From “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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From “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 “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 “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 “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 “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.

From “Gov. Walker signs Youth Apprenticeship bill in Rhinelander” — Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill in Rhinelander that he says will help employers get more skilled workers to companies. Youth Apprenticeship integrates high school-based and work-based learning to instruct students in skills defined by Wisconsin industries. It works with local school districts and the area technical colleges.

Stopping at Nicolet College to sign the Youth Apprenticeship Walker says the bill passed both legislative chambers with just one “no” vote, showing broad bi-partisan support. The program is already in action, but the new funding enlarges the program. 1900 students went through the program last year Walker says…

“….we were able to put a half-million(more) in each year…for a total of $4.6 million dollars that will be invested in this program. And in doing so, we’ll be able to place 550 more individuals into this youth apprenticeship program….”
Walker says manufacturing, agriculture, architecture, information technology and healthcare are targeted for apprenticeships. Walker says the business community needs skilled workers in these areas now…

 “….many of our employers across the state, particularly our small and mid-sized employers would add more work but they’re a little bit resistant to do that right now until they know they can fill the positions they have for things like high-skilled welders, CNC operators, machinists, tool-and-dye operators….”

Walker says manufacturing jobs pay more, have more benefits and workers stay longer than many other jobs.


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

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

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

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

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

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

From “Capitalizing on collaboration through grants” — By Sue Budjac, president Mid-State Technical College – Grant applications are often highly competitive, so a grant award is acknowledgment of the high value and impact of Mid-State Technical College, or MSTC, programs and services.

Grants allow us to capitalize on existing assets, people and sources to improve the quality of an MSTC education. They are also a tribute to the innovative thinking and determined efforts of our employees.

This past year, our college was awarded a total of $1,005,047 in grants, an increase from the $858,788 received during the previous fiscal year and $777,596 three years ago.

Collaboration is an important aspect of the grant process and MSTC’s culture. For example, in partnership with Incourage Community Foundation and our K-12 partners, MSTC recently received one of only 10 national grants from Constellation, a national energy company. This $45,000 award enables MSTC Renewable Energy program faculty to help nearly 200 students from four local high schools to measure the energy efficiency of their school facilities and design a photovoltaic system to be used as a demonstration unit in future classes.

We also regularly collaborate with other Wisconsin technical colleges. The U.S. Department of Labor recently awarded a $23.1 million grant to Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges to address emerging needs in the Information Technology sector, from which MSTC received nearly $900,000 to create an Automation Specialist Advanced Technical Certificate. A similar grant last year provided MSTC with close to $600,000 for a Stainless Steel Welding program at Marshfield Campus.

These cooperative efforts allowed us to leverage $1.5 million to proactively respond to emerging workforce needs.

Grants often enrich the way we maximize our college and community strengths and resources. For instance, the Constellation grant utilizes existing high school facilities as laboratories for hands-on training. As a result, students learn in a real-world environment, fostering a positive learning experience and familiarizing them with the benefits and rigor of higher education.

Each grant is unique in its composition and benefits. Nonetheless, there are many common themes. Our strategy is to acquire grants that are meaningful for the work we do in the region. Grants enable us to stretch our resources and reduce pressure on our operational budget while enhancing the quality of an MSTC education, ultimately reinforcing student success.

I want to acknowledge the continuing efforts of MSTC employees and our local partners who bring grants to the college and central Wisconsin. These grants are an affirmation of our ability to creatively engage local school districts, community organizations and businesses in meaningful partnerships. They also complement our unwavering effort to innovate while making the most of our strengths and opportunities. And, when coupled with our operational resources, they enhance the delivery of in-demand learning experiences and valued student services, increasing the positive impact we have on students.

From “Streetwise: Oshkosh growing out of the old Sawdust City image” — By Jeff Bollier – Oshkosh may have a ways to go before it competes with Silicon Valley, but the former center of the logging industry has quietly lumbered into the 21st century.

Companies like DealerFire, Oracular and ImproMed continue to add good-paying jobs while economic development agencies have sought ways to help bolster information technology as an industry in Oshkosh.

Meanwhile, Fox Valley Technical College has recently launched a partnership with Oshkosh North and West high schools that could help build interest — and necessary skill sets — in the IT field.

FVTC, North and West have established help desks staffed by students and monitored by FVTC mentors to help build an understanding of IT careers and the required skills. FVTC also has started to develop curriculum for the high schools that will allow interested students earn college credits while taking early courses vital to IT careers and courses of study.

These activities are the building blocks on which a successful industry can build for years to come. Let’s hope collaboration like this continues into the future and the vision comes to fruition.

• Oshkosh Corp. has been designated a Green Professional under the Wisconsin Sustainable Council’s Green Masters Program. The program recognizes companies that promote sustainability and healthy workplaces. In Oshkosh Corp.’s case, the council applauded the company’s increase in recycled materials, a reduction in items that end up in landfills and its wellness programs.

From “Lakeshore Technical College receives Department of Labor grant to train health care IT workers” –  Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) recently received a grant of$897,039 to enhance and expand career pathways for dislocated workers, veterans, and other adult learners, to build a skilled workforce in the information technology (IT) sector within health care. The grant is part of a larger $23.1 millioninvestment by the U.S. Department of Labor to Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges to address emerging needs in the IT sector.

The announcement was made by LTC President Dr. Michael Lanser to kick off a presentation at LTC’s Cleveland campus onNovember 6 on Health Care and the Health Care Workforce in Wisconsin. LTC plans to use the grant dollars to establish three new programs which will combine health and information technology skills to create more career pathways.

The Health Information Management Program will be accessible completely online. The Health Information Technician Certificate will provide Information Technology students with the knowledge & skills needed to put their IT degree to work in a health care setting, while students pursuing clinical careers will have the opportunity to add an information technology certificate to their education credentials. The grant will also impact future Pharmacy Technician students who will work with a new, state-of-the-art Pharmacy software system. Students in these areas will be immersed in hands-on learning throughout these programs and will be issued a tablet computer for regular and ongoing use throughout their program.

“We are excited about these initiatives and we look forward to ensuring our future students graduate with the most relevant health care education to meet employer needs, ” said Lanser.

Judy Warmuth, Vice President-Workforce Development Wisconsin Hospital Association was the keynote speaker for the event. In her presentation, Warmuth expressed the need for having qualified individuals in these career fields.

“Health care will be a strong employment sector well into the future,” said Warmuth. “There are many, many kinds of jobs in health care and new ones will emerge and jobs in health information technology, care management and population health will be especially strong.”

Wisconsin’s technical colleges received one of the largest single awards from the Department of Labor’s investment, and the collaboration makes the technical college system one of the few applicants to receive back-to-back grants. In the previous round, LTC shared in an $18.3 million grant to expand innovative programs that produce high-skilled workers in advanced manufacturing.

From “MSTC students teach public about computers” — While Lori Skerven has a Facebook page, she admits she still has some learning to do when it comes to social media.

On Friday, Skerven, 62, attended the Mid-State Tech Expo, an annual free event held at the Lincoln Center, hoping to learn more about Facebook and computers in general. Information technology students from the college’s Stevens Point campus taught visitors a variety of things, from how to create a password that can help protect against identity theft to how to transfer pictures from a camera to a computer.

Skerven, who said she primarily uses Facebook to see what friends and family members are doing, learned Friday how to comment on Facebook posts by other people.

“I didn’t know it had switched from a button to hitting the return key for posting something,” said Skerven of Mosinee. “My mom is in her 80s and she seems to know more than I do, so I figured I should start learning a little more about it.”

Kathryn Doar, an IT instructor on the MSTC Stevens Point Campus, said, the event typically attracts about 100 people each year. About 28 students from the IT Customer Support Class, which is required for the college’s IT-network specialist and IT-software developer two-year degrees, were on hand to work with expo visitors.

“The students enjoy being a part of this experience because they have the opportunity to come out and work with people, which is going to be a part of their careers going forward,” Doar said.

Rebecca Brubaker, a second-year IT-network specialist student at MSTC, said most people who attend the expo are looking for help on how to get started or how to get past a problem.

“A lot of people who came to talk to me wanted to know how to change their profile picture or post something (on Facebook),” said Brubaker, 28, of Marshfield. “It’s a good experience, and I think it’s good we do it in our second year because you feel a lot more comfortable about what you’re learning, and also being able to explain it to someone else.”


From “IT grant to aid Southwest Tech” — FENNIMORE, Wis. – Southwest Wisconsin Technical College is sharing part of a $23.1 million grant by the U.S. Department of Labor designed to address the emerging needs in the information technology sector.

Southwest Tech is one of 16 technical colleges in the state to benefit. It will receive $797,805 total for the next four years.

The $23.1 million applies to the third installment of a multi- year, nearly $2 billion federal initiative designed to increase community college credential attainment in high-priority economic sectors.

According to Barb Tucker, Southwest Tech’s director of institutional advancement, the grant is significant because it will enable all the technical colleges to cohesively establish common core computer literacy competencies for college success.

“This grant is also important because it enables the development of IT-related training along a career pathway,” she said. “Meaning that the training provided will be offered in training segments aligned with jobs within an IT-related industry, from entry level to advanced.”

Basic computer skill training will be offered within the technical college outreach sites, including Platteville, as well as the job center locations. It will allow potential students, Trade Adjustment Assistance recipients, Workforce Investment Act recipients, veterans and the general public to increase computer literacy.

Southwest Tech plans to develop career pathway training in supply chain management that will include a short-term logistics certificate and a two-year associate degree in supply chain management.

Tucker said that such training does not exist in southwest Wisconsin. Supply chain management is the management of the flow of goods. It includes the movement and storage of raw materials, work- in-process inventory and finished goods from point of origin to point of consumption.

Drew Petersen, Wisconsin Technical College System Board president, said this latest grant will allow the technical colleges to enhance and expand career pathways not only within “cutting- edge” information technology programs but also within other crucial sectors, including health care and manufacturing, that increasingly require workers with advanced information technology competencies.

“Our programs are uniquely industry-driven, and these funds will allow us to scale innovation in response to needs identified by our employer partners in the information technology space,” Petersen said.

From “From Wisconsin to Africa: Technical education translates to lives saved” — By Lee Rasch, president Western Technical College – Healthcare facilities in Cameroon need much more than staff with medical training. This third world country needs to link clinics isolated by thick rainforest, desert, and rugged terrain. Sharing medical expertise via a reliable connection could mean the difference between life and death. Recognizing that need was the first step in what would be a three-year, 6,400-mile journey to another country.

Picture this: two women from West-Central Africa, neither with a technology background, given an opportunity to study computer networking in the United States, with a goal of returning to their homeland to set up a viable network serving 16 hospitals and clinics in this remote land.

That mental image briefly summarizes the challenge facing Sister Kathleen Shela and Sister Virgilia Zamah of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis in Cameroon.

Five years ago, both women were working in clerical positions. Neither had any formal education beyond the secondary level, nor any technology background. But when they were invited by their Provincial Superior to study computer networking at Western Technical College, they embraced the opportunity.

To be certain, this was a rapid and unexpected change in their career plans. And neither was familiar with the plans to embed computer technology into the operations of the extensive hospital and clinic network operated by the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis in Cameroon and parts of Nigeria and the Central African Republic. But they did agree to accept the challenge.

Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin, is a far cry from Cameroon. However, the college had prior connections with the Tertiary Sisters, providing instruction in dental assisting and basic education. The college offered the opportunity for these two sisters to study in La Crosse and pledged to raise the scholarship funds needed for their education.

Sister Kathleen arrived first in January of 2009. She was joined by Sister Virgilia in the fall of that year. Both sisters started with a basic education skills refresher in their first semester. Both acknowledged that there was a culture shock of sorts. In fact, Virgilia said she was on the verge of returning to Cameroon before her first semester ended. They faced such a rapid redirection in their lives, in an unfamiliar field of study and in a foreign country (with cold winters). And the task ahead seemed so daunting.

Despite a literacy rate on the higher end by African standards, Cameroon is clearly a third world nation with massive poverty, a high rate of HIV and other diseases, and huge gaps in infrastructure. In spite of these challenges, both women persevered. They received positive encouragement from the La Crosse-based Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and a number of faculty and staff members at Western.

They credit their many new found friends in La Crosse for their success so far. Both credit Western faculty member Don Thesing with incredible instructional leadership and technical assistance. Don helped them acquire donated materials and assemble two servers (as a class project). The servers were shipped (shipping to Cameroon is a whole story in itself!) to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital to serve as the backbone for the Shisong-based flagship facility.

Recognize that these two women are smart and very capable. But, their story also involves courage and incredible determination. They both graduated in 2012 – Kathleen with associate’s degrees in computer networking and office technology support, and Virgilia with an associate’s degree in computer networking. Both became members of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community and technical college students. And both are now back in Cameroon at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, hard at work in advancing their project.

I feel the world will be learning more about these two wonderful women. Their work is really just beginning.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Do your part. Be helpful.

From “Industry-Driven Training Aims at Skills Gap” — The skilled workforce is a big concern for all companies. In the IBM midrange community, you won’t find many people who believe it isn’t a problem. Potential entry-level employees with IBM i skills are scarce. And companies that are hiring tend to be particular about that. In most instances, organizations are not looking for one-dimensional individuals. Broad-based skills, including multiple languages and operating systems, are more the norm.

What’s being done to address this?

Some companies have found success when the IT and HR departments work together on a recruitment strategy that has close ties to colleges where IBM i skills are part of the computer science curriculum. They are on advisory boards that help determine the classroom subjects. It’s an effective strategy, but it’s not one in widespread use.

Replicating success is not difficult when you have a good template. That’s the thinking of Jim Buck, who is in the process of applying for a grant to do just that. Buck, who heads up one of the most successful IBM i educational tracks at the collegiate level for Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin, hopes the Department of Labor grant will allow Gateway to begin a program to train instructors at other colleges and universities. Among his priorities is helping other institutions set up advisory councils with IBM i shops.

At Gateway, Buck has an advisory council with 12 members representing IBM i shops. They help establish the curriculum and specific skills they view as important for the entry level jobs they hope to be filling now and in the years ahead. It’s the connection and collaboration between companies that need to replenish their workforces and the colleges that can best provide the skilled people that is critically (and I don’t use that word lightly) important.

Buck describes this as “industry-driven training” and he is emphasizing the role of IBM i shops in the preparation of training and the job placement support following the completion of training. The curriculum roadmap consists of three core classes: an introduction to programming, enterprise system concepts, and DB2 programming. The colleges and their advisory boards can select educational tracks to best fit business requirements and employment opportunities.

Gateway is relying on a consortium of community colleges across the U.S. (the 125-member National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers), as well as schools that participate in the IBM Academic Initiative. The initial group of colleges that are expected to prove the program is viable includes: Muskegon Community College in Michigan, Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina, the Community College of Baltimore County in Maryland, Metropolitan Community College in Nebraska, and Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois. Each of these schools will be developing partnerships with IBM i-based companies, including software vendors and IBM business partners.

The targeted student population includes college students as well as dislocated workers, the unemployed, veterans, and other adults. Those who complete the training will earn industry-recognized certifications, which will be spearheaded by COMMON.

There are a lot of companies in the IBM i community who could help themselves, help the IBM i community, and help their local communities by lending a hand to this. If your organization isn’t involved in an advisory council relationship with a tech school, the question needs to be asked, “Why not?” Is it because there is no plan for investment in IT personnel for the future? Is it because there’s no investment in IT infrastructure? For all the companies who say they can’t find people with the right skills, are there companies that believe in taking an active role to change that outcome?

“If this consortium of schools gets this grant–and they are asking for up to $25 million to build these centers of excellence–it will be the biggest step forward in teaching Power skills in the 17-year history of the Academic Initiative. This is an enormous step,” says Pete Glass, program manager of the Power Systems Academic Initiative. “But we need to have names to give the grant application strength.”

Companies that are interested in getting involved with this project can take the first step by completing a brief survey that, when compiled, will identify the severity of the skills gaps and rank their importance. Participation in the survey will result in follow up from the project coordinators who can help determine ways in which your company can benefit from this collaboration and how an effective skills pipeline can be hooked into your company.


From “Job prospects on tentative rise for graduates” — Derek Rice thought about going back to school.

A couple of years ago his employer at Menlo Worldwide Logistics in Beloit passed over him for a promotion because he didn’t have a college degree.

“I’ve got 10-plus years of warehouse experience. You name it I’ve done it,” the 36-year-old Janesville resident said. “They were hell-bent on having someone with a degree, and it didn’t matter if it was related to warehousing or not.”

He then got another job in Janesville after a worker was out recovering from a surgery. Even after he was told it was a permanent position he was let go after the worker returned.

After that he talked with his wife, Danielle, and they decided he should go back to school to get his associate’s degree at Blackhawk Technical College. The decision wasn’t easy having two kids at the time, and recently welcoming a third, but Danielle’s job in healthcare allowed them to live off the one salary. He recently graduated with a degree in Information Technology Network Specialist.

“I’ve always worked on computers on the side at my home,” he said. “First time I went to college was for computers so I’ve always liked working with them.”

Recent graduates are still feeling the affects of the recession even though the market seems to be improving. Jeff Scott, IT instructor at Blackhawk Technical College, said graduating students are not only competing against their peers, but also against other workers who have lost jobs due to downsizing in the workforce.

“Right now it’s more of an employer’s market versus an employee’s market,” Scott said. “So in some ways potential employers have the pick as far as if they want someone with more experience. So what I tell students is, ‘What you have to realize is much of the experience you have is very relevant and new compared to those that have been downsized.’”

However information technology jobs is one area that is seeing growth in the average number of employees. Towards the end of 2011 there were about 1,100 jobs in information technology in Rock County, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). In the fourth quarter of 2012 there were more than 1,300 IT jobs in Rock County.

“It’s kind of across the board,” said Dave Winters, chief labor economist at DWD, on the average job increases. “We’re seeing it in construction, manufacturing, professional and business services, IT and healthcare.”

Construction added about 400 jobs between 2011 and 2012 going from 2,200 to more than 2,600 average employees in Rock County. Manufacturing grew by nearly 600 positions up to 9,032. Health services positions grew by about 400 positions between 2011 and 2012

Statewide the numbers are similar to the county numbers. About 395,600 were employed in the health services in 2012 compared to 390,300 in 2011. Construction workers by about 1,000 workers up to 93,000 and manufacturing grew by about 10,000 from 443,000 to 453,000.

Winters said there a couple different factors economists look at when determining the strength of the job market such as the unemployment rate and income tax revenue generated by the state.

Cathy Wickersham, director of community based learning at Beloit College, said the college works closely with the students through all four years.

Both Wickersham and Scott said having internships on a resume has significantly helped recent graduates over the last several years. Beloit College now requires students to do a unit incorporating some aspect outside the classroom.

“In terms of surveying employers what most want from college graduates is the ability to think critically, communicate effectively and also they are looking for students who have demonstrated an ability to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and take it beyond the classroom,” Wickersham said.

Scott tells students to emphasize internship experience on their resume when applying for jobs.

“It’s mainly because of younger students,” he said. “A lot have very little to no real world experience. I tell them to highly emphasize the fact that they have had an internship. One thing that employers have told me is that it shows some stability on their part.”

Rice said professors tell students for every 10 resumes sent out usually one will call back for an interview, and a job offer tends to come every five to seven interviews.

“So for about 50 resumes sent out you should get at least one job offer,” he said.

Rice currently is training as a computer support specialist at Data Dimensions in Janesville. Looking back he knows he made the right decision going back to school.

“There’s no doubt I wouldn’t be in the position I am without my degree,” he said.

From “Former Whiting Mill employee charts new course with IT degree” — Dawn Zieher never considered working anywhere other than a paper mill.

A Pittsville native, Zieher said she had family that worked in the paper industry, and she began thinking about it in eighth grade. At 19 years old, she was hired at NewPage Corp.’s Whiting mill, where she worked for more than 26 years. When the mill closed in February 2011, she was working as a rewinder operator, cutting up rolls of paper into smaller sections.

“I was shocked,” Zieher said of the closure. “I had to figure out something to do. I always thought about going back to school, but I had been doing shift work, which didn’t really give me a chance to.”

Zieher, 48, of Stevens Point, said she had a general interest in computers, and settled on Mid-State Technical College based in part on location and cost. On Thursday, she will graduate with other students from the Stevens Point campus with an information technology-network specialist degree.

“I liked the classes they offered, and how the faculty treated students,” Zieher said. “I wouldn’t have thought a couple of years ago that I would be graduating with this kind of degree, but this was a great choice for me.”

Kathryn Doar is an instructor of IT-network specialist courses at MSTC, and she has been at the college for 51/2 years. Of the 15 students graduating with that degree this week, Doar said four, including Zieher, are displaced workers.

“Those kinds of students come in here with a great past work experience and a real drive to learn everything they can,” Doar said.

Doar said Zieher is regularly among those students who put in extra hours to learn, whether it is fixing computers in the college’s PC Clinic or volunteering to work on networks for the Rosholt Library and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She also has helped set up the new IT-network specialist lab at Mid-State’s new downtown Stevens Point campus, scheduled to open in January 2014.

While she’s involved now, Zieher admits that college wasn’t always so easy for her.

“It was a total 180 for me. When I was in school the last time, it was paper and pencil, and we used to look things up at the library,” Zieher said. “I felt overwhelmed, but the instructors here made a big difference because they were always very willing to answer any question I had.”

Zieher said she isn’t exactly sure what her next job will be, but that she’s interested in possibly working with computer servers and would be willing to move if necessary. She will benefit from the college’s near 100 percent placement rate for graduates in her field.

“I’ve been able to get a lot of experience at school, so I feel like I have options,” Zieher said.

From “Health care, accounting, tech are hottest fields for area graduates” — Shainah Hughes knows she’ll find a job and support her family when she graduates.

Job security is one of the big reasons the 29-year-old student at Western Technical College is pursuing a degree in electronics and computer engineering.

“When I graduate, there’s going to be a need for that,” Hughes said.

Health care, accounting and technology are big draws for grads who want to live locally, but college officials agree there’s no hard and fast trend.

Job security is “huge” for today’s graduates, said Beth Dolder-Zieke, director of career services at Viterbo University.

Many started college on the eve of the recession.

“They heard you go to college, you do really well, get a job,” Dolder-Zieke said. “And then they go to college, and for those of them who were aware of what was going on, it was very discouraging.”

College grads have high expectations from their first job. Nationally, they expect a salary approaching $50,000 and “want opportunities for future growth,” Dolder-Zieke said.

For that, many are looking to health care.

More than 160 students graduated from Viterbo’s un-dergraduate nursing and nursing-completion programs last year. Western, UW-L, Winona State University and Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical in Winona all offer degrees in health care, too.

Radiography, certified nursing assistant and physical therapy programs have a consistent following because of local hospitals, said Jackie Newman, career services specialist for Western.

“The regional area makes health care a popular pick,” Newman said.

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners are also in demand by local hospitals “because that’s a way that they can serve underserved populations,” said Tim Tritch, UW-L’s associate director of career services.

Health care-related work makes up nearly 20 percent of La Crosse jobs, and about 24 percent of Winona County jobs, according to state employment data.

Issac Tillman went back to college with plans to open a restaurant but wound up working in financial aid.

Tillman started in Western’s business management program, hoping to pad years of experience and a past degree in food service. He soon realized he wanted something more stable.

Tillman graduates this year and has already found work in Western’s financial aid office.

“It clicked,” Tillman said.

Accounting and technology are both strong choices for students like Tillman, who stay in the region, college officials say. Employers want skilled workers in both fields.

“Even when the economy goes bad, they still need accountants,” said Gale Lanning, director of admissions for Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical. “They have always been our consistent program that still will survive no matter what.”

Career choices vary as much as certificates and degrees available at the region’s colleges — especially when an aspiring college grad is willing to move for work, Tritch said. Proximity of two major job markets, the Twin Cities and Madison, creates myriad possibilities for students.

From “Recycle your electronics at Moraine Park” — Moraine Park Technical College’s IT Club will be holding its E-cycle event from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 20 at Moraine Park’s Fond du Lac campus.

Items can be dropped off at the campus courtyard, closest to the intersection of Johnson Street and University Drive. Accepted items include: Monitors, laptops, servers, TV’s, printers/fax/scanners, computers, video game consoles, mice/keyboards, cell phones, MP3 players/iPods, phones, DVD players, VCRs, cable boxes, satellite dishes, vacuum cleaners (without bag), coffee makers, bread makers, irons, hair dryers, radios, clocks and much more.

All batteries must be removed from all items including cordless/rechargeable products.

Items not accepted include curling irons, refrigerators, dish washers, stoves and household batteries.

A full list of items can be viewed by emailing Lisa Pollard at

From “FVTC expanding IT offerings in Oshkosh” — Fox Valley Technical College will be offering more Information Technology courses at its Riverside campus in Oshkosh, beginning with this fall semester.

The Riverside campus will offer IT coursework for the first year of the Network Specialist, Computer Support Specialist, and Network Systems Administration associate degree programs. The added courses are a result of regional demands for skilled IT employees in the region.

In 2011, FVTC added the Health Information Technology associate degree program, which is exclusively offered at the Riverside campus. This offering was a direct result of FVTC’s response to industry requests for professionals who can gather, code, manage, and maintain patient health information. The regional employer needs reaffirm projected employment in this industry to increase by 20 percent through 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Health Information Technology program is currently full at Riverside in just its second year.

Along with Madison Area Technical College, FVTC offers more associate degree options in IT than any other technical college in Wisconsin. The college’s programs are nationally recognized through the Association of Information Technology Professionals. FVTC has earned three, first-place finishes in the last four years in AITP national competitions among more than 70 higher education institutions.

From “Chick Geeks: Moraine Park program helps tear down stereotypes” — Chic Geeks ruled this week at Moraine Park Technical College.

Tech-minded high school girls who aren’t afraid of breaking things showed up on Wednesday to tear down computers and put them back together again.

Guided by women with IT skills, the teens attacked motherboards, circuitry, wires and disc drives as they systematically disassembled both a desktop and a laptop computer.

“Who wouldn’t want to learn how a computer works,” asked Sarah Bodden, 15, of Beaver Dam. “I mean, it’s something you use everyday.”

It usually doesn’t occur to girls to find work in technology fields, the teen said. The college is pushing the exploration of non-traditional careers — those that currently employ 25 percent or less of one gender.

“Maybe girls think there is less of a chance of getting jobs in fields that are dominated by men,” said 15-year old Victoria Sager, also of Beaver Dam. “I was going to be a chemical engineer, but after this I might want to do something in computers.”

MPTC student Stacey Babler, who served as one of the workshop instructors, said girls sometimes seem to be intimidated by machines and need to realize they can master technology if they are given hands-on opportunities.

“It’s the same old story,” Babler said, who is pursuing a degree in Information Technology Support Specialist and Technology Network Specialist programs. “We were brought up to nurture and weren’t encouraged to explore how things work.”

The girls worked together in groups to reassemble computers and load operating systems. They also got a sneak peak at the new touch screen Windows 8 operating systems on Beta and played with Google Chromebooks.

Instructor Johanna Voelker, a recent graduate of Moraine Park’s IT-Tech Support program, decided to make some life changes when she was laid off from a factory job three years ago.

“I like hands-on work and that’s what I’m showing these girls, not to be afraid to explore how things work,” she said.

While some girls may want purses, Alexis Neese, 16, of Kohler craves more electronics. She said a computer club at her school got her interested in engineering.

“I was in auto-CAD a lot, designing 3-D objects, even designing buildings, so I’m not intimidated. Most of the time I can figure things out,” she said.

MPTC IT-Tech Support Instructor Lisa Pollard said that it’s important the teens are learning with their peers and are being taught by females in the industry.

“So often in these types of classes boys tend to always take over,” she said. “This workshop is meant to build knowledge, confidence and skills in girls.”

Kyleigh Huebner, 14, of Fond du Lac said she will use the new knowledge to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Her friend, Anna Dudzinski, 14, was pleasantly surprised that the day turned out to be “not boring.”

“I can’t really handle science, but this is technology, which is generally a good thing,” she said.

Along with IT careers, other non-traditional opportunities for women include criminal justice and civil engineering.

More information is available by contacting Moraine Park NTO Specialist Renee Fischer at

From “Column: Mobile Apps Certificate another advance in learning” — By Sue Budjac, president Mid-State Technical College — describes technology as the branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society and the environment. Technical education as a whole is no different. We aim to impart a hands-on delivery of knowledge to our students that gives them the tools they need to be successful in work and life.

The Mobile Application Development Advanced Technical Certificate is one example of cutting-edge curriculum designed to meet evolving technology needs in business and industry. This certificate, approved in April and starting this fall, allows anyone with an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in software development to gain certification in mobile device development. This three-class, 10-credit certificate can be completed in just two semesters. Graduates will have the knowledge and skills needed to develop applications in the native language of mobile devices.

Like all MSTC program and class additions, this certificate is designed to meet an identified local workforce need. A local employer survey and discussions with individuals in the industry indicated a shortage of qualified workers. In fact, several local businesses expressed an urgent need to hire software developers with training in mobile application development. MSTC responded, and our Mobile Application Development Advanced Technical Certificate will help satisfy this need for skilled workers.

This certificate is also an example of high-demand jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Much has changed at MSTC in those 10 years, both in the programs and classes we offer and in the manner we deliver education to our students. For example, MSTC’s flexible online learning lets students enroll in our 17-week online business classes with a new section starting each month giving students more flexibility in when they start their classes.

The need for additional flexibility led to the implementation of a live video feed called TelePresence. This technology creates real-time interaction between Adams, Marshfield, Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids students and instructors as if all were in the same classroom. We are also in the very early stages of cloud data management and computing that one day might extend to the entire college.

A growing number of people are turning to MSTC to acquire high-tech curriculum and degrees like the mobile apps certificate they need for employment in highly skilled jobs. New technology infrastructure, instruction delivery tools and technological advancements in course delivery benefit MSTC students as a whole.

For more information about the Mobile Apps Advanced Technical Certificate or our growing selection of online courses, call 888-575-6782 or log on to

From “WITC students bring technology skills to Guatemala” — It’s a different country and a different culture, but the need for technology is the same. A school of about 70 students in Guatemala only had a few computers that weren’t exactly up to snuff, “Most of them were around ten years old. The computers were very infected with viruses,” recent WITC graduate Jacob Koval said.

So every morning for ten days, the tech savvy students fixed them up. They also donated twelve laptops, “It was a way for me to take the skills I just learned and actually put them into a real world application,” recent WITC graduate Carl Haughn said.

But their itinerary had room for fun too. During lunch, the five students took a break to see the sights, and play a few pick-up games of soccer with locals. Roles reversed in the afternoon. Students became teachers, demonstrating computer and software skills to staff. As they worked to close the digital divide, they also had to overcome a language barrier.

“We had already kind of figured out what to say to get them to do what we wanted to do when giving the lessons,” Haughn said.

And they were completely immersed, living with spanish-speaking host families, “It’s always ‘buenos dias’,  or ‘buenos tardes’, they’re all very friendly,” Haughn said.

Students said it was a once in a lifetime experience, “I really enjoyed being able to use my skills to help other people out. That’s half the reason I wanted to do this program, I like helping people out,” Koval said.

And the people in Guatemala appreciated the help, and the company, “In addition to helping them with the computers, just interacting with people from somewhere else, I think they really enjoyed it,” WITC IT Network Specialist Instructor Paul Gordon said.

The students graduated just before the trip. Some are now looking for IT careers while others are looking to continue their education.


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