From wxow.com: “Local law enforcement undergo tactical emergency medical training” – LA CROSSE – Police officers, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs responded to a mass casualty shooting drill at Western Technical College, Sunday.
It was part of a 40-hour tactical emergency medical support course led by Waukesha County Technical College instructors.
Sunday’s drills included a mass casualty shooting and a downed officer.
“In a mass casualty situation there’s a triage situation that has to happen,” said Jim Hillcoat a La Crosse firefighter and paramedic. He’s taking part in the class.
“There was a danger in the scenario we just did that wasn’t mitigated yet – or we weren’t sure it was mitigated. So, that needed to be dealt with and you have people who need help medically that have traumatic injuries,” Hillcoat said.
The course teaches first responders how to utilize military and emergency medicine under the threat of gunfire, for example, the shootings at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and the Azana Spa in Brookfield, Wis.
Tactical EMS Instructor Chad Stiles responded to the Azana Spa shooting.
“You never think it’s gonna happen in our community but when it does, we need to really be prepared to give the best response,” Stiles said.
That’s why he’s training law enforcement and EMS to work together in dangerous situations.
“Usually they operate side-by-side, but they’re working independently of each other,” Stiles said. “This class kind of brings them together like a marriage, almost, and teaches them each others objectives.”
The Tactical EMS class is funded by the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance and Wisconsin Hospital Emergency Preparedness.
Upon completing the course, EMS responders can submit their training record to the state and get a tactical EMS endorsement with their license, Stiles said.
June 17, 2013
From lacrossetribune.com: “Baldwin tours Western, talks jobs, economy” – Sen. Tammy Baldwin toured Western Technical College on Friday to talk jobs and learn about the school’s efforts to bolster the Coulee Region’s workforce.
During her first visit to the La Crosse tech college as a United States senator, Baldwin said she was also reaching out to similar institutions to learn about their partnerships with local businesses, and how those collaborations can spur the economy.
“At this point in our economic recovery, that is just one of the keys,” Baldwin said.
The La Crosse area showed the best yearly job increases in 2012 since the recession, including growth in the health care and leisure industries, according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.
Nearly 93 percent of Western’s 2010-11 school year graduates were able to find jobs, including 85 percent who found jobs in Wisconsin, according to a survey by the college.
Western officials tailor the school’s offerings to what local employers need, but the college also provides training programs for local businesses.
Shelley Ellingson, training coordinator for Northern Engraving, toured campus with Baldwin.
Her company used state grant funding to bring in Western and train staff. Western’s training programs helped improve the relationship between management and workers, and increased efficiency, Ellingson said.
“I think it’s helped our supervisors apply some soft skills when working with employers on the floor,” Ellingson said.
Baldwin mentioned her work on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee and credited tech colleges for being an alternative option for high school graduates who don’t have the time or money for a four-year university degree.
“Some are going to try to fit into a career as soon as possible,” Baldwin said.
Western’s successful $80 million referendum last year will help the college to update and expand school buildings and crank out more students. New spaces also mean improved training for a future workforce, Western President Lee Rasch said.
“It’s just going to be better for students,” Rasch said.
Baldwin toured Western’s facilities, including the current heating and ventilation training center, which will eventually move to the new $32.6 million applied technology center.
Baldwin called Western a school on the “eve of transformation,” after seeing a computer image rendering of the new technology center. Instead of dim, cramped corners of the old HVAC space, the images showed a building filled with windows and natural light.
“Look at how different that is from what we walked through,” Baldwin said, evoking laughs from a small audience of Western officials and representatives from local businesses. “This is really exciting for me.”
Baldwin also lamented Congress’ inability to find timely solution to a looming rate hike in federal student loans. Rates on Stafford loans might double, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent unless lawmakers can agree on a fix.
Lawmakers took until the 11th hour crafting a bipartisan solution to the same problem last year, and that could be the case again this year, Baldwin said.
Meanwhile, college students are “struggling with enormous debts,” Baldwin said. “It’s such a critical issue.”
May 9, 2013
From lacrossetribune.com: “State officials pitch apprenticeship program” – What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question asked of every child, and the answers aren’t encouraging for manufacturers.
“Wisconsin is facing a skilled workers gap,” said Jonathan Barry, deputy secretary of the state Department of Workforce Development. “We constantly run into business owners that are having trouble filling skilled positions.”
Barry visited Trane’s Engineering Technology Center in La Crosse on Wednesday to promote the state’s apprenticeship program, a state-school-employer partnership that aims to increase the pool of skilled workers.
“Employers want to hire people who have experience,” Western Technical College President Lee Rasch said, which leaves applicants wondering, “If you don’t have experience, how do you get experience?”
The apprenticeship program allows employers to target promising candidates and offer their own on-the-job training combined with classroom study. Workers get trained while earning wages; the average apprentice made $161,000 during their tenure, which lasts between two and six years.
Here’s how the program works:
The DWD lays out core training and job experience standards for several industries and then customizes the process for each employer. Employees spend about 80 percent of their time on the job and 20 percent in theoretical classroom training, usually provided by the Wisconsin Technical College System.
But sometimes there’s just not interest.
“There’s a mantra that manufacturing is dumb, dirty,” Barry said. “It’s simply not the case. It’s not just bending metal all the time.”
Begun in 1911, the program is nothing new in Wisconsin, but it’s taking on new urgency as more companies lament a skilled worker shortage.
Enrollment dipped by about a third, down to about 10,000, in the past decade, a slide that mirrored general economic trends.
A Georgetown University study found that the skills gap will leave almost a million jobs vacant, most of which already exist and would need refilling after retirements.
A recent La Crosse School District survey cited by Rasch found that only 2 percent of students planned to pursue manufacturing careers.
“Everyone has a dream of going to college,” the district’s Career and Technical Education Coordinator Annette O’Hern said. “And when you have a dream of going to college you don’t think about manufacturing.”
Much of Wednesday’s event focused on finding ways to introduce manufacturing to students in middle school and high school.
“I really believe that’s where it’s at,” Trane’s La Crosse plant manager Brad Tacheny said.
Barry emphasized that the program isn’t trying to squelch four-year colleges but offer a realistic, necessary alternative to the “college paradigm.”
“We need to expose young people to the full range of their choices as early as possible,” he said.
The La Crosse School District is hoping to ramp up that exposure. They plan to introduce an Engineering Academy — also covering manufacturing and architecture — next year. The academy will partner with Trane to provide real-life context and expose kids to manufacturing plants.
The district already offers classes in welding and manufacturing, but they’re not always popular.
“We can’t always get a lot of students interested,” O’Hern said. “We’d like that number to be bigger.”
Parents worry about job security and have encouraged children to pursue white-collar studies and a traditional four-year education.
Karen Morgan, director of the Bureau of Apprentice Standards, called on businesses to take initiative.
“We don’t have enough employers that are actually using the apprenticeship programs to train,” she said.
Barry said schools and state programs shouldn’t be the only ones reaching out to students.
“We in the business community need to be doing some of that,” he said.
The apprenticeship program isn’t just for manufacturing. It offers three trade sectors — construction, industrial/manufacturing, and service, which cover careers from plumbing to cosmetology.
The continuing education helps reinforce that such careers have advancement options, Morgan said.
“It’s only the beginning of their career,” she said. “It’s not a dead end.”
From wpr.org: “La Crosse college will building homes with advanced energy efficiency” – Western Technical College will soon be building three “passive homes”: buildings with a rare design that significantly reduces the amount of energy use.
A La Crosse neighborhood filled with quaint, single-family houses will become the home for three new, three-bedroom passive houses. In a passive house, heating energy usage can be reduced up to 90 percent. The wall insulation is much thicker than what’s found in a standard home.
Western Technical College architectural technology instructor Mike Poellinger says the air tight windows play a key role in the design.
“The windows actually become part of the heat source. We have a great amount of window glazing on the southern exposure as we’re collecting that heat. It’s minimized on the northern exposure; usually it’s there for lighting a stairwell or secondary lighting, and we minimize on the east and west.”
Poellinger says passive homes are quieter since they don’t have active heaters.
Western is hiring a contractor to start building the first passive home this summer. Western building system technology instructor Josh VandeBerg says students and instructors will be able to study the home as it’s built.
“We’re on this lesson here, talking about air tightness. Ding! Let’s go to the passive house and take a look at it in action. Not only is this house bringing my students to the passive house and the community to the passive house, but it’s also an opportunity to for my students to learn some of the very principles we’re talking about in the classroom.”
The Western Technical College Foundation will sell the homes. There are two other certified passive homes in Wisconsin.
May 6, 2013
From wxow.com: “A walk in the shoes of a dementia patient” — More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. The number could rise to as many as 16 million by 2050.
Alzheimer’s is the largest category of dementia. Dementia is not a disease, but a term used to describe symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain. Seven of 10 Alzheimer’s patients live at home, but many caregivers aren’t equipped to deal with the symptoms.
In the Coulee Region, The Alzheimer’s Association provides assistance to families.
“I think it’s definitely a difficult disease for caregivers to understand because it effects every person differently,” said Brett Williams of The Alzheimer’s Association. “So someone can learn about Alzheimer’s Disease, but until you really learn how each person is going through it, there’s no way to really understand it.”
At Western Technical College, students entering healthcare fields have a tool allowing them to walk in the shoes of a dementia patient. The virtual dementia tour is part of an Alzheimer’s training course. Participants are asked to perform simple tasks but with limitations that simulate those of a person suffering from dementia.
“It helps the worker communicate effectively and communicate appropriately,” said Linda Schneider, an adjunct instructor at Western.
The course limits all your senses, from sight to motor skills to hearing, so even listening to the instructions is difficult. There are even inserts in the participants shoes to create a pins and needles sensation dementia patients experience.
“Dementia is not normal aging at all,” Schneider said. “Dementia is a problem happening in the brain. It’s a disease within the brain.”
And it’s a common disease, according to the National Institute on Aging, half of those over 85 suffer from some type of dementia.
“One thing I learned on the dementia virtual tour was how confused I was,” said Jacquelyn Ross, a Western student who went through the simulation. “I just couldn’t’ believe how much was really going on and then still expected to act like a normal person.”
Experiencing just how frustrating it can be to just fold a sheet, helps caregivers understand the struggles their patient faces.
“A lot of people need to know,” Ross said. “Not enough people know.”
Despite being told exactly what to do and having an instruction sheet, when News 19′s Kristen Barbaresi only managed to do one of the five tasks correctly. She set the table for two instead of four, filled both glasses instead of just one and wrote a letter about her family, instead of a letter to her family.
“Help with the expectation that they have of working with a person that’s got these kinds of cognitive impairments as well as impairments of aging with hearing and feeling,” Schneider said.
27 percent of Alzheimer’s patients suffer from minor depression and 22 percent have major depression and the course helps participants understand why.
“I’ve put myself in their shoes,” Ross said. “You know that there’s no cutting corners. It’s just what it is.”
The Alzheimer’s course is funded by the Bridges to Healthcare grant Western received in 2011. The course is the result of feedback from employers who said personal care workers need more training in dementia, especially with the aging population.
The course isn’t only helpful for students. The idea is expanding to the community and professions dealing with the elderly.
“We’re looking at doing some additional training in the next year,” said Sandra Schultz, Bridges to Healthcare Grant coordinator. “We’re doing a foundation course with the Alzheimer’s association. And we’re also looking at doing specific training with various groups such as the law enforcement and we’re looking at the EMT group.”
April 24, 2013
From wxow.com: “Western Technical College holds annual dumpster dive” – Four years ago staff and students from Western Technical College started dumpster diving to see just how effective their recycling program was.
The idea was to find out how much recyclable material is being thrown in the regular trash. They found a lot of recyclables that first year but they have found less each year since then.
The schools says every year they find new ways to improve the recycling program which allows them to save money on hauling away garbage, money that could be used in the classroom.
“The things that I’ve noticed over the last few years is that the majority of the garbage is turning into hand towels. So that’s one of the things we’re working on right now is how we can reduce the amount of hand towels we use,” says Mike Pieper, VP Finance and Operations at Western.
Mike said this is not only the right things to do environmentally but socially and financially as well.
From lacrossetribune.com: “Students could lose test scores in GED change; Western offering help” – Tabitha Bohnert aims high. The 25-year-old La Crosse resident is intent on finishing her GED, with plans to continue on to college and become a social worker.
After more than four years of school, Bohnert needs to finish just one more test in the GED’s lengthy five-test battery before she can move on to the next stage in her education.
She’ll have to take it soon. The test will be administered on computers beginning next year, and students who haven’t completed all five batteries will have to start from scratch.
“I heard that everyone is going to lose their test scores,” Bohnert said. “I figured it’s best to complete it now.”
More than 1,300 Western Technical College students are in the midst of taking the test, which measures proficiency in math, reading, literature, science and English. About 43,000 students in Wisconsin need to finish the GED by the end of the year or face starting over.
The last time the test changed was in 2002. The American Council on Education, the group that owns the exam, wants to make sure GED students are meeting today’s standards for college and career readiness, said Beth Lewis, state administrator for the GED and high school equivalency diplomas.
Not only will the test become strictly computer-based, old content will be swapped out in favor of new questions. The new material will be based on the same national standards used in K-12 classrooms. The so called “Common Core” curriculum controls what lessons are taught in core subjects such as math and reading.
The test format is also changing. One of the five sections in the current GED exam is an essay question, but the new test will be four sections, with written responses included.
The new way requires more analysis, said Chad Dull, dean of instructional support services at Western.
“It’s a much more authentic way to learn,” Dull said. “We think that this new test will be better.”
Changes to the test will ripple all the way down to the classroom.
“You’re going to be spending more time on reading and writing persuasively,” Lewis said.
Programs that offer the GED will also need to prepare older test-takers on how to use computers.
The last day to take the GED in its current form at Western is Dec. 13.
Western officials are offering extra GED test dates before the update. They’ve also sent out mailers and hung posters in an effort to warn students of the deadline.
Students sometimes avoid the tests because they are nervous, or because of a hectic personal life, said Karla Walker, math and science instructor for Western’s instructional support services.
“My biggest concern is they won’t come in,” Walker said.
But Western is trying to speed up the testing process. Students who want to finish quickly can sign up for a two-week “fast track” program in May and August that includes prep time, practice tests and the entire five-course battery of exams.
“Give us a little bit of your time,” Walker said. “And we will help you there.”
April 11, 2013
From lacrossetribune.com: “Welding institute launching bigger lab” – A local initiative to train skilled welders has received monetary boosts and will have a bigger lab and more participants when its first regular session begins next month.
The Welding Skills Institute is using a combined $80,000 it received from Jackson County and the Black River Falls School District to expand its BRF High School-based lab and, in turn, welcome more participants.
The initiative, started last year in an effort to fill a growing local need for skilled welders, will begin its first regular session May 13 with nearly double the number of participants it had in each of its two pilot sessions.
“I’m super excited about it,” said BRF High School Principal Tom Chambers, who helped launch the institute. “I think it’s a great example of collaboration between the school, county, businesses and the community.
“The project is, by far, the biggest collaborative project I’ve worked on.”
The effort to launch the Welding Skills Institute began when Nelson Global Products welding engineer Paul Schulz approached Chambers to use high school welding lab space to test new company applicants.
That push showed there weren’t many qualified applicants for welding jobs in the area, and soon representatives from local businesses, Western Technical College, Jackson County Treatment Court and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections began collaborating to launch the institute to fill the local need.
The institute trains participants in basic wire feed welding skills through welding, blueprint reading and math curriculum that are necessary for jobs at manufacturing companies like Nelson Global Products and D&S Manufacturing.
“I think it’s an excellent start. It’s a real short-term, high-intensity program that hopefully someday will expand into longer terms and more technical topics,” said Schulz, who will accept a 2013 Business Friends of Education award from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for Nelson’s work on the institute.
“I think we’re off to a really excellent start.”
The Welding Skills Institute received $50,000 in Ho-Chunk Nation funds through Jackson County last fall and $30,000 from the BRF School District to allow it to update the lab. Nelson and D&S Manufacturing also have donated materials and equipment throughout the program’s tenure.
Work on the BRF High School technical education classrooms spurred by the monetary contributions has allowed the institute to expand from seven welding booths to 13, which are about one-third bigger than their original size.
That will allow more students to enroll in the first regular 10-week session next month, including five spots for high school students interested in higher-level welding, three spots for Ho-Chunk Nation participants and the rest for Jackson County Treatment Court participants and placements through the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
Officials hope to hold four 10-week sessions a year now that the expansion is taking place and the pilot period is complete. They are pursuing a grant to create a mobile classroom equipped for computerized numerical control training, a skill in demand and a natural extension of basic welding, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Lister said.
They also hope the institute will remain a presence in the community for the indefinite future.
“I’ve been impressed with the collaborative effort by Western Technical College, (the Department of Corrections), principal Tom Chambers at Black River Falls High School, as well as the willingness of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors and the Black River Falls School Board to fund substantial expansions and improvements of the welding institute,” said Lister, who also assisted in the program’s launch.
Chambers said community collaboration has been an integral part of the program and commended the work of Nelson, D&S and other local entities.
He said it’s appropriate Nelson was recognized through the Department of Public Instruction award.
“Nelson has been very supportive of the whole process,” Chambers said. “They’ve been good partners to work with.”
April 10, 2013
From wxow.com: “Renovations planned for overcrowded diesel program” – The diesel and heavy equipment industry is growing. But the diesel and heavy equipment program at Western Technical College (WTC) is still the same size. Renovations planned for June aim to remedy this issue.
“We cannot supply enough techs in this field to fill the jobs available,” said Chad Hofslien, Instructor at Western Technical College’s Diesel and Heavy Equipment Program. “Whether it be working on trucks, heavy equipment, agricultural equipment, it’s all diesel and heavy equipment related.”
In November 2012, a 79.8 million dollar referendum passed for improvements to Western Technical College. Part of this money will go to renovating the Diesel and Heavy Equipment program which is dangerously overcrowded.
“It makes it difficult to even just move around,” said Ryan Samuel, WTC Diesel and Heavy Equipment program student. “A lot of the time it’s hard to even get behind some of the trucks… Sometimes we have to open the garage doors to get to the next bay down. It’s harder for them to teach even. When he’s trying to point something out it’s hard to get everyone in one area with how much stuff there is.”
“You spend more time jockeying equipment around and trying to make things fit into a confined space,” said Hofslien. “If I got to move three, four pieces of equipment around just to get it through the door… Now you’re losing instructional time by doing that rather than actually teaching on the piece of equipment you want to be teaching on.”
The overcrowding is also a potential safety hazard.
“Oh, there’s a lot of safety concerns,” said Hofslien. “And that’s caused by the overcrowding of it. Students are stepping over things or things are so close that somebody behind you is working on something and they’re only two feet away. Otherwise, for the most part, this facility has served its purpose over the years… We just basically need more room.”
Luckily, the solution to this problem is in sight. Construction for a larger and upgraded program space is scheduled to begin in June.
“Both facilities that we’re using right now are makeshift. They weren’t built for this purpose,” said Mike Pieper, Vice President of Western Technical College’s Finance & Operations. “We’re growing the overall square footage by about one third. But the space will be built for the purpose of diesel and heavy equipment training.”
Right now the program is split between two locations, one that is leased and one that is owned. The renovations will bring the entire department under one roof by expanding the main building owned by WTC.
“First having all the faculty and staff under one roof,” said Pieper, “better engagement from the students and staff standpoint, and then just a much better facility.”
But for current students, the best thing will simply be the extra space.
“It will help a lot with opening it up,” said Samuel. “Making it easier to teach, making it easier to walk around, making it overall safer.”
The renovations will also give students the opportunity to work with newer and more kinds of equipment, and will create more space for new students to enter the program.
From lacrossetribune.com: “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.
March 22, 2013
From lacrossetribune.com: “Farmland prices booming across region” –Agricultural land prices are booming in the Coulee Region and across the nation, prompting some experts to worry that farm expansion could be creating an agricultural bubble.
West-central Wisconsin sold more agricultural acreage than any other part of the state in 2012, for an average of $3,246 an acre. Most land was purchased for continued farm use.
Crop prices are driving up land prices, said Dennis Deitelhoff, a farm business production management instructor with Western Technical College.
Some farmers are expanding, trying to make the most of crop prices while the getting is good.
But if crop prices sputter and farmland loan rates rise, farmers could find themselves in the midst of a bust similar to the housing collapse.
“I think that land values will correct,” Deitelhoff said. “That’s just natural economics.”
Nationally, farmer-held debt is expected to reach $277.4 billion this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture — more than $60 billion more than 2007.
For farmers looking to cash out, current land prices have them in line for some sweet deals. But the high values carry risk for expanding farmers looking down the road.
Locally, Deitelhoff believes that expansion has been managed well.
“Most of the people making these land purchases are making them because they can,” he said. “The lion’s share are being made by those who have the wherewithal to do it.”
More than 20,000 acres of farmland in the west-central region, which includes La Crosse, Jackson, Trempealeau, and Buffalo counties, were sold for continued agricultural purposes in 2011, according to Department of Agriculture statistics.
That’s almost double the amount sold for the same purpose in 2009.
Purchasing escalated despite rising prices. Since 2007, average prices per acre have jumped $500. In addition to crop prices, sand mining and development demand have continued to buoy land values.
Farmers looking to cash out are in line to reap the profits of high values. However, current prices can make it difficult for aspiring land owners to break into farming.
Perhaps it makes sense that some new landowners have more interest in finances than farming; investors are buying land and then renting it to farmers, using rent to reap profits.
In November, a division of the Swiss bank UBS purchased 9,800 acres in Grant County for $68 million dollars.
While international players haven’t entered the La Crosse area, local investors have begun to take an interest in farmland.
Teresa Gutenberger, a senior appraiser with Badgerland Financial in Sparta, said that such owners, while uncommon, have begun to snap up area farmland.
Prices vary across state, nation
While the west-central region sold the most agricultural acreage in the state, its prices ranked in the middle of the pack. The state average for 2012 was $3,602 per acre.
“Location is an important determinant of value,” the report said.
The east-central region, which includes Fox Cities and Green Bay, had the highest average land prices at $5,228 per acre. The north-central region, stretching north from Clark and Marathon counties, had the lowest average prices, only $2,176 per acre.
The report cited increased competition for land use as the major factor influencing values.
Dairy farmers haven’t benefited from the increase, Dietelhoff said. Their prices haven’t kept pace with crops.
Cropland value jumped 7.1 percent in the state from 2011 to 2012, while pasture land value inched up 1.9 percent, according to USDA statistics.
Wisconsin’s growth lags behind the nation and rest of the Midwest.
Farm real estate value, which projects the value of a farm’s land and buildings, rose 7.4 percent, below the national average of 10.4 percent.
Minnesota saw a 20.9 percent jump; Iowa’s was even steeper, at 22.8 percent.
March 21, 2013
From wsaw.com: “8 Wis. Technical Colleges awarded funds for laser equipment” – Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson says eight Wisconsin Technical College System schools will be awarded nearly $105,000 to to purchase precision laser alignment tools to help train apprentices in manufacturing and address the skills gap.
“The funding is another example of our continuing efforts to equip workers with the latest skills, empowering them for employment in family supporting jobs,” Secretary Newson said. “With the grants, our workforce partners in the technical colleges can purchase high tech, laser equipment to train apprentices for good jobs in the skilled trades.”
Grants of $13,100 each are being awarded to Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids, North Central Technical College in Wausau, Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, Waukesha Technical College, and Milwaukee Area Technical College.
The U.S. Department of Labor funds will go to purchase precision laser alignment tools for rotating machinery. Precision laser alignment is a common testing procedure in maintaining manufacturing equipment and ensuring production efficiency. The colleges will use the equipment to train apprentices in training for occupations as machine repairer, maintenance mechanic, millwright and pipefitter.
January 15, 2013
From lacrossetribune.com: “West Salem first responder sees the ‘other side of 911′ – WEST SALEM — Spencer Lewison found his calling in a CPR class. Lewison, 20, switched career paths and colleges, and in a matter of months he was taking calls as a volunteer first responder.
It was the feeling that he got after leaving that class that drove him to leave behind a liberal arts degree for a field he knows won’t net him fame or money, Lewison said. The feeling sends him flying to the scene of emergencies, seeking experience as he works toward a career as a paramedic.
“Not many people get to step into those shoes and be the other side of 911,” Lewison said. “Being that answer is just phenomenal in my mind.”
When he isn’t in Eau Claire, Wis., for college, Lewison volunteers for the West Salem Emergency Medical Team and is studying to become a paramedic.
He started with the unit in May, as he finished a semester-long training program at Western Technical College.
Soon, he was pulling overnight shifts as a responder, and heading into Festival Foods the next morning for work.
“When I first started doing it, I noticed the whole adrenaline rush,” Lewison said. “Since my first call, I loved it.”
Being a first responder meant Lewison is often the first person to a scene. It’s often up to him and other volunteers to check vital signs, get names, and make sure the scene is safe.
When Tri-State Ambulance arrives, he is responsible for making sure they have the information they need to treat a patient.
“To have someone’s life in your hands at the age of 19 is a big deal,” Lewison said.
Major car crashes or routine calls, Lewison treats each emergency with equal concern, said Seth Melde, who studied with Lewison at Western, and volunteers with him in West Salem.
“It’s about the patient when we’re there,” Melde said. “It’s about making sure the patient is comfortable no matter what.”
Team President Duane Kneifl calls Lewison “one of our young guns.”
Kneifl rides with Lewison often, at all hours. Despite Lewison’s age, he has a unique ability to communicate with patients when he’s at a scene, Kneifl said.
“He connects with them,” Kneifl said. “He just really relates to what their problems are.”
That connection drives Lewison.
He calls it something different, but he got his first taste of it not long after high school.
He graduated from West Salem High School in 2011 and entered Winona State University in the fall as a tentative music major.
Unsure of his future, a friend recommended he try out classes to become an emergency medical technician.
He took a CPR class in November and walked away changed.
“You knew walking out of there that you could save someone’s life,” Lewison said.
Now, Lewison talks about the faces of his patients. Those faces are why he jumps at the chance for a midnight call when he’s home in West Salem. Those faces are why he is studying at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, Wis., to become a paramedic, and hopefully, one day, a flight medic.
“I just like to see the look on their face,” Lewison said. “When they light up because someone cares for them.”
November 7, 2012
From lacrossetribune.com: “Western, North Side school referendums ride high on local support” – Voters appeared to back Western Technical College’s plan to add students and update facilities with a strong showing of support Tuesday for the school’s $79.8 million referendum.
By early this morning, 53.4 percent had voted “yes” with 202 of 211 precincts reporting.
The money will fund six building projects, including remodeling of the college’s technology building and the Coleman and Kumm centers. The extra learning space will allow Western to serve an additional 1,000 students by 2020. It will also benefit the region’s economy, Western President Lee Rasch said.
“There is a skilled worker shortage, and it’s in manufacturing and information technology,” Rasch said. “Those are really key areas for us.”
Property taxes will increase by about $39 a year on homes worth $100,000.
The referendum covers:
- $32.6 million for an addition to the technology building to combine the school’s mechanical and tech programs.
- $26.5 million remodel of Coleman Center to update the 89-year-old space with more efficient, flexible learning areas.
- $10.1 million remodel of the Kumm Center, for new health and science facilities.
- $4.9 million for a parking ramp
- $4.1 million expansion of Western’s diesel training facilities.
- $1.6 million for a greenhouse near Seventh and Vine street
Western’s growth will have a $97 million impact on the regional economy by 2034, according to an economic report by NorthStar Consulting Group. Construction alone will have an estimated economic impact of $112 million by 2016.
“It’s going to make a difference,” Rasch said.
West Salem resident Bob Severson, 59, said he supported the referendum because the changes will help people learn valuable workplace skills.
“I went there myself and I think that’s going to be the crux of getting the right training,” Severson said.
Western will borrow the money for the building projects, adding to existing debt of about $58 million.
Wisconsin technical colleges can’t use referendum dollars for operating costs – unlike school districts — so they are less frequent. Western’s last referendum was more than 15 years ago, when 64 percent of voters agreed to pay for a $3 million chunk of the city’s Health Science Center.
A wave of support at the polls Tuesday also appears to have pushed through La Crosse School District’s $15.7 million referendum for a new North Side elementary school.
Voters in the La Crosse School District approved a building referendum. Final numbers show 21,494 yes votes to 10,424 no votes.
A new school will house teachers and students currently split between two aging facilities. Officials plan to build the new facility at 1611 Kane St., where the old Franklin Elementary School building stands.
“It’s going to mean a lot for our community, not just for the North Side,” Superintendent Randy Nelson said.
Taxpayers in the district could pay about $25 more on a home worth $100,000.
The prospect of higher taxes inspired 75-year-old La Crosse resident and retiree Kay Weldy to vote against the referendum.
“The taxes are too high as they are,” she said.
Franklin combined with Roosevelt about three years ago, and both run under the same administration, with grade levels divided between the two buildings.
Roosevelt, built in 1923, is the oldest school building in the district. Builders used clay tiles in the 1955 construction of Franklin, which has led to continual structural problems for the school.
Both buildings were slated for about $6 million of work, including about $2 million already bonded for heating and ventilation upgrades. Officials agreed to opt out of the bonded funds if voters passed today’s referendum.
The new building saves the district about $200,000 in operating costs each year.
Shelby resident David Loeffler, 63, said he voted “yes” on the referendum because he to ensure a quality education for future generations.
“I have a grandson and I want to make sure he gets everything he can,” Loeffler said.
Similar referendums in 2004 and 2008 failed to pass muster with voters, but this is a different time — when the community appears be favoring neighborhood revitalization in the wake of recent economic struggles, Nelson said.
“Things have changed,” he said.
November 7, 2012
From wxow.com: “Western students get new training tool” – Students at Western Technical College in Sparta have a new training tool.
For the first time, the college bought a brand new fire truck for the fire protection technician program. Typically the school gets old trucks from fire departments.
Students and staff celebrated the new fire engine with what’s called a housing ceremony.
“We’re going to transfer the equipment from the old truck to the new truck, representing that exchange,” said Gary Trulson, associate dean of Health and Public Safety. “And then we’re also going to wash the wheels of the new truck and it really dates back to the old days, in the horse drawn steamer days, when they had to wash the wheels.”
The dean says a state-of the art training truck will better prepare students for the real world.
From lacrossetribune.com: “Western Technical College celebrates official opening of new BRF campus” – Officials from Western Technical College and the area celebrated the official inception of the college’s new downtown Black River Falls campus last week.
The group held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 16 at the Fillmore Street site to mark the end of the three-year project of what one speaker deemed a “state-of-the-art” building.
“It’s just an amazing, amazing thing,” said Western Technical College President Lee Rasch. “We’re here to stay for the next 100 years.”
WTC officials began exploring the possibility of revamping its former site on Red Iron Road or relocating to the former site of the IGA building in the city’s downtown more than three years ago. The college’s addition of a nursing program and the expansion of other coursework prompted the need for more building space.
Students began classes at the new 18,000-square-foot site in January, but crews just this fall officially ended work on the building, which includes solar panels and other energy efficient amenities.
The $3 million project also is expected to draw increased enrollment for the BRF location because of its move from an out-of-town rural area. About 300 students have enrolled per semester since the new campus opened, which is up anywhere from 50 to 100 students from the Red Iron Road location.
“What a great thing for Black River Falls,” said Larry Lunda, who assisted the college while it prepared to make its move downtown.
October 24, 2012
From wxow.com: “Western to receive grant money for plumbing program” – Western Technical College is receiving $11,800 for its plumbing training program.
The money comes from a Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development grant.
The program provides funds to apprenticeship training for “green” occupations and building alternative energy trade skills.
Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson announced more than $150,000 in grants to fund programs for five technical colleges and three labor organizations.
“The funding is the latest example of our continuing efforts to align workforce training opportunities and bring about good jobs for Wisconsin residents,” said Secretary Newson. “Under Governor Scott Walker, DWD is developing a number of mechanisms that will enable private-sector employers to access the training resources that they need to hire skilled and trained workers.”
The grants were awarded as a part of a $6 million Sector Alliance for the Green Economy grant DWD previously received from the U.S. Department of Labor to support training programs in “green” energy occupations. With the funding, the technical colleges and on-the-job training providers can offer courses that supplement traditional apprenticeship instruction, providing more opportunities for training in cutting-edge technologies.
October 18, 2012
From lacrossetribune.com: “Western: Referendum good for college, economy” – Voters will decide more than the fate of a few building projects when they weigh in on Western Technical College’s $79.8 million referendum.
Remodels and upgrades are part of a plan to improve classes and offerings so they better fit the needs of students and regional employers, Western President Lee Rasch said.
Local taxpayers would pay more — about $39 extra each year on homes worth $100,000.
But a “yes” vote on Election Day also will yield a return on that investment, Western officials said.
With campus improvements funded through the referendum, Western hopes to assuage a skills gap between an undereducated workforce and employers looking for highly skilled workers.
“There are opportunities for people in good-paying positions,” Rasch said. “But they’re opportunities for people who have the skills.”
The college plans to add 1,000 students by 2020 and increase their chances of finding work through improvements paid for by the referendum. By adding students, the technical college expects to see an increase in the number of graduates who stay and work in Western’s 11-county district.
These future alumni would eventually add $97 million to the regional economy by 2034, according to a recent economic report by NorthStar Consulting Group. Construction alone would have an estimated economic impact of $112 million by 2016.
New buildings, more efficiency, new offerings — all are important parts of the college’s 10-year plan.
“It’s like a three-legged stool,” Rasch said.
If voters agree, Western would be able to borrow the money, adding to existing debt of about $58 million.
Western was forced to cut staff and programming last year, when the college lost about $2 million in state aid.
The college’s last referendum was more than 15 years ago, with 64 percent of voters agreeing to pay for a $3 million chunk of the city’s Health Science Center.
Unlike school districts, technical colleges can’t use referendum dollars for operating costs, so they come up only for building projects.
If voters block the measure, Western officials will still do what they can to serve the community, but it could mean missing out on a potential economic boon for the region, Rasch said.
“What’s the social cost and the economic cost if we don’t do anything?” Rasch said. “If we don’t take a step forward, we could run the risk of sliding back.”
October 15, 2012
From lacrossetribune.com: “Grant plan aimed at helping businesses expand” — A new grant program has been proposed for La Crosse County that would help local small businesses develop new product lines, markets and other ways to grow.
If approved by the county board Thursday, the program could begin awarding grants in early 2013, said Brian Fukuda, community development specialist for the county.
Businesses would work with a nonprofit partner to determine their research and development needs, and then be matched with consultants that can guide them toward reaching those goals, said Patti Balacek, Western Technical College’s director of Business and Industry Services and Lifelong Learning.
“I tell everyone that my greatest skill is I know how to find the people who are the experts,” Balacek said.
That assistance could allow companies to expand their customer base domestically and abroad, create new products and lines and find additional ways to market what they have to offer.
The result should be more jobs and economic development in the county, Balacek said. “Growing the businesses we have,” she said, “is a way we can do it without always having to pursue the next big thing.”
The program will be limited to companies with no more than 250 employees — those perhaps poised to grow but less likely to have the staff and resources for research and development.
The county would fund up to 50 percent of the total project costs, with grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000. The business and its nonprofit partner each must kick in 25 percent, though that match can be in-kind work rather than money, Fukuda said.
The initial grant funding would come from a $10,000 carryover from 2012 and an additional $20,000 in the proposed 2013 budget, Fukuda said. Participating companies would be encouraged to contribute some of the profits from their expanded business to boost the funding pool, he said.
The county’s Economic Development Fund Board would oversee the program, review applicants and award the grants.
Nonprofit partners expected to participate include, but are not limited to, Viterbo University, Western, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the La Crosse Area Development Corporation.
Balacek suggested the idea at an economic forum hosted by two area state legislators in fall 2011, noting the state’s similar Workforce Advancement Training Grant program with the Wisconsin Technical College System can’t be used for research.
State Rep. Steve Doyle introduced a bill to establish the program at the state level, but it was not acted on before the legislative session ended, though it received unanimous and bipartisan support in committee, he said.
While this pilot program would be restricted to La Crosse County for now, it could gain state backing if it proves successful locally, supporters said.
Doyle also hopes to re-introduce his bill in the next legislative session.
So far, the plan has drawn nothing but praise, he and Balacek said.
“This is just another tool,” Balacek said, “to try to help businesses that we know are primed and ready but just need a little help.”
October 12, 2012
From wxow.com: “Economic impact $80 million WTC plan could have locally” – Wisconsin Technical College is asking for an almost $80 million bond to enhance facilities and curriculum.
Before taxpayers vote this November, the college had a consulting group look at the economic impact if the number of Western graduates were to increase.
Thursday, Northstar Consulting Group revealed their findings.
All results apply to the year 2020.
Experts said in that time, an additional 300 graduates each year will stay and work in the Western district.
They said this will add more than $6 million to the local economy, which will rise to $97 million by 2034.
“We’re confident we can meet the goal if we can do these things, if we have the community’s support,” said Lee Rasch, president of WTC. “And then we’re also confident that the community’s gonna benefit because the increased wages are going to go back and help the regional economy.”
The community can vote on the plan Nov. 6.
July 16, 2012
From wxow.com: “Nursing student saves drowning child” – After just one semester of nursing courses at Western Technical College, Megan Barbian figured she was at least a year and a half away from saving lives. However, that all changed Wednesday night, when a 20-month-old girl was pulled from the water at Pettibone Beach.
“When I started she had no pulse, no respirations, she was really really pale, her lips were a blackish purple color,” Barbian said.
Lifeguards were not on duty at the time and Megan was the only one on the beach who knew CPR.
“The little girl reminded me so much of my niece, and I was like ok, this is her, ” Barbian said. “You need to do, what you need to do to save her. Did it cross my mind that yeah she might not make it? Yeah, and I was scared. But I started compressions, and after a few minutes she took her first breath. And I was like, we’re getting somewhere.”
The child’s family wishes to remain anonymous, but did contact Western to tell them about Megan’s heroic actions.
“To me, Megan is an angel,” the girl’s grandmother said. “I mean, my granddaughter wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Megan. And I hope she’ll always be part of our family. It’s just remarkable that a stranger can do that.”
Gundersen Lutheran also took notice of Megan’s actions and offered her a job as a pediatric nurse when she finishes school.
“Just thank you, from the bottom of my heart Megan,” the grandmother said. “My family thanks you. You are going to be the best nurse in the world. And words cannot express how grateful we are.”
The child is now home and her family says she’s back to her normal self.
Both Megan and the girl’s grandmother say the incident highlights the importance of knowing CPR.
From lacrossetribune.com: “Western Technical College to ask area voters for $79.8 million” – Western Technical College officials will ask voters to approve a $79.8 million referendum in November to help pay for future building projects.
College officials approved a measure Monday that will put the referendum on the general election ballot for voters in 11 western Wisconsin counties to consider. The extra money would be a key part of the college’s strategic plan to add students, become more efficient and improve the pathway between classroom and workplace, Western President Lee Rasch said.
“How do we serve more people when we don’t have operating dollars?” Rasch said. “This is our overall strategy.”
The referendum would allow Western to issue bonds for more funding, even as the college loses money to tightened state budgets. Western eliminated jobs and programs last year to compensate for about $2.3 million in state budget cuts.
“The reality is the funding isn’t falling there,” Rasch said.
Here’s how the referendum would work:
If passed on the Nov. 6 ballot, property owners would see a tax increase — $3.25 monthly for a $100,000 home, or $39 a year.
Money from bonds would help foot the bill for six building projects, including an addition and remodeling of the technology center and renovations of the Coleman and Kumm centers. A new parking ramp also would be funded by the referendum, along with a greenhouse and an expanded space for the college’s diesel training program.
Construction would start in June 2013, officials say.
Adding two floors to Western’s technology building would make the structure a flagship for the college, Rasch said. The project’s $32.6 million price tag would pay for an energy-efficient facility with learning spaces that mimic the workplace. The new building would be large enough to house technology classes under one roof.
The $26.5 million remodeling of Coleman would give the outdated building newer classrooms for general instruction, Rasch said. Coleman was built in 1923 and last remodeled in 1971. The new Coleman would be safer and more energy-efficient, officials say.
While the ground level of Kumm has an updated kitchen and dining area, the upper floors would be renovated with $10.1 million for health and science classes.
“The buildings are old and the ways of education are changing,” Sally Lister, a Western board member who voted in favor of the referendum. “We’ll be able to make better use of the space that we have.”
Western’s strategic plan calls for more than new buildings. By 2020, officials hope to add 1,000 students, cut energy costs with efficiency projects and make programs more flexible to better meet the skill-training needs of students and employers.
The referendum would allow Western to grow in the face of budget cuts, officials say.
“This is the only way we can upgrade buildings on campus,” Lister said.
Rasch said the referendum could have a significant impact on the local economy as Western improves its ability to train a contemporary workforce.
“We’re not suggesting to wait for someone else to solve this,” he said. “We can do this on our own.”
Western officials will still follow the strategic plan if voters nix the referendum, but it will be hard to do with no projected increases in state funding, Rasch said.
“Then we just have a much steeper hill to climb,” Rasch said. “We realize that what we’re really asking for is the voter support on the facilities, but we’re asking them to consider it in light of the total plan.”
From wsaw.com: “Technical college helps more students find work following graduation” – In this tough economy, teachers there say skilled trade workers are more in-demand than ever.
Leaders at Mid- State Technical College say many employers have jobs ready, but need workers with special training. That puts pressure on the students to be prepared and ready for the real world as soon as they graduate, that’s why the college is there to help.
Vice President of Student Affairs, Connie Willfahrt says the do as much as they can to help students find jobs following graduation. “One of the key resources used to help both students and employers is called tech connect. It’s a service for employers to post jobs. It’s very widely used.”
The school graduates around 1,000 students each year. About 86 percent of them end up in a career path they had hoped to get into.
School leaders say that number is higher than in years back, and they continually see their students getting more jobs each year.
June 12, 2012
From lacrossetribune.com: “La Crosse high school grads heading into health care” – Logan and Central high school graduates hope to make it in medicine now that they’re done with high school.
Health care careers were the most coveted by 2012 La Crosse School District graduates, according to a district survey.
High school graduation is often only the first step on the long road to medical work, but many La Crosse students plan to embark on the journey. Fifty-eight of the district’s 334 graduates marked “health science” as their eventual career, outnumbering students who selected any other option on the survey, including “undecided.”
“I think the kids are smart,” said Annette O’Hern, director of the district’s Health Science Academy. “They see that our society is aging. It’s got to be a pretty secure job.”
This is not the first time La Crosse district students favored health sciences careers over the alternatives.
The field was also a favorite of 2011 and 2010 graduates. In three years, the district produced more than 150 students set on medicine.
It’s such a popular pick, the district opened the Health Science Academy three years ago to give future nurses, doctors and lab technicians a place to learn the ropes.
Work variety, job security and the proximity of two local hospitals help make health sciences so popular with students, O’Hern said.
Admission to the district’s academy is competitive, and about 20 applicants for next year’s classes will be turned away, O’Hern said.
Those who make it in — 54 juniors and seniors for next year — spend the first three hours of each school day at the Health Science Center, taking classes on subjects such as medical terminology, medical technology and health occupations.
Students can job shadow, tour medical facilities and earn college credit because of partnerships with Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Gundersen Lutheran, Viterbo University, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Western Technical College.
“The kids really get out and get a hands-on feel for the environment,” O’Hern said.
Least popular careers listed on the 2012 graduate survey included architecture and construction, finance, and hospitality and tourism.
In addition to health sciences, students gravitated to careers in engineering and communications. About 16 percent are still undecided, though 79 percent of all of the district’s graduates plan to attend either a university or technical college.
School resources like the Health Science Academy help students take the next step, O’Hern said.
“We need to really take a look at helping students make educated decisions now, as they’re going forward in their careers,” she said. “It’s not just about graduating high school.”
From lacrossetribune.com: “Western’s evolution: It’s all in the time capsule” – Alumni and school officials honored Western Technical College’s history and uncovered pieces of the past Monday for the institution’s 100th anniversary celebration.
Community leaders praised the college’s history of educating and training students for the changing workforce.
“Western is a place where dreams begin and lives change,” said Sandra Schultz, a 1987 graduate. “Thank you for making dreams become a reality.”
Western opened in 1912 as the La Crosse Continuation and Adult Schools, after the Legislature passed a 1911 law establishing a vocational school system.
Jayme Hansen graduated from Western in 1998 and found a job at Northern Engraving. Later, he took a new a job in Western’s marketing department as a graphic designer. “They taught me the basics that I needed to get into the workforce,” he said. “I’ll be forever grateful for that.”
Western President Lee Rasch unpacked a time capsule filled with pamphlets, newspapers and other items from the college’s 75th anniversary.
- Floppy disks.
- A May 9, 1987, edition of the Tribune, with a tease on the cover for a story on page three: “Jobless rate at low point for decade.”
- Interior design magazines. (Western officials decided to end the interior design program last year because of more than $2 million in budget cuts.)
For all the evidence of change, the time capsule was also proof of Western’s long-standing tradition of evolution, Rasch said. Many programs in the school’s history have been modified, added or cut.
“It’s in our DNA,” he said.
The centennial is a testament to Western’s success in adapting its programming to the needs of employers and of students, said Jessica Klinkner, a marketing student. “It shows how strong and determined this college is.”
More change is in store for Western as college officials continue to tweak the curriculum. More students are interested in earning credits that transfer to a four-year university, and many employers want skilled workers trained in the newest technology, Rasch said.
“Employers are looking for the full package,” he said. “They have a challenge, too.”
Eventually, college officials want the school to be more energy efficient and serve more students, Rasch said. “We’re determined to be successful,” he said. “The future of Western is one that is very bright.”