From “Super Steel trains new welders” — Milwaukee manufacturer Super Steel LLC has recruited and trained its first class of new employees through a partnership with Milwaukee Area Technical College and Wauwatosa staffing firm Aerotek.

The program aims to hire and train 45 new welders over nine weeks. Aerotek recruits the candidates with the right skill sets and MATC provides the training facilities. Bill Peterson, trainer and weld engineer at Super Steel, runs a one-week intensive course at MATC to get the candidates to entry level.

Since Super Steel engineers, fabricates, assembles and paints large metal structures like trains, construction equipment and agricultural machines, it can be difficult to find employees who have the right experience, he said.

“To be a candidate for this program, you have to have gone through some schooling,” Peterson said. “These people are past the point where they know they want to be welders.”

Joe Rouse, plant manager, said heightened demand for agriculture and locomotive equipment has kept Super Steel busy and hiring for the last two years.

They haven’t been able to hire enough welders to catch up with the order backlog, Rouse said. Super Steel has experienced 50 percent sales growth in the last two years.
“We have so much volume,” he said. “We’re in serious growth mode.”

Last year, Peterson tested and trained more than 200 welders. The company now has about 400 employees.

The company hopes the training program can help get welders to the needed entry level certification, AWSD 1.1, 1.3, and hit the ground running to fill orders.

“When they get through with the training program at MATC, they are going to be able to walk into our facility and start welding,” Peterson said.

New Super Steel welders who started last week said the program gave them the leg up they needed to get the job.

“It was a learning experience to work with (Peterson) because most of us have a little bit of the welding experience” but needed to learn more, said new welder Anthony Mendoza-Perry.

From “MSTC creates new mobile app development program” —  Software developers in central Wisconsin soon will be able to learn how to create mobile apps, thanks to a new program through Mid-State Technical College.

Starting in the fall, Mid-State will offer a 10-credit advanced technical certificate for developing mobile applications for Android devices, said Sean Stilson, associate dean for business and information technology.

“We always try to stay in tune with what’s happening in industry, so we looked at our curriculum we currently have in programming,” Stilson said.

The three-course program is designed to complement a software development degree and is open to anyone with such a degree or equivalent experience, Stilson said. The program is one of several changes the college made after reviewing the results of a recent survey of local businesses.

“They’re based largely on employer input,” he said.

Although an increasing number of central Wisconsin businesses are looking to create their own mobile apps, they are at different stages in the game when it comes to developing the technology, said Tim Krause, an assistant professor of computing and new technology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

“Even if they want to do mobile, they don’t have people in house who have quite the skill set,” said Krause, who helped to develop the MSTC curriculum and likely will be teaching two of the three courses for the certificate.

“There are some really exciting, compelling opportunities when you think about the job market in the state of Wisconsin in general because it’s an area where there are jobs available,” he said.

As part of the third and final course of the program, which will be available starting next spring, students will get matched up with local employers to help develop mobile apps as a capstone project, Krause said.

With an increasing number of people using smart phones and other mobile devices, the prevalence of mobile apps has increased dramatically during the past few years, and businesses are hoping to capitalize on that, Krause said.

“As quickly as PCs and desktops were adopted and as stunning as that was, the pace with mobile is more stunning than that,” he said.

Given the increasing desire from employers to create mobile apps, Stilson encouraged software developers to enroll in the certificate program.

For some industries, such as the health care and insurance sectors, which are on the forefront of mobile application technology, the possibilities are almost limitless, Krause said.

“The biggest opportunities are not things that we’re going to directly see as consumers,” he said, noting companies can use mobile apps internally to share data with co-workers who do not have a home office.

From “WITC students to volunteer in Guatemala” — In one of the poorest districts in Guatemala, there is a small school of about 70 elementary, middle and high school students. Of the 15 computers the school owns, only 10 are operable, but five technical college students are hoping to make a difference.

As part of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College’s first international service learning project, five informational technology-network specialist students and two staff members will travel to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, where they will repair and configure the school’s computers, configure donated laptops and teach computer and software skills to the students and staff. The project is in cooperation with IRFE Volunteers Abroad, and the group has received two grants to help fund the project.

“I’ve always been interested in service learning, and I even considered going on missionary trips with my church,” said Pat McCullough, project coordinator and WITC-Ashland network technician. “I was very pleased to be able to find a project where students could use the skills and knowledge that they learned at WITC.”

The group will leave the day after graduation, May 12, and will remain in Guatemala until May 21. That gives the students just weeks to raise additional funds, collect donations for the school and brush up on their Spanish language skills. They also need to build a curriculum of sorts.

“I’ve been practicing with all the Word applications – it’s very interesting that that’s what they (the school) seemed most interested, including photo applications like PhotoShop,” said WITC’s Dan Schmidt, New Richmond, in anticipation of the service trip to Guatemala. “I’ve also done some research on the culture and country to familiarize myself. I enjoy international travel and look at this as a leadership opportunity and a way to gain experience in the field. I’m looking forward to teaching, as I may pursue that as a career.”

Brian Carlson, Carl Haughn, Jacob Koval and Dan Nourse, IT students from the Ashland Campus, will join Schmidt, McCullough and WITC-Ashland instructor, Paul Gordon.

WITC introduced the international service learning initiative this year, allowing staff to compete for a grant to help fund a project that complements student learning abroad.

“This represents a new direction for us,” says Lenore Knock, dean of students at WITC-New Richmond. “Now we’re starting to share our students’ learning and skills with countries that don’t have access to the level of higher education we have in the US. Plus we can make a sustainable difference because we’re teaching and not just fixing. In addition because of our students’ ongoing commitment to service, WITC Student Senate district-wide has voted to support this initiative both financially and with materials and tools.”

“Some of the students from our area have not had the opportunity to travel,” McCullough said. “This will expose students to a different culture and lifestyle. And it might just cause us to look at things differently, make us more aware of people who don’t have all the benefits we have in the United States.”

The students are accepting donations of cash and school supplies. WITC has donated 12 used and reconfigured laptops to the school. Individuals wishing to donate should contact McCullough at 715.682.4591, ext. 3203.

From “Blackhawk Tech’s Aircraft Maintenance Technician Program receives Civil Air Patrol Awards” — At the Wisconsin Wing Civil Air Patrol’s annual Wing Conference in Waukesha, Blackhawk Technical College’s revered Aviation Maintenance Technician Program was recognized for its significant, long-term contributions to the aerospace field with the prestigious Frank G. Brewer – Civil Air Patrol Memorial Aerospace Award by the Wisconsin Wing and the Great Lakes Region of the Civil Air Patrol.

Patrick Ripp, one of Blackhawk’s three instructors, accepted the awards from Major General Charles L. Carr, Jr., Civil Air Patrol National Commander, Colonel Robert Karton, Great Lakes Region Commander, and Colonel Clarence Peters, Commander, Wisconsin Wing.

As a result of these awards, Blackhawk’s AMT program is under consideration by the Civil Air Patrol’s National Aerospace Education Review Committee, which includes members of the Brewer family, for the National Award.   Civil Air Patrol consists of six wings in the Great Lakes Region, with a total of 52 wings comprising the eight regions of the national organization.

The Brewer award is presented by CAP in commemoration of Frank G. Brewer, Sr., and his lifelong interest in aviation, youth and education to individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to the aerospace field over a continuous period.  Blackhawk Tech’s AMT program has been operational for more than 70 years and certificated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) since 1949.  Current instructor Rick Theis has been at Blackhawk for 20 years, Pat Ripp for 15, and Mario Flores for 12 years.

Two graduates, including Archie Henklemann and Richard Wixom, have been inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame.  Visitors to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh see the ‘Wright Flyer’ replica on display.  This replica was built by Blackhawk students under the direction of then Blackhawk AMT chief instructor, Archie Henklemann of Janesville.

Other graduates have gone on to become engineers, pilots, or managers/directors of maintenance at EAA, Air Tran, Midwest Express, and US Airways; work at NASA and the Smithsonian; own and operate aviation and aviation maintenance companies, and become restoration specialties for the EAA, Blackhawk airways, and Tab-Air.

The citation which accompanied Blackhawk’s nomination for the Brewer Award read in part, “Blackhawk Technical College’s Airframes and Power Plants Mechanics program has made and continues to make significant contributions to the aerospace field by providing invaluable aerospace education to the State of Wisconsin and the nation.”

From “WITC set to add new programs” — With the addition of health information technology and medical office specialist, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College continues its commitment to providing career-focused training.

Employment opportunities in the health care industry are projected to grow faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That remains true despite the sluggish economy and job losses in other sectors. As a result, WITC will begin offering health information technology (HIT) at each of its four campuses.

“People who prefer to be ‘behind the scenes’ will be more interested in the health information technology program,” said Kate Siegler, dean of allied health. “They will be able to code records for reimbursement, research and statistics and gather health information for multiple purposes. This is a growing career with a wide variety of opportunities.”

Career paths for graduates of this associate degree include work as a health information technician, reimbursement coordinator, privacy and/or security officer, and data quality and integrity monitor.

A medical coding specialist diploma will be embedded into the HIT program. This will allow students to earn a diploma after one year and enter the workforce while they continue the final year of the program to earn the associate degree. The program is also ideal for those currently working in medical and clinical offices who would like to advance in the field.

A new Medical Office Specialist program will also be offered at all the WITC campuses as well. This technical diploma combines medical office skills with computer skills to prepare graduates of the program for employment on the administrative side of health care working in physician’s offices, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and other health organizations.

“This program is a good option for people who are looking at the medical field, but want to work in an office or customer service capacity rather than in a lab,” says Leslie Bleskachek WITC academic dean, business division.

Graduates of this program can grow their technical diploma into the medical administrative specialist associate degree offered through WITC’s New Richmond and Rice Lake campuses. The medical office specialist technical diploma combines medical office skills with computer skills to prepare graduates for employment on the administrative side of health care working in physician’s offices, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and other health organizations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment related to this field is expected to increase by 11 percent through 2018.

For more in-depth information, contact a WITC Admissions Advisor or visit Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College serves the educational and career needs of more than 25,000 residents of Northwestern Wisconsin each year. With multiple campuses, WITC offers career-focused associate degree programs, technical diplomas, short-term certificates, customized training and a wide array of courses for personal or career enrichment. WITC is a member of Wisconsin Technical College System.

From “Elderly care: Fastest growing job may be hardest to fill” — Wisconsin’s population is growing older, and in the coming years there may be nobody to take care of us.

It’s what Pat Killeen calls a “perfect storm” for the health care industry.

Killeen is the former head of the Gundersen Lutheran Health Plan and now serves as vice chairman of the Coulee Region Long-term Care Workforce Coalition, an organization that has tried to foster training programs and educate the public on long-term care issues.

He’s worried because the fastest-growing occupations in Wisconsin — jobs taking care of the elderly and disabled — are the hardest to fill.

There’s no question that the nation is getting older. Life expectancy continues to rise, the oldest baby boomers are already entering their 60s, and younger people aren’t having as many babies as they used to.

That means by 2035, nearly one in four Wisconsin residents will be 65 or older — more in some rural counties — according to projections from state demographers.

People living longer are more likely to need care for chronic health conditions, which doesn’t just mean more visits to the doctor, but also help with daily tasks like bathing, dressing and housework.

But those same people moving into old age are also leaving the workforce.

Though the majority of people who receive long-term care rely on unpaid help — usually from family or friends — direct care workers, such as home health aides and personal care attendants, are the state’s largest occupational group and some of the fastest growing occupations.

They account for about a third of Wisconsin’s health care workforce and are responsible for about three-quarters of all paid hands-on care, according to a report by the Paraprofessional Health-care Institute.

But long-term care providers say they can’t fill job openings.

An economist will tell you there’s no such thing as a worker shortage. It’s just that the jobs don’t pay enough.

That’s the case at Independent Living Resources, one of several providers serving disabled people in the La Crosse area, which struggles to fill openings for home and personal care workers.

“People don’t get paid well for the type of work they’re doing, and it’s hard work,” said executive director Kathie Knoble-Iverson. “Everything from cleaning floors to cleaning the person.”

The average home health aide in La Crosse earned about $11 an hour last year, according to data from the Department of Workforce Development. A personal care worker made about $9.

At Independent Living Resources, some personal care workers are nursing students getting experience in the field; many are older women supplementing their Social Security benefits.

So why not offer better pay? Because Medicaid, the primary funding source for long-term care, reimburses for personal care services at $16.08 an hour, which providers say doesn’t cover their costs. Rates were last increased in 2008 — by 1.5 percent.

“If we could get a decent raise I’d pass it directly on to our employees,” Knoble-Iverson said.

‘Not a pretty picture’

With funding from a three-year federal grant, Western Technical College is rolling out new programs to recruit students to the health care field.

Beginning this spring, students can enroll in a 40-hour personal care worker training program for about $112 that will provide graduates with a certificate to allow them to start work, and — the college hopes — provide a stepping stone to a career in nursing.

“We want to get people employed and give them a taste of the health care profession,” said Sandra Schultz, coordinator of the Bridges2Healthcare program. “Perhaps they would move onto another field on down the road. It’s all about building new skills.”

But the training requirement is a disincentive for new workers considering an entry-level job.

“You can go work at Best Buy for $10 an hour,” said T.J. Brooks, chairman of the economics department at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where he teaches a course on the economics of health care. “And they start paying from day one.”

Even with a labor surplus, Brooks said many unemployed workers will wait for the economy to improve to land higher-paying jobs.

“It’s not a pretty picture,” said Jerry Hanoski, chairman of the long-term care coalition. “What do you do when you need a service and it’s not there?”

From “Gateway president serves on 50 boards” — Gateway Technical College President Bryan Albrecht has joined his 50th board.

“I’m supposed to start saying no now,” Albrecht said, laughing.

Gateway announced last week that Albrecht had been appointed chair of the American Association of Community Colleges’ Sustainability Education and Economic Development Task Force. The position, to advance sustainability and environmental curriculum, brings the number of regional, state and national boards Albrecht serves on to 50.

He acknowledged it’s a lot but said they’re all related to Gateway, which means the college isn’t hurt by his attention getting pulled in so many different directions.

“Gateway Technical College does not suffer. I would hope people would see just the opposite,” Albrecht said, explaining he’s always connected to Gateway in person, by iPhone or via iPad. “My role is to be that liaison between our college and our community.”

Because of the myriad boards that boast Albrecht as a member, Gateway has state and national ties, and the college has increased opportunities for grants. Plus Albrecht can bring good ideas back to Gateway and can tailor Gateway’s offerings to meet community needs, he said.

“Everything has a correlation along the way, whether it’s working with early, elementary, middle, high school or adult learners,” he said.

The Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha Board allows Albrecht to support youth who are future Gateway students or whose parents may attend the college. The National Manufacturing Skill Standards Council Board helps Albrecht connect Gateway to new industry advances. Workforce development boards let Albrecht and Gateway help dislocated workers.

And that’s just to name a few.

With all these boards, Albrecht said he doesn’t just lend his name; he actually participates.

“He’s one of my most active board members,” said Wally Graffen, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha. “He brings a lot of enthusiasm. He is not afraid to think outside the box.”

For example, Graffen said, Albrecht helped bring culinary arts, GED classes and dental screenings to a newer Boys & Girls Club location at 1330 52nd St. in Kenosha.

When Albrecht can’t attend a meeting in person — which is bound to happen when you serve on 50 boards — he’ll conference call in or send a Gateway representative in his place. He’ll also read the minutes and offer some comments, he said.

Between his board and college duties, Albrecht said he works 15 to 17 hours a day. When asked how much sleep he gets, Albrecht laughed before replying, “Not enough.”

“There could be an event I would go to every night of the week,” he said, adding he usually has three to five board meetings a week.

His schedule last week showed he had 13 board-related events Monday to Saturday, from meetings to forums and recognitions.

But it’s all by choice and all of the boards are volunteer, Albrecht said.

“I don’t want the article to feel like I’m feeling sorry for myself,” he said. “I choose to lead our college by community engagement.”

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