From “Help the world: Earth Day activities scheduled in Racine, Kenosha counties” — Racine and Kenosha counties offer plenty of opportunities to actively observe Earth Day again this year today and through next weekend.

And while most of these events are specific to Earth Day and the surrounding weeks, eco-friendly volunteer and learning opportunities abound at other times of the year — such as the May and June projects at Wheatland’s Woodland Education Center noted below.

Earth Day has a special place in Wisconsin history, as it was Wisconsin’s U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson who came up with the idea for a day — April 22 — for a “national teach-in on the environment” in 1970, according to

Want to do some good for the local environment or learn more about how to care for the Earth? Here are some options for you:

Today — Medicine Collection Day for Households, 6200 21st St. (west of Highway 31), Racine, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Prescription medication and over the counter medication, ointments, sprays, inhalers, creams, vials and pet medications are acceptable. Keep all medications in original bottles (cross out name but leave medication name visible). Put all medications in a sealed bag. Do not bring needles, sharps, biohazardous materials or personal care products.

Today — Cleanup and Ladybug Unveiling, 1-3 p.m. Volunteers are needed to fan out over streets surrounding the Wadewitz COP House, 1750 Mead St., Racine, to pick up litter and waste during a spring cleanup effort. A new art project will be unveiled at Hamilton Park. Youth-painted ladybug rocks will be scattered about the park for those to find. Ladybugs can be brought home and kept as a token of appreciation for the volunteer’s work. All ladybugs will be number and presented additional awards.

Today — The Racine Wastewater Utility household hazardous waste collection program will hold its collection from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the waste collection site, 6200 21st St., Racine. The program is open to residents of Racine, Caledonia, Mount Pleasant, Sturtevant, Wind Point, North Bay and Elmwood Park. Residents are encouraged to bring harmful chemicals from around their home to the permanent collection site. Collections occur every third Saturday through October from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, go to

April 22 — Party for the Planet, Racine Zoo, 2131 N. Main St., Racine, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Informational tables in the Vanishing Kingdom building letting people know what things they can do to help the planet and craft stations where children can create special crafts related to the theme.

April 24 — Drive up-drop off medication collection at Raymond Town Hall, 2255 S. 76th St., Raymond, 6-8 p.m. Racine County residents should bring medication in original bottles with patient names crossed out. The name of the medication should still be visible. Do not bring needles, syringes or any biohazardous materials. For more information, call 262-930-6380, or 262-763-4930.

April 26 — Reuse-A-Shoe, Cesar Chavez Community Center, 2221 Douglas Ave., and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 1134 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Racine, 9 a.m.-noon. People can donate used athletic shoes. All brands of used, dry, mud-free athletic shoes are acceptable. The following items will not be accepted: Shoes containing metal parts; cleats, spikes, thongs, sandals, pumps, dress shoes and boots; shoes in plastic bags or tied together. The shoes will then be donated to the Nike recycling center.

April 26 — Raking leaves and spreading mulch at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 1015 4 Mile Road, Caledonia, 10 a.m. Bring gloves and rakes. Children welcome if accompanied by an adult. Register by calling Mark Trinklein at 414-217-3043.

April 26 — Garlic Mustard Pull-A-Thon, 9 a.m.-noon, Colonial Park. Meet at West High Street parking lot, Racine. Contact Drew Ballantyne at; or Melissa Warner at

April 26 — People can celebrate Earth Day while helping out and enjoying Wisconsin state park, forest, trail and wildlife properties during the sixth annual Work Play Earth Day from 9 a.m. to noon at Richard Bong State Recreation Area, 26313 Burlington Road, Bristol. Volunteers can help repair and enhance park, forest and trail properties. Activities include planting trees and shrubs, installing benches, removing invasive plants, painting picnic tables and other structures, raking and cleaning up leaves and picking up litter. Volunteers should wear work boots or athletic shoes, long pants and bring their own work gloves.

Refreshments will be provided and Friends of Wisconsin State Parks will also provide appreciation gifts for volunteers. When the work is done, volunteers can stay to enjoy hiking or biking park trails, visiting the nature center or enjoying any of the recreational opportunities available at the different properties.

To sign up, call Bong State Recreation Area at 262-878-5600. People should check in at the Visitor Center where they will be split into work crews for the morning. No state park vehicle stickers are required while volunteering.

April 26 — Gateway Technical College has expanded its Celebrate Earth Day activities and demonstrations for 2014 to include even more hands-on demonstrations, family-friendly activities and ways community members can be gentle on the environment at work and home.

The event will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26 at its Kenosha and Elkhorn campuses, featuring a number of Earth-friendly activities, informational booths and children’s crafts. For the entire event listing — including campus-specific activities — go to

Visitors at each campus will receive a reusable grocery bag, courtesy of event sponsor, Snap-on Inc., as well as a variety of other “green” focused items. The event is free and open to the public.

April 26-27 — To celebrate Earth Week and Arbor Day, Apple Holler, 5006 S. Sylvania Ave., Yorkville, is inviting the public to visit the orchard and farm park, including the baby animals, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at no charge. Visitors will learn more about Apple Holler and their farm. Apple Holler will be planting 2,000 new fruit trees this year. Call 262-886-8500 for more information.

May and June — Seno Woodland Education Center, 3606 Dyer Lake Road, Wheatland, needs volunteers with many projects including pulling garlic mustard, cutting young box elder trees, cutting thistles in the prairie, tree planting, trim pea bushes and white pine branches, clear around trail signs, buckthorn and honey suckle cutting and spraying, rendezvous projects, public events, replacing barn entry doors, and repairing pavilion overhang and adding vents. Call 262-539-3222, or go to

From “Gateway property taxes cut in half” — BURLINGTON — The property taxes local residents will pay for Gateway Technical College next year are to be cut in half thanks to an act of the Legislature passed this year, according to officials and Gateway’s proposed 2014-15 budget presented Thursday.

The total amount taxpayers are budgeted to pay next year for Gateway is $28.98 million, down from $60 million this year.

“Homeowners will see a reduction in their local property taxes which gives them the relief they are looking for and Gateway has been able to demonstrate good performance, so we’ll see an increase in the revenue streams to support ongoing training,” Gateway President Bryan Albrecht said following a budget presentation Thursday at the Gateway Technical College District Board meeting in the HERO Center, 380 McCanna Parkway, in Burlington.

Under Act 145, the property tax relief act passed this year, the state will pick up a large portion of what local property taxpayers usually pay for technical colleges throughout the state, explained Conor Smyth, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Technical College System. It doesn’t mean a new pool of money for technical colleges, he said. It means local taxpayers will pay less, while statewide taxpayer dollars, now part of the state surplus, will be more heavily relied upon.

The surplus is the result of holding down spending, Act 10 savings, and the growing economy, according to state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester.

Change in state funding

Statewide, local property taxpayers used to pay 68 percent of the cost of technical colleges. That is now reduced to 33 percent, and the amount the state pays is going from 9 percent to 44 percent, Smyth said.

For Gateway, approximately $32 million is being moved from local property taxes to the state. That means about $83 in property tax relief for someone with a $100,000 home.

Vos, the Assembly speaker, said the biggest complaint he hears from constituents is about taxes and this provides relief, but state Rep. Cory Mason, R-Racine, said instead of simply swapping out property taxes more money should have gone to technical colleges for worker training, and he had proposed a bill that would have done that.

Mason said he voted against Act 145 not because he thinks the property tax cut is bad, but because technical college funding needs to be restored to prior levels.

“All the money they put into the technical college went to property tax relief, nothing from that bill went for job training or getting people back to work … If jobs really is the No. 1 issue, we should be investing in things that get people back to work.”

Albrecht said the college is getting additional state funding through a new performance-based calculation that rewards the school for doing well. The college has also applied for an additional $2.7 million through what is being called the Blue Print for Prosperity, according to Albrecht. That includes money for more boot camps, among other things.

Additional budget items

Overall, Gateway’s proposed total budget is down from $161.62 million to $156.76 million. Albrecht attributed that in part to Act 10, which essentially eliminated collective bargaining for public employees. It allowed Gateway to make changes to benefits such as retirement and health insurance, he said. Also he said over the last three years there were approximately 85 retirements, which contributed to the college’s savings because employees who had been with Gateway used to receive longevity pay based on the number of years they were with the college. Now he said instead of budgeting for longevity pay, they have funds budgeted for merit-based pay increases.

“We certainly want to be an employer of choice and recognize employees for the great work they are doing,” Albrecht said.

From “What Works for Women in IT” — Obstacles and solutions are a large part of the IT professional’s career choice. Organizations assemble IT staffs to solve business problems. Traditionally, it’s been a man’s world, with women in a decidedly minority role. The IBM midrange community is no different. But last month at the Wisconsin Midrange Computing Professionals Association Technical Conference, a session called Women in IT put the gender topic in a new light.

The role of women in IT is changing. And it’s not changing because we’ve all sat around and waited for change to happen on its own accord. It’s changing because there are people who want it to change and because it’s time for change.

According to the 2013 statistics by the U.S. Department of Labor, 57 percent of professional occupations in the U.S. workforce are held by women, yet only 26 percent of professional computing occupations in the U.S. workforce are held by women. If the number of women in IT careers doubled, it would still fall short of current benchmark for professional women in all categories. Obviously, there is room for improvement.

One person who takes that as a challenge is Beth Akerlund. She was recruited as the keynote speaker for the Women in IT session by Sue Zimmermann, vice president of the WMCPA user group that hosts the annual tech conference for IBM i advocates who take their career development seriously.

Akerlund began her career in IT with a Milwaukee area software company after graduating from college. She moved on to work for Groupon when it was a start-up. There her career experiences expanded as she began working with engineering teams, process improvements, implementing a variety of technologies, and software development. Later she returned to her hometown of Milwaukee, where she is works in custom software development for Centare.

Through a variety of industry networking events, Akerlund became acquainted with women in IT. Their conversations included the need for a women’s network that would provide the platform for meeting, building peer relationships, improving career skills, and provide mentoring to a younger generation of women in computer science as well as other areas of high technology.

As a result of those connections, Akerlund and others launched a Milwaukee chapter of Girls in Tech, a global non-profit organization with 35 active chapters. The Milwaukee chapter’s launch event had 75 attendees. Ten months later, the local chapter membership is 325 and the organization has discovered local business support and support from tech leaders in the greater Milwaukee metro area.

Already in place are programs for conferences, mentoring young girls, mentoring college-aged women, mentoring for women already in technology, a boot camp that teaches entrepreneurial skills, and cultural exchange programs.

One example of a youth outreach program for the Girls in Tech Milwaukee branch is a partnership with Girl Scouts. Another partnership has been set up with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “Businesses in the Milwaukee area supportive,” Akerlund said during a phone call with me last week, “and they encourage us (and men, too) to develop a greater interest in tech careers.”

At the WMCPA Tech Conference, the Women in IT session was peppered with stories about inspiration, enthusiasm, and empowerment.

“Sharing personal stories–triumphs and challenges–benefits everyone who hears them,” Akerlund said.

Alison Butterill, product offering manager for IBM i, was one of the speakers at the WMCPA conference. Women in IT and women in business are topics she enjoys talking to women about, she said in an email.

“It’s important for women to establish goals for themselves–pick something to aspire to and strive for that,” she said. “Business is a game and it’s crucial that women learn the rules and key players in that game quickly. Those who do can leverage their natural human characteristics–like being nurturing and collaborative–to advance quickly. It’s also important for women to find a mentor, male or female, who can be a sort of coach for them throughout their career. Women have come a long way in the IT business, but they are still coming into their own and face challenges.”

Karyl Ruiz, a student at Gateway Technical College (one of the most prominent IBM i-oriented schools in the U.S.), attended the WMCPA Conference and the Women in IT session. Ruiz will graduate in May with associate degrees in software development and Web development. She’ll also have two certifications–programmer/analyst and iSeries operator.

“The Women in IT event helped me to see that we don’t have to know everything come graduation,” she said via email. “With experience those gaps would be filled. It also showed that women do hold a strong place in IT and that the way I was feeling up until this event was common among other women just entering into the field. The speakers made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”

Jessica Wagner, a second Gateway student, looked around at the women who attended the session and took note of the variety of ages.

“A lot of these women came into a field when it was all men,” she said in an email. “It can be intimidating to join a field when it’s all men, especially at a time when women were deciding they didn’t want to be in the home anymore and find their own path. Alison gave a lot of really useful information about what to expect in the business world. One thing schools don’t teach is how to interact in business and the importance of acting professional in the way you dress, your hair style, and the way you interact with coworkers and the boss. I also was really impressed with Beth; her wanting to bring more information to the younger generation about this field is important. I think more women like her talking to the younger generation is important to know that this field is no longer for just men and that women can make a difference.”

Akerlund said her focus and the focus of Women in IT is to show women success stories and demonstrate there is an increase in women in computer science and engineering.

“Organizations that are taking the steps to empower girls and women,” she said. “They’re not just saying there is a problem; they’re taking action.”

Additional information on the Girls in Tech Milwaukee branch can be found at the organization’s Meetup page and also on the group’s Facebook page.

Other resources for women in technology provided by Akerlund include: Women in Technology, She ++, The Anita Borg Institute, and Lean In.

From “Online voting begins for Gateway in video contest” — RACINE — Gateway Technical College is one of 30 colleges from across the United States named as a finalist for an award recognizing leadership and innovation in the area of environmentalism and sustainability in higher education.

In addition to the Climate Leadership Award, Gateway Technical College is also competing against 29 college finalists in a national video voting competition. Individuals can vote for a video once a day, every day, now through April 15 at

The 2014 Climate Leadership Award is issued by Second Nature, a national nonprofit that works to create a healthy, just and sustainable society by transforming higher education. The awards, now in the fifth year, are an annual, national competition for colleges and universities that are signatories of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

Gateway Technical College is one of five technical colleges nationwide to be a finalist for this award, and the only college in Wisconsin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From “Walker promotes Wisconsin Fast Forward program at SC Johnson iMet Center” — STURTEVANT — A $35 million increase in worker training will help schools such as Gateway Technical College get more people into in-demand programs, Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday.

Walker appeared at the SC Johnson iMET Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd., to promote the increase becoming law Monday. Much of the money, which will go into a training program called Wisconsin Fast Forward, is geared toward grants for technical colleges.

The grants will allow colleges to “buy down” long waiting lists for its programs, Walker said.

“We can make sure there’s no excuse for employers who need folks,” Walker said. “If there’s any waiting list in any of those areas, we’re going to put the money through the Wisconsin Fast Forward program to help each of our individual campuses.”

The move ensures the state does not take a “one-size-fits-all” approach — one area of the state may need high-skilled welders, while another may need mechanics, Walker said. Officials want to work with each campus to address its specific needs, he said.

The $35 million also will go toward expanding programs for employers to hire more people with disabilities, as well as collaborative projects between school districts, tech colleges and businesses.

The measure passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support. Gateway President Bryan Albrecht praised the increase, calling it “an investment in our students.”

“It’s going to make a big difference in our communities so that we can provide the workforce that they need,” Albrecht said.

The state’s focus is not only on filling existing jobs, but on future jobs created through new economic development, Walker said. Wisconsin will see many retirements in the coming years and needs to prepare other workers to fill those roles, he said.

Walker predicted the state will eventually turn its attention from creating jobs to filling jobs.

“We’re going to need more bodies,” he said. “It’s my firm belief that we can’t afford to have anyone who is able and willing to work sitting on the wayside.”

In comments to reporters after the speech, Walker touted recent company expansions into Racine and Kenosha counties, including Meijer’s plans to open a distribution center in Pleasant Prairie and a future facility in Kenosha.

Those are “good signs for southeastern Wisconsin” and will help address unemployment in the region, he said.

He also said the state’s tax climate and focus on growing companies organically helps sway out-of-state companies into expanding into Wisconsin.

“That should show companies, whether they’re coming from Illinois or Minnesota or anywhere else, that we’re not just the short-term romance,” Walker said. “We’re a long-term commitment with businesses that want to grow and create jobs here.”

From “Veteran settles into his dream job after switching careers” – Getting a job with nothing but a high school diploma can be difficult. Starting a career without a high school diploma can be nearly impossible. That’s the challenge many of our military members face when they leave the service — but one veteran was able to turn his Army experience into opportunity.

“Ever since I was 10 years old, my grandpa brought me to my uncle’s welding shop, and after seeing that atmosphere, you know, guys welding, grinding metal, flames — it just seemed like a really cool job to do and I was like ‘man, I want to do that,’” Jeremy Jurkiewicz said.

But life’s blueprint for Jurkiewicz put him on a different path out of high school. At the age of 19, he sought to wear the badge of a police officer. He started by joining the Army’s Military Police Corps.

“I enlisted to serve and deploy and just for a job,” Jurkiewicz said.

For the next three years, he experienced the life of a cop, including a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. It was during this time Jurkiewicz says he discovered policing wasn’t for him.

His love of welding was reignited when he left active service, but starting a new career from scratch is no easy task. Like many of his peers who are former military, Jurkiewicz faced a choice — jump into the job search with what experience and education he had — or retrain himself.

“If there`s something that you want to do, pursue it.  Go to school or look online, see what classes they have to offer.  Something sparks your interest, go for it. Pursue it,” Jurkiewicz said.

Jurkiewicz credits his motivation and mettle to his time in the Army. It’s that mettle which helped him to get into “Welding Boot Camp” at Gateway Technical College in Racine. He eventually graduated, and landed a job at Metalworld Incorporated.

“When they talk about a skills gap, it’s not so much the hard skills as far as finding guys that know how to weld, like to work with their hands. It’s really guys that are willing to do that five days a week on a week-to-week basis,” Metalworld Inc. President Gary Meier said.

“Anyone can get a job, but not everyone can get a career and a career that you want to do and you love doing every day.  I don’t get up every day and be like ‘oh I gotta go to work.’ I’m excited to go to work, work, learn and progress in my skills and just become the best welder and fabricator I can become,” Jurkiewicz said.

Jurkiewicz is still serving as an Army Reservist. His welding career has progressed since he last spoke with FOX6 News. He no longer works at Metalworld in Racine — after taking a job with Compo Steel Products in Milwaukee.

From “Gateway president showcases programs at U.S. conference” – By Aaron Knapp – RACINE — Gateway Technical College President Bryan Albrecht spoke alongside Chelsea Clinton and Melanne Verveer, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, at a United Nations-sponsored conference in New York City on Tuesday about how to expand women’s access to education.

In this and another conference on Monday, Albrecht discussed Gateway’s programs and efforts to get women educated for careers, especially in fields typically dominated by men.

“I was proud to be able to showcase some of our programs and at least acknowledge the fact that in any community around the world, whether it’s right here in Racine or if it’s overseas somewhere, there’s more that we can do to help young girls find opportunities and create greater points of access,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday evening.

Albrecht was the primary speaker in the IDEAGEN Summit on Monday and led a discussion of about 60 industry CEOs on broadening opportunities for women to be educated.

The U.N. summit on Tuesday, “Turning Inspiration into Action: Next Steps for the Private Sector to Empower Women Globally,” gathered political, business and educational leaders to discuss how to give women greater access to education around the world, said

Albrecht, who represented the American Association of Community Colleges.

Although Gateway has more women enrolled than men, Albrecht said school programs are focused on getting women into historically masculine career fields.

“Recognition by being invited to different events like this one I think help validate that we’re doing some positive things for our community and for our students,” he said.

From “Increasing demand for apprenticeships as aging workers retire” – Want to get paid to go to school? With an apprenticeship — you can do just that! Through an apprenticeship, an individual has access to on-the-job training and related classroom instruction. A participating employer teaches the skills of the trade on the job. The classroom instruction is theoretical and practical knowledge pertaining to the given trade. It’s an option more and more students in Wisconsin are taking — with the growing need for skilled manufacturing workers in the state.

“The student works 32 hours a week and goes to class eight hours a week, but they’re paid for 40 hours a week,” Debbie Davidson with Gateway Technical College said.

In a nutshell, that’s how an apprenticeship works. Students get hands-on and in-classroom training in a service, construction or industrial field. Typically, the programs run anywhere from three to five years.

“Apprenticeship is really unique in that you start with an employer with a need and match them with an individual to go through the training,” Davidson said.

Officials with Gateway Technical College say the demand for apprenticeship opportunities has grown, as has the number of students enrolling in programs at the school.

“In 2012, we had a total of 49 apprentices. Then, a year later, we had 80 apprentices. Now we have 140,” Davidson said.

“We’ve already started plans on four brand new programs coming up and we know that we’re going to be doubling our numbers within a very short time,” Wisconsin Apprentice Training Representative Sandy Briezman said.

So what’s driving the renewed interest in apprenticeships? We’re told it’s a skills gap, fueled at least in part by soon-to-retire workers.

“The skills gap that we’re seeing now is what was projected even before the downturn in 2009 because people were planning to retire at that point. They stayed a little bit longer, but they kept aging, so now we’re seeing people are actually at that point of retirement and companies are seeing that we need to fill that gap — and before our people leave and retire how can we utilize them to train that next generation of worker?” Davidson said.

Davidson says the late 90s were really kind of the high point for apprenticeship programs.

The Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards says statewide, there were more than 15,000 apprentices in 2001. By 2012, they had dropped to about 9,700.

From “Gateway Technical College awarded initial accreditation of business programs” – The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs Associate Degree Board of Commissioners has awarded Gateway Technical College initial accreditation of its business programs, the first technical college in Wisconsin to receive that designation.

The national accreditation means Gateway Technical College programs, curriculum and staff members meet the rigorous standards set by the ACBSP, and put the learning opportunities on par with four-year colleges in Wisconsin and throughout the nation.

“This accreditation is a validation that our program is now on an even higher level than in the past,” said Gateway Technical College associate dean of business Manoj Babu. “It’s a tribute to our business and information technology team.

“It means our programs are enhanced, our effectiveness in teaching is increased and our students receive the optimal training at our college. Businesses look for this accreditation as they interview applicants, and our graduates will have an increased opportunity to be hired because of it.”

Four-year colleges also look for this accreditation when forging transfer agreements with technical colleges, which may open doors to even more opportunities for this in the future.

“Gateway Technical College has shown their commitment to teaching excellence and to the process of quality improvement by participating in the accreditation process,” said ACBSP director of accreditation Steve Parscale, who will present the Certificate of Initial Accreditation at the ACBSP Annual Conference in Chicago on June 29.

“This accreditation is evidence that Gateway Technical College is committed to providing the highest quality business education for their students.”

Babu said accreditation has been a longtime goal of the business program, but that work was ramped up when businesses began asking for even more verification of the ways Gateway Technical College provides quality education.

“Accreditation gives us that high value, that we are doing what we say we are doing,” he said. “And it’s ongoing — accreditation doesn’t end here. It begins here, to retain the accreditation, we need to consistently improve and provide the best education we can to our students.”

Established in 1988, ACBSP is the only organization offering specialized business accreditation for all degree levels, from associate to baccalaureate to doctoral degree programs. ACBSP accreditation certifies that the teaching and learning processes within the business school at Gateway Technical College meet the rigorous educational standards established by ACBSP. For more information on ACBSP, go to


From “Tech schools prepared for changes in GED tests” – WISCONSIN RAPIDS — Mid-State Technical Colleges in central Wisconsin doubled the number of offerings of tests for General Equivalency Diplomas in preparation for changes taking effect Jan. 2.

Those seeking to obtain their GEDs were encouraged to try to complete the process before the changes took hold. Tests often were offered on a weekly basis at the three technical colleges, and Portage and Adams County jails. The main test site is at the Wisconsin Rapids campus; test examiners travel to other sites.

“We started the push, really, about September last year, so we’ve been at this for over a year to try and get people to finish up,” said Jo-Ellen Fairbanks-Schutz, MSTC associate dean of general education for the colleges. “We had an increase of over a couple hundred tests, previous to our big push.”

Last year, more than 1,000 tests were taken between all the test locations; since July, 402 tests were taken, Fairbanks-Schutz said.

“There were some areas of the state that saw a very marked increase in demand for GED testing,” Fairbanks-Schutz said. “While we saw an increase, it wasn’t as dramatic as some areas of the state. Madison and Milwaukee were just bursting at the seams; we were able to handle the demand with extra seats available.”

There are a few changes, but there are two major ones — the test will only be available on computer, and the 2002 test series will be replaced with the 2014 series, Fairbanks-Schutz said.

“Historically, it’s always been a pen and paper test,” she said.

The 2002 test series had five components: reading, writing, math, science and social studies. The new series will not include the writing component; that will be dispersed into the other four areas. The new structure is based on the Common Core standards and college and career readiness standards, Fairbanks-Schutz said.

“The downside of the changes was if a candidate started testing in the 2002 series, and did not complete or pass the test, those tests cannot be rolled over,” Fairbanks-Schutz said.

The testing is somewhat time-consuming, and advisers often recommend candidates break up the testing cycle, Fairbanks-Schutzs said. Each component takes at least an hour to complete.

The college has a plan for candidates who are not computer literate. The institution has invested in NEO 2 from Renaissance Learning, which comes with a keyboarding program.

“We’ll start the students just learning the basic keyboarding skills while studying the content to get ready for the test,” Fairbanks-Schutz said. “We have another software program that we bought that looks just like the (new) GED and it specifically goes over the computer skills (candidates) are going to need to be able to take the test.

“We’re trying to get it from multiple angles, depending on the skill of the students, to give them multiple options.”

The college’s Academic Success Center also offers preparation resources for students.

The cost for testing also has changed. The 2002 series was $120 for all five tests; the new test will cost $33.75 for each component or $135 total. Retesting is available at $30 a test.

Candidates also have to wait 30 days before retaking the test, so anyone taking a test in December and not succeeding will have to take the test under the new system. The last test dates in Wisconsin were Dec. 5 for the writing test and Dec. 13 for all other tests. The official tests are not available online, according to the MSTC website.

Wisconsin test centers offering computer-based testing include Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Gateway Technical College, according the the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website.

From “US Labor Secretary Visits Racine Technical College, Praises IT Training for Jobs” – By David Cole - U.S. Labor Department Secretary Tom Perez visited a technical college in southeastern Wisconsin yesterday, praising job training and highlighting a $23 million federal grant to Wisconsin tech schools.

Aaron Andrews is a former truck driver and current Gateway Technical College student who’s looking to better his life by launching a career in information technology. “[I'm] looking to graduate here in May, for IT network security specialist. With three more classes, I can actually have two associate degrees next year, for security analyst.”

The future is bright for students like Aaron, says Katie Gilbert of Teksystems, a firm that recruits IT professionals for other companies. She says the unemployment rate in the field is just four percent, even lower for people like Aaron: “We’re expecting to see a huge jump in demand for that particular skillset.”

Helping people like Aaron get the training they need to fill those job is the point of a $23 million federal grant that was recently received by the state’s technical colleges.

Appearing at a Gateway technology center yesterday to highlight the grant and to hear the stories of Aaron, Katie and others, was U.S. Labor Department Secretary Tom Perez. He had praise for the schools, noting that the grant, among the largest in a $2 billion federal initiative to expand training, was awarded on merit. “You have the elements of success! And it starts with partnership. It continues with having an industry-based approach.”

Officials hope the three-year grant will fund cutting edge IT training for some 3,000 workers statewide over the next several years.

From “IT project to train workforce” — By Tom Perez, US Secretary of Labor - Information technology is a driver of the modern economy — in Wisconsin, nationwide and around the globe. But you don’t need to be Jeff Bezos to have a successful IT-related career.

The Wisconsin Technical College System has designed a new project that will allow more adult learners — in particular veterans, laid-off workers and others whose livelihoods have been disrupted by trade — to acquire the skills necessary to get good IT jobs.

During a visit Wednesday to Gateway Technical College in southeastern Wisconsin, one of the partners in this 16-college consortium, I will highlight a $23 million statewide grant that the federal government is making to support this innovative and dynamic curriculum.

I’m eager to see firsthand how federal dollars will improve Gateway’s ability to create a pipeline of workers with the IT competencies needed in advanced manufacturing. I’m looking forward to talking with students, with school officials from several of the community colleges and with the business partners who are essential to the program’s success.

The grant is a part of the U.S. Labor Department’s TAACCCT program; that stands for Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training. As an acronym, it leaves something to be desired. But as an investment in our community colleges’ capacity to prepare Americans for 21st-century jobs, it is critical and unprecedented.

Partnership on several levels is the key to the program’s success; indeed, it is a prerequisite for consideration for a grant. Local businesses in particular are directly involved so that the colleges are aligning their instruction — hand in glove — with local industry’s needs.

This kind of demand-driven approach is the only sensible way to build human capital and empower the workforce. There’s no point in offering a certification or credential in advanced widget manufacturing if no company in the area is hiring widget technicians.

Working in collaboration with several employer partners, the Wisconsin IT project will give people the training required to become everything from human resource specialists to multimedia artists, from web developers to pharmacy technicians. Grant dollars will be used throughout the Badger State — to enhance programs in computer support, to create new career pathways that combine health and IT-related skills and more.

Skills development is a pillar of President Barack Obama’s strategy to grow the economy from the middle out, not from the top down. We have a talented and resilient workforce. But for our workers to climb ladders of opportunity, they need us to strengthen the rungs. They need us to invest in their potential.

Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training does exactly that, helping workers learn precisely those state-of-the-art skills that employers need and that will keep our economy strong for decades to come.

The program is now in its third year, having pumped nearly $1.5 billion total into community colleges nationwide. The latest round of funding, announced earlier this fall, includes 57 grants that will support projects in every state, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. They will expand programs in a range of growing industries including advanced manufacturing, transportation and health care.

The career training program helps businesses stay on the competitive cutting edge in a complex global economy. And for workers, it serves as a springboard into the middle class, catapulting them into jobs that can support a family and provide basic economic security.

We’re proud to help Wisconsin community colleges offer top-notch IT instruction. And the career training program overall is critical to the Obama administration’s mission of creating economic growth, opportunity and widely shared prosperity.


From “Albrecht testifies before education committee in Washington” – A Congressional hearing on technical education included testimony from Gateway Technical College’s president.

Bryan Albrecht joined three other speakers at the session, hosted by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

The hearing was titled “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: Improving the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.”

The hearing was part of Congressional discussions on renewing the act and its school funding to help with technical and career education.

The committee wanted to explore ways to improve the education programs given that students ages 16 to 19 have a 22 percent unemployment rate nationwide.

Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges and 423 secondary school districts had to split the roughly $20 million in Perkins funds given to the state for fiscal year 2013, Albrecht told the committee.

He said Gateway has used the funds to speed up help for dislocated workers and employees seeking new skills.

Businesses and schools also must work together to improve career and technical education in and after high school, he added. Gateway has joined with Snap-on Inc. and Trane to develop curriculum, training and industry certifications matching those companies’ skill needs, Albrecht said.

He also mentioned Gateway and SC Johnson have developed curriculum based on industry standards as the basis for the college’s boot camp manufacturing program. The boot camp, started at Gateway in fall 2006, is an accelerated program teaching skills in various fields.

He said Perkins money has been used so Gateway instructors could teach their curriculum in advanced engineering, manufacturing and information technology to LakeView Advanced Technology Academy juniors at that academy in the Kenosha Unified School District. Those students can earn between 18 and 40 college credits, giving them a post-secondary head start.

The college also has credit transfer agreements with the 14 high schools in Gateway’s jurisdiction, he added.

Albrecht said there’s been a decline in manufacturing jobs in southeastern Wisconsin, leading parents to encourage their children to study other fields.

A program called “Dream It. Do It.” attempts to explain modern manufacturing jobs to youngsters, he said.

“Numerical control is not standing in front of a lathe all day,” he said. “We have to use new ways of thinking about manufacturing.”


From “Community Newsletter: University of Wisconsin – Parkside” – With a little more than two months complete in the fall 2013 academic semester, University of Wisconsin-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford has been busy creating and strengthening opportunities for student success and community involvement.

Forward together

In September, Ford and Gateway Technical College President Bryan Albrecht signed seven new transfer 2-plus-2 articulation agreements. Students graduating from Gateway Technical College with degrees in accounting, business management, marketing and supervisory management will have the opportunity to transfer into programs in the UW-Parkside College of Business, Economics, and Computing. Students graduating with a Gateway Technical College degree in graphic communications have the opportunity to transfer into UW-Parkside’s graphic design (art) degree program in the College of Arts and Humanities.

Depending on the degree, Gateway Technical College students will see 54 to 62 of their credits accepted at UW-Parkside. This is considered a true 2-plus-2 agreement, where students transfer into the university with junior standing.

“For decades, Gateway Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside have worked together to benefit our communities and provide the talent base our businesses and organizations need,” Ford said.

Most Gateway Technical College and UW-Parkside students live and work in southeastern Wisconsin, so the agreement has the ability to greatly impact area students, their families and businesses and organizations in the region.


From “Gateway Technical College program helping dislocated, underemployed” — Welding bootcamp developed with employer cooperation and based on employer expectations. View video from

From “Gateway, Parkside strike transfer agreement” – 

Gateway Technical College students graduating with degrees in accounting, business and supervisory management, marketing, and graphic communications can now transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside as juniors and work toward bachelor’s degrees.

Gateway President Bryan Albrecht and Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford announced the new program agreements at a ceremony Tuesday at Parkside as their school mascots hammed it up behind them.

Because about 62 percent of Parkside graduates stay in southeastern Wisconsin, Albrecht said the effort ripples beyond the campuses.

“It’s all for us to provide stronger support for our communities,” Albrecht said.

Gateway student Greg Kiriaki, 29, said he’s looking forward to transferring to Parkside to earn a business degree.

He went to college for a semester straight out of high school, then worked in construction. He’s put down roots in Kenosha and said he appreciates the chance to complete his education without leaving the area.

“It’s nice to stay here without losing a chunk of my credits,” he said.

Gateway students like Kiriaki will see 54 to 62 of their credits transferred toward Parkside degrees.

The relationship between Gateway and Parkside goes back to the time before Parkside was even a university; Ford said the first UW Extension classes in the Kenosha area were held in Gateway buildings.

“For decades, we have worked together so our community residents could move their careers forward,” Ford said.

Parkside and Gateway already have similar agreements in general studies, HVAC/geosciences, civil engineering and physical therapy, and 94 students are enrolled at both schools.


From “Gateway Technical College offers support for military veterans” — By John Krerowicz - Russel Timms, who survived three tours of duty in Iraq, faced challenging Veterans Administration paperwork after he decided to return to college.

“If I had had to fill all that out on my own, it would have been a nightmare,” said the 31-year-old U.S. Army veteran from Kenosha.

Timms had help from counselors at Gateway Technical College, which began emphasizing veteran services in December when officials were considering how to serve students better, said Anne Witte, a student support counselor on the Elkhorn campus.

Timms graduated from Gateway in May with an associate degree in electrical engineering technology. He has received other degrees from Gateway, too. He plans to attend the Milwaukee School of Engineering this fall for a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

He said making the college attractive to veterans is a good idea.

“It’s nice to see fellow soldiers getting an education and bettering their lives,” he said. “It makes sense as there are quite a few veterans going to school there.”

There aren’t figures on the number of veterans attending Gateway, mainly because the application used statewide for the 16 Wisconsin technical colleges did not ask about military service, Witte said. That changed this past school year.

However, Witte did say Gateway figures showed 36 students received state financial aid benefits for veterans and 272 received federal benefits during the 2007-2008 school year. That’s jumped to 205 receiving state benefits and 491 with federal help for the 2012-2013 school year.

Gateway offers veterans help with financial aid, job-related matters and psychological issues, said Barbara Wagner, student adviser at the Burlington center.

Student veterans sometimes go through mental and other health issues such as trauma, loss and grief, as well as possibly difficult transitions into school settings, Wagner said.

Gateway has licensed counselors who can help with brief therapy and referrals for long-term therapy, she said.

“In many cases they’ve come from structured daily activities and now they have a lot more freedom to decide what they’re going to do,” Witte added. “That often can be culture shock.”

Veterans sometimes have concentration, memory and irritability problems affecting their education.

“Sometimes we see they have hypervigilance, a constant state of threat awareness, especially if they’ve seen combat, and that raises their stress levels,” she said. “We try to get them to lowering that threat level.”

Assisting veterans is a way to show appreciation for those who have served the country, Witte said.

“This is a benefit they’ve earned,” she said, adding, “Look what they do for us. It’s an awful lot, the sacrifices they make. We want them to know they’re appreciated. We owe them that.”

Services for military veterans include:

– lunch gatherings on topics such as finances, social media and employment, employers’ needs, interviewing skills, resumes.

– “red shirt Fridays,” where the clothing could be bought with lettering about Gateway supporting U.S. troops.

– a scholarship fundraiser — the first for veterans, called “Boots on the Ground” — drew in almost $625. Continuing veteran students can apply for the funds between late August and mid-October. The first veterans scholarship is to be awarded at the January 2014 Continuing Student Awards Ceremony.

– the Student Veterans of America Club, a national organization the school joined several months ago.

Veterans who want to consider attending Gateway can call 1-800-247 7122.

From “Gateway shows off remodeled energy labs” – Gateway Technical College hosted a gathering Thursday to feature its six remodeled and refurbished energy systems training labs on the Kenosha campus.

Beverly Frazier, college dean of manufacturing, engineering and transportation, said the spaces were stocked with almost all new equipment, some of it donated by local businesses. She estimated a value on the donated items at well past $100,000.

Larry Hobbs, Gateway heating, ventilation and air conditioning instructor, pointed out an $11,000 boiler that was donated to the college, for example.

“There are pieces here we couldn’t afford to buy otherwise,” he said.

The labs offer subjects such as sustainable energy, refrigeration, renewable energy and geo-exchange.

Some of the businesses also donated time to develop curricula, trainers and technical assistance during the four-year lab re-work. This is different from the traditional approach of a school buying its own equipment and developing its own courses, Frazier said.

“There has been a change in what industries’ needs are, and education should evolve with that,” she said. “We’re now more in tune with their needs, and they’re more involved with education” to make sure graduates have the skills the companies need.

Students are learning about a field but also practicing the skills, another shift from the typical lecture/note taking/exam approach, Hobbs said.

“Students use laptop computers to wirelessly turn equipment on and off and to record data,” Hobbs said.

Matt Gates, vice president/energy management services and solutions for Trane, which has several Wisconsin locations, said predictions are that job growth in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning field might grow 34 percent, as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated through 2020. The labs were redone to help meet that need, school officials said.

“We will continue to have a need for, and we’ll be willing and able to hire, people with the technical skills to survive and succeed,” he told a group at the ceremony.

Morna Foy, Wisconsin Technical College System president, added that a course/program partnership between Gateway and Trane — whose 100th anniversary was acknowledged at the ceremony — has been a model for collaboration between education and business. She said working with industry is necessary so colleges know what skills are needed and how to improve teaching them.

“Employers say it’s tough finding folks with the skills they need,” said Foy. “A lot are frustrated. It’s also tough for educators to keep up, and it’s tough for students as well.”

Some businesses haven’t bought into the collaboration idea, he admitted.

“They’re not always willing to put the work into it, but it is worth it,” she said.

The six energy systems training labs on the Gateway Technical College’s Kenosha campus include facilities for teaching:

  • Electric energy, with systems used in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning field
  • Sustainable energy, focusing on alternative systems such as photovoltaic solar energy, solar thermal hot water, small wind and fuel cells
  • Industrial heating, as well as cooling
  • Refrigeration, including preservation of food industry products
  • Residential heating and cooling, including gas and oil furnaces and heat pumps
  • Geo-exchange, for home and small commercial use.

From “Gateway offers sustainability camp” – KENOSHA — Gateway Technical College is offering hands-on sustainability camp for students who have this year completed sixth through eighth grades. Camp will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 22-25 at the Center for Sustainable Living on the Gateway Technical College Kenosha Campus, 3520 30th Ave.

The Youth Leaders in Sustainability summer camp is a four-day event which provides students a way to engage in the “green” issues of the day. Experienced Gateway Technical College instructors and other local experts lead exploratory, hands-on activities in areas of water and resource conservation, forestry, bird ecology, urban farming, horticulture, environmental technologies and hands-on service learning projects.

Campers will build a solar car, learn how to plant and care for vegetables and build a freshwater filtration system, among many other activities. In addition to activities at the center, field trips are also planned.

Cost to attend is $99. Registration includes lunches, snacks and a T-shirt. To register, go to and select Professional Development, and then Youth Leaders in Sustainability. For more information, contact Stephanie Sklba at or (262) 564-2662.

From “Gateway: no second referendum” – STURTEVANT — Gateway President Bryan Albrecht does not plan to go back to the public with a second referendum, but he said Monday something needs to be done for Gateway Technical College to continue offering law enforcement training.

Instead of pursuing another referendum for a public safety training center, Albrecht plans to explore partnerships, particularly with other government entities such as municipalities, he said Monday at a Gateway Technical College Board retreat at the SC Johnson iMET Center in Sturtevant, 2320 Renaissance Blvd.

In April residents across three counties, including Racine, voted down a $49 million funding request from Gateway for a package of construction projects that included a $15.6 million public safety training center.

The proposal included plans for a new 24-lane shooting range and an on-site driving course complete with simulated intersections, street lights and highway ramps.

The college has a five-lane shooting range in Kenosha, but it is in poor condition, Albrecht said. Also Gateway offers driving training at a rented parking lot at the former Dairyland Greyhound Track in Kenosha, but the future of the track is in limbo and Gateway officials do not know how long that option will be available.

If nothing is done, Gateway could lose its state accreditation to teach law enforcement classes, Albrecht said.

To continue offering law enforcement training, Albrecht presented the board with three options: renovating Kenosha’s campus for an estimated $6 million, another smaller referendum, or pursuing partnerships.

His recommendation, which the board agreed with, was to pursue partnerships with other local governments.

Albrecht understands other government entities’ spending is limited by state law, but he said some municipalities own land and former industrial buildings that Gateway could renovate and lease.

A “public-public partnership” is the ideal option Albrecht said because the Wisconsin Technical College System Board has not always approved public-private partnerships where the private sector partner generates income from the college, rather than donating funds.

Gateway is limited in how much it can spend to physically expand its campus by state law, but Albrecht said the college does not have similar state-imposed limits on improvements to leased properties.

Ideally Albrecht said he is looking to lease a property with a building of at least 40,000 square feet and 10 acres of land, where a driving track could be built.

He plans to report back to the Gateway board in October with an update on any possible partnerships.

Albrecht has looked at properties in Kenosha, Burlington and Racine, but he said he is having difficulty finding the optimal piece of property.

Scott Pierce, one of the members of Gateway’s board, said he supports the college’s law enforcement training. But if Gateway cannot get public support for a public safety training center, Pierce said the college should take a serious look at the program and decide if the college should continue offering law enforcement training.

“I know this is harsh,” Pierce said during the meeting. “But sometimes you have to cut your losses.”

Also Neville Simpson, another board member, questioned the value of spending a large amount of money on something that only benefits a small number of people.

But Albrecht said thousands of people every year come to Gateway for law enforcement training.

In the 2012-13 academic year an estimated 5,000 people took law enforcement training classes at Gateway, said Bill Whyte, Gateway’s vice president of human resources and facilities.

If the college was able to expand its facilities, Gateway projects enrollment in the college’s law enforcement training classes would jump 30 percent, according to Whyte.

Albrecht said Monday he does not plan on asking for another referendum for a public safety training center, but he said he does not want Gateway to eliminate its law enforcement training.

“I don’t consider that an option,” Albrecht said of eliminating the training. “It’s too important for the community.”


From “Gateway Tech launching aviation manufacturing program” – By Jeff Engel - Gateway Technical College will launch a new program this fall to meet industry demand for aviation manufacturing workers.

The program was developed in partnership with DeltaHawk Engines Inc. of Racine, which wants to create a pipeline of workers to fill projected openings.

It’s a two-semester diesel aviation manufacturing certificate program funded through a Wisconsin Workforce Partnership Grant that covers development of curriculum, equipment purchases and training assemblers and technicians.

“This certificate brings a variety of programs together, providing training for this career field which is expected to expand in the near future,” said Debbie Davidson, vice president of Gateway’s Workforce and Economic Development Division. “This training collectively offers skill development in the disciplines of our aviation, diesel and manufacturing programs.”

Gateway will hold public information sessions at Horizon Center for Transportation Technology, 4940 88th Ave., Kenosha, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on July 15 and from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on July 24.

From “Several Gateway Technical College students take honors” – Seven Gateway Technical College students captured honors at the national leadership conference of the Business Professionals of America held May 8-12 in Orlando, Fla.

Gateway Technical College students took first through third place in the following categories, competing against students from across the United States:

  • First place: Web Design Team: Kasey Knudson, Kelly Kendra and Nicole Rugen.
  • First place: Financial Math and Analysis: Mark Short.
  • Second place: Presentation Management Team: Elizabeth Klinzing, Holly Anderson and Magan Lawrence.

Rugen also placed fourth in Graphic Design Promotion, Short placed sixth in Insurance Concepts and Klinzing took 10th in Interview Skills.

Students were judged by industry professionals who are able to also share their expertise with students.

BPA is the national career/technical student organization for students preparing for careers in the business field.

From “Take a Survey, Help Gateway Technical College help you” – by Dan Burger –There are two ways to look at the IT skills shortage: macro and micro. Macro is an industry-wide view and micro is how the skills shortage affects the organization where you work. A week ago, in the But Wait There’s More section of The Four Hundred, readers were encouraged to participate in a survey designed to gauge the severity and focal points of the IBM i skills shortage. Equally important was the objective of matching up companies that are searching for talented entry-level workers with IT educations that included IBM i-related skills with the colleges that specialize in that training.

One of the best-known schools for IBM i education is Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin. Jim Buck, who guides the IBM i educational curriculum at Gateway and who is monitoring the survey responses, called me last week to say he had 81 responses from IBM i shops interested in collaborating on skills development and the idea of developing an improved pipeline of talent from two- and four-year colleges to their companies.

Buck is working with IBM’s Academic Initiative program and with the administrators at Gateway Technical College to apply for a Department of Labor grant that would further the development of a standardized IBM i curriculum that could be implemented at participating colleges and universities. In addition, with the help of the grant money, he plans to develop a “teach the teacher” program that would benefit schools where IBM i curriculum is in demand. Also in his sights is the building of advisory groups–made up of IBM i shops, independent software vendors, and IBM i business partners in the sales channel–at the schools.

Buck describes this as “industry-driven training” and he is emphasizing the role of IBM i shops in the preparation of training and the job placement support following the completion of training.

Receiving surveys from 81 companies in just one week had Buck ecstatic. He admitted that his best-guess estimate one week earlier was that maybe two dozen surveys would be completed. The surveys and the early indication of company interest will be used to support the Department of Labor grant request. Apart from the grant-writing process, Buck plans to contact the companies that participated in the surveys and guide them to colleges that can help them with current hiring needs as well as advice on setting up advisory councils at schools were training can be tailored somewhat to specific skills that are in demand.

Companies interested in helping themselves get connected to a skills pipeline while also helping the IBM i community and their local communities by hiring home grown talent can become participants by taking the survey, which is only a click away.

Do your part. Be helpful.

From “Opinion: A partnership to fill jobs” – An article June 9 by the Journal Sentinel’s John Schmid provided an overview of the debate among researchers about the existence and extent of a skills gap in Wisconsin (“Program’s new approach to skills gap? Talk to employers”). However, the debate misses the immediate need to focus on a tangible solution. With area manufacturers working together with technical schools, we have an opportunity to begin that process.

We are in a manufacturing-rich region poised for growth. That growth is being squeezed by an increasing demand for advanced skills and an impending demographic shift that will mean too few workers to fill the void left by retirees. Time is of the essence to focus on action. Our ability to train, attract and retain talent to career pathways in manufacturing is simply critical to this region.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s Manufacturing Careers Partnership is a collaborative effort in the truest sense of the word. We share a common mission: to give people the skills they need to fill jobs and create a pipeline of talent now and in the future. The only way we can accomplish our mission is to have educational institutions, workforce development agencies and employers at the same table, talking — in detail — about their needs. And that’s exactly what we are doing.

Our first project, Welding 101, is designed to create a baseline of common skill requirements for entry-level welders among a significant number of employers and to improve manufacturers’ ability to attract and retain talent. To date, more than 50 companies have participated in a survey that asks, in great detail, what employers need from their welders on day one. As more employers complete the survey, we can move with confidence toward aligning course competencies across the region’s technical colleges.

We are pleased to be working in alignment with our manufacturers and our technical colleges: Gateway, Milwaukee Area, Moraine Park and Waukesha County, as well as the Wisconsin State Technical College System on this project. Together, we can give an individual employee the skills to succeed in a welding position and give employers a starting point for building a manufacturing career pathway.

Getting clear on what we, as technical colleges can teach, and we as employers, can then train, lays out a progressive and practical path to solving one of our region’s most pressing needs. We recognize that this project is a starting point. Workforce challenges are complex and the issues impacting the entire talent pipeline will not be solved with a single approach. But much like an entry-level position, we need to tackle Welding 101 and gain some experience and tangible success.

How you can help: if you are an employer of welders, please take the Welding 101 survey at

This op-ed was signed by Bryan Albrecht, president, Gateway Technical College; Dave Biddle, manager of technical services, Joy Global (MCP co-chair); Michael Burke, president, Milwaukee Area Technical College; Shelley Jurewicz, vice-president for economic development, MMAC/Milwaukee 7; David Mitchell, president, Monarch (MCP co-chair); Barbara Prindiville, president, Waukesha County Technical College; and Sheila Ruhland, president, Moraine Park Technical College.


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