doing things like creating applications for online purchasing, mobile websites and tracking inventory.

“It really comes down to whom you get employed with,” he says. “We have so many different employers in this area and they all have their own needs.”

The Twin Cities will be fertile ground for graduates with a mobile developer major, a key reason it will by the first IT major offered at CVTC’s River Falls campus as well as in Eau Claire, Creviston says.

With its initial allocation of a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, CVTC has installed new labs in Eau Claire and River Falls filled with iMac desktop computers. Most mobile developer courses will be held in the Mac labs.

The grant also will cover the cost of hiring new IT faculty member Eric Wackwitz, who will teach all of the mobile developer courses in River Falls.

Wackwitz, who graduated from CVTC with an IT degree in 1997, returns to the college from United Health Group in Eau Claire, where for the past 15 years he developed mobile applications for business use.

Wackwitz’s description of how he feels about his new job are summed up in a statement that seems to encapsulate the general attitude of all involved in introducing the mobile developer major.

“It’s exciting,” he says, “and terrifying at the same time.”

From leadertelegram.com: “Math, science lessons propel camp” — Gina Filkins figured it would be fun to build a race car, so she signed up for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Race Camp, which took place this week at Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Filkins, of River Falls, was among 19 high school participants at the camp, but one of only four girls.

“I think more girls should do camps like this,” Filkins, 14, said. “I’ve always been into science and math, so this has been really fun.”

Throughout this week, race camp participants learned about career opportunities in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in a hands on environment, camp director John Wagner said.

Campers focused on powering race cars using three different petroleum-independent technologies: wind, solar and hydrogen. Participants were divided into teams to modify the cars before a race Thursday afternoon.

Along with making the vehicles run with an alternative fuel source, participants learned to adjust the cars’ alignment, gears and tires to optimize their performance, Wagner said.

Elliot Voelker, 15, who will be a sophomore at Regis High School next school year, said he enjoyed racing cars while getting to know other camp participants.

The camp is part of a nationwide effort to expose students to opportunities in STEM-related professions. The event, funded by grants, was started by CVTC staff. Grants provide scholarships to help qualifying students afford the camp.

Tucker Manderscheid, 14, who will be a freshman at Chippewa Falls High School, enjoys modifying cars. His team powered their vehicles with solar power, which he thought was the easiest of the three alternative power sources to use.

Chicagoria Yang, 15, who will be a sophomore at North High School, was part of a team using wind to power its car. Team members adjusted the car’s gears and experimented with different wheels in an effort to enable it to drive more efficiently.

Wagner said some camp participants showed up early to spend extra time working on their cars.

“The kids are so exceptional,” Wagner said.

From leadertelegram.com: “CVTC plugs Energy Education Center into budget” – By Andrew Dowd Leader-Telegram staff — After several years of fundraising and planning, Chippewa Valley Technical College plans to start building a $10.3 million Energy Education Center in August.

With funding included in the 2014-15 budget the CVTC Board approved at its Thursday meeting, the college plans an addition and renovation of a current building to create the new center at its West Campus in Eau Claire.

“This is the year — after four years of planning and raising money — we’ll get to build the Energy Education Center,” CVTC President Bruce Barker said.

The new center still needs approval from the Wisconsin Technical College System Board in July and a second CVTC Board vote following that. A groundbreaking ceremony has tentatively been scheduled for Aug. 19, and CVTC intends for the center to open in fall 2015.

“The project’s become much more tangible,” Tom Huffcutt, CVTC’s vice president of operations, said.

The Energy Education Center will be created through renovation of three areas in the current Transportation Education Center, plus a 21,300-square-foot addition and a top-of-the-line, energy-efficient overhaul of the building’s air conditioning, heating and ventilation system.

Most of those costs will come from borrowing, but about $3 million will be paid by the CVTC Foundation.

About $2 million in private donations have already been made specifically to the center, Barker said, and about $520,000 in foundation reserves would be used too.

Any remaining portion of the foundation’s share could be paid through borrowing, said Kirk Moist, director of finance and borrowing.

The energy center will serve several programs, including electrical power distribution, electric line worker apprentices, landscape, plant and turf management, agriscience and farm business production management. The center will help the students study emerging sustainable energy sources, clean energy generation and distribution, and efficient energy utilization.

“The continued economic recovery in west-central Wisconsin is tied to energy security and independence,” stated a CVTC letter to the state technical college board.

CVTC’s capital projects — money spent on buildings and equipment — is increasing by about 29 percent in the budget, which was approved in a 7-0 vote of CVTC Board members at Thursday’s meeting.

The college had budgeted about $11.9 million for that in the past year, but is expecting to spend $15.3 million in 2014-15.

Though overall spending at the college is rising, local property taxes for CVTC are dropping dramatically.

The CVTC portion of a property tax bill on a $150,000 home will drop from $260 this year to $137 in 2015, according to the budget.

CVTC’s property taxes dive by $16.5 million in the proposed budget, but state aid is rising by about $18.2 million.

The property tax relief comes from Republican legislators who directed $406 million in state funds to technical colleges from a projected $1 billion state budget surplus.

CVTC accounts for a relatively small portion of local property tax bills when compared to municipal, county and school taxes. In Eau Claire, CVTC accounted for 7 percent of this year’s property tax bill.

From chippewa.com: “Menomonie students earn college credit early” — Tyler Luzinski has not finished his junior year at Menomonie High School, but he has a great start on his college education. Luzinski plans to attend Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) to study business management or marketing communications. He already has 12 ½ credits toward a degree from CVTC.

He doesn’t have to pass a test or apply for the credits. They will already be on his CVTC transcript.

His classmate, Adam McCulloch, who plans on attending CVTC in the FireMedic program will have CVTC credits for a medical terminology class he took at Menomonie High School. Senior Ashley McKay will be able to transfer CVTC credits from that same class when she attends UW-Eau Claire in the fall.

The Menomonie students are just three of the hundreds of high school students in western Wisconsin benefitting from college-level classes through CVTC’s dual credit program. Many of these students attend Menomonie High School, which was recognized Friday, May 16 by CVTC with the Partnership Award for its outstanding participation and cooperation in the program.

Full credit

In dual credit classes, known in academic circles as “transcripted credit,” high school students earn full credit directly from the technical college just as if the student took the class at the college. “They get credit on their (CVTC) transcript right away. They don’t have to apply for it. That credit can transfer to a university too,” said CVTC Registrar Jessica Schwartz. “We are looking for ways to create pathways from high school to CVTC, and to their bachelor’s degree at a university.”

The CVTC credits transfer to universities, including UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout, with which CVTC has transfer agreements.

“It’s part of the lifelong learning and career pathways initiative going on in technical colleges and in education as a whole,” said Amy Mangin, who works out the agreements between CVTC and participating high schools.

Dual credit classes must meet college standards, and CVTC instructors and staff work closely with the high schools on the curriculum and instruction. There must be a “100 percent competency match” between what is expected of a CVTC student and what is expected of the high school student, according to Schwartz.

Savings, benefits

Dual credit benefits students in multiple ways. Luzinskl enrolled in dual credit classes in accounting, marketing, computer applications and business management. Having the credits already on his CVTC transcript once he completes his junior year will save him time and money in the future.

“I’m planning on finishing college early,” Luzinski said.

And he can finish college spending or borrowing less money along the way. Schwartz noted that a popular dual credit class is Accounting I, a four-credit CVTC class. By taking the class tuition-free in high school, the students save $544 in tuition, plus $328 for books and materials. In tuition alone, Luzinski has already saved over $2,000 toward his college education.

Dual credit benefits students in career planning and college preparation as well. “High schools are looking at their programs of study and creating seamless transitions into higher education, or into careers,” said Mangin.

“The more students are exposed to a college environment while in high school, the more likely they are to complete college,” said Margo Keys, vice president of student services for CVTC.

“I wanted to see what the college load would be like,” Luzinski said. “I was a little surprised at first, but I’m doing well with it. It’s more self-taught. I like it when I can do more of it myself instead of listening to the teacher talk a lot.”

Starting out ahead

While students recognize the financial and time-saving benefits of dual credit, it’s really all about learning.

“I took Medical Termionology to get the knowledge for my nursing major,” said McKay. “I’ll be ahead of the other students in my class. But it’s very nice the credits will transfer to UW-EC.”

“Taking Medical Terminology is definitely something that will help me throughout my FireMedic program,” McCulloch said. “But the credits help. It would definitely cost me money to take it at CVTC.”

“It’s like getting a check every time you take one of these classes,” said Jeff Sullivan, associate dean of manufacturing at CVTC. “And the students see the rigors of college.

Menomonie High School currently has five dual credit classes through CVTC this school year, with another six classes under investigation for next year. CVTC has been expanding its dual credit offerings throughout its 11-county district. This school year, CVTC has 100 sections of 81 dual credit classes spread over 30 schools. In the 2011-12 school year CVTC had 24 classes in 15 schools throughout the district.

Support for the program is strong in Menomonie, according to Menomonie School District Director of Instruction Brian Seguin. “The community has spoken loud and clear. They want to see us expand our post-secondary partnerships,” Seguin said.

From piercecountyherald.com: “Retraining helps Ingli launch new career” – When the manufacturing plant where she worked shut down in 2011, Amber Ingli found herself in need of a job and at the threshold of what would be some years of struggle for her and her family.

Today, she has a job helping people who are in need of a job.

Ingli, a 1991 Ellsworth High School graduate, received her associate degree from Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in the Administrative Professional program May 8. Even before the graduation ceremony, she had lined up work with SEEK, an employment agency in Hudson.

“We’re getting there,” Ingli said of the turnaround from the days of difficulty for her family. “It’s nice to know that I’m going to be working. I feel more at peace.”

Ingli was one of 46 graduates in five academic programs to be honored at the CVTC River Falls Campus commencement held at River Falls High School. The graduates included 21 in the Nursing-Associate Degree program, 12 in Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement, nine in Business Management and three in Marketing Management. Ingli was the only Administrative Professional program graduate.

For Ingli, her CVTC education and assistance from federal job retraining programs were keys to recovery from her job loss. Her husband, Mark, works at his father’s business, Ingli Auto Body in Ellsworth. Amber had a job as a production worker at Johnson Controls in Hudson since 1998. The plant shut down in 2011.

“It was a scary feeling,” Ingli said. “I carried the health insurance for the family. It was a good job, and I was first shift.”

Fortunately, she was eligible for job retraining and financial assistance through the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance and Trade Readjustment Allowances programs designed to help workers displaced due to foreign competition. She was able to start her program at CVTC in January 2012, right after the plant shut-down. But that was a scary time, too.

“I was very nervous. Would I know how to study? Does my brain even work anymore? But it all came back to me. I’m graduating with honors,” Ingli said.

One of her concerns was a lack of background in computers, which would be needed for a job in an office setting. But she found the faculty at CVTC knew how to help people like her.

“They’re used to my generation coming back and my younger generation classmates were very helpful,” she said.

Her studies led her to an internship as an administrative assistant in the human resources office at Sajan in River Falls, and that helped her land the job at SEEK, which she started on April 7.

“I recruit applicants and place them in the correct jobs. We don’t want to place people at just any job. We want it to be the right fit,” Ingli said.

Her experience being unemployed after a plant shut-down helps her relate to the applicants coming into SEEK.

“I know what it’s like to be on that side, and a lot of the people we place are in light manufacturing.”

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