From “Displaced Pactiv workers launch new healthcare careers” — Barbara Kouba-Prewitt worked at the Pactiv plant in Chippewa Falls for more than 31 years; her friend Faye Wolf worked there over 20 year. Their lives were shattered in January when the plant closed, and they’ve still got a ways to go before piecing things back together.

But both Chippewa Falls women will soon be enrolling in a Certified Nursing Assistant class at Chippewa Valley Technical College as their next steps in new, but divergent, careers in healthcare.

After a lot of recent anguish, they see some hope on the horizon.

“Now at least I know there’s something I can do,” said Wolf.

The two women joined dozens of displaced workers in CVTC’s 11-county district to be introduced to new careers through the Healthcare Academy, part of the Bridges2Healthcare program that prepares displaced workers for specific jobs in the field. A group of 16 participants in the Healthcare Academy graduated Thursday in a ceremony at Wissota Health in Chippewa Falls. Seven of those graduates were former Pactiv workers.

“My last year at Pactiv I was a CI leader — a supervisory position,” said Kouba-Prewitt, reflecting on the layoff. “It was very difficult. Both my husband and I worked there.“

The glimmer of hope came from visits from representatives of the Department of Workforce Development.

“They came to our plant just about every week,” Kouba-Prewitt said.

Workforce Resource’s job is to transition unemployed people into long-term employment opportunities. That made the organization the perfect partner for CVTC in the Bridges2Healthcare program.

Bridges2Healthcare is the result of a federal grant made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the so-called stimulus bill of 2010. The bill made money available for retraining displaced workers for the jobs available in their areas.

CVTC was one of a group of eight technical and community colleges in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa to receive a grant to transition workers to healthcare jobs, according to CVTC Career Pathways Coordinator Brenda Scheurer.

“A lot of people were losing their jobs in manufacturing at the time,” said Scheurer. “We found a lot of the skills they had could be applicable to the healthcare industry.“

In Bridges2Healthcare, educational institutions partner with local agencies that work with displaced workers. In the Chippewa Valley, that’s Workforce Resource Inc.

“We were contacted by CVTC to put on the Healthcare Academy and to recruit people for the Bridges2Healthcare program,” said Sue Lane of Workforce Resource.

Workforce Resource screens prospects for their interest and aptitude for healthcare careers. Those selected enter the Healthcare Academy, a two-week session in which they explore the different aspects and opportunities available in the field.

“We go over medical terminology, regulations, safety, communication and time management,” Lane said. “They also become First Aid certified and do a lot of tours of local health care facilities.“

Through the process, the participants find areas of healthcare that interest them and are then channeled into further training programs, like Bridges2Healthcare’s Medical Office Receptionist or Geriatric Nursing Assistant, taught by CVTC instructors. Some enter regular CVTC programs like Nursing or Dental Hygienist.

“It’s remarkable,” said Kouba-Prewitt. “I became more interested in healthcare through the program. I’ve seen things that I didn’t even realize were part of healthcare.“

Wolf left factory work with a shoulder injury, and she was in need of a career change.

“I can’t do factory work anymore. I have to find something my shoulder can handle,” she said.

Wolf found what she was looking for in the Pharmacy Technician program at CVTC.

“I didn’t even know (the job) existed,” Wolf said. She thought all the people behind the counter at the pharmacy had impressive advanced degrees that were out of her reach. The Healthcare Academy taught her differently, and the rest of the Bridges2Healthcare program will help her transition into the career.

Kouba-Prewitt is headed for the Bridges2Healthcare Medical Office Receptionist program, but she also plans to take some accounting at CVTC, “so I can do the billing.“

Not all of the Healthcare Academy participants were laid-off workers. Nicole Barreiro of Chippewa Falls left a job in a field she just felt wasn’t right for her.

“I never worked in the healthcare field, but I felt I needed a fresh start,” she said. “Healthcare is very popular. There’s a lot of demand for workers. I like working with people. I love having that communication and interaction.“

Her explorations led her to CVTC’s Renal Dialysis Technician program.

Other Healthcare Academy sessions have been held in Eau Claire and River Falls since last fall, with more scheduled for later this year.

From “Chippewa County Businesses Receive Economic Development Recognition” — Winners of the Wisconsin Economic Development Association (WEDA) 2013 Biennial Economic Development Awards have been selected—two of the award recipients were Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) nominees. CCEDC nominated the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) and Progressive Rail (PR) who will receive their awards during the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development.

The CVTC, recognized for the 2013 WEDA Biennial Organization Award was nominated by CCEDC for their outstanding employer-employee based programs, technical certificate programs serving employers, workforce development, associate degree programs and high school programs.  CCEDC believes the CVTC has strengthened the Chippewa Valley workforce and enhances the region for economic development. CVTC offers excellent academics, strong occupational training, small class sizes, and dedicated instructors providing Chippewa Valley students with high-quality education and training opportunities.

“Chippewa Valley Technical College takes its role in economic development very seriously, and we continue to work hard to help local companies by meeting their needs with highly trained workers in a variety of fields”, state Bruce Barker, CVTC President. “Economic development is best approached as a partnership, and we are proud to partner with business and industry and other agencies to forward the economic health of west central Wisconsin. We would like to thank WEDA for this recognition of our efforts.”

PR received the 2013 WEDA Biennial Company Award.  CCEDC nominated PR for this award because of their transportation infrastructure improvements, support of existing and new industrial development initiatives thus eliminating congestion and inefficiencies and improving safety on the PR lines in Western Wisconsin.  PR’s recently completed an addition of two-new passing tracks to its main line in Chippewa County signifies an over $5 million investment of private sector funds.  The addition of these passing lanes has increased capacity to the entire rail network giving railcars operational feasibility and could be considered an industrial development incubator attracting more business and talent to the area.

“Perhaps the greatest mark of achievement in Progressive Rail’s track record is seen by the existing and new businesses that have elected to invest on our line which brings with that their commitment, careers, commerce and community involvement to Chippewa County and State of Wisconsin. I see railroads as America’s best economic development incubator and Progressive Rail is proud to be part of this investment”, stated Progressive Rails Owner and President Dave Fellon.  “We are honored to be the recipient of the WEDA economic development award and are appreciative to the CCEDC and WEDA for recognizing our efforts.”

“It is always great when Chippewa County businesses such as CVTC and PR are recognized by a group that represents economic development for the entire State of Wisconsin” stated CCEDC President/CEO Charlie Walker. “The roles both CVTC and PR play are diverse and needed for successful economic development; I look forward to strengthening the partnership with these economic development team players as we work to expand the Wisconsin workforce and economic base.”

In 1985, WEDA established the Biennial Awards program with the purpose of recognizing exceptional contributions to the economic vitality of Wisconsin through the use of creativity, leadership, effort, investment or other attributes which further broad-based economic development goals and objectives within the State of Wisconsin.

From “Tyler: Taking the ‘boring’ out of economic development” — On its face, fostering economic development seems to be a pretty straightforward process. But sometimes telling stories, not spouting statistics, is actually a more effective way to attract a prospect to an area’s business community.

That was the message delivered to an attentive audience by Woodville-based OEM Fabricators CEO Mark Tyler during the Dunn County Economic Development Corporation’s annual meeting last month.

He pointed out that a variety of very good reasons are touted to entice a new business to move to the region or for an established business to go ahead with that expansion project — things like being close to markets, an area’s attractiveness and quality of life, along with reasonably priced real estate, great educational systems, good workforce, access to transportation corridors and supply, and solid demographics.

“You still need to provide buildable sites in industrial parks, still need to provide the data … to do all that stuff,” Tyler said. “But if we’re really going to differentiate ourselves from others … we really need to develop some new stories and work in different ways.”

Drivers, followers

Part of redefining the story comes in acknowledging that the world of business is divided into two parts: Economic drivers and economic followers.

Economic drivers  — manufacturing, agriculture, education and mining — create what Tyler calls an “echo in the economy” and should constitute the focus of economic development efforts.

“You take a product, put it through some process, make it worth more money,” he explained. “You send it somewhere else, you bring your money here.”

While recognizing their importance in every community, Tyler contends that economic followers — banking, health care, insurance, retail and services — should not be the focus of economic development.

“The reason we don’t focus on them is that if we’re going to increase haircuts, we either have to make crew cuts stylish in men and women — or we have to have more people,” he said. “It’s a follower industry, not a leader industry.”

It’s the growers that create the value and increase the opportunities for the population to grow.

Blessed be Dunn County

Tyler pointed out that in addition to a strong foundation in leader industries, Dunn County is also blessed with good geography, specifically its proximity to the Twin Cities market to the west.

Little comes from the north and not much more from the south, he noted. “But most of what comes through is from the east and drives right through Dunn County. So from a distribution and logistics perspective, this is the Holy Grail for distribution [west] into the Twin Cities.

When it comes to attracting companies  to the area, Tyler said, “One of the things that’s always frustrated me about relocation is you never know who the decision maker is. Oftentimes it’s the owner’s or the plant manager’s spouse. They may not decide where they’re going to look, but they’re going to decide where they’re not going to go.”

And then there’s the issue of how best to encouraging those thinking about starting up new businesses.

“We certainly want all that fundamental stuff in place where we have Extension classes that talk about how to start companies … marketing … putting together a business plan,” Tyler said. “But how do we tell the stories that … starting a company is OK? To get past the fear of putting the mortgage on their house on the line or taking out a second mortgage?”

Unless other entrepreneurs — especially fairly new ones — share their experiences in a way “so people understand that it’s possible, it doesn’t happen,” Tyler said.

The art of collaboration

Collaboration — as opposed to simple cooperation — is key, what Tyler calls participants “getting out of our silos.”

To explain the concept, he shared OEM’s recent success story involving a project the company recently undertook involving Chippewa Valley Technical College and Baldwin-Woodville High School.

“Th three of us got together and basically we made the agreement that people resources were going to be on the table, financial resources. … If there’s rules that get in the way … we would gather to fight the rules and together make progress.”

The triad created what they call a manufacturing pathway that starts with ninth grade students exploring the world of manufacturing.

“By the 10th grade, they declare that they’re going on this pathway,” Tyler explained. “By the time they’ve completed high school, they’re working part time, they’ve earned a half a year of credit tuition free toward their program, whether it’s welding or machine tool or industrial mechanics or whatever [at CVTC].”

The result is a faster path toward gainful — and meaningful — employment that benefits the student, the college and the company. OEM covers the student/employee’s tuition while he or she works 20 hours a week.

“We’ve looked at all the components and solved the problems — the financial problems, the teacher credential problems, the block time scheduling at the high school problems — all the things we worked on collectively to solve,” Tyler reflected, adding that while there are still some issues being worked out,  “If all of us hadn’t put all our resources together, we couldn’t have got it done.”

Tyler estimates that OEM has hired more than 300 people over the past three years and spent $1.2 million recruiting, drug testing and training employees. He figures the new collaborative effort — at a cost of $4,000 to $4,500 per student — will provide substantial savings over the recruitment and training process.

Labor makes up 40 to 50 percent of the cost of doing business, and most manufacturers report difficulty in finding qualified workers.

“That’s their hot button,” Tyler said. “You solve any problem associated with that and you’re going to make some progress.”

Other avenues

On the administrative side of the business equation, Tyler pointed out that UW-Stout’s goal to have 100 percent of its students to participate in either a co-op program or internship could benefit local manufacturers and other economic drivers.

Noting that half of OEM’s management team are UW-Stout graduates, he said, “For about 15 years, we’ve been bringing in interns,” he said. “We found that about half of them never go away.”

Tyler said it finally occurred to them that perhaps OEM should recruit interns with the intent of keeping them on as future management staff. With more people leaving the workforce in western Wisconsin than entering, that kind of retention could have a dramatic impact on the region’s economic viability.

“I would really like to see participation and collaboration with helping build the talent pipeline,” Tyler said. “Workforce development and economic development are really the same thing in today’s climate.”

And in the meantime, keep those stories coming.

From “Partnership allows CVTC ag students to get hands-on experience” — Students at Chippewa Valley Technical College are getting hands-on lessons with tractor equipment.

CVTC has partnered up with Tractor Central, which is the John Deere dealer in the Chippewa Valley. Students in farm related classes are getting the opportunity to get experience with top-of-the-line field equipment like tractors, sprayers, planting equipment and combines.

The Dean of Industry, Energy and Ag. Aliesha Crowe says “we provide them with a list of equipment that we need to meet our curriculum, competencies, and they provide us with that equipment for a short term, whether it be in the planting season or the harvesting season and then we return the equipment to tractor central when we’re done with it.”

Crowe says Tractor Central will also benefit from the program because they may want to hire some of those CVTC students after they graduate, and they will already be familiar with the equipment.


From “Displaced workers launch new health care careers” — Cristin Johnson was laid off from her job at a call center, but today she sees great possibilities for her future.

Johnson, of Eau Claire, is about to enroll in the medical office receptionist program at Chippewa Valley Technical College as a way to transition to the medical assistant program next fall. She’s excited about the prospect of landing a job in the medical field.

Johnson is one of dozens of displaced workers in CVTC’s 11-county district to be introduced to new health care careers through the Health care Academy, part of the Bridges2Healthcare program that prepares displaced workers for specific jobs in the field. A group of 14 participants in the Health care Academy graduated from the program Jan. 11, with more sessions coming up.

“We took tours (of health care businesses) and the workers were so excited to be there for people. That’s why I want to get into health care, to be there for people,” Johnson said.

The people-centered nature of the health care field is one of the things participants learn about in the Health care Academy, the introductory part of the Bridges2Healthcare program.

Bridges2Healthcare is the result of a federal grant made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the so-called stimulus bill of 2010. The bill made money available for retraining displaced workers for the jobs available in their areas. CVTC was one of a group of eight technical and community colleges in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa to receive a grant to transition workers to jobs in health care, according to CVTC Career Pathways Coordinator Brenda Scheurer.

“A lot of people were losing their jobs in manufacturing at the time,” said Scheurer. “We found a lot of the skills they had could be applicable to the health care industry.”

In Bridges2Healthcare, educational institutions partner with local agencies that work with displaced workers. In the Chippewa Valley, that agency is Workforce Resource Inc.

“We were contacted by CVTC to put on the Health care Academy and to recruit people for the Bridges2Healthcare program,” said Sue Lane of Workforce Resource.

Workforce Resource screens prospects for their interest and aptitude for health care careers. Those selected enter the Health care Academy, a two-week session in which they explore the different aspects and opportunities available in the field.

“We go over medical terminology, regulations, safety, communication and time management,” Lane said. “They also become First Aid certified and do a lot of tours of local health care facilities.”

Through the process, the participants find areas of health care that interest them and are then channeled into further training programs, like Bridges2Healthcare’s Medical Office Receptionist or Geriatric Nursing Assistant, taught by CVTC instructors. Some enter regular CVTC programs like Nursing or Dental Hygienist.

“I really like how the staff at CVTC take time to give extra help if we need it. They will help make sure you are ready,” Johnson said.

Terri Rayner of Eau Claire was also laid off from a call center. Looking into a health care career seemed natural to her.

“I did CNA (certified nursing assistant) work before and when I got displaced, I wanted to see what the other options were,” she said. The Health care Academy led to interest in work as a resident assistant or a pharmacy assistant technician.

Rayner was fortunate enough to have a recent job offer. Now she’s considering obtaining health care career training while working so she’s in a position to advance her career in the future.

“It’s been a great experience for anyone wanting to pursue their education,” said Tonya Greger of Chippewa Falls. “In the Health care Academy, we heard all of the different aspects of the nursing and the medical fields. I’d like to further my career by going into nursing.”

More Health care Academy sessions are set up for later this month and into February in Eau Claire, River Falls and Chippewa Falls.

From “Menomonie native to lead CVTC’s River Falls campus” — A Menomonie native has been chosen to lead Chippewa Valley Technical College’s efforts to expand its programs and physical facilities at the River Falls campus.

The college has named Beth Hein campus administrator and dean at River Falls, effective with the start of the spring term last week. Hein, who lives just west of Menomonie near where she grew up,  had been serving as CVTC’s dean of Business and Service.

Among Hein’s new duties in River Falls will be to direct an expansion of both the physical facilities and program offerings at the campus, which opened in the 1998-99 term.

“Our plan in River Falls is to create a comprehensive campus, one in which all the services available at the Eau Claire Campus will be available at the River Falls Campus,” said Vice President of Instruction Dr. Roger Stanford.

The size, function, design, cost and financing of the physical expansion have yet to be determined, according to Director of Facilities Doug Olson.

‘Doubling down’

CVTC currently offers nine programs through its River Falls Campus. That number is likely to grow.

“We are doubling down on River Falls,” said Stanford. “We are adding leadership there, and Hein will do research to define the right program mix for the River Falls area.”

“The St. Croix Valley is one of the fastest-growing areas of the state, and it’s reflected in our growing enrollment at River Falls,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker. “We intend to do more to serve this area of our district, and Beth Hein will be taking a leadership role in working with the people, businesses and industry of the area to determine how we can best meet their needs.”

For the 1998-99 term, 899 different students were enrolled at River Falls, including those in noncredit classes. However, those students made up only the equivalent of 28 full-time students. In the 2011-12 term, 1,160 different students made up 318 full-time equivalent students.

“The campus is at 100 percent capacity,” said Stanford. “Every room is booked virtually every hour of the day.”

Adventure, challenge

“It’s going to be an adventure,” Hein said, emphasizing how much she’s looking forward to the new professional challenge. “One of the most exciting things is to get to know the region better and to learn how to meet the needs of the businesses and industry.”

Gaining a better understanding of their needs will drive the decisions on program expansions, which will affect the direction on facilities, Hein said.

“I will be doing the research to better align the programs to the employment needs. We want to be sure that whatever we’re adding, there’s a job out there for those students,” Hein said.

Hein is also looking forward to forming relationships with the students at the River Falls Campus. It’s something she’s used to doing at the Eau Claire Campus.

“We work very hard with students who are struggling, letting them know what kinds of services are available to them. We want to see everyone succeed,” Hein said.

“We want to have a dean present to answer students’ questions and work closely with them to help them succeed. Beth will be there every day to provide help and guidance to students,” Stanford said.

About Hein

Hein completed her undergraduate work in career and technical education at UW-Stout in 1996, after gaining some credits at UW-Eau Claire and CVTC. She completed her Master’s degree in 1998, along the way working some as an adjunct instructor at CVTC.

Hein then spent 10 years in the human resources field, working for some private businesses before joining CVTC as a human resources specialist in 2004. After two years, she became a program manager in the College’s business program, and went on from there to become dean of Business and Service.

Hein is in the final stages of work on her doctorate in higher education leadership.

While maintaining her status as dean, Hein will have expanded responsibilities at River Falls.

“It will be a new opportunity to provide support for multiple areas,” she said, noting that River Falls offers programs beyond the business and service areas in which she has been involved as dean previously.

“Beth has a unique set of skills. She has a lot of business background, and she has a real strong understanding of education, student services and operations,” said Stanford.


From “Senator Baldwin stops in Eau Claire to talk skills gap, gun control” — Eau Claire (WQOW) – Senator Tammy Baldwin was in Eau Claire Thursday to visit CVTC’s NanoRite Technology Center. She spoke about the “skills gap” in the state. Baldwin says lots of jobs are available in industries that require a two year technical college degree, but there aren’t enough qualified workers to fill those positions.

“We have so many people who were displaced in our great recession, displaced from manufacturing jobs, you have manufacturers who want new workers, but they’re finding a gap between skills. And Chippewa Valley Technical college and our statewide technical college system are really stepping up and forming partnerships and tackling this problem,” says Senator Baldwin.

The senator says she’s hoping to bring forward legislation to help fix the problem during this session.

“I’m on a committee that will be dealing with educational and labor issues and so the skills gap is one that is of deep interest to me, and I’d really like to see us move forward. It’s frustrating when you have good paying available jobs, people who want work and want those jobs, and all that’s needed is the resources needed to close that skills gap,” says Baldwin.

She also spoke about the national debate over gun control. Baldwin says she’s in support of closing loopholes on background checks for gun sales.

“I think closing that loophole is a very important thing, and it’s a view widely shared among gun owners like myself and people who don’t. I strongly support the second amendment but I think the second amendment is entirely consistent with prudent safety measures, and we need to step forward to protect our citizens and protect our communities,” Baldwin says.


From “CVTC eyes expansion, new River Falls leadership” — RIVER FALLS — Chippewa Valley Technical College is expanding its leadership team at the River Falls campus as it prepares for an expansion of the campus itself.

Beth Hein was also named campus administrator and dean at River Falls, effective with the start of the spring term this week. Hein had served as the school’s dean of business and service.

Among Hein’s new duties in River Falls will be to direct an expansion of both the physical facilities and program offerings at the campus that opened in the 1998-99 term.

“Our plan in River Falls is to create a comprehensive campus, one in which all the services available at the Eau Claire campus will be available at the River Falls campus,” said Vice President of Instruction Dr. Roger Stanford.

The size, function, design, cost and financing of the physical expansion have yet to be determined, according to Director of Facilities Doug Olson.

“In 2010, CVTC purchased land adjacent to the campus in anticipation of future expansion needs,” Olson said. “We will now be doing the research to determine what form the expansion should take.”

The same goes for a planned expansion of programs.

The school offers nine programs through its River Falls campus. That number is likely to grow.

“We are doubling down on River Falls,” said Stanford. “We are adding leadership there, and Hein will do research to define the right program mix for the River Falls area.”

“The St. Croix Valley is one of the fastest-growing areas of the state, and it’s reflected in our growing enrollment at River Falls,” said Chippewa Valley President Bruce Barker. “We intend to do more to serve this area of our district, and Beth Hein will be taking a leadership role in working with the people, businesses and industry of the area to determine how we can best meet their needs.”

With its main campuses in Eau Claire, Chippewa Valley Technical College serves an 11-county area, including Pierce, Pepin and Dunn counties, and part of St. Croix County.

Growing enrollment

For the 1998-99 term, 899 different students were enrolled, including those in noncredit classes. However, those students made up only the equivalent of 28 full-time students.

By the 2003-04 term, 1,054 different students were enrolled, for a full-time equivalent of 154 students.

In the 2011-12 term, 1,160 different students made up 318 full-time equivalent students.

“The campus is at 100 percent capacity. Every room is booked virtually every hour of the day,” said Stanford.

“It’s going to be an adventure,” Hein said, emphasizing how much she’s looking forward to the new professional challenge. “One of the most exciting things is to get to know the region better and to learn how to meet the needs of the businesses and industry.”

Gaining a better understanding of their needs will drive the decisions on program expansions that affect the direction on facilities, Hein said.

This strategy will also serve the students well, Hein added. CVTC works to prepare students for employment in jobs available in the local job market.

“I will be doing the research to better align the programs to the employment needs. We want to be sure that whatever we’re adding, there’s a job out there for those students,” Hein said.

 Current programs

The River Falls campus offers programs in administrative professional; business management; human resources; marketing management; nursing; nursing assistant; criminal justice; building construction; and liberal arts.

In addition, Hein will strive for further partnerships with other educational institutions that serve the St. Croix Valley, including UW-River Falls, area high schools, and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, which has a campus in New Richmond.

Stanford said partnerships involve high school students gaining technical college credits for completion of certain classes that meet the College’s standards. Likewise, CVTC students may earn credits transferrable to UW-River Falls and other four-year institutions.

In her past assignments at CVTC, Hein has already worked on such agreements in the St. Croix Valley.

Hein is also looking forward to forming relationships with the students at the River Falls campus. It’s something she’s used to doing at the Eau Claire campus.

“We work very hard with students who are struggling, letting them know what kinds of services are available to them. We want to see everyone succeed,” Hein said.

Said Stanford: “We want to have a dean present to answer student questions and work closely with them to help them succeed. Beth will be there every day to provide help and guidance to students.”

From “West Salem first responder sees the ‘other side of 911′ — WEST SALEM — Spencer Lewison found his calling in a CPR class. Lewison, 20, switched career paths and colleges, and in a matter of months he was taking calls as a volunteer first responder.

It was the feeling that he got after leaving that class that drove him to leave behind a liberal arts degree for a field he knows won’t net him fame or money, Lewison said. The feeling sends him flying to the scene of emergencies, seeking experience as he works toward a career as a paramedic.


“Not many people get to step into those shoes and be the other side of 911,” Lewison said. “Being that answer is just phenomenal in my mind.”

When he isn’t in Eau Claire, Wis., for college, Lewison volunteers for the West Salem Emergency Medical Team and is studying to become a paramedic.

He started with the unit in May, as he finished a semester-long training program at Western Technical College.

Soon, he was pulling overnight shifts as a responder, and heading into Festival Foods the next morning for work.

“When I first started doing it, I noticed the whole adrenaline rush,” Lewison said. “Since my first call, I loved it.”

Being a first responder meant Lewison is often the first person to a scene. It’s often up to him and other volunteers to check vital signs, get names, and make sure the scene is safe.

When Tri-State Ambulance arrives, he is responsible for making sure they have the information they need to treat a patient.

“To have someone’s life in your hands at the age of 19 is a big deal,” Lewison said.

Major car crashes or routine calls, Lewison treats each emergency with equal concern, said Seth Melde, who studied with Lewison at Western, and volunteers with him in West Salem.

“It’s about the patient when we’re there,” Melde said. “It’s about making sure the patient is comfortable no matter what.”

Team President Duane Kneifl calls Lewison “one of our young guns.”

Kneifl rides with Lewison often, at all hours. Despite Lewison’s age, he has a unique ability to communicate with patients when he’s at a scene, Kneifl said.

“He connects with them,” Kneifl said. “He just really relates to what their problems are.”

That connection drives Lewison.

He calls it something different, but he got his first taste of it not long after high school.

He graduated from West Salem High School in 2011 and entered Winona State University in the fall as a tentative music major.

Unsure of his future, a friend recommended he try out classes to become an emergency medical technician.

He took a CPR class in November and walked away changed.

“You knew walking out of there that you could save someone’s life,” Lewison said.

Now, Lewison talks about the faces of his patients. Those faces are why he jumps at the chance for a midnight call when he’s home in West Salem. Those faces are why he is studying at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, Wis., to become a paramedic, and hopefully, one day, a flight medic.

“I just like to see the look on their face,” Lewison said. “When they light up because someone cares for them.”

From “Technical colleges help area paramedics meet  regulations” — A cooperative program between two area technical colleges is keeping emergency medical response workers up to date on what they need to know to transport critically ill patients.

A critical care transport class offered by Chippewa Valley Technical College – in cooperation with Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Rice Lake – was created with the help of a government grant to respond to the needs of ambulance services in rural areas.

A patient in transport needing a unit of blood might expect that EMTs or paramedics on board the ambulance could simply take care of that procedure. However, it is not that simple.

The medical procedures emergency medical services personnel are able to do, and what they are prohibited from doing, are tightly regulated. Delivering a unit of blood, for example, requires training in critical care transport because of new regulations.

Some ambulance services, particularly those that serve rural areas, were in danger of losing their certification to transport patients with particular needs. To address that need, CVTC offered a class and partnered with WITC to offer the class in its neighboring district, where there was great demand.

“We identified a need for critical care transport in the St Croix County area, which represents the west side of both (CVTC and WITC) districts,” says Terry Gonderzik, advanced life support program director at CVTC.

“And Sen. Sheila Harsdorf’s office had numerous requests for such training. We wrote a grant and were given the funding for four classes in this area.”

“Without this training we would not have been able to do the inter-facility transfers to the level we had been,” said Jeff Rixmann, director of the River Falls Ambulance Service who was one of 11 members of the River Falls Ambulance Service to receive the training.

Many different medical emergencies or concerns can arise during transport, Rixmann said. For example, some patients may require multiple medications, a ventilator, have arterial lines in place or need special monitoring. With the higher level of training, emergency medical personnel can better evaluate patient status and provide more treatments if necessary.

“It gives us the capability of doing inter-facility transfers with a lot more advanced equipment,” said Matt Simpson, a paramedic with the Ellsworth Area Ambulance Service who received the training.

To receive the training, students must have advanced life support education and be graduates from a paramedic program or be a licensed health care provider, such as a registered nurse or respiratory therapist, said Greg Carlson, WITC emergency medical services instructor. They also must have experience in their respective fields.

The course involved attending class two evenings a week, online learning and 12 hours of clinical education. Successful course completion enables Wisconsin paramedics to add the critical care endorsement certification and meets Wisconsin’s EMT-Paramedic to Paramedic transition requirements.

Classes already have been held in Eau Claire, River Falls and New Richmond.

From “CVTC upgrades technician program facility” — Some CVTC students will now be working in a facility that will better prepare them for the real world.

Students in the Diesel/Heavy Equipment Technician Program at Chippewa Valley Technical College now train at a new location at Arbor Court in Eau Claire. The new facility increases space from 9,500 to 16,800 square feet.

The school says the Diesel Education Center is much like a professional garage and is a good first step toward working to meet the needs of an industry.

From “US Department of Labor’s OSHA renews alliance with Chippewa Valley Technical College in Wisconsin” — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has renewed an alliance with Chippewa Valley Technical College that focuses on health and safety training for college staff, students, local employers and community members.

OSHA and Chippewa Valley Technical College will provide information, guidance, and access to training and related resources to improve employee safety and health as well as develop training programs.

“This alliance presents a great opportunity for OSHA and Chippewa Valley Technical College to continue working together to train employers, workers and students about safety and health issues,” said Mark Hysell, OSHA’s area director in Eau Claire. “Our mutual goal is to protect Wisconsin’s workers.”

Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with businesses, trade associations, unions, consulates, professional organizations, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. The purpose of each alliance is to develop compliance assistance tools and resources, and educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities. For more information, visit

Chippewa Valley Technical College has four campuses in Eau Claire as well as facilities in Chippewa Falls, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls.

Employers and employees with questions about this or other OSHA alliances and partnerships may call the agency’s Eau Claire Area Office at 715-832-9019.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

From “CVTC food program provides fresh greens” – Thursdays are fresh produce delivery days at Chippewa Valley Technical College, and even in late November people receive bags of fresh lettuce, carrots, baby radishes, onions, peppers and various herbs.

Students, meanwhile, receive practical lessons on running a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, not to mention a bit of cash for the Horticulture Club. It’s a delicious arrangement that students thought of themselves.

As part of its landscape, plant and turf management program, CVTC operates small greenhouse and hydroponic facilities. Students in the Horticulture Club wanted to make the best use of the extended growing season the facilities offer.

“We wanted to continue growing stuff, plus there was food already growing there from the summer internships,” said Carrine Baldwin, a Menomonie area resident who is president of the CVTC Horticulture Club.

Club members thought of various options for selling what they could grow and harvest, but most ideas weren’t practical. The answer to what was came from Baldwin’s own career ambition.

“I want to do my own CSA,” said the third-semester student. “I did an internship this past summer with a woman who ran her own CSA near Boyceville.”

In a CSA, local people purchase a share of a farmer’s crops in advance through a subscription. The farmer receives cash to cover the costs of producing the crops, and a bit of profit too. The members receive fresh, locally grown produce at harvest time, usually cheaper than buying it at a grocery store. CSAs support small farmers, the local economy and healthy diets.

“It’s shared risk and reward too,” said Baldwin. “If you have a good year, the members share in the harvest, but if things get hard, they have to understand.”

In October students proposed setting up a mini-CSA to horticulture instructor and department chairman Susan Frame, who asked them to spell out their plan in writing. The limited amount of produce they would have available so late in the fall required that the project be kept small, so students proposed recruiting 10 people to buy $20 memberships with the promise of receiving bags of produce once a week for a month or two.

Frame approved the endeavor, and on Oct. 22 an all-staff email went out soliciting memberships. The email message prompted 35 immediate responses and the new 12-member CSA was established in less than a day.

“I thought it was going to be hard to find 10 people,” Baldwin confessed.

All CSA members are receiving lettuces and greens such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard plus herbs such as basil and tarragon.

Members take turns receiving some of the harder-to-come-by produce like broccoli and beets. But they aren’t complaining. The program has been a big hit with members, who will be happy to know students plan to bring it back in the spring. The fall program is winding down.

“They are so happy. That’s the most rewarding part,” Baldwin said. “Growing the food is fun, but when they get their food, they are so grateful.”

CSA members agreed.

“I love the lettuce. I love the carrots, and I used all of the potatoes I got,” said member Candy Johnson, assistant to CVTC President Bruce Barker. “I love every Thursday when they come (with food).”

In addition to the opportunity to eat fresh food, Pang Garcia, an academic services assistant at CVTC, appreciates the personal touch the CSA offers.

“They always have a note of what’s in the bag and some recipes,” she said.

The CSA makes monetary sense too, members said.

“If you went to purchase these items in a grocery store this time of year, you would pay four or five dollars for the herbs. My money has been returned ten-fold,” Garcia said.


From “Area job picture picking up” — For all the talk of a down economy, Riverside Machine & Engineering in Chippewa Falls has had pretty steady growth. Human Resources Director Rita Bernard estimates it at about 12 to 20 percent each of the past few years.

“We are adding to our workforce. We want to add two full-time and two part-time people,” she said.

A manufacturer of metal parts primarily in the medical and aerospace industries, Riverside has need of people in the machine tool trade. To find them, Riverside came out to the Career Fair at Chippewa Valley Technical College Tuesday, where 27 manufacturers had registered for tables.

The employers were not necessarily in the driver’s seat at the Career Fair. Many were in recruiting mode, looking to convince students who will graduate soon to consider their companies.

Brandon Halmstad felt that. The second-year student originally from Ladysmith in the electromechanical program found quite a bit of interest — in him.

“It’s hard to keep track of where (which tables) I’ve been,” he said. “I looked into ConAgra, and I looked into Presto a lot. I’ve heard from a few different people that they’re a nice company to work for.”

Yes, there are positive signs in the local economy, even with an unemployment rate hovering in the 6.8-percent range in the Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls area. CVTC’s Career Fair was a bit of a good sign itself, with 72 companies registering for 76 tables at three locations. Last year, there were just 51 registrants.

Of course, whether there is a surplus or shortage of workers for job openings depends on the field, but having companies in growth mode tends to help an economy across the board.

“We just about doubled our workforce in a year’s time,” said Gary Fenner from Pro-Cise, a contract manufacturer on Eau Claire’s north side. Pro-Cise is part of the Plank Enterprises family of companies, where Fenner is corporate vice president.

Fenner said Pro-Cise, which has seen growth in orders from the oil industry, currently employs 26.

“We’re looking for machinists and welders, just like every other manufacturer here,” he said.

That includes Thomas & Betts Corporation, whose plant in Hager City has a huge demand for welders to make those huge metal power line poles.

“We have a high demand right now. We just added a third shift not too long ago,” said company representative Rod Peterson.

Other opportunities are available outside the manufacturing area. Service Manager Frank Paulich of E.O. Johnson Office Technologies was primarily recruiting people from the Information Technology programs at CVTC, but one who also has some mechanical aptitude.

“Our real need right now is someone in the middle — someone who carries a screwdriver in one hand and a laptop in the other,” he said.

For job seekers, it’s often all about training for the jobs that are available. First-semester CVTC student Alex Henry of Eau Claire was looking for internships in the Information Technology field.

“Long term, I would like to program mobile applications or games, but I just need to get some experience in the industry,” said Henry, who also has an English degree from UW-Eau Claire.

He set up a couple of interviews at the Career Fair and has a generally positive outlook on his prospects once he finishes the two-year program.

From “Pink collar careers: Women find manufacturing a pathway to opportunity, better pay” — EAU CLAIRE — Charlene Montanye of Menomonie got her start in welding a couple of years ago, when her family was building a wheelchair ramp for her grandmother. He father gave her a couple of pieces of metal frame and told her to go weld them together.

The request surprised her, but it wasn’t as if the task were totally foreign to her. Montanye, 24, had watched her father and uncles weld things many times. She was able to do it, and now she is in her third semester of the Welding program at Chippewa Valley Technical College, aiming for a career as a professional welder. Her dad thinks it’s a good choice.

“My dad pushed me to become something. It didn’t matter what, but something that I liked,” she said. “I think it’s a great field, and I enjoy competing with the boys.”

Yes, Montanye realizes it’s a very much male-dominated industry, but she also realizes there’s more money to be made in manufacturing than in some traditional female-dominated fields.

Plenty of manufacturing jobs go unfilled because of the lack of trained workers. Pay for such jobs is rising and opportunities abound, including opportunities for women who have the training.

Chrystal Reidt realized that years ago. She went through the Welding program at Chippewa Valley Technical College, where graduates today earn on average $16.21 an hour to start. Reidt’s training led her to a career that included three years at PDM Bridge and four years at McDonough Manufacturing, both in Eau Claire.

“I never worked with another woman,” said Reidt, who today is a Welding instructor at CVTC.

That’s a reflection of women being slow to pursue careers in manufacturing jobs.

“It’s not really put out there for them, so they don’t consider it as an option,” said Reidt. “An effort should be made to encourage them. They don’t know what’s out there.”

Practical choice

Welding and other manufacturing jobs may be non-traditional for women, but the field can be an imminently practical choice.

Robin Butts has a 5-year-old daughter to raise. Fortunately, she has the help of the girl’s father, works for a cooperative employer and has a plan to help her meet the challenges young families face in today’s economy.

Her plan involves furthering a career in manufacturing.

Butts, 25, of Augusta, works on the manufacturing floor at Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) in Osseo.

Butts has proven her worth at GFS. She works in an area that makes lighting equipment. “There’re a lot of women in the office and in the area where I work there are five women, but in the rest of the plant I don’t think there are any on the manufacturing floor,” she said.

In her area, Butts became a go-to person. When some equipment broke down, she could get it going again. However, she didn’t have any formal training or degree, so to open the possibility of advancement, she sought more training.

Butts is enrolled in the Electromechnical Technology program at CVTC and is working reduced hours while going to school. The company is helping pay for her education.

“I’m very thankful to my supervisors at Global for allowing me to go back to school and for being so understanding,” she said.

Electromechanical Technology graduates from CVTC make an average starting wage of over $20 an hour, according to a survey of 2010-11 graduates.

Butts says she likes being active all day, even if the work is more strenuous than a desk job.

Montanye isn’t worried about the physical work, or the fact that she’ll be working with men.

“I was never a girly-girl. I liked to hang out with the boys,” Montanye said.

“I can help them out with things, and that makes a world of difference to me,” she said. “I don’t rub it in to them, but I feel that little bit of a sense of accomplishment. Every woman wants to show up the men, in one way or another.”

Montanye has her eye on a job at Thomas and Betts Corporation (Meyer Industries) in Hager City, which has a great demand for welders to manufacture those huge metal poles for power lines.

“I think it would be cool to drive by one of those and say, ‘I built that,'” Montanye said. “But my ultimate goal is to open my own welding shop.”

Father’s footsteps

Jennifer Sorenson, 24, of Eau Claire looked into other fields, but decided they weren’t for her. She developed an interest in welding, following in the footsteps of her father.

“It kind of excites me,” the first-semester Welding student at CVTC said about going into a male-dominated field. “There are very few women in the welding industry.”

Sorenson enjoys the work.

“I like the hands-on work, finishing something and being able to show something physical from your work,” she said.

Sorenson is considering completing CVTC’s new two-year welding program, which would send her to the workforce with a higher level of skill. She’s looking into work in a pipeline field, or perhaps in aluminum welding. There are plenty of opportunities.

“You pretty much have a job waiting when you walk out the door,” she said.

These future manufacturing workers aren’t letting the image of traditional gender roles limit them, and aren’t listening to the “that’s a man’s job” attitude.

“You can’t let anybody hold you back,” said Montanye.

But it will also take encouragement to get more women to choose higher paying manufacturing jobs.

“A lot of this has to do with the high school level,” said Reidt. “High schools tend to push university education. They could do more exploratory things with workshops for girls.”

Part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), Chippewa Valley Technical College serves an 11-county area and has campuses located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls.

From “CVTC students make the cut at salon competition” — When Chippewa Valley Technical College barber/cosmetology student Angelica Johnson finished her model’s hair, she checked out what other contestants were doing and her confidence level soared.

“After I looked around when I was done, I knew I was going to win,” she said.

Johnson’s confidence was not misplaced. She placed first in the Men’s Cut, Color and Style category and received the Most Creative Fashion Award at the Minnesota State InSalon competition Oct. 14.

Johnson, who is originally from Milwaukee, was one of three CVTC students to earn awards in the prestigious competition for student stylists over a four-state region.

Amanda Gildea of Glenwood City placed third in the Women’s Evening Look category, and Lydia Ulwelling of Durand placed sixth in Men’s Cut, Color and Style.

Seven CVTC students participated in the competition this year.

Competition for the awards is intense, said CVTC instructor and barber/cosmetology department chairwoman Becky Hicks.

The event draws about 80 competitors from private cosmetology schools and technical colleges.

Students must develop an original style for the competition, provide a model and complete the styling within a given time frame. They generally know what they are going to do and have practiced the style. Any hair coloring is done in advance.

“We take about a month and a half for training, to practice and get the style down,” Hicks said.

Johnson’s task was particularly challenging because she created an ethnic style. A shortage of such models prevented her from getting a lot of practice.

“It was my second ethnic haircut,” Johnson said.

In addition, the model’s hair texture was a little more difficult to work with.

She was nervous and “shaking the entire time,” she said. “I didn’t want to look around and see what the others were doing.”

In developing a style, Johnson used tips her brother provided. He also attended CVTC and is a professional stylist.

Gildea used pictures of other styles as inspiration for her evening style. “In the end, what it looked like was totally different than imagined,” Gildea said.

Her model has long hair, and she had trouble completing the style in the time allowed.

Gildea was surprised at her award. “There were a lot of pretty updos. I was intimidated,” she said.

Ulwelling’s big challenge was devising a new plan days before the competition, when her model’s hair turned out to be too short for her original idea.

She came up with a “bald fade,” which is a tapered cut that is longest in front and fades to a shorter cut at the back.

Prizes included trophies, medals, plus $250, $150 and $75 scholarships for first through third places.

All three students recently finished the program at CVTC.

From “Candidates agree on community college support, CVTC hopeful for future” — EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) – In a debate focused on showing voters their differences, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney actually agreed on the need to support community colleges’ cooperation with hiring businesses.

“One of the things I suspect governor Romney and I probably agree on is getting businesses to work with community colleges so that they’re setting up their training programs,” Obama said.

“Oh yeah,” Romney said in response. “It’s going over well in my state, by the way.”

Doug Olson with Chippewa Valley Technical College said the school has always had those types of connections and is glad to hear of the bipartisan support.

“We tailor our programs and even add new programs or eliminate programs based on that need. Our entire focus is meeting the workforce needs of the businesses in our district,” Olson said. “I think both parties really recognize the importance and need for a skilled workforce.”

Eau Claire’s Plank Enterprises, a parent company to three manufacturing companies calls CVTC its “lifeline” to find new skilled workers, employing graduates like machinist Cody Pattison.

“I knew that right away that I was going to acquire the skills to find a job,” Pattison said. “I need people to come in that I can train and help out, so I don’t have to work a crazy amount of overtime and it worked out for me.”

“We’re in constant interaction with CVTC, both with instructors and administration there as well to share what our needs are in the manufacturing industry,” Plank Enterprises President Mike Ottum said. “The real challenge today is trying to find that skilled workforce.”

The candidates do differ on how the programs should be funded.

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From “Arcadia Police Department makes historic hire” — After graduating from UW-Stout and CVTC, 28-year-old Diana Anderson is taking on the role of new mother and police chief.

“This is something that I’ve strived to do in my career. I didn’t think it would happen this early in my career,” said Diana Anderson, Arcadia Police Chief.

The Independence native worked in the Arcadia Police Department for more than five years after working in Dunn County and she says she wants to help people.

“I’ve always wanted to give back to the community and help out the community. A lot of times within our job were seen as the people who hand out tickets,” said Anderson.

Diana says although she has a lot of paperwork to do in the office, she still gets the opportunity to drive police cars and help the community. She also gets to assist officers.

Mayor John Kimmel says the previous police chief served about 25 years in the department but decided to try new things.

“He’s got big shoes to fill but I think she is certainly up to the challenge. She’s energetic. She’s got some great ideas,” said Mayor John Kimmel.

Anderson says she’s not worried about being young as well as the first female chief.

She says she’s respected and hopes to help serve as a role model.

“I hope the younger youth within our community look up to me, e specially young girls and know that they’re able to do this job in the future if they like to,” said Anderson.

“The two roles she’s going to serve is obviously the function of the police chief but I think she’s going to be a great liaison to the city,” said Kimmel.

“I want people and citizens of the city of Arcadia to see us in a positive light and they understand whatever they need us for we’re here to help them,” said Anderson.

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From “CVTC at 100: Still working to train skilled workers” — Jobs mostly demanded a strong back and a fifth-grade education or less before the Industrial Revolution.

As electricity spread across cities and machines began powering the economy in the early 20th century, employers required brains and brawn.

Locally, the lumber boom had run its course in the Chippewa Valley by then, leaving local workers to change with the times and search for the next big industry.

To break into careers in burgeoning industries or new businesses, they needed more training than traditional schooling could offer.

This need prompted the state government in 1911 to create what eventually became the Wisconsin Technical College System, including Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Turning 100 years old next month, CVTC is Eau Claire’s oldest institution of higher education — predating UW-Eau Claire by four years.

The basics

Funded through local property taxes and state aid, what were known as continuation schools sprouted up in Wisconsin with populations of 5,000 or more.

In October 1912, Eau Claire opened its school with seven classes, including shop arithmetic, carpentry, sheet metal, cooking and citizenship. Chippewa Falls opened with a few classes in the same year, and Menomonie followed in 1913.

Some of the original subjects have remained through the years, but in a much more sophisticated and technologically advanced form.

“The basics are still there,” said Bruce Barker, CVTC’s current president.

Machinists still need to study math, but it’s now used to program computers that tell machines what to do.

Carpentry skills are still taught at CVTC, but they’re used to build energy-efficient homes out of green materials.

The college’s offerings also have grown into 61 programs, most of which will have demonstrations or displays at Saturday’s centennial celebration.

To go with the school’s milestone, it has produced “CVTC: A Century of Proven Education,” a 100-page book detailing its history.

Dealing with downturns

Along with jobs created by post-World War II prosperity and other economic good times, CVTC has helped local workers through rough patches too.

In addition to helping local workers during the massive unemployment in the Great Depression of the 1930s and more recently the job losses of the Great Recession, CVTC retrained workers when a major Eau Claire employer closed.

Chippewa Valley Technical College was on the front line to retrain workers and offer career assistance when the Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. plant, which employed more than 1,300, closed in June 1992.

“We sort of moved into Uniroyal,” said Norbert Wurtzel, CVTC’s president from 1974 to 1994. “We were down there in the building with those people.”

As the plant was closing and after the doors were shuttered, CVTC employees were on-site to train workers for other industrial jobs or new career paths entirely.

Some chose paths in health care or more advanced manufacturing — two economic sectors that saw growth during Wurtzel’s tenure.

“The exciting part was that technology all the way from automotive to health care and (other sectors) was changing so rapidly, and we were able to bring on new faculty and help current faculty upgrade,” he said. “It was just an exciting time with ideas, innovations and creativity on their part.”

To meet employment needs created by large additions to Sacred Heart Hospital, Luther Hospital and Midelfort Clinic in the late 1960s and ’70s, CVTC expanded its health care programs and added a building for them in 1973 on West Clairemont Avenue.

Advances in computer technology in the 1980s also made manufacturing more sophisticated. CVTC students could design metal parts on a computer and fabricate them with precision on electronically controlled machines — a cutting-edge concept at the time, Wurtzel recalled.

Wurtzel gives credit to instructors during his tenure that suggested new programs CVTC could teach that would help students get jobs.

“We succeeded in a lot of those areas because of faculty who were willing to roll up their sleeves,” he said.

Auto shop legacy

CVTC initially taught students how to fix Model T Fords, the automobile that revolutionized transportation and gave birth to assembly-line manufacturing. Now the college teaches repairs for hybrid and electric engines.

Tom Day attended the school during the era when automakers were adding more steel to vehicles to increase safety.

Graduated from Gilman High School in 1976, Day didn’t want to spend four years in college. An interest in cars led him to the automotive collision repair program taught at CVTC.

When he attended the college, it was called District One Technical Institute, a name adopted when the state created 16 technical school districts in 1968, resulting in an 11-county area that paid taxes to support the Eau Claire-based school.

In those days, auto body technicians had to do all steps of the repair process from taking off the damaged steel, welding repairs, smoothing out dents and matching paint. Now each of those tasks is done by different people, he said, due to more sophisticated automobile materials and demand for quicker repairs.

Hired a couple of weeks before graduation, Day has been working at the body shop of Eau Claire car dealer Ken Vance for 35 years. He now is the shop’s manager.

“That was a better career choice for me, and it’s proven to be a good choice,” he said.

Day was recognized in 2008 as a distinguished CVTC alumni for his accomplishments and the career day he’s hosted for several years at the dealership, allowing high school students to see where CVTC’s automotive repair classes can take them.

Changing student needs

Starting as continuation schools that mostly taught teenagers, technical colleges now have adult students from every stage of their lives.

“You’ll literally be seeing students of all ages,” Barker said, recalling commencement a couple years ago when the school graduated two 60-year-old nursing students.

The school still gets many recent high school graduates — a quarter of the Chippewa Valley’s high school seniors go to technical colleges for their education.

But the average age of a CVTC student is 27 because of all the older adults seeking training in a new career, Barker said.

“We’ve always been the home for the working adult, the underemployed or unemployed adult,” Barker said.

As students collectively trended older, the school changed to meet their needs.

During the ’70s and ’80s, the college had club and varsity sports teams. The Tech Tigers competed against other technical schools in basketball, hockey, golf, volleyball and bowling.

Those sports were popular at the time, Wurtzel, the former college president, said, but they were discontinued at the behest of students as their priorities changed.

“There was a shift in student interest,” he said.

Instead of spending their fees on sports, student leaders reallocated much of them toward establishing a child care center for CVTC students’ children, which was created with help from the Hobbs Foundation.

That represented a change in the college’s demographics, as students with families just didn’t have the time for competitive sports, Wurtzel observed, instead wanting to spend time with their spouses and children.

Campuswide activities including winter carnivals and talent shows also fell by the wayside through the years.

“As the college grows, it’s really tough to find those common hours,” said Alisa Hoepner Schley, student life specialist. “Today our student population is quite diverse, they have many competing priorities from working to balancing family.”

The current slate of entertainment activities includes occasional guest speakers, lunchtime comedians and noon concerts. Clubs also create community service opportunities and the chance to attend conferences to help with professional development, Hoepner Schley said.

Mission still same

As much as the Industrial Revolution gave birth to technical colleges, improvements in technology have kept them changing.

“You can point to some strong similarities between 1912 and 2012,” Barker said.

Energy, the driving force behind industry, continues to evolve.

“Back then, we moved from wood to coal to oil,” he said. “Now you’re looking at something similar from that oil and coal to the next stage — what’s going to power our economy in the future.”

To teach students about new, renewable energy technology, the college has plans to build a $7.8 million Energy Education Center in Eau Claire next summer.

One of the area’s latest growth industries, sand mining, is driving increasing enrollment in the college’s trucking, engine repair and manufacturing programs, Barker said.

To keep up with needs of area employers, college offerings are continuously changed so that students can get a job quickly after graduation.

Of the students who graduated earlier this year, 92 percent found a job within six months, 89 percent of them in their field of study, Barker said.

Technology and hot industries may change, but CVTC’s mission has remained essentially the same through the past century.

“There may have been subtle changes, but the strong directive has always been to make a highly trained workforce,” Barker said.

From — “CVTC receives training grants” -- EAU CLAIRE — More than a quarter-million dollars in grants will help area businesses invest in their employees.

Chippewa Valley Technical College was recently awarded more than $270,000 in state grants.  The money will be used to train and develop current employees’ skills in the area of manufacturing.  The grants will help off-set regular training costs by 65 percent.

“If we can provide a workforce that is better than other locations in the country or internationally, that’s a reason to stay here. And so that’s one of the reasons that you want to invest in your workforce so you can sustain the businesses that you have,” says Tim Shepardson, Chippewa Falls CVTC campus manager.

The grants can be used in a number of area’s including industrial maintenance and welding.

From “CVTC launching college for working adults” — EAU CLAIRE — A local college is targeting adults hoping to make it easier for them to get a degree.

Chippewa Valley Technical College is launching a new program for working adults. The program offers associate degrees and certifications in a more flexible format. Most classes will be eight weeks long instead of sixteen, and will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., others will be offered online. CVTC is hoping this will give job seekers the opportunity to learn skills that will make them better qualified.

“There’s a mismatch between the skills that people have today and the openings that are out there. For example in manufacturing, whether it’s in welding where now a two year training program is more inline with what the manufacturers need for more sophisticated equipment, robotics, laser cutters and things like that. So this gives people an opportunity to improve their skills, change their career paths, while they’re still working,” said Doug Olson, Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Some of the programs being offered include business management, human resources and marketing.

Informational meetings are being held at 6 p.m.Thursday, for those who have an interest in the program. Those meetings will take place on CVTC campuses in Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and River Falls.

From “CVTC launches College for Working Adults” — EAU CLAIRE — Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) has launched the College for Working Adults, a convenient program that offers associate degrees and certifications on a flexible format for adults looking to advance their skills.

Classes begin in August, with informational sessions Thursday, Aug. 9, at CVTC’s Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and River Falls campuses.

CVTC will be offering associate degrees in Business Management, Human Resource Management, Liberal Arts and Marketing Management. Certification programs include Leadership/Supervision and Professional Selling.

Most classes are eight weeks long and held from 6 to 8:55 p.m. at CVTC campuses in Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and River Falls.

“We know that the majority of new jobs will require some postsecondary education, and in looking at our population base, only one-third have an associate degree or higher,” said Margaret Dickens, director of Planning, Research & Grants for CVTC. “This initiative will provide courses the working adult can take in the evening without quitting their job,” she added. “The value will be more employment opportunities and a highly trained workforce for our regional employers.”

The information sessions to be held on Aug. 9 begin at 6 p.m. at the Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and River Falls campuses. Attendees will learn more about the College, meet with academic advisors, learn about financial aid and may apply for a program and register for classes.

Reports indicate Wisconsin is facing a “workforce paradox,” in which there is a 7 percent unemployment rate, yet there are many job openings available for those who qualify.

In the 11-county CVTC district, about 200,000 adults have not obtained an associate or higher degree. Of that number, about 100,000 have a high school diploma with no college; 61,676 have some college experience; and 30,000 do not have a high school diploma.

The goal is also to provide occupational training programs to those looking to enhance and enrich occupational skills that may or may not be related to their current occupations.

For more information, visit Registration for the information sessions may be made by calling 715-738-3841 for the Chippewa Falls campus; 715-233-5341 for the Menomonie campus; and 715-426-8241 for the River Falls campus.

From “CVTC changes will benefit employers and organizations” — Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) recently made changes to its Business and Industry Services area to better assist area employers and organizations with their plans for success.

Judi Anibas, former dean of emergency services, transitioned to a faculty position to train employers and organizations on security and personal safety-related topics.

Suzanne Blau was recently hired as the business and industry business technology trainer/consultant to assist employers with software and social media training.

Anibas and Blau join three other CVTC faculty members who specialize in customized training programs for employers. The others include: Dan Burns, who provides leadership and supervisory training; Dave Otto, who provides electromechanical and industrial maintenance training; and Jon Leenhouts, who offers safety-related training.

CVTC’s Business and Industry Services team includes: Pam Owen, NanoRite manager; John Kleven, River Falls campus manager; Tim Shepardson, Chippewa Falls campus and Neillsville center manager; Roxann Vanderwyst, Menomonie campus manager; and Jessica Cather, seminar and continuing education specialist.

From “Trucking industry needs drivers” — Karl Pinter has been at his current job for roughly eight days, and he’s already getting inundated with phone calls.

Pinter, who previously worked at Fox Valley Technical College, is a truck-driving instructor at Chippewa Valley Technical College. He said four local employers called during his first week in search of job candidates. Demand in the industry is on the rise both in the Chippewa Valley and across the U.S.

“The market for drivers is very strong right now,” said Pinter, who added that demand is up for both local drivers and over-the-road truckers who typically are away from home for longer periods.

“The biggest factor is baby boomers are retiring and we’re seeing a huge shortage of drivers nationwide and locally.”

Bigger picture

A job seeker looking through classified advertisements in North Carolina is very likely to see trucking companies from as far away as Massachusetts and Nebraska calling for applicants for open positions they cannot fill. Companies seeking drivers also permeate the Leader-Telegram’s classified ads.

Despite a national unemployment rate topping 8 percent, trucking companies are struggling to recruit and retain enough drivers due to a host of factors.

The shortage dates back to the years leading up to the Great Recession, when well-paying construction jobs were plentiful and the industry had problems finding replacements for all of the veteran drivers who were retiring. That there remain hundreds of thousands of driver vacancies today — four years after the real estate bust — speaks in part to the waning popularity of the profession made famous by such movies as “Smokey and the Bandit.”

“You have drivers retiring every day,” said Charlie Gray, owner of Carolina Trucking Academy in Raleigh, N.C. “For every driver that goes out the back door, you better have a driver coming in the front door. There’s not a lot of people coming in the front door.”

The shortage is good news for those looking for work in the industry.

Companies desperate for quality drivers have begun offering sign-on bonuses, higher salaries and safety bonuses. Yet there’s still a national shortage, conservatively estimated, of at least 200,000 workers, said David Heller, director of safety and policy at the Truckload Carriers Association.

Age an issue

An aging workforce, a requirement that long-haul drivers be at least 21 years old and new federal safety regulations have all played a role in the current shortage. The aging population of truck drivers, in particular, has become a bigger issue than anyone expected.

Demographic changes mean there simply aren’t as many men younger than 35 as there were in the baby boomer generation, said Charles Clowdis, managing director of transportation industry services at IHS Global Insight.

Younger workers who traditionally may have gone into trucking choose other occupations over a life that requires long stints away from home. Since a college education is not required for truck driving, but truck drivers have to be 21 to cross state lines, trucking companies lose potential employees who go to other industries, enroll in a trade school or enter the military.

Although the industry is suffering from a shortage of all types of drivers, most of the open positions are for truckload carriers, which transport goods over long distances.

“The job of being an over-the-road truck driver is difficult,” Clowdis said. “You’re away from home; it’s somewhat of an unset schedule; you may leave on Monday, get somewhere Thursday, and Friday get sent in the total opposite direction. That’s the segment that’s hurting the most.”

Rules influential

New government regulations limiting drivers’ hours and monitoring drivers for safety violations have exacerbated the shortage, said Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations, which put the industry’s annual turnover rate at 88 percent in December.

“Some companies say they could actually add more equipment if only they could find more drivers,” he said. “As long as you have a good driving record, you can easily get a job in this industry.”

The new rules, which went into effect in late 2010, are forcing companies to hire more workers from a smaller pool of potential drivers with no blemishes on their safety record.

Costello said the steep cost of training, averaging about $4,000 to $6,000 for four to six weeks of driver-training school, is a barrier to entry for the pool of potential workers who would be most interested in trucking. While many nationwide companies retroactively reimburse newly hired drivers monthly for the cost of schooling, potential drivers still have to front the money in advance to the school or try to qualify for student loans.

Sources of federal funding for truck-driver training through the Workforce Investment Agency also have dried up because of budget cuts, said Cindy Atwood, deputy director of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association.

Still, at a time when many professions offer little job security, truck driving is as close to a sure thing for those who meet the qualifications.

“You can take a person making minimum wage and put them into school, and four to six weeks later they will be making anywhere between $38,000 (and) 40,000 entry-level, with benefits,” said Atwood. “That’s a pretty good story. And that job can’t be outsourced.”

State needs

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck driver job openings in Wisconsin will rise 7 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. They are expected to rise 21 percent nationally from 2010 to 2020. A disproportionately high number of the top truck carriers in the nation are based in Wisconsin.

“The growth of the sand-mining industry is one factor that has increased the number of driving jobs,” said Tim Stanton, CVTC instructor. “Some experienced drivers have opted to work for these companies.”

CVTC, which also provides contracted training for regional employers and services for those who drive school or coach buses, offers an eight-week training program that includes behind-the-wheel, classroom, online and simulated instruction. The focus is to graduate entry-level drivers, according to Tim Stanton, and the cost is about $2,359. There are 16 people signed up for the next course scheduled to start in August. Capacity is 24 students, but CVTC is phasing in changes to the program in an effort to meet increased demand and changes in the industry.

“Typically the most difficult thing for people to grasp is backing,” Pinter said. “A lot of people have never backed up anything with a trailer before.”

He added that a passion for driving is a help for those entering the industry. Drivers are limited to 11 hours a day.

“You can got to school for eight weeks and be job-ready,” Pinter said. “It tends to give you a pretty good return on your investment. The pay is good because they need to attract drivers into this industry.”

From “First Hmong woman in Wisconsin earns law enforcement certification” — For one local student, the graduation march is not only significant because of the certification she’s earned but the barriers she is breaking.

Shoua Bauer, from Altoona, is the first Hmong female in Wisconsin to earn a law enforcement certification, and only the second in the entire country. Friday she received her certificate from Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Shoua Bauer, was presented with her law enforcement certification.  She is the first Hmong female in Wisconsin to go into the field.

CVTC Graduate, Shoua Bauer, says, “This is a really hands on, dirty, gritty job that we were taught from a young age this is mens work and then there’s girls work. And I think it’s one of those things where we’re still really new to the country and still changing into the American culture and I think that’s one of the reasons why we don’t see too many Hmong females in this type of profession.”

For a long time, Shoua kept her training a secret.

“I didn’t tell anybody until my dad passed away, it was actually the day before he passed away that I told him I was going into law enforcement” says Bauer.

In 2008 Shoua’s dad passed away suddenly from a heart attack, but she says she is happy she was able to tell him.

She says, “He was supportive, the only thing he wanted me to do was remember, who I was, where I came from, and don’t get a power trip.

“My dad’s final words to me were, leadership is not a position you have, it’s in the actions that you take.” These are the words Shoua shared with her classmates during their graduation ceremony. She was chosen by her peers to be their class leader throughout training.

“She’s a lot of things that were very important to the academy, through communication and leadership. She did a lot of mentoring with the students and helping other students and at the same time she’s trying to get herself through the academy. She’s stepping up and being a mentor and a leader to others” says, CVTC Law Enforcement Academy Director, Eric Anderson.

Shoua stands at 4-feet 10-inches, and as she prepares to enter the work force, she has concerns.

“I am not intimidating appearance wise by any means. I fear that I many not set the right impression to be a law enforcement officer, I do worry about that” says Bauer.

But what has Shoua excited about her career path is one of the reasons she pursued law enforcement in the first place ….. The chance to help other people in the Hmong culture.

“There’s the Hmong females out there that do need help and sometimes they’re not comfortable with speaking to those, to those guys, and so I think by me brining myself out there, I will  be saying, hey, it’s ok. You can talk to me, you can talk to anybody out there” says Bauer.

Shoua says she would like to stay in the area and has been applying for jobs.  Eventually, she would like to be a canine officer.


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