From wisn.com: “Employers claim they can’t find workers who are job-ready” – Manufacturing jobs that pay well, but there’s no one to fill them. Employers call it the skills gap.

WISN 12 News Kent Wainscott investigates the millions of dollars taxpayers are pouring into technical colleges to close the gap.

“The skills gap, does it still exist in Milwaukee?” WISN 12 News reporter Kent Wainscott asked.

“In a word, yes,” said Chris Layden of Manpower Group.

Layden said that’s what Milwaukee-based Manpower Group, a world leader in employment issues, is seeing across the Milwaukee area.

More than one-third of employers, he said, claim they can’t find enough workers who are job-ready.

“Do they really have the right skills to perform the jobs that employers are needing? And what we are consistently hearing from clients in the Milwaukee area is, no,” Layden said.

“For the last four to five years, we’ve kind of beat that horse to death about the skills gap, and now everybody said, ‘OK, how do we fix it?’” said Dorothy Walker, interim dean of MATC’s School of Technical and Applies Sciences.

Milwaukee Area Technical College is Wisconsin’s largest tech school.

Much of the more than $140 million taxpayer dollars it gets each year is spent trying to address the skills gap.

“What (we) needed to do as a tech college, as MATC, was to sit with the employers and say, ‘What skill sets to you need?’ Now that took some changing around of curriculum and some traditional stuff we were doing,” Walker said.

“And that wasn’t happening before?” Wainscott asked.

“That wasn’t happening before to that extent,” Walker said.

One way MATC has tried to address the skills gap is to expand and renovate and build new facilities, but that means an investment of taxpayer dollars.

“It costs money to build a place like this,” Wainscott said.

“It does,” Walker said.

“Is it money well spent?” Wainscott asked.

“I think the money is well spent, not only the money from the college, but again, we partner with industry,” Walker said.

The result? Enrollment is up. More courses are offered. In fact, MATC will offer 71 welding or machining courses next school year.

Still, WISN 12 News found nearly 1,000 open welder or machinist job postings on Milwaukeejobs.com.

What’s the explanation?

WISN 12 News asked the head of UW-Milwaukee’s Center for Economic Development and got a surprising answer.

“Everybody says it exists, but nobody can really find it in the data,” Marc Levine said.

Levine said if there was a shortage of skilled workers, demand for them would increase and so would wages.

“When we look at the basic economic indicators, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence about a skills gap,” Levine said.

Instead, he believes employers may find it hard to fill jobs because they’re paying low wages or expecting too much pre-job training.

Or a lack of transportation may keep workers from connecting with the jobs that aren’t nearby.

“There’s a disconnect between MATC creating these programs, MATC basically creating our supply of skilled workers, and the fact that manufacturers in Milwaukee are not hiring more workers than they have in the past,” Levine said.

Whatever the reason, Manpower’s Layden, said things have to improve.

“Is this skills gap going to close over the next few years?” Wainscott asked.

“I think it needs to. I think for Milwaukee it needs to. For our employers it needs to. It’s keeping people up at night,” Layden said.

Manufacturing is changing to a more computerized, IT-based workforce. So schools like MATC are adjusting to that. But critics said schools and manufacturers have to do a better job of spreading that message.

STEM programs are on the rise, and those are laying a foundation for the type of skills required for the next generation of manufacturing jobs.

View video from wisn.com

From itjungle.com: “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 wjfw.com: “New technology promotes teamwork at Nicolet College” – Nicolet College believes today’s workplace requires a lot of teamwork. That’s why the college introduced new technology that promotes working together.

Nicolet College has 4 of the Collaboration stations. They’re high tech projectors that show an image on a tabletop. Group members can interact with the image using a special pen. Students enjoy using the new technology.

“When we have discussions in class mainly it gives us something to work around and kind of moves our discussion towards,” says Jordan Slominski, Nicolet College IT Student. “If there’s a certain subject that we’re trying to comprehend that not every member of the group is seeing what we’re talking about these displays, these projections can kind of give us an image to kind of base our discussions off of really.”

Nicolet introduced the collaboration stations last fall. They help promote teamwork among students.

“It promotes teamwork and whole group dynamics of things because especially in information technology and in most professions today it’s not that individual working out there anymore,” says Scott Biscobing, Nicolet College IT Instructor. “You have to be able to work in a team and work with other people to solve problems and do other things and this is just one tool we can use to promote those topics.”

Each of the collaboration stations costs around $2,000.

 

From marshfieldnewsherald.com: “Information technology, nursing head list of local jobs” — WAUSAU — Information technology is on the A-list of in-demand jobs in Marathon County right now.

Laurie Borowicz, vice president of student services at Northcentral Technical College, says the college is doing its best to keep up with demand for positions in the IT field.

“We could take 50 more students in IT tomorrow if we could find them,” Borowicz said. “That’s probably our issue right now, is finding people, getting people into these high-demand programs.”

The technical college is trying to make it easier for students to take the IT track by offering more courses in the evenings and online, she said.

Jim Warsaw, economic development director for Marathon County Development Corp., said there’s a growing concentration of IT and technology-related businesses in the Wausau area and those employers currently can’t openings.

“NTC doubled their graduating class in IT and it still isn’t enough to keep up with demand,” Warsaw said.

In addition to IT, Warsaw said, other popular positions in the area include welding, skilled trades, manufacturing, health care, sales and nursing.

Most job activity, he said, is with companies that were prepared to come out of the recession when things turned around, most of which are larger employers.

“Small businesses are still trying to cope with the recession’s impact on their cash flows and equity positions,” Warsaw said.

The job of certified nursing assistant, or CNA, is big right now, according to Marathon County Job Center W2 job developer David Cruz.

One reason for that growth is that it’s easier to get started in a certified nursing course than in a registered nursing program, Cruz said.

Overall, the unemployment picture has improved in Marathon County over the past year.

The most recent figures from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development show the December 2013 unemployment rate for Marathon County at 5.7 percent. That’s nearly a full percentage point better than the 6.6 percent registered in December 2012.

From bizjournals.com: “MATC instructor sees more demand for VMware training” – By Denise Lockwood – Let’s talk about IT trends and how Milwaukee Area Technical College has designed its curriculum around those trends, specifically virtual servers and data storage and the huge need companies have in filling positions with IT types who have software certification called VMware.

MATC is aligning its IT curriculum with a number of highly sought after skills, but VMware is “the 800-pound gorilla in the middle of the room,” said Brian Kirsch, an IT networking instructor at MATC.

“VMware has revolutionized everything and it’s not going to go away any time soon,” Kirsch said. “I only see it continuing to grow.”

So what constitutes virtual servers and data storage?

Companies use virtual servers to run their data centers and reduce their server footprint. So if you’ve got a more powerful server, you can run smaller servers off one large server. And chances are good that if you work at or want to work at a company that uses virtual services and data storage, that company is probably using VMware — 60 percent of the servers in the world run on VMware.

The problem (and opportunity) is that 120,000 people are certified in VMware training and with that type of utilization, the number of people with certifications should probably be in the millions. So if you are looking for a career in the IT industry or a change in your IT emphasis, this is a good direction to take, Kirsch said.

Locally, Northwestern Mutual, Aurora Health Care and FIS are just a few companies that run VMware. New graduates who graduate with an IT network specialist associate degree and get certified in how to use the software can expect to earn $40,000. Demand is high: People with a few years of experience in VMware and certification are earning $80,000 to $100,000 a year.

The demand is so high that Kirsch, who has been teaching VMware, has seen companies pluck students from his classroom and offer them jobs before they earn the actual certificate, which is done through VMware, Kirsch said.

“I personally get to turn down one job offer a week,” Kirsch said. “And one of my students who was in my class actually had to negotiate time off with his employer to finish the class.”

A number of IT professionals, who already have degrees, are returning to take the VMware class. The class isn’t easy and the VMware certification test is difficult, which is why MATC is hoping to offer a followup in the 2014-15 school year, Kirsch said.

“We often say that our education programs are one of the best kept secrets in Milwaukee,” Kirsch said. “We’d like that to change.”

From biztimes.com: “Mid-State to open downtown Stevens Point campus in June” – STEVENS POINT — Jerry Stumpf said working on the new Mid-State Technical College campus in downtown Stevens Point wasn’t what he planned for when he signed up to take an IT-network specialist at the college.

Yet there was Stumpf, 65, of Custer, taking measurements earlier this week with about 20 students from a class taught by Kathryn Doar, an IT instructor on the MSTC Stevens Point campus, in the network lab and PC clinic. Students in Doar’s class are being asked to put together a plan for building the computer network and will begin work on the project next week.

“I originally took the class because I wanted to learn more about computers, but (Doar) talked me into getting out and doing some of this work,” said Stumpf, who has participated in other projects through the class at the Stevens Point Area YMCA and Ben Franklin Junior High School.

Construction is on schedule the new campus, located in the J.C. Penney wing of the former CenterPoint MarketPlace, 1001 Centerpoint Drive. Stevens Point Campus Dean Steve Smith said a grand opening, along with a centennial celebration for the college, will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 4.

The new campus has been part of the city’s redevelopment plan for CenterPoint Marketplace, which included demolishing the mall portion of the building and rebuilding Third Street to connect to Centerpoint Drive, since it was announced by Mayor Andrew Halverson back in December 2010.

Ellis Stone Construction Co. of Stevens Point is the contractor for the project, which has a cost of about $6 million. Smith said the campus originally was expected to be completed this month, but design changes pushed that date back to June.

The new MSTC building will be 52,000 square feet. The current campus along Michigan Avenue is 36,000 square feet and will be vacated after the new campus opens. The downtown site will serve 2,800 students a year. Smith said the additional space on the new campus will allow for the expansion of programs such as information technology, and for the early childhood education program to be moved from the Wisconsin Rapids campus to Stevens Point.

Smith said construction crews will be working to complete the majority of the work on the new campus over the next month or so, along with the installation of carpeting. Smith said the majority of new furniture is expected to be delivered around Feb. 20. Furniture and other equipment coming over from the old campus will then take place the weekend of May 17 and 18.

“It’s exciting to be coming to a point where we’re starting to see things come together. It’s going to be a hectic time over the next few months, but I think people are going to enjoy it when they get in the building and see what’s there,” Smith said.

From gazettextra.com: “BTC’s Reynolds awarded Betty Stevens-Frecknall Scholarship” – Tony Reynolds, an information technology student at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, is the first BTC student ever to be awarded the Betty Stevens-Frecknall Scholarship from the Foundation for Information Technology Education.

Reynolds is a member of the BTC chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals. Membership is one of the criteria for the scholarship.

Other criteria include a declared major in a computer technology discipline and GPA of 3.0 or better, at least one full semester of post-secondary education, and enrollment as a fulltime student at an accredited institution.

In addition to a full course load, Reynolds works full time as a developer at Foremost Media in Janesville.

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