From “College graduation week features NTC, UWSP Saturday” – Several colleges are having their graduation ceremonies Saturday.

One of them is Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, where Sean Sullivan says the students have been doing more than classroom work to get ready for the job market.  “A lot of our graduates have really been active in taking advantage of the services that we offer to prepare to go out into the workforce, so it’s not only about the classes, but it’s about the extra things that we can offer them like leadership development, job skills training, those soft skills that employers are looking for.”

The NTC graduation is held at Wausau West High School starting at 10:00 a.m. Sullivan says just over half of the graduates will take part in the ceremony.  “NTC is going to be graduating almost 800 students this semester, and of those, I’d say about 475 will be at the graduation ceremony.”

Some of the NTC grads are the first virtual college Associate Degree graduates for the school, having taken most of their classes online.

The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point also has commencement Saturday, with both a morning session and an afternoon session to send 1,427 graduates on to their next step.

Mid-State Technical College had their graduation Thursday evening, but they have something else to celebrate. Their new Stevens Point facility is ready, and they’ve begun moving in. The college acquired the former Penney’s wing of the Centerpoint Marketplace mall, and they expect to be done moving in early next week.

UW Marathon County had their graduation Wednesday.


From “Future looking bright for graduating CVTC students hoping to get a job” – CVTC graduate Joseph Kriese wears love for the Green Bay Packers on his hat and on his shirt — all together with his graduation gown. There is a reason behind it.

“I’m real excited to start,” Kriese said about a new job he was just hired for.

He is getting ready to move to Green Bay and is taking up a position with the Green Bay Packers.

“It was definitely a dream offer; I never thought a 2 year degree would bring me this far,” he said.

He will be working maintenance, HVAC, plumbing and fixing up all the odds and ends to help make sure you enjoy Packers games.

It is a job he found online and one he never thought he would get. Four interviews later he got an offer.

“I don’t think anything could stop me now, I feel good about it,” he said.

Career experts we talked with say the 432 students who graduated from CVTC on Friday night should feel very good about their future. Beth Mathison with Manpower says they will be in high demand.

“A lot of employers are actually standing in line to attract those new grads and they’re begging them to come and work for them at their office,” she said.

She says high-skilled jobs are in high demand.

“There are some companies that specifically do internships with those candidates a year before graduation so they can get them interested in coming to work for them,” she said.

Margo Keys, VP of Student Services at CVTC, says healthcare and manufacturing are hot fields right now. She says colleges like CVTC have built up their programs to meet the demand.

“What we see is more mobility with our students and certainly the classroom has changed significantly with the higher tech,” Keys said.

Whether it is the programs, the need for workers or a combination thereof, the bottom line is students getting two-year degrees are getting jobs.

Past surveys show 90% of CVTC’s graduating classes are employed by January. 89% work in Wisconsin.

In the end Joseph Kriese got out of his program what he wanted: a ticket to work for the Packers.

“It’s just as good as a four-year degree; I mean I landed my job with a two-year degree,” he said.

From “Findind success after college rooted in the practical” — By Kyle Jones – We understand that college degrees are a necessity when venturing into today’s job market. Though, all degrees are not made equal. The phrase, “a college degree shows employers that you have the ability and capacity to learn,” may be obsolete in the trying times of our troubled economy. It may not be about what you can learn, but what you already know and what you can do.

The Ashland area is surrounded by institutions of higher learning such as Northland College, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, The University of Wisconsin-Superior and Michigan Tech University. The question is, when planning for your educational future, what schools and what fields of study are going to be the most prosperous?

Annual placement and graduate follow up reports are in for students who graduated between 2011-2012.

At Michigan Tech, of 1,220 graduates contacted, 896 responded, 662 of them have full-time employment, with students who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree accounting for 564 of those who have full-time jobs. Now, take into account others, a total of 126 people, went on to pursue higher education and are attending a graduate school full-time.

By industry, graduates are reporting that they are finding work in manufacturing and energy/utilities/minerals, with automotive and consulting being tied for third. The lowest being the entertainment industry and contracting.

This type of focus in primary areas of work and industry is to be expected from a technological university, but how are others fairing at different institutes of higher learning?

Over at UW-Superior a total of 500 2011-2012 graduates were contacted, with 370 of them responding. UW-Superior’s numbers show that 75-percent of those contacted are employed and 20-percent are continuing their education. Some of the highest average salaries based on department come from business and economics ($42,401), Math and Computer Science ($40,654) and Natural Sciences ($34,000). Other career paths that fall into the category of arts make a considerably lower average salary – just over $20,000 in some cases.

This theme is not unique to large traditional four-year colleges. What does an associate or technical degree get you?

The Ashland campus of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) surveyed 187 graduates, with 164 responding, 116 are employed and 85 of them are working in fields relative to their training.

On average, graduates from the Ashland campus make $33,408, note that those with an associate degree make considerably more than those with a one-year degree or short-term training. The highest paid fields are those who work in trade and technical professions, allied health and business, with these fields all making at least the campus annual salary average.

At this moment Northland College could not submit their placement reports.

What we’re finding is that it seems, to no surprise, those students studying hard sciences or practical fields of study are graduating and going on to find financially rewarding careers compared to their colleagues who studied disciplines in liberal arts or fine arts.

UW-Superior’s data also shows that 61.3-percent of students are finding jobs in Minnesota, 54-percent in the Duluth/Superior area and 34-percent throughout Wisconsin.

Collectively, this data leads us to believe that students looking for work in the Great Lakes area should focus in areas such as manufacturing, industry, business and healthcare.

From “Federal index ranks Wis. 49th in economic outlook” — “It’s about a full time job,” said Kandyce Hunter, a recent Madison College grad. She’s currently trying to find her dream job. “Supporting someone in an executive role is what my goal would be,” she said. “In an institution either with education or community outreach.”

But as she’s trying to get into the job market, the state’s forecast for economic conditions is looking a little cloudy. That’s according to the latest Leading Index by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which ranks the state 49th. The Badger state is one of five with a contraction score; the only state scoring worse is Wyoming.

Countrywide, the index score is predicted to grow by 1.4%.
Wisconsin’s score was -.74.

But not everybody thinks those numbers should lead to panic.
A career and employment specialist with Madison College tells us that job prospects for their graduates are actually pretty good. “We have a wonderful placement rate and I’m very proud of that,” said Rochelle Wanner, a career and employment specialist for the school. “It’s part of the reason why I stay at this college is because we are very successful in helping our students.”

Prospects vary by field, but she said about 68% of their grads end up working in a related field to what they studied. “One of the things I always work with with students is that they have to go out and work for a job, it just doesn’t come to you,” she said. “You got to go out and look for it.”

Hunter’s following that advice–and feeling confident that she’ll find what she wants in the Badger state. “Definitely not going anywhere,” she said. “I feel like with what I’m seeing out there with job prospects it’s pretty positive.”

Now, even though Wisconsin is ranked near the bottom, the state is actually scoring better than it did last month. It’s improved from a score of -1.7 last month to -.74 this month.


From “New College Grads May Be Entering An Improving Job Market” — Thousands of local college students graduated over the weekend. UWM and Marquette were among those holding commencement ceremonies. More grads will pick up their diplomas next weekend, including at MSOE and MATC.

The last few years have been tough for college grads. They entered the labor force amid a slow-moving economy, when employers were hesitant to hire. And the competition often included experienced people, laid off during the recession. Dennis Winters says now however, there are hints the job hunt may be a bit easier. He works for the state Department of Workforce Development.

“The economy is growing slowly and the employment situation is a bit laggard yet, but I think things are picking up throughout the rest of the year and in the future, so graduates have something a little better to look at,” Winters says.

Another agency that sees promising data is Milwaukee-based Manpower Group. It tracks hiring trends.

“There was healthy hiring last quarter, so I think we’re going to see continuous improvement. It’s certainly not going backwards,” says Chris Layden, who heads one of the Wisconsin divisions of ManpowerGroup. He says some new grads have an advantage over experienced people looking for work.

“Companies are looking for fresh talent out of college, particularly leading companies within the Milwaukee market that are always trying to bring in fresh perspectives and hiring potential.”

Layden says the greatest demand for graduates remains in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The trend puts graduates from the Milwaukee School of Engineering in good standing. Erik Oswald works in MSOE’s careers office. He says employers sought out the school’s students throughout the economic downturn.

“Even in the height of the recession, our students were getting jobs. They maybe were just having one offer at a time. But as things are recovering, the biggest thing we’re seeing is that students are able to choose between two or three offers again,” Oswald says.

Oswald says the pay is good, even for those just entering the workforce.

“The average starting salaries for the 2011-2012 class for all of our graduates was $55,368,” Oswald says.

On the other edge of downtown, Marquette University reports high demand for its grads, across the spectrum. Andy Brodzeller is spokesman.

“One anecdote is that involvement in our career fairs that we host in the fall and spring semester — we’ve seen additional participation by companies and employees. This past year, actually we had to turn down employees, because we simply didn’t have enough space for them in the ballrooms at the career fair,” Brodzeller says.

Brodzeller says grads with a leg up are those who participated in internships and got work experience. The head of UW-Milwaukee’s career development center echoes the sentiment. Cindy Petrites says students’ resourcefulness outside the classroom can be as important as their field of study.

“The person graduating today is probably looking at over a dozen job changes over the course of their lifetime. So it’s really important for us to be helping students to be really nimble in the way they are developing their skills, in the way they are thinking about how they can be marketable — not just for the jobs of today, but for the jobs of tomorrow,” Petrites says.

Another local institution has seen first-hand the changing employment picture graduates face. Mike Kuehnl is with MATC, who says “4,500 of our students already have bachelor’s or master’s degrees and they’ve come to MATC to get the skills that employers are looking for.”

Kuehnl says graduates in the greatest demand are those in the fields of information technology, manufacturing and health care.

From “FVTC graduates follow their dreams” — Molly Willis tried the traditional four-year college route.

But after struggling to find the path she wanted to follow, the 25-year-old Oshkosh woman left the university behind, taking a job as a reception with the Bergstrom Automotive group.

Working closely with the administrative assistant, Willis realized that was what she wanted: a job that kept her busy every day, but never doing the same thing.

The Brookfield native began taking classes at Fox Valley Technical College in the administrative professional program, while she continued to work full-time.

“I knew what I didn’t want,” Willis said. “But (FVTC) had the administrative professional program and I thought that would be perfect for me and what I was looking for.”

Willis, along with nearly 1,000 others walked across the stage and collected their diplomas at Fox Valley Technical College’s spring commencement ceremonies at Kolf Sports Center Sunday.

Some of the graduates started at FVTC after graduating from high school, others waited before finding the path they wanted to go down and still others were switching career paths.

“Its never too late to follow your dream. You just have to have it. With the right amount of determination you can accomplish anything,” student commencement speaker Chandra Riley, a graduate of the culinary arts program, said. “All you have to do is set your mind to it. Visualize yourself achieving your goal and the steps to get there will fall into place on their own.”

For Abu Muhit, that dream involved a trip across the ocean and the realization of the vital role automobiles play in the United States.

The 25-year-old Oshkosh resident came to the United States from Bangladesh in 2008. Upon arriving, he realized that it was very common to have an automobile for everyday use and transportation.

“The place I’m from, we never had any cars,” said Muhit, who will be working at CarX in Fond du Lac as a technician. “I wanted to know about cars and how they work.”

Muhit originally enrolled at FVTC to improve his English. He eventually began taking classes in the automotive technology program, with hopes of owning his own auto shop in the future.

“You’re going to walk off this stage today and start a new life,” said Catherine Tierney, the president and chief executive officer at Community First Credit Union, who gave the commencement address.

For Willis, the new life will involve continuing her job at Bergstrom Automotive, where she will work as executive assistant to CEO John Bergstrom. It also means the possibility of continuing her education at a later date.

“Just having my associate’s degree, my options are much more open,” she said. “I’m seeing where the chips fall now.”

From “Technical college graduates find jobs by filling skills gap” — Tabetha Moore was a year away from earning her associate’s degree in human resources when a local manufacturing company gave her a full-time job in her field and agreed to pay for her last two semesters of school.

The 21-year-old hasn’t yet negotiated the salary she’ll earn after obtaining her diploma from Fox Valley Technical College in May, but that fact she secured a job so quickly reflects a new era of opportunity for graduates of two-year college programs.

“What surprised me most was that they would hire a 20-year-old without a degree to work in their human resources department,” Moore said.

She’s one of a new generation of graduates defying a stereotype that technical colleges offer a “second-to-best” option for those who don’t attend a university. Demand for technically-trained, skilled workers has driven up wages and employment opportunities for associate degree holders with highly-sought skill sets.

Analysts and educators refer to the situation as a skills gap. A wave of new jobs in a changing, high-tech economy is rolling in just as a mass of baby boomers retires. The end result is a glut of vacant positions with too few workers with desired skills.

“I think the simple economic theory about supply and demand is going to drive, locally and regionally, what’s driving up those associate’s degree wages. Employers are obviously very conscious about how some individuals joining their organization can add value to their customers and operations,” said Chris Matheny, vice president of instruction services for FVTC.

The competition for skilled workers is blurring the line between two- and four-year degree holders’ career opportunities. Nationwide, nearly 30 percent of Americans with associate’s degrees now make more than those with bachelor’s degrees, according to a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

About 89 percent of 2012 graduates from FVTC were employed within six months of earning their degree, according to a survey of graduates. Three-out-of-four grads found work related to their field of study and earned an average starting salary of $33,000.

Many saw much higher wages. Graduates from the web site development program reported earning as much as $104,000; human resources grads reported earning up to $90,000; business management grads saw up to $80,000; and electrical engineers found jobs paying as high as $59,900, according to the graduate survey.

Not all these salaries are for entry level work. A growing number of adults are returning to college to learn additional skills to either find new work or stay relevant in their current field. More employers are also paying for their employees’ continuing education.

“Once you get in house, we often have to put students through $10,000-$20,000 of aircraft-specific training. Each individual we consider a huge investment for the company,” said Greg Laabs, vice president and general manager of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation in Appleton.

Laabs spoke during a recent forum about the skills gap hosted by FVTC, where a number of employers said they’ve become more competitive with wages, hired younger people into higher-level positions and paid for schooling.

Nearly 55 percent of Wisconsin manufacturing companies reported offering collaborative training programs through local technical colleges and 46 percent reported increasing wages for difficult to fill positions, according a December 2012 survey by Schnenck SC, an Appleton-based accounting and business consulting firm.

“We offer competitive wages… The insurance packages offered are a huge bonus as well as the camaraderie and family values that go into a small to mid-sized business,” said Tony Robinson, vice president of manufacturing for Jay Manufacturing Oshkosh Inc. “Every employee at Jay Manufacturing is offered formal or on-the-job training experiences.”

Some employers are also beginning to hire people with associate’s degrees into management positions that previously required a four-year degree.

Paul Werth, 36, was among the first three people to graduate from FVTC’s new construction management program in 2011. Within nine months he was hired by Neenah-based Miron Construction Co. as a project manager, and he is now overseeing some of the construction related to FVTC’s expansion in Appleton.

“We’ve broke into this very traditional market where pretty much all the time it required a bachelor’s degree. Now, talking with students here (at FVTC), I know some have had job offers a month ago already,” Werth said.

The Georgetown center estimates 29 million jobs paying middle class wages today require no more than an associate’s degree. Similarly, the center estimates associate’s degree holders earn, on average, about $500,000 more over their careers than people with only high school diplomas, but $500,000 less than people with bachelor’s degrees. Those figures vary widely by profession.

A survey of graduates from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh indicates that most local bachelor’s degree holders still find a better starting wage than associate’s degree recipients. A UWO survey of 2011 graduates, which is the most recent available, shows 85 percent found jobs related to their majors within nine months of graduation. They earned starting salaries averaging $45,300.

The UWO survey had a 53 percent response rate, and the FVTC survey had a 78 percent response rate.

UWO Chancellor Richard Wells said a four-year education remains relevant and valuable to employers.

“A general education and the ability of a person to think critically, analytically and communicate effectively” — skills traditionally associated with a baccalaureate education — “is more important than a particular major. In the end, that’s what employers are looking for because you hopefully have someone who is passionate about life long learning,” Wells said.

From “Next chapter: 56-year-old adds FVTC degree, new job to life” —  When displaced worker Mitch Wilke enrolled at Fox Valley Technical College in early 2011, he hadn’t taken a math class in about 40 years.

Wilke, 56, of Two Rivers, says getting back to basics was worth the challenge. Through FVTC he is completing his studies in the mechanical design technology program. He also found a new job before graduation at F.C. Dadson in Greenville with the assistance of Wisconsin TechConnect, a service available to students and graduates at all 16 Wisconsin technical colleges.

“I have been titled ‘engineer’ in the past without a degree,” Wilke said Friday, a day before FVTC’s fall 2012 commencement ceremony. “I was looking for the extra education and the paperwork to go with it, to say, ‘Hey, I can do this.’ Throughout all my classes I was the oldest one in class except for one teacher. I’m just kind of taking it in stride. Because of my age as well, I’ve got more of a sense of responsibility. Right now, I’m at a 3.96 (grade point average) out of 4.”

Wilke is one of 686 FVTC students who applied for graduation for fall 2012. FVTC recognized those students Saturday afternoon with a formal cap-and-gown commencement ceremony at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in downtown Appleton.

Each academic year, about 2,000 students graduate from FVTC, representing all of the college’s regional centers and campuses throughout its five-county district. FVTC recognizes graduates with both fall and spring commencement ceremonies.

Wilke, who said FVTC is his first college experience, was laid off in September 2010 from his job at Burger Boat Company in Manitowoc. There, he had designed interior spaces of yachts and then had moved to a department in which he used machines to fabricate parts for the yachts from drawings.

“It was seen coming,” he said of his layoff. “They just weren’t selling any boats because of the economy downturning. Even millionaires were looking at how to better spend their money. There were a lot of used boats on the market. Rather than buying a new one, they could buy a used one for pennies on the dollar and then have it custom-fit the way they wanted.”

Wilke said he spent time checking out colleges and decided upon FVTC in part because of the guidance he received prior to enrollment. That has continued throughout his time at FVTC, he said.

“They made me feel welcome here,” he said. “I remember right after I registered, on orientation day we got our class schedules, and my counselor actually called me while I was in transit going home from orientation to let me know that math class was a lab and not a lecture class. I had preferenced four lecture classes, but ended up getting a tutor to help me along and once I got through that, it wasn’t too bad.”

Wilke credits Dean Sommerfeld, team leader for the mechanical design technology program, for making a difference in his time at FVTC.

“He will take whatever time is necessary to help you understand a problem that you don’t get,” Wilke said. “I would be sitting in class for two, three hours of my free time between classes and he would help me work through it.”

Sommerfeld said nontraditional students, including displaced workers, often bring unique perspectives to the classroom because of their life and past work experiences.

“I find they tend to be maybe more motivated, because they want to get back out working again,” Sommerfeld said. “They realize they may be competing against younger people, so they want to get themselves as good of an education as they can, to be prepared. When they do go out into the job field, they do have a lot of experience from the previous work they’ve done.”

Classes at FVTC wrap up several weeks after commencement. In one of Sommerfeld’s classes, Wilke is working on a team project with a younger student.

“He’s willing to help other people in class,” Sommerfeld said. “There’s some mentoring going on. I see that as a benefit.”

From “Technical college, UW-Fox make case for two-year degrees” — Because of the current bleak job market for four-year graduates, school officials at Fox Valley Technical College and University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley are hoping more Wisconsinites see the power of two-year or technical college degrees.

Employees at both schools think that by increasing their visibility at the high school level and changing attitudes about post-secondary education will increase the number of students who explore their programming — something that could gain them well-paying jobs more quickly, said Patti Jorgensen, vice president of students and community development at FVTC.

Fox Valley Technical College will open its doors to Fox Cities residents Tuesday for its annual open house — an event the school relies on to draw in potential students, said FVTC spokesman Chris Jossart.

The school could see as many as 2,000 people during the open house, Jossart said.

A recent Georgetown University study discovered that 29 million U.S. jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree — most required a two-year associate’s degree or post-secondary certificate.

Forty percent of those jobs paid more than $50,000 a year, according to the report by the university’s Center on Education and the Workforce and Civic Enterprises departments.

Parents and teachers often point students in the direction of four-year college and forget other options simply because that was their only post-secondary experience, Jorgenson said.

“I think kids hear about college, and associate it with the four-year schools,” said Joe Lamers, counselor at Appleton East High School. “As they get older, we try to give them all options … I know that I tell kids all the time that it’s their decision. No one should be telling them what to do — technical or two-year colleges can be a great option. They’re cheaper, quicker, have high placement rates — we always mention the positives.”

FVTC hosts large meetings with teachers from local districts to show off the school’s educational pathways, and often sends representatives to public schools so students can hear about what job options become available after studying at the technical college.

Gina Fisher of Waupaca is a parent who’s tried both four-year and technical colleges.

After attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for two years and working to support herself, Fisher said she felt incredibly “burnt-out.” She decided to get an associate’s degree in accounting instead and graduated from FVTC.

That’s how she knew that, after discussing career interests with her sons, FVTC would be the best option. Both of her sons are homeschooled, and Fisher said taking a class or two at FVTC was an easy way to transition into college.

“My older son wanted to go into physical therapy, and the tech is a lot more hands-on,” Fisher said. “I really like the tech school for that reason … It’s a cheaper option, and he can go on to (University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh) later to finish up his bachelor’s degree.”

Fisher said she thought more parents and students would choose the technical college option if they knew the financial benefits.

“I just don’t think people are well informed about their options for college,” she said. “I know I wasn’t, and I really don’t remember getting much advice when I was in high school.”

George Wojcik’s daughter Valarie enrolled in FVTC after working on a motorcycle in a Hortonville High School class. She graduated from the school’s welding program, and later enrolled in the welding engineering program at Ferris University in Michigan and graduated with a bachelor’s degree. After some convincing, the school accepted all of her credits from FVTC, Wojcik said.

“She was far ahead of the game,” Wojcik said. “She had a lot of hands-on experience, and her teachers were very impressed.”

Both Wojcik and Fisher are part of a parent panel that will speak Tuesday night during FVTC’s open house.

UW-Fox tries to work with students and parents to understand the application and enrollment process, which often can be muddled and confusing, said Martin Rudd, dean of UW-Fox. The school holds parent nights and open houses throughout the academic year.

UW-Fox also reaches out to teachers in local districts to discuss what skills students need when applying to the school or other colleges in the state.

“Not only do we have a lot of programs with high schools, but we’re constantly developing new relationships with schools,” Rudd said.

Unlike many technical colleges, UW-Fox often thinks of itself as a “step toward a baccalaureate degree,” Rudd said. The school’s associate’s degrees transfer easily to other colleges in the state, and the school has set up programs like “Madison Connections” UW-Madison and their Guaranteed Transfer program that can ease the transition and get more general classes out of the way, Rudd said.

Like FVTC, UW-Fox offers some dual enrollment programming for high school students, and the UW system plans to greatly expand the program in the future, Rudd said. The school also is trying to connect with students in local charter schools, who may not have as much familiarity with UW-Fox.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all method for recruiting students,” Rudd said.

UW-Fox will hold its next open house at 6 p.m. Oct. 23.

Jorgenson said she hopes the increased attention from public schools will help students discover interesting career paths earlier.

“We’re talking with our K-12 partners, saying ‘Hey, we need our students to have more information about technical colleges,’” Jorgenson said. “A large percentage of students may say they’re headed to four-year colleges, but in our experience they aren’t. There’s still a large percentage of students who aren’t doing much after high school.”

In the Fox Cities region, 23 percent of FVTC students begin classes directly after high school. Forty-six percent arrive roughly two years after graduating, Jorgenson said.

“They’re doing something for two years that’s probably not particularly productive, and then they’re circling back to us,” Jorgenson said.

From “Some good news for Labor Day” — The economy is still challenging this Labor Day. Yet there are positive signs for workers:

• Wisconsin ranks sixth among the 50 states for income equality, according to the latest Wisconsin Sustainable Business Report.

• Despite job losses, the Badger State still leads the nation in manufacturing. Wisconsin has the most manufacturing jobs per capita, and we’ve lost a lower percentage of these jobs than other Midwestern states, according to the same report, sponsored by the UW-Madison School of Business, the state DNR and Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council.

• Wisconsin is home to 60,000 new technology jobs, according to the report, including a lot of manufacturing jobs related to energy efficiency.

• Wisconsin has the highest high school graduation rate in the country.

• Madison ranks as the best metro area in the nation for matching its education levels with the education requirements for current job openings, according to a Brookings report last week titled “Education, Job Openings, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America.”

• About 42 percent of job openings in the Madison region require a bachelor’s degree or higher, and about 43 percent of all adult workers have attained such degrees.

• About 32 percent of job openings in the Madison region require an associate degree or some college classes, and about 28 percent of adult workers can match those requirements.

• About 26 percent of jobs demand a high school diploma or less, and 29 percent of our pool of potential workers falls into that category.

• The more educated and skilled a region’s work force is, the better the market is for all levels of job seekers, Brookings determined.

• As of February, the Madison region had more than 4,000 job openings in computer occupations, more than 1,200 openings related to health diagnosing and treatment, and more than 800 openings — each — for drivers, engineers and managers.

Yes, the gap between job seekers’ skills and open positions is wider in other parts of the state. Yes, job creation has been slow in Wisconsin.

It’s also true our state needs to get better at luring private investment to entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for start-up companies. That’s where the real potential is for new jobs.

Yet Wisconsin has a lot to celebrate and build on. Happy Labor Day!

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.

From “Job demand remains rosy in some sectors” — With all the gloomy global and national economic news, it may seem like most, if not all, industries are either not hiring or even reducing their workforce.

But that’s not the case in northeast Wisconsin for high-demand professions such as nursing or metalworking and fabrication, where job opportunities remained strong throughout the recession and during the slow recovery that has followed it.

The reasons for the strength of the job market in those sectors is twofold.

In manufacturing, a historically strong manufacturing base has been buoyed in part by large government contracts to companies such as Oshkosh Corp. and Marinette Marine. Meanwhile, an aging population is driving the growing need for an array of skilled health care workers.

Companies in the 18-county northeast Wisconsin region are projected to need to fill 10,000 production and manufacturing jobs by 2016, according to a 2010 study by New North, a consortium of business, economic development, chambers of commerce, workforce development and civic and education leaders. The health care field’s numbers were expected to trend upward as well, expanding by almost 4,000 jobs by 2016.

Health care hiring steady

Aurora Health Care is maybe not in as much of a crunch for employees as Muza Metal and Marinette Marine are for fabricators, but there is still a steady need for new employees to fill open positions at locations from Milwaukee to Green Bay.

“There is always a need,” said Gwen Baumel, vice president of human resources for Aurora Health Care.

Aurora gets a lot of applicants for positions from those in the Fox Cities and Green Bay areas, and starts working with potential future health care workers while they are still in school.

“We have a very good relationship with the local schools, which really helps,” Baumel said. “We talk with them so the school stays in tune with employers and what sort of challenges there are.”

One of the good relationships is with Fox Valley Technical College, where nurses graduating from the program are finding a hot job market upon graduation.

FVTC graduates about 40 associated degree nurses and 25 licensed practical nurses per semester and roughly 800 nursing assistants per year.

Once graduated, the majority of those students find work quickly. According to Assistant Dean of Health Division Carrie Thompson, all of the college’s 2011 associated degree graduates were working within six months of graduation. Ninety-three percent of new LPNs were hired within six months of graduation, and nursing assistants placed at 69 percent.

“Most (graduates) stay in the area,” Thompson said. “They are everywhere and in lots of different companies, most of which are in the area.”

Welding in demand

The need for welders is expected to increase 26 percent by 2015, according to the 2009 New North Occupation Opportunity Projections Survey.

Even now, manufacturing companies are struggling to find skilled metal workers.

For instance, Muza Metal Products in Oshkosh, which last month completed a 47,000-square-foot plant addition is continuing a pattern of growth in a metals manufacturing industry that leans heavily on Oshkosh Corp. Muza employs 260 workers over four shifts, but still is short of workers.

“Skilled labor for fabrication is in high demand, especially in this area,” said Muza Metal Products President Dan Hietpas. “It’s a very competitive area and we are still looking for 10 to 15 workers.”

The tough part about filling those openings is that they are night and weekend shifts. Muza keeps its plant running 24 hours a day and needs enough workers to staff each shift. But even paying a premium over the company’s normal $14 to $22 dollar an hour salary hasn’t helped fill all of the positions.

“We pay a 75 cents to $1.50 premium, depending on the shift,” Hietpas said. “That can be quite the bump in salary, but it’s still a challenge.”

In Marinette, the shipbuilding company Marinette Marine is equally hard up for skilled welders, pipefitters and electricians.

The company has added 600 jobs in the past 12 months, and now has 1,400 employees, but is struggling to fill vacancies for skilled trades jobs, and is even having a hard time recruiting people to sign on to train and work for them. The company held open 40 spots for entry-level workers, reaching out to nine schools in the process, but landed only seven graduates.

A typical employee at the shipyard can earn $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

Right now, the future looks “pretty rosy for us,” Marinette Marine President and CEO Charles Goddard said. “We can easily handle 100 or more hires out of high schools in a year.”

The welding/metal fabrication program at Fox Valley Technical College, which works with Muza Metal and Marinette Marine, has a very high job placement after graduation. Ninety percent of last year’s graduates found jobs after graduation. Some of the students in the program were hired before they finished their degrees based on the high demand of the job, which is continuing to grow.

From “College graduates enjoy best job market in years” — The class of 2012 is leaving U.S. colleges with something that many graduates have lacked since the start of the Great Recession: jobs.

To the relief of graduating seniors — and their anxious parents — the outlook is brighter than it has been in four years. Campus job fairs were packed this spring and more companies are hiring.

College career centers — including those at Lawrence University, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and UW-Fox Valley — are getting more interest from employers. Students aren’t just finding good opportunities; some are weighing multiple offers.

In the past year and a half, 3.1 million jobs have been created. That’s a significant improvement from September 2008 and August 2010, when 6.9 million American jobs were eliminated.

Jenny Frank, an administrative professional at the paper company Appleton, received a job offer before she graduated from Fox Valley Technical College last year. She applied for multiple positions while in school to improve her chances of landing a job after graduation.

“It’s very competitive, and you need to know a lot of skills going into a job,” Frank said.

While in school, Frank said she and her friends piled on internships and part-time work experience amid classes at FVTC to gain an edge during the shaky job market.

In some ways, members of the class of 2012 got lucky because they were largely insulated from the collapsing U.S. economy. They arrived on campus in September 2008, the same month that Wall Street investment bank Lehman Bros. collapsed, touching off a financial crisis that exacerbated the recession.

While older brothers and sisters graduated into a dismal job market, they took shelter in chemistry, philosophy and literature classes. They used their college years to prepare for the brutal realities of the job market that would await them.

They also developed more realistic expectations about landing a job in the ideal place and at the ideal salary, said Mary Meany, dean of Career Services at Lawrence University.

“Some always aim high,” Meany said. “But what I hope to instill in students is that the first job is your entry point. From there, you can move into that ideal job.”

The employment outlook for college graduates is especially promising.

The unemployment rate for college grads 24 and younger averaged 7.2 percent from January through April. That rate, which is not adjusted for seasonal factors, is down from the first four months of 2011 (9.1 percent), 2010 (8.1 percent) and 2009 (7.8 percent.) For all Americans, the unemployment rate is 8.1 percent.

Richard White, director of career services at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., said job market remains tough and new graduates are competing for entry-level jobs with graduates from recent years. Yet this year’s graduates are less likely to face the disappointment of moving back in with Mom and Dad, or being forced to work at a coffee shop to pay off loans.

Chris Matheny, director of vice president of instructional services at Fox Valley Technical College, said job placement rates have taken a slight dip since the market crash. Within six months of graduation, 85 percent of FVTC students have jobs, down from more than 90 percent.

Despite the slightly lower placement rates, enrollment numbers are up, said Matheny, who added that the school works with employers to make sure FVTC’s programming will give students the skills sought-after jobs now require.

“I think that’s a sign that individuals in our community are looking to us to provide practical, hands-on knowledge and experience that is going to benefit them and help them find a job in our area,” he said.

Johnathan Dudzinski, who graduated in May from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, isn’t waiting for a company to make him a job offer. Instead, he plans to open a financial firm in Appleton or Oshkosh.

He said graduates settling for any job that comes their way aren’t doing themselves any favors. While it’s a tough job market, no success or advancements can be made by an employee with no passion for their work, he said.

“I’m concerned when I have friends who take jobs they know they’re going to hate,” he said. “I think that’s short-sighted.”

From “Hiring outlook bright for tech school grads” — Students who graduate with an associate or technical degree from Northcentral Technical College stand a pretty good chance of finding a job, a college official says.

The school’s annual Graduation Employment Report found 89 percent of 2011 graduates had a job within six months of graduation. The average salary for all new NTC graduates was $33,307. The report also found at least 80 percent of those surveyed said they were working in Wisconsin.

Graduates who earned an associate degree in nursing or who went into radiography had some of the highest starting salaries, according to the report.

NTC vice president of student services Dr. Laurie Borowicz thinks this year’s graduates will be able to find good paying jobs. She says the school works closely with businesses in various industries to identify what skills employers want from future hires.

“We do have more employers posting jobs, looking for graduates – even in some of our program areas that through a down economy have been a little bit more challenging,” Borowicz said.


From “Old, new come together at BTC commencement” — BELOIT — On Saturday, more than 500 students crossed the stage at First Christian Church in Beloit during Blackhawk Technical College’s commencement.

They included fresh-faced youths and second- or third-career adults. They were single men and women without ties; they were parents and grandparents. They wore dress shoes and flip-flops.

All different kinds of people with one thing in common: They were continuing the technical college tradition that started 100 years ago when Wisconsin established a Board of Vocational and Adult Education.

It was appropriate that Saturday’s ceremony was a blend of old values and traditions with new ideas and trends.

– History repeating itself: College President Dr. Thomas Eckert reminded students that Blackhawk was first established because the state recognized the need for trained workers to meet manufacturing demands. Today, manufacturing is seeing a resurgence in the state, and the health care and technical fields are as strong as ever.

– Looking back—but only for a moment: Silvia Shephard, a legal administrative professional and the student of the year, was the student speaker.

“When I was working on this speech, I looked for words of wisdom from past graduation speakers,” Shephard said.

But after attending a leadership conference, she decided hers was the class of the future: forward looking and unafraid.

She encouraged students spend just a moment thinking about their ultimate dreams, their goals for their lives.

Then she said, “Now let go of everything you think might stand in its way.”

Don’t let those dreams collect dust the shelves of busy lives, Shephard advised.

– Tradition and change: Keynote speaker Thomas Westrick has served on Blackhawk Technical College’s board for 19 years and has spent his life working in the field of adult education.

He took a look at the early days of technical college education and shared with students some of the early educational choices such as “fountain pen tip grinding,” “cobbling” and “child psychology”—a course only offered to women.

“Police problems” was another early course.

“I’d like to see the reading list for that course,” Westrick joked.

Westrick noted that only a few of those early courses, such as “arc welding” and “automobile engine repair,” were still around.

“Blackhawk Technical College has had to reinvent itself numerous times,” Westrick said. “You may have to redesign yourselves, too.”

Unlike the job market of the 20th century, when workers often worked for the same company all of their lives, often with the same set of skills, today’s workers will have to continue to learn.

He offered students advice from Reid Hoffman, author of “The Start Up of You:”

– Don’t let the title of your degree or your certificate put you in a box.

– Build relationships both inside and outside of your field.

– Prepare for change.

Finally, don’t get caught in your past.

– New careers and new choices: Students graduated with degrees in a variety of traditional subjects ranging from accounting to welding.

Some of the traditionally female fields, such as early childhood education, continue to produce only female graduates. Other traditionally male fields, such as electric power distribution and air conditioning, heating and refrigeration technology, produced only male graduates.

Still, evidence of changing career choices were all over the program. Two women graduated from the welding program. Men graduated in a variety of health care fields.

– An old-fashioned rendering: In the past two decades, attempts to “improve” the national anthem have become increasingly disconcerting. “The Star Spangled Banner” has been jazzed up, countrified, rocked and whooped with mixed success.

From “FVTC graduates more than 850 during 100-year anniversary celebration” — It was a whirlwind week that carried over into Sunday for Rachel Werner.

The 22-year-old Occupational Therapy Assistant program student at Fox Valley Technical College finished her fieldwork earlier this week and then accepted a position where she will start in June.

But the most important part of the past seven or so days came when she walked across the stage inside the Kolf Sports Center to collect her FVTC diploma.

“It didn’t hit me until I pulled into the parking lot that I’m here to graduate,” said Werner, a 2008 graduate of Winnebago Lutheran Academy. “(The ceremony) was kind of a blur and before I knew it I was walking across the stage.

“There are no words to describe (the feeling).”

Werner was one of roughly 850 students who accepted their diplomas in Sunday’s 2½-hour ceremony, which honored the 100-year anniversary of the school.

The keynote speech was given by outgoing Chairman of the FVTC Board of Trustees, William Fitzpatrick, while James Reider, a non-traditional student who graduated from the AODA-Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Associate program, provided the student address.

“All of the speakers were very touching and moving,” said Samantha Calabresa, 20, who received her diploma in the Administrative Professional program. “I caught myself tearing up through lots of them. This experience is just so overwhelming and they hit everything right on the head.”

Both Calabresa and Werner made the walk across the stage with jobs already lined up.

Calabresa will continue to work at Northwestern Mutual where she participated in an internship, while Werner expects to start working at Mayville Nursing & Rehab.

“It’s a huge relief. I didn’t think I was going to get a job this soon,” Werner said. “I was expecting to be searching all summer long. Now that I have one, it’s the biggest weight off my shoulders.”

Calabresa echoed those sentiments.

“It’s so nice to have a job right out of college,” said Calabresa, a Berlin High School graduate. “It feels wonderful. I’m so excited to be done. The nerves are over and it’s just nice to be finally done.”

Sunday’s ceremony was not only special for the graduates, but also for the faculty and staff as FVTC celebrated its 100-year anniversary.

In addition to multiple mentions during the program, those attending the ceremony were treated to a video on the history of Wisconsin technical colleges.

“When you think about it the men and women that are going to be graduating this year it will be the only group that will graduate in the 100 year in our existence,” FVTC President Dr. Susan May said in the days leading up to the ceremony. “It’s always a special time for any organization when they stop to celebrate these huge milestone years. To think they are part of it, when our century turned, I think it’s pretty cool.”

Over the course of the 100 years, there have been obvious changes but May said the core mission of the school has always stayed the same — no matter what was being taught in the classrooms.

“How we deploy that mission, how we deliver programs and services to people has changed dramatically,” May said. “But one thing that I think is fascinating is our core mission for who we are and what we do for our community really hasn’t fundamentally changed in all of that time.”

Which means FVTC will continue to turn out graduates like Werner, Calabresa and the rest of their brethren who are ready to step right into the workforce.

Even if reaching that goal wasn’t always easy.

“Usually right around finals or when those big projects at the end of the semester were due, I would be like ‘Seriously? I could just quit and get a regular job,'” Werner said. “But it’s definitely worth it. Now, having the diploma in my hands, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

From “Job prospects improve for college graduates” — College graduates face better job prospects this year than in any since the recession.

That doesn’t mean finding a job is easier than it’s been, but there are more of them.

“In general, we’re seeing certain occupations or sectors that are getting better,” said Jennifer Pigeon, manager of career services and K-14 relations at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.

That view is seconded by Amanda Nycz, director of career services at St. Norbert College in De Pere, and Linda Peacock-Landrum, who holds the same position at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“This past year we’ve definitely seen an increase in hiring. There have been more job postings and an increased presence (of employers) at job fairs,” Peacock-Landrum said.

St. Norbert senior Emily Collins, 21, who graduates today, said classmates who’ve gotten jobs give her hope.

“I think the jobs are out there as long as you are doing your part and looking for them,” Collins said. “It’s really helpful to at least have a little plan.”

Technical college graduates find jobs quicker than graduates of four-year schools, mostly because they often are training for specific jobs. And more of their students are older and have some work experience.

Mark Hickman will graduate Monday from NWTC. Hickman, 54, was a warehouse foreman at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay when he was laid off in September 2010.

“I always preached to my workers to keep your skills fresh,” he said.

Taking his own advice, he entered NWTC’s two-year supply chain management program, which he completed in a year and a half.

He was hired by The Manitowoc Co., where he is a warehouse supervisor.

“The manager said he hired me because I had 30 years’ work experience and I upgraded my skills. He said that was the key ingredient,” he said.

Networking remains one of the best tools for finding jobs, Nycz said.

“This is my sixth professional job. Every single one, I knew someone at the place I ended up working,” she said.

Up to 70 percent of jobs are gotten through knowing someone, Nycz said.

Social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, internships and job fairs all are ways to network.

Peacock-Landrum said some companies will post openings on LinkedIn or through other networks, but not their websites.

Collins interned at one company where she interviewed and has another coming up where at least one employee is a St. Norbert College grad.

“It makes it much more comfortable to know someone is there to help you,” she said.

Job availability is across the board; manufacturing, engineering, information technology and health care are among the leaders.

“We have a high need from employers for computer science grads,” Nycz said. “They are looking at people with high technical skills, who have that critical thinking.”

One of the few subjects to cross the divide in this supercharged political climate is the need for more qualified manufacturing employees. The administrations of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, are quick to tout the advantages of manufacturing careers.

“It’s about educating the general work force that manufacturing is a viable career and it’s right here in our backyard,” Pigeon said.

The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday released an analysis of wages and benefits of manufacturing workers that found that total hourly compensation for manufacturing workers is 17 percent higher than for nonmanufacturing workers.

“I don’t think students understand what’s available for them in manufacturing, and the support roles are fewer. I think that’s why our students don’t think immediately about manufacturing,” Peacock-Landrum said.

Nycz said middle management jobs are increasing, as are sales and marketing opportunities.

Other areas of growth include environmental and energy jobs, logistics and supply chain management, heavy equipment operation and diesel repair.

“Construction does seem to be coming back as well. I had two employers this week contact me about construction students,” Pigeon said.

From “Technical college graduates face bright job future” – Anthony Nedbal is bullish on his economic future.

He’ll receive his associate degree in information technology computer networking from Northcentral Technical College on May 19. As of July 1, the 20-year-old from Woodruff will be a computer network engineer earning $41,500 a year at Lakeland Union, the high school he graduated from in 2010.

Nedbal graduated from high school in the midst of the recession, and he’s graduating from NTC during a sluggish recovery, but he never really thought he would have trouble finding a job.

“It’s one of the reasons I went to NTC,” he said. “I was pretty confident.”

The employment numbers of technical college graduates across the state back up Nebal’s optimism. Among the 18,036 responders who filled out a post-graduation survey, 88 percent of the 2011 graduates from the Wisconsin Technical College System found jobs within six months of graduation. Most, 71 percent, were employed directly in their fields.

NTC reported similar results: 89 percent of 1,113 graduates surveyed were employed. When factoring in students who continued their education by transferring to a four-year college, the number jumps to more than 90 percent.

“This is great news for our graduates and great economic news for Wisconsin,” said Dan Clancy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System. “Our graduates are finding success and contributing to the economic recovery in our state.”

The average salary for all new NTC graduates is $33,307, the school reports.

NTC is producing graduates that fit well with the needs of employers, said Suzi Mathias, director of transfer and placement at NTC.

“We try our very best to connect (students) with the skills that are needed in the industry,” she said.

For Nedbal, it all makes for a good start in life. He plans to stay in the Woodruff area for a while, building experience and saving money. Then he might think about moving into an administrative level in his field.

“I’ll be fiscally ready, have a few years of experience, and a high standing to go out with experience,” he said.

From “Community Memorial Hospital honors Meyer with Values Award” — Community Memorial Hospital named Stephanie Meyer as the recipient of its Living Our Values award.

Meyer was nominated by her co-workers who say she believes in and applies the CMH core values of trust, care, respect, quality and community in everything she does.

“Stephanie’s dedication to our mission, vision, and values has earned her this recognition,” said Dan DeGroot, Community Memorial Hospital CEO.

As a registered nurse in CMH Surgical Services, Meyer cares for patients before, during and after surgery.

In addition to caring for patients in the operating room, she coordinates pre-surgical visits for patients who need lab, X-ray or physical therapy, and Meyer consults patients on how to prepare for their procedure and helps them plan for their at-home post-op care.

Meyer earned an associate degree from Northcentral Technical College in Wausau in 2004 and a bachelor of science in nursing from UW-Green Bay in 2007. She has been with Community Memorial Hospital since 2007.

“I realize how important it is to treat families and patients with respect and concern,” Meyer said. “I want patients and families to feel comfortable and know we will take the best possible care of them.”

Meyer lives in Coleman with her husband, Lucas, and sons Alexander, 3, and Beckett, 6 months.

Meyer is the daughter of Jennifer and the late Robert Forrest of Suring and of the late Keith Gruber of Coleman.

From “Uptick in starting salary of tech college grads” — A new report shows new technical college graduates are making more money than their counterparts the prior year. The Wisconsin Technical College System’s annual follow up survey shows median salary for all graduates starting their careers is $31,822 ($31,198 the year prior) with those earning associate degrees receiving a median salary of $36,033 ($35,616 for 2010 grads).

System President Dan Clancy says their research also shows 88 percent are working within six months of graduation. Most of them–71 percent–work directly in their field of study. Clancy says these figures are about the same as last year, a positive sign given a down economy.

Clancy credits advisory committees, made up from people in the industry, that help guide students while in their programs.

From “Wisconsin technical college grads landing jobs” — Despite Wisconsin’s current economic challenges, a survey of 2011 technical college graduates revealed 88 percent of graduates were employed within six months of graduation.

The majority of respondents to the survey, 86 percent, also said they are working in Wisconsin, and 71 percent are employed directly in their field of study.

“This is a bright spot in Wisconsin’s economy,” said Dan Clancy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System. “Our graduates are employed within Wisconsin’s borders and are contributing to the economic recovery in our state. The results show that the curriculum aligns with industry skill needs and that employers value our graduates’ abilities.”

The survey was part of the annual Graduate Follow-up Report by the Wisconsin Technical College System.

The median salary for all new graduates is $31,822 with those earning associate degrees receiving a median salary of $36,033.

The fields with the highest median starting salaries are utilities engineering technology, technical studies-journey worker, fire science, biomedical electronics, automated manufacturing systems technician and applied instrumentation and process control automation.

From “Mid-State nursing program to celebrate 1,000 graduates” — With the addition of this spring’s graduating class, Mid-State Technical College’s Nursing program will achieve the milestone of 1,000 graduates in the history of the program. A public celebration will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on May 3 in the A Building on the Wisconsin Rapids Campus, 500 32nd Street North. A brief presentation is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the adjoining gymnasium. Members of the community are invited to attend this free event.

Participants will be treated to guided walking tours of nursing facilities, student activities and projects, door prizes, trivia, refreshments and snacks, new classroom technology, and a free blood pressure screening. Attendees can also explore historical nursing equipment and memorabilia displays, see how the Nursing Station works, and meet Sim Man (simulation mannequin).

Mid-State’s Board of Directors added nursing to the college curriculum in 1989 through a partnership with Waukesha County Technical College. This first Nursing class celebrated commencement in May 1991. After receiving approval from the Wisconsin State Board of Nursing, Mid-State enrolled students into its own program beginning the fall semester of 1991, conferring its first graduates in May 1993. The Nursing program expanded in 2000, 2002, and 2003 and currently admits 40 Nursing associate degree students per semester as well as eight practical nursing students per year. More than 90 percent of Mid-State Nursing graduates are employed within 60 miles of the MSTC district.

Mid-State Technical College’s Student Nurses Association encourages participants to bring a can of food to the May 3 event. All food proceeds will be donated to the local food pantry.

From “New Great Lakes Grant Opportunity to Help Disadvantaged Students Complete College” — More disadvantaged undergraduate students will get help completing their degree, diploma, or certificate thanks to a new grant opportunity announced today by Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation (Great Lakes). The Wisconsin Postsecondary Persistence Program Grants opportunity is made available through Great Lakes’ Community Investments program. Member institutions of the University of Wisconsin System, Wisconsin Technical College System, Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and Wisconsin Tribal Colleges and Universities are encouraged to apply for grants up to $300,000. Wisconsin nonprofit community- and faith-based organizations are also eligible to apply.

Disadvantaged student populations can face a number of challenges that prevent them from finishing a degree, diploma, or certificate. “Studies show that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to leave school before completing their program of study or degree,” said Richard D. George, Great Lakes’ President and Chief Executive Officer. “This grant opportunity is designed to provide these students with the support they need to overcome the hurdles that too often get in the way of college completion.”

Great Lakes’ Wisconsin Postsecondary Persistence Program Grants will support programs that provide academic, career, and personal support services to undergraduate students. Programs selected for funding must demonstrate that the participants’ semester-to-semester and year-to-year re-enrollment rates are higher than those of their peers. Great Lakes plans to use the reported program outcomes to identify what works best in increasing persistence for students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and/or those who are the first in their families to attend college. These results will then be used to inform future funding decisions.

Applications for this grant opportunity can be found online at and are due June 1, 2012.

From “Tech College Grads Making Financial Gains” —  Growth in earnings by Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College graduates has increased 50 percent since their graduation from the school in 2006, according to a study recently completed by the college.

The WITC Five-Year Longitudinal Follow-Up Study shows that the average yearly salary for graduates increased from nearly $29,000 to more than $43,000 for the study period.

“WITC is incredibly proud of its Five-Year Longitudinal Follow-Up Study results,” WITC President Bob Meyer said. “With these extremely positive career placement results, it is not surprising that our graduates also confidently state that their WITC training is both valuable and vital to their career development.”

In the survey, 89 percent agreed their technical college education played an important role at the start of their career and 79 percent said their training was very important or important in their career advancement. Fifty-six percent surveyed have received at least one job promotion since graduating from WITC. Also, 73 percent are employed in Wisconsin with 57 percent working in WITC’s 11-county district.

To align education with business and industry, technical colleges use advisory committees made up of business and industry representatives to provide input on their most critical employment needs. The Longitudinal Study evaluates the success of employees and their respective education.

“The results of this study are helpful to future and current students in assisting them in making career choices; helping instructors determine the effectiveness of their teaching and administration in discovering the need for possible revisions in various program curricula,” WITC Research and Planning Coordinator Jennifer Kunselman said. “The results validate that a technical college education, specifically from WITC, is worth the investment in time and expense because their education not only assists them in getting a job, but in advancing in their careers for many years post-graduation.”

The WITC Longitudinal Follow-Up Study, which looks at changes in employment five years after graduation, also found that 93 percent of its graduates are employed and that 85 percent are employed in a career that is related to their WITC training.

A total of 573 of 1,608 graduates completed the survey for a 36 percent response rate. For more information, visit WITC’s Five-Year Longitudinal Follow-Up Study Summary.

From “$8B Community College to Career Fund proposed” — President Barack Obama called on Congress Monday to create an $8 billion fund to train community college students for high-growth industries, giving a financial incentive to schools whose graduates are getting jobs.

The fund was part of Obama’s proposed budget for 2013. The overall package aims to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade while boosting spending in some areas, including education.

Obama warned Congress that blocking investments in education and other proposals in his budget would be standing in the way of “America’s comeback.”

“By reducing our deficit in the long term, what that allows us to do is to invest in the things that will help grow our economy right now,” Obama said during remarks at Northern Virginia Community College.

The White House says the Community College to Career Fund would train 2 million workers for jobs in potential growth areas such as electronic medical records and cyber security within sectors such as health care, transportation and advanced manufacturing.

In Green Bay, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College already works closely with local businesses to train workers in high-demand fields, college President Jeff Rafn said Monday.

“I think as a tech school, and really the Wisconsin technical college system, we’re somewhat ahead of the curve compared with other community colleges that may have more of a liberal arts focus,” Rafn said. “But I’m really pleased that the president is once again identifying the need to train our work force and the role community colleges and tech colleges can play, and that he’s indicated a willingness to invest in that.”

It’s too early to know how the president’s call might specifically affect NWTC, Rafn said.

A key component of the community college plan would institute “pay for performance” in job training, meaning there would be financial incentives to ensure that trainees find permanent jobs — particularly for programs that place individuals facing the greatest hurdles getting work. It also would promote training of entrepreneurs, provide grants for state and local government to recruit companies and support paid internships for low-income community college students.

Rafn worries that as a technical college, NWTC already may have in place initiatives the president might push.

“How does this help us, or are we already that farther ahead along? At this point, I just don’t know,” he said. “If he’s talking about programming with local businesses, we already have a lot. But I’m very pleased he’s trying, and I will always fight for our fair share.”

Obama said community colleges needs resources to become community career centers where students can learn skills that local businesses need immediately.


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