From “Moraine Park holds first annual Distance Challenge” —  Ballistas, slingshots and trebuchets filled Moraine Park Technical College’s courtyard at the first annual Distance Challenge at the Fond du Lac campus.

Students from Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah High School, the Fond du Lac Home School Association, West Bend East and West High Schools and Slinger High School formed teams and built contraptions with the goal of launching a rubber ball the greatest distance.

“We wanted a competition that required students to design, build and troubleshoot,” said Tom Roehl, Moraine Park Process Engineering Technology instructor. “We’re hoping to grow this in the future because local employers are very concerned about the skilled labor shortage, and it’s young people like this that are the future of manufacturing.”

The Fond du Lac Home School Association had a team of two sets of brothers: Isaiah and Sam LaVanway and Noah and Josiah Poss. Their giraffe-like contraption used a counterweight and two hockey sticks to make a trebuchet design. The giraffe ended up launching the rubber ball 88 feet and 2 inches.

Dawn Poss, mother of Noah and Josiah, said it was an excellent learning experience for the team.

“Through the building process, they learned endurance and patience. They had to see what wasn’t working, analyze it and learn from it,” Poss said.

Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah High School came in first by launching their object 184 feet and 2 inches. Students Ethan Hau and Jordan Kissinger’s winning device was a slingshot design. The duo used surgical tubes, two-by-fours and canvas to create “Slingshot 5,000.”

Slinger High School’s Zach Rueckl came in second at 111 feet and 4 inches. Rueckl’s “Proto II” contraption used a ballista design. Rueckl’s distance goal was to break 100 feet, which he accomplished.

Coming in third at 111 feet was a team from West Bend East and West High Schools consisting of students Nathan Groth, Austin Pelzman, Isaac Theis and Samuel Nagrocki. Their “Second Chance” resistance slingshot got its name because they scrapped their first machine when they weren’t happy with the results.

Rob Bauer, who works at Waukesha Metal Products in the tool and die area, said the competition sparked both excitement and creativity.

“We are always looking for skilled workers, and this is a great way to get students thinking about careers early. If they have an interest in this type of field, we can get them to the right career path early on,” he said.


From “Wausau West students share stories from apprenticeships” — More than 60 high school juniors and seniors are working in part-time positions in the Wausau area through Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship program. I’ve written a number of articles about the YA program for the paper in the past year, but for this article, two current YAs have agreed to share their experiences, in their own words.

Morgan Zernicke,
Wausau West senior

I’ve been in the Youth Apprenticeship program for two years. My first year, I worked at Zernicke Farm, doing field work, barn chores and feeding calves. Currently, I’m working at Marathon Feed, where I provide customer service and do anything I am asked to do. I always wanted to go into the agricultural field, but my job at Marathon Feed has made me think more about what I really want to do for my future career. I’ve made the choice to stay in the agri-business area. I’ve been accepted to Northcentral Technical College this fall. I will graduate with an associate degree in Dairy Science Agri-business and hope to work in Marathon or Lincoln County after graduation. The YA program has helped me discover that a career in agriculture is a good fit for me.

Michaela Ketchum,
 Wausau West senior

Not many students could say their senior year has been as victorious as mine has been. As a full-time student at Wausau West High School working as a certified nursing assistant at Kindred Transitional Care, I have strived better to be not only a family member and a student, but a friend to many new patients that I care about deeply. The Youth Apprenticeship program has taken me down numerous exciting and new roads that have helped direct my future. Without this program, I would never have been so eager to plan my future as a registered nurse. While being a CNA, I have had so many opportunities to understand how essential the health field is and what struggles are truly out there. The Youth Apprenticeship program is such an important milestone for a student’s life and can even help them to find the key to their future.

If you’d like to connect with a student looking for an apprenticeship or want to learn more about the YA program, contact your local high school YA coordinator or Donna Schulz at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau at

From “Medical colleges target Fox Cities for expansion” — Appleton may be among a handful of cities across the state to land the first wave of expansions by medical colleges trying to cope with a projected physician shortage.

The city could learn next month whether months of discussions will lead to its selection by the Milwaukee-based Medical College of Wisconsin for one of two satellite campuses in the state. Appleton officials said the new campus could translate to 100 new jobs.

“We’re looking at eight possible sites,” said Maureen Mack, spokeswoman for the Medical College of Wisconsin. Green Bay, Eau Claire and La Crosse are among the cities also under consideration, along with Janesville/Beloit; Racine/Kenosha; central Wisconsin, including Marshfield, Stevens Point and Wausau; and northwestern Wisconsin.

She said the college’s board of trustees may make a decision on the location of the first two satellite campuses on June 22.

The Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine, which has been looking at establishing a campus in Wausau, also is considering opening a campus in Appleton.

Karen Harkness, director of community development, said the city has been in talks with the college for about two years.

The college’s website says the Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine continues to work with Wausau and Marathon County to open a campus there. A representative for the college declined to comment about whether it has expansion plans in Appleton.

Harkness said city leaders met with both schools because of the opportunity to bring new development and jobs to Appleton.

“We don’t know if the colleges would be located in the same city,” she said. “It was important to pursue both with the chance to get at least one.”

Favorable location

Dr. Mark Kehrberg, chief medical officer at Menasha-based Affinity Health System, which operates St. Elizabeth Hospital, said Appleton and the Fox Valley have amenities sought by the Medical College of Wisconsin, which is proposing an accelerated program for its satellite locations.

“I think there’s a good chance of having one of their (satellites) here in the Fox Valley,” said Kehrberg, who is familiar with the college’s expansion plans.

He said the Medical College of Wisconsin’s accelerated program would condense the time a student spends in medical school from four years to three. Students could complete some coursework at Lawrence University, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh or Fox Valley Technical College to aid that process.

“In our case, those are the advantages we have,” Kehrberg said. “These schools all provide different levels of education that can enhance and benefit the experience of the medical students.”

The Medical College of Wisconsin’s program also would include some distance learning. Kehrberg said medical school can cost between $40,000 and $50,000 annually, so the college’s program, could reduce that cost by 25 percent.

Mack said proximity to other colleges will factor into her school’s decision.

“One reason we’re doing this is to limit having to raise tuition,” she said. “This model (involves students) training and living in the community where they are based and going to some of the local colleges to cut their costs.”

Scramble for physicians

Findings in a 2011 report from the Wisconsin Hospital Association show the state will face a severe physician shortage by 2030 if nothing is done. The report says the state needs to attract and retain at least 100 physicians annually to meet growing demand.

The findings served as a catalyst for private medical schools looking to expand. Mack said the goal is to have facilities in place to accommodate 100 new doctors entering residency programs annually, beginning in 2015 over a 20-year period, to avoid a physician shortage in the state.

The Medical College of Wisconsin plans to add satellite campuses beyond the two it will announce next month. The six sites that aren’t initially selected would remain in the running.

“Our hope is to expand further,” Mack said. “Our goal is that we would like to graduate 25 students a year out of these (satellites).”

Jessica Hancock, 28, of Elkhorn, supports providing more opportunities for people interested in practicing medicine. She is a first-year resident through the Fox Valley Family Medicine Residency Program, part of the School of Medicine and Public Health at UW-Madison.

“I think expansion (of medical schools) to get more doctors into the system always is a good thing, especially when there’s talk of physician shortages,” said Hancock, who will spend time at hospitals operated by Affinity and ThedaCare as part of her residency.

Strategic planning

Medical professionals say getting more doctors into the system only considers part of the problem. The journey to become a family physician traditionally includes four years of undergraduate studies, followed by four years of medical school and a three-year residency. Specialists may require more education.

Expanding residency spots for medical students is imperative, says Brandon Boehm, 28, of Stevens Point, who is wrapping up his second year of residence through the Fox Valley Family Medicine Residence Program.

“I’m only looking in state for work and I do definitely want to stay in Wisconsin,” said Boehm, who has spent the past month at Appleton Medical Center. “A lot of residents do end up practicing where they do their residency.”

Kehrberg said Affinity, along with its parent, Ministry Health Care, is working on a plan to accommodate the influx of residents who likely would enter the program by 2015. The first students from the Medical College of Wisconsin’s satellite campuses would begin their residencies by 2018.

“The hope is there will be enough residency spots,” Kehrberg said.

Affinity and ThedaCare partner with the Fox Valley Family Medicine Residency Program and have at least 18 residents working in their respective facilities annually.

Kehrberg said the Fox Valley’s higher learning and medical institutions have a good track record of collaboration.

“We have to make sure the support infrastructure is in place,” Kehrberg said. “Obviously, connections with UWO, Lawrence and Fox Valley Technical College, I suspect, will be key.”

From Opinion: “NTC enrollment boost a good sign for central Wisconsin” — College enrollment is up nationwide, but the increase at Wausau’s Northcentral Technical College is especially striking. The number of students enrolled in one-year or two-year programs at NTC nearly doubled between 2008 and 2011, going from 3,149 students to 6,070.

That’s a stunning number. And it likely speaks to the long-term economic health of our region.

Many factors are driving enrollment increases. Without a doubt one of these is the tough economy over the past several years, which has led displaced workers to seek more schooling and has discouraged others from trying to strike out into the job market.

But there’s more to it than that. People recognize that the economy is changing and that increasingly it’s necessary not only to extend your education beyond the high-school level but also to be prepared for lifelong learning and training.

At the same time, it’s our observation that respect for technical education programs seems to be on the rise. It’s nothing against traditional liberal education, which remains extremely valuable, to say that for many people, education in a trade or technical school program is a better fit and one that offers them strong, lifelong employment opportunities. That’s true of nursing programs, various manufacturing programs and many more.

This is a positive development, and we’re glad people see technical school as a legitimate higher-education opportunity.

Still, these trends alone would not explain the absolutely dramatic growth at the Wausau-based technical college if it weren’t for one other major factor: dynamic leadership from NTC President Lori Weyers.

The school has actively gone to employers to find out what skills they need from workers and what programs would make students a good fit for the jobs they have available. It has actively made room for alternative schedules and has set up programs across the sprawling area of its coverage.

Students benefit from that type of flexibility. They also benefit from program offerings tailored to real-world skills they’ll need in the workplace.

There is no realistic way for the economy to grow in the long term without a strong base of education. In this light, the increase in enrollment in local higher-ed programs is a very good thing.

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.

From “Need for nurses grows as population ages” —There’s a reason why local college nursing programs are so popular.

Fond du Lac educators say nurses are in high demand, and the need for nurses will only grow as the population ages.

Nursing is the largest program enrollment-wise at Moraine Park Technical College. Dean of Health Sciences Kathy Van Eerden said 900 students have indicated that nursing is their choice of study.

It’s also a major field at Marian University, said Julie Luetschwager, dean of the school of nursing.

“(Enrollment) has been pretty stable, which is a good thing,” she said.

It’s not just high school graduates choosing nursing. Luetschwager said many nurses are also returning to school for advanced degrees.

Opportunities for highly skilled nurses are available in community and public health. And with doctor shortages anticipated in the future, nurse practitioners will be needed to fulfill some of their responsibilities.

Van Eerden said more and more students pursuing nursing already have a degree in another field, but are going back to school because they’re underemployed. Others who were laid off during the recession are hoping to land a diploma — and a career — in a stronger, more lucrative industry.

It helps that opportunities abound for nurses, and since credits transfer, it’s easy for them to advance their education if they so choose, she added.

“The beauty of nursing is that it has a clear career ladder for people,” she said.

The health care industry wasn’t immune to the recession; some medical providers froze hiring as a result of the economy, Luetschwager said. But sooner, rather than later, they’re going to have to hire again in response to the rapidly aging population.

Nurses too will retire, creating additional gaps that will need to be filled. Unless it’s addressed, there’s going to be a nursing shortage in the near future, Van Eerden said.

“We are clearly seeing continued high demand locally and nationally,” she said.

From “Wausau college, UWGB make transfer deal” — GREEN BAY — A partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Adult Degree program and Wausau-based Northcentral Technical College hopes to bring NTC graduates closer to earning a bachelor’s degree thanks to a guaranteed credit transfer agreement between the two schools.

The One Degree Closer initiative allows students who have earned an associate degree at NTC to transfer at least 60 credits to UW-Green Bay in pursuit of a bachelor of applied science degree.

UW-Green Bay will accept the credits no matter what NTC associate degree the student earned or when.

Students who choose this program will apply credits toward a bachelor of applied science degree, selecting one of six areas of emphasis within its broad-based interdisciplinary studies major.

In addition to NTC’s main campus in Wausau, UW-Green Bay is working with the community college’s regional campuses.

Visit, or call (800) 621-2313 or (715) 803-1410 or send an email to for information about the One Degree Closer initiative.

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