From “Moraine Park offering CNC Machinist Boot Camps” — Moraine Park Technical College is combating the skilled worker shortage by launching manufacturing skills academies in a series of 15-week boot camps.

In July, Gov. Scott Walker announced a Wisconsin Workforce Partnership Grant from the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation, Inc., for Moraine Park.

The college will use the $705,647 grant to provide specific training necessary to create job opportunities at partnering businesses including Amerequip Corp., Brenner Tank, John Crane Orion and Mid-States Aluminum Corp.

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machinist Boot Camp information sessions will be held on Moraine Park’s West Bend campus. They are scheduled from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4; and from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 6.

Each session will include business partner presentations, job placement opportunities, entrance requirements, program fees and CNC Machinist Boot Camp schedules.

Boot camp basic requirements include people who are currently unemployed, people not currently employed as a CNC machinist or people employed in a field unrelated to CNC. Additionally, participants cannot be current employees of any of the four covenant grant partner companies.

The boot camps are part of the Wisconsin Workforce Partnership Grant.

Those interested in attending one of the free information sessions must RSVP by emailing or calling 920-929-2117.

From “Success on the GED Test is now just clicks away in Wisconsin” — In striving to provide more adult learners throughout the state with a high school credential and basic technology skills, Wisconsin is partnering with GED Testing Service to offer the GED test on computer. Online registration and scheduling will be available to test-takers in select areas. Testing began on August 21, 2012.

“As society integrates technology into almost every facet of life, and the job market continues to be shaped by technology, adults will need basic technology skills to be successful,” said Randy Trask, president of GED Testing Service. “Moving the GED test to computer helps adults demonstrate necessary basic technology skills and makes their testing process easier and more efficient. We are so pleased that Wisconsin is our partner in this important endeavor.”

Several new services will streamline the testing process and benefit adult learners who often need to move very quickly into jobs or training programs. These benefits include:

Online scheduling and registration that is available 24/7

  • More testing flexibility for test-takers: They can choose when and where to take their test
  • Instant unofficial score reports: Faster results mean adults can apply for jobs or immediately begin studying if they need to retake a subject area
  • Enhanced test security

“Wisconsin is excited to launch the first two of 76 sites that will be offering computer-based testing for the GED test,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “Wisconsin’s technical colleges and community-based organizations are partners with us to help those who have not graduated from high school gain a GED credential or other credential. For many, this is their first step to family-supporting jobs or further education.”

Wisconsin’s GED program will be fully functional with computer-based tests by Fall 2013. As Wisconsin’s elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Evers administers the GED test and High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) program. The state issues just under 9,000 high school completion credentials a year to adults; about 76 percent are based on completion of the five GED tests.

According to state GED program leadership, the computerized test is initially being offered in two locations before it is expanded across the state. The testing centers offering computer-based testing are located at:

  • Mid-State Technical College, Wisconsin Rapids
  • Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Green Bay

Since the national launch in January, more than 9,000 computerized GED tests have been delivered in at least 23 states and test-takers have taken advantage of the new benefits. “The computer test was easy to use and the instant score report helped motivate me to finish the rest of the sections,” said Eric Martinez, who was one of the first individuals in Nebraska to take the GED test on computer. GED Testing Service expects more than half of all states to offer the test on computer by the end of the year.

The GED test on computer is the same test currently offered on paper and pencil. Whether a candidate takes the test on paper or computer, it must be taken in person at an official GED testing center.  The GED test is never offered online.

States currently offering the GED test on computer are preparing for the new 2014 GED test, which will only be available on computer. Offering the test on computer before January 2014 allows testing centers to become familiar with the new system and better prepare test-takers.

For adults interested in taking or learning more about the GED test on computer, please visit

From “Moraine Park students place in national electricity competition” — Max Paulus of Fredonia and Istvan Biro of West Bend had a powerful performance in the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference held June 23-27 in Kansas City, Mo. Each competing with about 25 other students, Paulus placed 8th and Istvan placed 12th in the Electrical Construction Wiring and Industrial Motor Control competitions, respectively.
“The students spent time preparing prior to the competition and both seemed very confident going into the competition,” said Mark Wamsley, electricity instructor at Moraine Park. “After experiencing the national competition, we all have ideas on how to improve for next time.”         

From “Greenville dedicates 9/11 memorial” — Lt. Joe Torrillo knows these dirty, bent beams all too well.

“I come here today and I see those beams and it reminds me of all of my friends, the other 343 firemen who made the supreme sacrifice you know and marched into heaven all together and left me behind,” he said, in his thick New York accent.

The retired New York City firefighter survived the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11th.

He was rescued from the rubble days later.

Saturday, he came to Greenville, a town in Outagamie County, with other survivors to share his story and dedicate the town’s new 9-11 memorial.

“I’m glad everyone was able to get together today. I think some people started some healing,” said Town of Greenville Chairman Randy Leiker.

People in Greenville say they wanted to showcase a real reminder of 9/11 in their memorial. Firefighters applied for the beams to be donated through a group in New York City that has memorial pieces from the World Trade Center wreckage. The beams arrived last year.

“When these beams showed up, with the stains on them from the fire, plate steel torn apart like aluminum foil, they became reality,” said landscape architect James Beard.

Beard designed the memorial around the two beams. With help of his Fox Valley Technical College students and plenty of volunteers, the memorial was completed in the past three months.

The memorial sits adjacent to the Greenville Veterans Memorial in front of the town’s municipal complex. A path of memorial bricks, bearing the names of local soldiers, pivots sharply towards the east. It heads in the actual direction of Ground Zero in New York City. The path ends at a stone pentagon. The designers of this memorial wanted to incorporate images of all three sites of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

“The pond itself is symbolic it’s commemorating the hole in Pennsylvania made by Flight 93 crashing,” explained Beard. “The water in the waterfall connects in an audible and visual way to the waterfall at the memorial in New York City.”

“I think it’s unimaginable what it means to them if it means this much to me,” said Leiker, who became emotional at several points during the dedication ceremony.

Torrillo says the way Greenville came together to make this memorial happen can inspire people across the nation.

“I’m begging the people of the United States of America: don’t give up on our country,” he pleaded.

He says these words written on the memorial—Never Forgotten—Continue to ring true in this small town.

The Greenville 9/11 Memorial is estimated to cost $10 to 15 thousand. Community donations funded the project.

From “MATC, DWD announce manufacturing apprenticeship to address skills gap” — The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and Milwaukee Area Technical College on Monday announced a new entry-level Industrial Manufacturing Technician Apprenticeship to help address the skills gap many Wisconsin manufacturers say they’re facing.

The program gives entry-level workers an overview of manufacturing, from operating equipment to understanding industry trends. The 18-month program follows a hybrid model of on-the-job learning and related instruction, according to a press release.

The program is expected to open up a career pathway to other industrial skilled trades for the entry-level workers. The average annual wage in manufacturing is more than $51,000, compared with approximately $40,600 for all jobs, DWD said.

The apprenticeship is the first developed in partnership with MATC and the fifth of six programs under the $6 million Sector Alliance for the Green Economy grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/BIG STEP helped develop the program, designed to meet manufacturers’ production worker needs, particularly metal and plastic manufacturers, and food processors.

“Manufacturing is leading Wisconsin’s economic recovery, adding more than 12,000 jobs in the past year,” said Lisa Boyd, administrator of the DWD division of employment and training, in a written statement. “The new apprenticeship training program will help this sector expand further by providing manufacturers the skilled workers they need.”

Nick Triscari, MATC apprenticeship coordinator, said school officials are looking forward to offering the new apprenticeship.

“We believe this training will ease the skills gap reported by many employers in the industrial and manufacturing sectors,” Triscari said.

From “National award for Venture Center Grad” — David Lindenstruth, owner of Appetize, Inc., the largest operator of Mongolian grill restaurants in Wisconsin, was named recipient of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) “Alumni Entrepreneur Award” for 2012.

Lindenstruth currently owns and operates five HuHot Mongolia Grill restaurants located in Appleton, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Kenosha, and Madison, in addition to two restaurants in Indiana. He received his business start-up and entrepreneurial growth training through the Venture Center at Fox Valley Technical College. These experiences consisted of both the Venture Center’s E-Seed and Pro-Seed training sessions.

The recognition is one of four annual award categories of the NACCE that honors individuals for their hard work and commitment to entrepreneurship. Lindenstruth will receive his award at the national NACCE Conference in Chicago on October 9.

From “Social media in politics” —  Social media is rapidly becoming an essential in politics. But Steve Noll, an instructor and expert on social media at Madison College, said Twitter and Facebook aren’t the place to check for serious analysis of politics. “A lot of people are turning to Facebook, and especially Twitter, for national events, and conveying information really almost more information and not for serious political discussions,” he said.

Noll expects that to be the case now that the national political conventions are upon us. Noll thinks politicians can use social media as a “rapid response” to their own gaffes, or misinformation being reported about them. “The can turn to social media to try to correct that information as quick as possible, before this domino effect potentially could escalate something out of control,” he said. “That’ the smart way to use social media in politics.”

Of course, many have staff who update their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. Noll said he’s a little concerned with that – and thinks those politicians may not understand just how powerful a tool social media can be.

From “Wood Tech Center meeting its goals” — The Wood Technology Center at Northcentral Technical College is meeting its goal of providing accelerated training for one of the northwood’s most sturdy industries.

The center, constructed through a cooperative effort by Langlade County, the city of Antigo, Northcentral Technical College and private industries, concluded three industry-based accelerated training sessions.

The sessions —including a hardwood lumber grading short course, a kiln drying short course and an advanced lumber drying course— attracted students from across the Midwest, including individuals from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“All three of our training sessions were extremely successful,’’ Travis Allen, wood technology instructor, said. “We were fortunate to have a number of high-quality instructors who are experts in their field, and our students really enjoyed both the hands-on training approach and being able to network with other professionals.’’

The hardwood lumber grading short course, presented by Lake States Lumber Association, NTC and University of Wisconsin-Extension, was held from June 25 to 28. Topics covered included wood structure, the National Hardwood Lumber Association, standard grades, lumber breakdown by grade and hands-on inspection of lumber.

The kiln drying short course, entitled “Drying Quality Lumber,’’ took place from Aug. 6 to 9. Presented by NTC, the Great Lakes Kiln Drying Association and University of Wisconsin-Extension, the course covered wood structure and drying science, drying systems, controlling lumber quality and species specific quality drying.

The advanced lumber drying course, held Aug. 9 and 10 and presented by NTC and Great Lakes Kiln Drying Association, focused on objectives and advanced drying concepts, as well as advanced operations.

As the fall term opens, the technology center is switching gears from summer short courses to training students in NTC’s wood programs.

From “Join us and Get Smarter” — A smarter Milwaukee is a better Milwaukee. And a better Milwaukee is better-positioned to grow in a global economy.

That is the premise behind the fourth annual BizTimes Get Smarter Conference, which will take place Thursday, Oct. 11, from 7:30 to 11 a.m. at Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee. Experts in workforce development, education and executive enlightenment will convene to share their insights about how southeastern Wisconsin’s educational institutions and infrastructure, as well as the private sector, can collaborate to develop smarter employees who have the skills that employers need to grow their companies and the region’s economy. The conference also will feature a discussion about how the region’s executives can become more enlightened and effective leaders.

The conference will kick off with opening remarks by Tim Sullivan, who is serving as a special consultant for business and workforce development for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Sullivan recently submitted his long-awaited workforce development report to Walker, calling for bold actions to address the gap between the skills needed by the state’s employers and the skills of the available workforce. The report, “The Road Ahead: Restoring Wisconsin Workforce Development,” is a comprehensive review of the background and current issues pertaining to workforce development in the state.
Sullivan will outline his bold recommendations at the Get Smarter Conference.
Sullivan’s remarks will be followed by a panel discussion of workforce development and executive enlightenment. The featured panelists will include:

* Mike Lovell, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lovell will discuss the future of collegiate education and share ideas for how employers can become engaged with the region’s universities.

* Joe Weitzer, dean of corporate and community training at the Waukesha County Technical College. Weitzer will discuss how the Wisconsin Technical College System is responding to the need for trained employees in the skilled trades.

* Peggy Troy, president and chief executive officer of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Troy will discuss the burgeoning employment opportunities in the health care field as the baby boom generation ages and the need for effective professional training and executive enlightenment.

* Keith Coursin, president of Desert Aire Corp., a Germantown company specializing in production of mechanical refrigeration equipment used for control humidity. Coursin has served as chairman at the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), a trade association based in Washington, D.C. Coursin will share insights about a bold scholarship program to attract new candidates for employment in the HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration) industry.

* Greg Johnson, general manager of Power Test Inc., a Sussex company specializing in the design, manufacture and implementation of dynamometers and dyno control systems. Power Test recently formed Manufacturer’s Resource Training (MRT), a startup company focused on training people for entry machinist positions in manufacturing companies. The nine-week program will provide hands-on training using the Power Test production facility and equipment for entry-level candidates for employment in manufacturing.

I will have the honor of moderating the panel discussion.

The panel discussion will then be followed by a series of breakout sessions for executives interested in learning to become more enlightened and effective leaders. The sessions will be led by highly acclaimed consultants in the BizTimes network.
So, join us and help us build a smarter Milwaukee. Register to attend at

From “Nicolet wins grant to start manufacturing program” — Rhinelander – Thanks to a $750,000 grant, Nicolet College will have a new manufacturing skills training program this fall.

Nicolet got the largest share of a $3.8 million grant awarded by The Wisconsin Covenant Foundation awarded $3.8 million to five colleges.

Area businesses worked with the college to win the grant, and they’ll continue to help with the development of the new program. “We bring in people who actually do the work every day that this program is designed to produce graduates for,” said Kenneth Urban, vice president of student and academic affairs. “We ask those people what they do every day during their day-to-day work. We then take that information and use it to design the courses and the outcomes that graduates will master.”

Those workers will come from the manufacturing companies that helped win the grant: Dr. Foster & Smith, Inc., HyPro, Inc., Packaging Corporation of America-Tomahawk Mill, Printpack, Inc., and Wausau Paper Corporation-Rhinelander Mill.

The companies are providing in-kind donations in the form of employee tuition reimbursement and equipment.

Their commitment shows how important the program is to the Northwoods.

“What’s critically important about this program and what it will bring is the graduates will be the people that actually repair, maintain troubleshoot the equipment that keeps the plants running,” Urban said.

The program starts this fall and has room for 20 students.

It’s a ladder system, which means students start with a certificate, then earn their one-year technical diploma and two-year associate’s degree.


From “Willett governor’s choice for state Technical College System Board” — Phillips-based Attorney Stephen Willett was named Governor Scott Walker’s choice for appointee to the Wisconsin Technical College System Board (WTCSB) this May.

“I’m delighted at the challenge and I hope I can make a meaningful contribution,” Willett said.

The governor’s appointment is still awaiting confirmation, which Willett anticipates should happen when the State Senate convenes in January 2013.

Willett attended the most recent board meeting as an appointee. That meeting was held July 10 and 11 at the Superior campus of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC), giving the board a chance to share in the celebration of WITC’s 100th anniversary. Northcentral Technical College, a hub of skills training and continuing education in local communities, is also marking its 100th year in 2012.

This isn’t Willett’s first time serving the public at the state-level. He’s taken on various appointments over the last three decades.

One previous post he feels like he was able to make an especially meaningful difference through was with the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board. A part of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board from 1991 – 2007, Willett served as chair of the Environmental Quality/Enforcement Committee for a time as well as chair of Air, Waste & Water/Enforcement Committee.

“It seemed to me that the state of Wisconsin’s largest challenge was the intersection of the environment and conservation and the economy,” Willett said.

As some major accomplishments in those 16 years, the board helped get 1 million acres of land placed under Stewardship Program protection and oversaw the reintroduction of such species as elk, fishers and wolves in parts of the state. In Willett’s time with the board, Wisconsin’s natural resources leaders also had a role in getting other states in compliance with water and air pollution standards and improving those same standards in a set of rules eventually adopted by every major country in the world, according to Willett.

The most recent challenge faced by the state is the growth of a new kind of economy, centered on constantly evolving, computer-based technology, even while preserving Wisconsin’s traditional agricultural base, Willett said.

“To compete in today’s economy requires continued education,” he said.

In Willett’s mind, the Wisconsin Technical College System, with highly specialized training tailored to the staffing needs of the surrounding communities, is the best tool for pulling the state successfully through the changes.

A big key to this will be further stepping up the partnership between high schools and the technical colleges, Willett said.

He added that he’d also like to see changes to make it easier to transfer between UW-System and tech schools.

The Wisconsin Technical College System Board seat, previously held by Terrance C. Erickson, carries a five-year term.

NWTC receives ethics award

August 23, 2012

From “Three receive Ethics in Business Awards” — GREEN BAY — Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, The Animal House and former Green Bay Press-Gazette business editor Harry Maier were named recipients of the 2012 Ethics in Business Awards.

More than 100 individuals and companies were nominated for the three awards, according to the American Foundation of Counseling Services, which sponsors the awards.

NWTC received the nonprofit category award. Judges cited the school’s transparency, its stewardship of tax dollars and culture of ethics.

The Animal House received the business award for its belief that all pet owners should have access to basic veterinary care, its reliance on relationships over profits and its ethical principles.

Maier, who is chairman of the Green Bay Redevelopment Authority, received the individual award. He was cited for his community involvement, the importance he places on communications to solve problems and his personal integrity.

From “Area colleges plan for rise in online enrollment” — Local college students are gearing up to write papers and take exams, but not all of them will head back to campus.

Instead, many will complete coursework outside the classroom. The percentage of courses taken online at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College by students seeking technical diplomas or associate degrees increased from 13.26 percent in 2007-08 to nearly 18 percent last year.

“We can see clearly there’s been an interest on the customer side,” said Anne Kamps, director of learning support services for NWTC. “But quality is also important. We wouldn’t do it, if we couldn’t provide the quality without the rigor, quality and content as face-to-face.”

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and St. Norbert College also provide Internet options and administrators say they’re planning for growth in online coursework.

NWTC has been offering online options for about 12 years, and Kamps said classes began in general education and business classes. Each department had a representative involved from the beginning, she said.

In 2007-08, about 8,733 courses out of 65,868 for technical diploma and associate degree students at NWTC were taken online. Last year, 14,146 courses out of 78,700 were Internet based. That means the number of online courses taken increased by 62 percent in five years, while the overall number of courses increased by 19.5 percent in that period.

Since 2002, students taking online courses are mostly female, she said — 71 percent, compared with 29 percent male. Those taking traditional classroom courses are 54 percent women and 46 percent men, Kamps said.

Those who enroll in online courses tend to be older returning students, Kamps said. It usually takes people a little more than 12½ years after graduating high school to sign up for online coursework, compared with 8.4 years after high school to go back to traditional college courses.

Students participate both full and part time, she said, depending on the amount of financial aid they receive or life or work needs.

Online courses also save money and travel time for many students who live outside Brown County, she said.

Expansion “sure makes sense,” Kamps said. “We’re thinking about,‘Which programs and courses should we be looking at? What tools are available?’ We want to make sure we can deliver all that makes sense.”

Web conferencing programs, similar to Skype, likely will be expanded as a way to make online classes more engaging, she said.

“Could we make it even more visual?” Kamps said. “We’re always looking at new ways to promote learning.”

Many of UW-Green Bay’s older returning students prefer online coursework, said Christina Trombley, director of the university’s adult degree program.

“They may have full-time jobs, have families, be caretakers and be very active in the community,” she said. “This is a very accessible way to get education.”

She said the majority of of UW-Green Bay’s adult degree students take some or most classes online. The program offers 85 online classes this fall — some are completely online while others incorporate some classroom time. They may also take online classes.

Interactive or web-conferencing classes are available, she said.But most classes are completely online, she said.

She said the demographics of returning students is getting younger.

“Students used to be in their 40s and 50s,” Trombley said. “We still get those, but the age count is lower. We’re seeing students who are a year or two our of getting an associates, all the way up.”

She expects the popularity of online classes to continue.

“We’re showing that by 2020 returning adults could outpace traditional students,” she said. “And returning students want online classes.”

When it comes to online learning, St. Norbert College offers mostly blended classes — a mix of face-to-face instruction and online work.

The private college has a digital learning initiativestaskforce and is studying ways to incorporate online options, said Bridget Krage O’Connor, vice president for enrollment management and communications.

“In general, more classes will be blended,” she said. “That is going to be the future.”

From “BTC ramping up classes for welding students” — JANESVILLE — Blackhawk Technical College is responding to demand from students and industry by increasing by 50 percent the number of welders it trains this year.

Blackhawk turns out about 40 welders a year, with two cohorts of 20 students each, said Kirke “Bo” Plank, dean of advanced manufacturing. One cohort is trained on the morning shift, one on an evening shift.

Classes are full, and there’s a waiting list, Plank said. Just a few weeks before the fall semester began, BTC decided to open a third section of welding.

Plank moved the morning shift to an earlier time to make room for a third cohort in a midday shift.

The first cohort will begin at 6 a.m. and the last will finish at 9 p.m. A full-time instructor has been hired, for a total of three, Plank said.

The fall semester begins Monday. As of Friday, six seats were still not filled for the new 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. cohort.

Anyone who wants to join the new group already would need to have applied to BTC, said Sharon Kennedy, vice president of learning.

“The demand for welders has just gotten unbelievable,” Plank said. “We just can’t prepare enough of them right now to fill the needs.”

BTC also offers an all-day welding program on Saturdays, but that does not include the full curriculum. The Saturday program is full.

“We are doing as much in welding as we possibly could. At least, we feel we are,” Kennedy said.

Plank said he hoped manufacturers will take note of BTC’s increased output and make plans to expand.

Many welding students work internships or hold part-time jobs before they finish the course, Plank said. That gives employers a chance to “try before they buy,” he said.

It also means the grads are snapped up as soon as they graduate, Plank said.

“I think the jobs are there right now, locally and also in our state and region,” he said. “And nationally, the outlook is forecasted to be very strong for a number of years.”

Manufacturers who have landed defense contracts in the Fox Valley and in the shipyard in Marinette are looking for more welders. Shipyards in the southeast United States also are big employers, Plank said.

“If anyone wants to work, they can, no question about it,” Plank said.

“Pay is all over the board,” but entry level is around $15 an hour, and advancement is often swift, Plank said.

Plank said BTC has a modern welding lab with good maintenance support, “but when you’re going that many hours a day, obviously that’s going to put a strain on it.”

Plank is investigating the possibility of buying computer-based welding simulators, which are said to be effective but very expensive.

Blackhawk, which serves most of Rock and Green counties, built a new welding lab in existing space at its main campus in 2008 at a cost of about $800,000. Then, as now, the national forecast was that demand for welders would be high.

There’s no additional space that could be used to expand welding on campus, Kennedy said, but Blackhawk has plans for an advanced manufacturing center that would include welding.

The center would be housed in the Ironworks building in downtown Beloit. Officials are hoping to raise $10 million to $12 million for the project, mostly from local, private sources.

Work on the center would not start before next spring and could take a year to complete.

From “Training programs see boost in drive for efficiency” — MENASHA — Dura-Fibre in Menasha is leaving no stone unturned when seeking a competitive advantage.

For more than a year, the maker of solid fiber paper board has put many of its managers and supervisors through assorted training on a variety of topics such as leadership skills, problem solving and effective communication.

It hasn’t stopped there. Those on the line also have received training and some have taken courses toward earning an associate degree at Fox Valley Technical College.

“The (business) environment is constantly changing, and if you want to grow you’re going to be challenging the status quo,” said Luke Benrud, director of operations at Dura-Fibre, which employs 60, including 45 union workers. The company has been receiving training through FVTC and plans more next year.

Dura-Fibre isn’t alone in embracing work force investment. Across the country, companies have shown more interest in finding ways to boost productivity from existing employers to limit or prolong the need to hire additional workers to control costs.

Lorrie Lynkins, managing editor and director of research services for the Seattle-based Institute for Corporate Productivity, said that historically learning and development is the first thing businesses either scale back or eliminate during a down economy.

But as businesses seek more cost savings and operational efficiencies, many are finding their workers need advanced training.

“Some companies will provide internal development while some will invest to develop the workers they have,” Lynkins said.

The hope is those workers will be less likely to change jobs, develop a stronger bond with their employer and eventually move into a leadership role, she said.

“Companies are looking more at developing their own talent,” Lynkins said.

Productivity up

The Labor Department this month reported U.S. companies saw a 1.6 percent annualized gain in productivity from workers between April and June. This follows a 0.5 percent decline during the January-to-March quarter.

Productivity is the amount of output per hour worked. Rising productivity generally means better corporate profits, but it also can mean slower job creation because it means companies are getting more from their current workers and don’t need to hire.

There are limits to how much companies can get from existing workers, experts say. Economists have said this trend is typical during and after a recession.

Companies tend to shed workers as demand falls and increase output from a smaller labor pool. But as the economy grows, hiring tends to increase.

Dale Walker, director of business and industry services at FVTC, said stagnant hiring patterns suggests regional employers are reluctant to add workers, though unemployment has steadily fallen since the recession ended in June 2009. The national jobless rate in June was 8.2 percent, while Wisconsin’s was lower at 7 percent.

Walker said regional businesses are inquiring about training to improve efficiencies.

“It could be production related or supervisory skills,” he said. Manufacturers are asking more about lean methodologies.

“People are looking for ways to run as efficiently as possible in many areas, not just on the production floor,” Walker said. This explains why there also is growing interest in information technology training and communication.

Efficiency everywhere

Workers across many industries are recognizing it’s increasingly important to keep skill sets current.

For the past 17 years, the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry has hosted the Christa McAuliffe Academy, a weeklong program where teachers from around the state are brought in to meet with a variety of business professionals to learn about the skills they seek in workers for today and the future.

This year’s academy, presented in July, had 150 participants, including some repeat attendees, said Mary Jane Grissman, who coordinates the program.

“At the chamber, we’re really trying to make a connection between the education system and our business partners,” Grissman said. “It’s a way to bring teachers and businesses together so we can close that skills gap.”

Teachers can see how basic skills such as math, science and communication apply in the working world.

FVTC’s Walker said customized or abbreviated training seems to be the preferred route for businesses. He said companies want training offered over a few hours, versus many weeks and days.

“Companies want training in a time frame that works for their needs,” he said. The college estimates 33,000 of the 53,000 people served at FVTC annually are receiving training through its business and industry programs.

The payoff

Lynkins said rapid technology advancements are placing more importance on training.

“Learning cycles are a lot shorter now than 15 years ago,” she said. “If you’re talking technology companies, they’re all about innovation, so companies have to constantly train people to market those products.”

Dura-Fibre’s Benrud said as dialogue between line supervisors and management improved, it became easier to implement production changes.

He said as workers on the floor saw their suggestions were being heard, a collaborative environment emerged.

“We wanted an environment where everyone recognizes where if they saw opportunities to improve our capabilities, we made it happen,” Benrud said. “We feel our employees see that management recognizes the skills they have and they have authority without having to rely on us to do something to solve a problem.”

Benrud said employees appreciate their opinions are being heard, which can also boost morale and workforce relations with management.

“They’re the ones on the machines and they have the ideas how to improve things,” he said.

When all levels of a business receive training and know how to collaborate effectively, dealing with change and implementing new processes can be less stressful, Benrud said.

“When you have any improvement project, but you have union representatives and front-line supervisors going through the same process, it just makes the buy-in that much easier,” he said.

“Everyone knows the biggest fight is the push back from those who will say, ‘We’ve been doing it this way for 25 years, so why change now?’ But when you change that mindset and everyone understands why something needs to be improved, it can keep the company growing and from there you get even more buy-in.”

From “BTC looks at options for training center” — Blackhawk Technical College officials are looking at “other possibilities” to build an advanced manufacturing center after meeting with representatives of the Hendricks Development Group Friday.

The plan was to locate the center at Beloit’s Ironworks Complex, and Blackhawk Technical College President Tom Eckert stressed that it doesn’t mean the center won’t end up there.

“We just want to explore other possibilities, and look to see what’s out there and exhaust all those other possibilities,” he said.

Eckert said the meeting with the Hendricks organization was “very positive” and both groups remain committed to creating a facility that works for the college.

“Hendricks was clear that whether the Ironworks or other locations are used wasn’t the main focus, but the important point was where we can build this training center,” he said.

Eckert said they haven’t begun to look at other locations, and are currently working on a more definitive plan.

Eckert also said he wouldn’t say whether the goal was to start the project in the spring.

“I would not say that the project is on hold,” he said. “We want to explore different possibilities just so that whatever we do we do it the right way.”

Rob Gerbitz, president and COO of Hendricks Development Group, also said the meeting with the college went well.

Gerbitz reiterated Eckert’s statement that the location of the center isn’t what is important at the moment.

“I think this is a large investment by the college and by everybody involved,” he said. “It really comes down to we want to make this facility and the most important thing is the education that will come from this facility.”

Eckert said last week the start of the renovations at the Ironworks building wouldn’t start until at least the spring because the college hadn’t raised enough funds.

About $10 million to $12 million needed to be raised to finance the renovations. Eckert said the college couldn’t afford to add the costs of the renovations to the lease, which is what the owner of a property normally does.

Instead the college attempted to raise the money needed for the renovations up front.

The center is needed in order to meet demand for some of the manufacturing programs the college offers. A third welding program section was added for this upcoming school year in order to lower the amount of students on the waiting list.

Eckert said welding classes will be held from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at its central campus in Janseville.

“We have no doubt that if we build this facility and can make it come to pass we’re going to see more students apply,” he said.

MSTC instructor honored

August 21, 2012

From “Sabel selected for educator award” —  GRAND RAPIDS — Mid-State Technical College instructor Mike Sabel returns to the classroom this fall with a new accolade. The Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators presented Sabel with the 2012 Farm Business and Production Management Honored Instructor Award on June 27 at an annual WAAE professional development conference in Green Bay.

Sabel teaches in MSTC’s Farm Operations and Farm Business and Production Management Technical Diploma programs.

In addition to his classroom responsibilities, Sabel is very active in the college and community. He plans an annual farm tour, organizes a graduation banquet, serves as co-chairman of the MSTC student academic achievement committee and has had involvement in the Auburndale FFA Alumni, Wisconsin Rapids Agribusiness Committee, Wisconsin Rapids Dairy Breakfast, Wood County Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Auburndale Park Association, St. John’s Lutheran Church and District of Auburndale School Board.

Sabel started his career as the agriculture instructor and FFA adviser at the high schools in Mayville and Auburndale.

MSTC, one of 16 colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System, is a leading provider of higher education offering more than 100 associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates. Student-focused and community-based, MSTC serves a resident population of approximately 165,000 in central Wisconsin with campuses in Marshfield, Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids, and a learning center in Adams. In a recent graduate survey, 86 percent of alumni said they were employed within six months of graduation.

WAAE is the professional association for 295 middle school, high school, technical college and university agricultural educators in Wisconsin. The association provides professional development, legislative support, and educational resources for teachers to enhance their local agriculture education programs.

From  “One year later: WCTC facility provides high level of training” — PEWAUKEE — One year after it opened its doors, Waukesha County Technical College’s criminal justice training center in Pewaukee is getting strong reviews from area police officers.

The 20,000-square-foot facility, located at a former day care center, provides scenario-based training for police officers.

A recent evaluation of the program has ranged from comments such as “great facility” or “Can’t believe how high-tech it is.”

The Muskego Police trains officers there, and has also included the use of the facility to “train” citizens as part of its twice-yearly Citizens’ Academy.

“It has allowed us to the holistic scenario-based training,” said Brian Dorow, associate dean of the criminal justice program at the college. “We have received just an incredible response from the police officers that are training there. … It is the highest level of training where someone is actively learning when you are able to do the scenario based training. We actually try to replicate what an officer is going to encounter on the streets from start to finish.”

Before conducting exercises in which an officer may have to determine whether to use physical force against a suspect, the training program first does what it can to raise an officer’s heart rate and increase adrenaline before the officer responds to the calls. The trainers will present different variables during the calls.

“They are fatigued, they are breathing hard,” explained Dorow. “That is going a long way.”

About 3,000 officers from throughout southeastern Wisconsin have used the  center. Police officers need 24 hours of continuing education in law enforcement training in order to maintain their certificates.

Waukesha Police Capt. Ron Oremus said his department uses the facility for in-service for annual training updates for its officers. It also gets a lot of use during new officer training.

“It is very helpful to have a facility like that,” said Oremus, who is an instructor during the training.

Before the center was located on Morris Street, the police department used a ranch-style home near WCTC. The training center’s an improvement when it comes to scenario-based trainings.

“I can tell you that while (the ranch-style home) is nice, it just didn’t have the room to train like the new facility does,” Oremus said.

The training center at WCTC could be even more enhanced in the future. Dorow said he wants to add the element of sound into the scenarios. It is not uncommon for area police to be called to scenes that have couples arguing or children crying.

From  Filling the skilled worker gap — DOOR COUNTY — Consider this: according to the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturers Alliance, one out of every two northeastern Wisconsin manufacturing companies is going to have trouble finding skilled workers in 2012.

Meanwhile, Door County’s unemployment rate for June 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, remains at 8.1 percent. While that’s a full point lower than the county’s unemployment rate this time last year, it’s still much higher than the 5 percent or less the county was seeing in summers before 2009.

There are workers who need jobs, and there are jobs that need workers. They just don’t seem to be finding each other.

“It starts at the national level, and it’s a repeating theme right down to the local level,” says Jerry Murphy, executive director of New North, Inc. “There are skills and training missing, most of which have to do with secondary degrees.”

New North is a marketing and economic development organization that monitors and links businesses in 18 counties throughout northeastern Wisconsin, including Door County.

Murphy says the businesses New North works with recognize the problem they’re facing and are getting involved to find a solution.

“What I think is unique about northeastern Wisconsin is the very genuine, very sincere partnership…between education and business institutions,” he says. “There’s a ready acceptance on the part of the business community that they have to be involved.”

In Door County, schools and businesses have struck up a couple of initiatives designed to train a new skilled labor workforce.

Building a Better Workforce

About 50 high school students from Door and Kewaunee counties have participated in the Door-Kewaunee Business and Education Partnership’s (DKBEP) annual home construction program, which is currently in its sixth year.

According to Tara LeClair, DKBEP business and education manager, almost 60 percent of those students have gone on to some sort of trade-related program at Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC).

“Our big focus is on high school kids, encouraging them and training them,” says LeClair.

DKBEP also offers a high school Certified Nursing Assistant Program, a Youth Co-op Program where students can ‘try on’ a career for a semester, and schedules tours so students can see what goes on inside area businesses.

“The biggest challenge in shaping students’ perceptions is in, say, manufacturing,” says LeClair. “Lots of students view those jobs as dark, dirty, dingy jobs, but that’s not true. A lot of tours we schedule with schools open kids’ eyes.”

Something relatively new to the area is the Computer Numeric Control (CNC) Mobile Lab that has been travelling from school to school in the region since last September, allowing students to practice running computer-operated equipment and earn NWTC credit from the comfort of their own schools.

The purchase and operation of the lab was made possible through a partnership between DKEBP, NWTC, area high schools, and local businesses like N.E.W Industries, a CNC production company in Sturgeon Bay.

N.E.W President and C.E.O. Chris Moore says he currently has 200 workers on staff, and he’s perennially looking for 10 to 12 more people to fill open positions. He’s hopeful new projects like the mobile lab will help revive interest in manufacturing careers.

“The biggest challenge anybody in this business faces right now is finding enough qualified people for our workforce,” says Moore. “Everybody recognizes the fact that, especially at the high school level, students don’t have an interest.”

Sturgeon Bay Schools Superintendent Joe Stutting, whose students are involved in both the home construction and mobile lab projects, says he’s looking for ways to revive that interest and show students they don’t necessarily need to attend a traditional college to have a great career.

“The notion that to have a successful career you need a four-year degree is something we’ve been battling for awhile,” he says. “The truth is you just need to get something. We’re looking to see how we can align with the technical college and to see what we can do to help kids down that pathway sooner.”

Training Today’s Workers for Tomorrow

But it’s not just the workforce of the future that needs training. According to Murphy, workers already in the job market need to retrain themselves, so they, too, can claim unfilled jobs.

“I don’t think the job market is static. If it was people could wait out the storm,” he says. “The demands on the workforce are very dynamic, and you have to be investing in yourself.”

According to Melissa Emery, associate director at the Door County Job Center, about 300 displaced workers in the county have taken advantage of federal Workforce Investment Act funds, which can be used to provide training for high-demand occupations in fields such as medical care, welding, and CNC operation.

“We work with a case manager and work on getting them into NWTC usually,” says Emery.

Some resources are also available for businesses seeking to make sure their current workforce’s skills don’t become obsolete.

Sheila Curtin, who works in Corporate Training at NWTC, says the Washington Island Ferry Line and Heat Treat Furnaces, Inc. (HTF) have both recently received Workforce Advancement Training grants from the state, which provided funding for on-the-job training.

“For the ferry line, we did training in welding and marine diesel,” says Curtin. “HTF was computer design and modeling. They secured a contract and needed to upscale their business.”

The grants are competitive, and not every business is likely to receive one, but Curtin says businesses and workers must constantly monitor where they may have fallen behind and look for ways to catch up.

“For workers and companies…you need to address skill gaps to remain competitive. Because it is very competitive out there,” she says.

Workers Mean Business

Of course, the big push behind training all of these workers in Door County comes packaged with the hope they, and the businesses they work for, will stay in Door County.

“We need youth to come back here and raise families here, which will help with our business growth,” says LeClair. “We benefit a lot by the fact that businesses understand this, that they have to open their doors to kids.”

Cheryl Tieman, coordinator for NWTC’s Sturgeon Bay campus, says the community is taking a lot of the right steps toward keeping businesses in the area.

“There are a lot of things being done locally that make us a good place to locate,” she says. “The number of people graduating from high school is getting smaller, but there are professionals moving into the area.”

As for the skilled worker gap, Murphy says he’s optimistic it will close given enough time.

“I think our public resources are doing a great job and business involvement is incredible. What we need to do longer term is make sure schools, parents, and communities are on board,” he says. “These are hugely significant occupations and add a huge amount to our GDP. We need to be invested in the next generation, or we’ll lose it.”


From  “WAT Grant initiates successful partnership between LTC and Nemak”  — CLEVELAND – Earlier this year, Nemak and Lakeshore Technical College received a Workforce Advancement Training (WAT) Grant from the State of Wisconsin.

Nemak, a supplier of high pressure die cast aluminum components in Sheboygan, began extensive training of hundreds of its workers in collaboration with LTC. The WAT Grant program, created in 2005, helps address training needs of Wisconsin businesses and enhance the skills of the workforce while recognizing the value of education and the impact a highly-skilled workforce can have on a company. The results experienced at Nemak have met those expectations, and more.

“We needed to train up to 500 employees in things like manufacturing and quality skills, OSHA safety, lean manufacturing, leadership, and computer training, says Brent Chesney, Director of Organizational Development at Nemak. “The results have been dramatic in terms of efficiency gained.”

Indeed, Nemak has documented significant savings over the first 6 months of this year. “With the help of LTC, we’ve become more productive, more efficient and more competitive,” says Chesney. “LTC has been a critical resource for our continued improvements.”

What’s more, these results are typical as recent survey results once again highlighted the value employers find in the customized training and technical assistance delivered by Wisconsin’s technical colleges.

“Employers continue to tell us that this training and assistance, which is flexible and tailored to their needs, adds value to their operations,” said Mark Tyler, President of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board.

Technical colleges periodically survey employers involved in contract training projects to gauge outcomes and employer satisfaction. Over 500 employers responded to one or more survey questions about training outcomes. Of those employers who responded, 94% were satisfied or very satisfied with the training provided, nearly 95% are likely to use these services again, while more than 96% would recommend them to a colleague. Respondents also indicated that the training improved the company’s work environment and employee retention, reduced costs, and addressed safety and compliance issues.

Survey responses highlighted the value employers place on having incumbent worker training delivered on-site, noting that technical college customized training programs allow employees to apply new skills in their actual facility and specific equipment, not to mention saving on travel time. LTC delivers these services through its Workforce Solutions Division which provides seminars, compliance training, consulting services, and entrepreneurship services in addition to customized training.

Workforce Advancement Training (WAT) grants have extended the reach and awareness of technical college customized training services. The grants, which have consistently received bipartisan legislative support, provide funds to technical colleges to support training programs developed with employer partners. Over the seven-year life of the WAT grant program, technical colleges have received about 17.5 million in WAT grants to support over 1,400 employers in training almost 77,000 incumbent workers across Wisconsin. An additional $4.0 million is available in fiscal year 2012-13. While LTC represents about 3% of the Wisconsin Technical College System, local businesses have received over 10% of state WAT grant award dollars.

“WAT grants are essential to helping provide effective worker training,” stated LTC President Michael Lanser. “We will continue to look for ways to expand our capacity to enrich our communities by providing a workforce that is skilled, diverse and flexible,” added Lanser.


From  Robotics camp for girls — APPLETON — Some area girls spent the week learning more about robots and how they work at a summer camp hosted by Fox Valley Technical College. They even got to build their own robot as part of the week-long camp. Despite the event being for girls only organizers say it would be a great event for boys, too. At the end of the week, the girls pitted their bots against each other in a friendly competition.

From  MATC-Portage campus shows off 2,200-square-foot expansion” — PORTAGE —  The upside to being downsized, said Mark Huismann, is that he returned to school to pursue his passion. As the Wolfpack Welcome coordinator, he helped students Thursday with their identification cards for Madison Area Technical College’s Portage campus.

The campus underwent an expansion this year, and students had a chance to see the new campus with Thursday’s Wolfpack Welcome.

“I was in the work force for 20 years, and I got downsized. I decided that my next career was going to be my last,” Huismann said. The 47-year-old attends the MATC Truax campus for history and theater. The father of two said his goal is to be a teacher.

“So many companies are just shrinking. You don’t really have a choice. Everyone gets some lousy breaks in their life,” Huismann said. “Once you get involved in campus, you have a support net. Coming back where I am in life I’m more focused than when I was 18 at school with no responsibilities.”

Terri Bean graduated from MATC-Portage this spring and said the 2,200-square-foot expansion will help cut travel time and costs for students.

“All the classes I could take here I did. The ones you could only get in Madison were the ones I took online. So, hopefully this Portage expansion with a second teleconference room people won’t have to Madison for as many classes,” Bean said. “I was pushing for some of the advanced Microsoft classes they didn’t offer until this fall.”

The 1984 graduate of Portage High School lives in Westfield and works part-time at the college. The recent graduate from the administrative professional program began school work at Milwaukee Area Technical College from 1984 to 1985, Bean said, and then she got married and had three children. She returned to school in 2009 to the Portage campus.

“Most of the credits transferred. … I’ve always been the kind of person who when I start something I want to finish it,” Bean said.

A few people peeked into the anatomy lab with two model skeletons and over-sized ears and eyes ready to be opened and studied.

The chemistry/microbiology lab is lined with untouched test tubes and shiny beakers.

Both areas of expansion will be of use to Becky Rzepiejewski, who enrolled Thursday with the intent to study radiology. She’s a 2002 graduate of Portage High School and works as a server in a local business.

“I finally decided to go back to school. It’s been 10 years and if I don’t do it soon then I’m not going to do it. I’m almost 30 years old,” Rzepiejewski said.

The local campus was appealing, she said, because there’s no commute and she doesn’t have to move from her home in Portage.

MacKenzie Rostad, 18, graduated from PHS this spring. She’s interested in criminal justice and joining the city’s police department.

“I wasn’t ready to leave my home and go to a big college yet,” Rostad said. “It’s going to be so different from high school that I’m not sure what to expect.”

Wolfpack Welcome student ambassadors greeted students like Rostad to ease the transition.

“Our ultimate goal is fellowship. So many students are shy or unsure, so we go out of our way to make it a good environment,” Denise Cohn said.

From “Wisconsin technical college officials meet with Chinese educators regarding ‘gold-collar careers’” — MADISON — Wisconsin’s technical colleges’ success in aligning technical education and manufacturing careers was the focus of an international delegation in Washington, D.C. last week. Experts from three states – Wisconsin, California, and New York – were invited by the U.S. Department of Education to meet with Chinese officials interested in American approaches to involving business and industry leaders in the development of education programs. Wisconsin leaders focused on the technical colleges’ approach to developing “gold-collar careers,” which offer rewarding opportunities in high-tech manufacturing to those with a passion for pushing the limits of machining, electronics, IT, and other technologies.

Wisconsin’s representatives were Jim Mackey, the Wisconsin Technical College System’s manufacturing program expert, and Dan Conroy, Vice President of Human Resources for the Nexen Group, a leading manufacturer in northwestern Wisconsin and a close partner of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. “Chinese manufacturers are facing some of the same challenges we are, including worker preparation and closing skills gaps,” said Mackey. “We had a great response from everyone involved.”

This was the second time that U.S. and Chinese officials convened on the topic of career and technical education, with the focus of this session on the unique and critical role Wisconsin employers play in developing the curriculum for each education or training program. “Knowing both Jim and Dan well, I guarantee that this was a productive exchange, and one that really showcased the great work being accomplished by all of our colleges in delivering manufacturing programs that truly reflect the needs of employers,” said Mark Tyler, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board.

Local and regional employers serve on advisory committees for each technical college program. These committees rely on the employers’ expertise to ensure that courses and programs are aggressively modified to consistently reflect current industry practices. The employers also provide valuable local labor market insights, which allow the colleges to be confident that program graduates will find employment upon graduation. Roughly 90 percent of Wisconsin technical college graduates are placed in jobs within six months of graduation. This latest recognition of the high-quality education and training programs offered by the technical colleges comes as the state tightens its focus on job creation and positioning for Wisconsin’s employers to be even more globally competitive.


Fox 11 News VIDEO: Training officers for danger:  GRAND CHUTE – Have you ever wanted to see how an officer trains for danger?  FOX 11’s Emily Deem spent Wednesday morning at the Fox Valley Technical College to learn the ins-and-outs of their training.

The police training at Fox Valley Technical College includes: Shooting range simulation technology, a state-of-the-art driving pad, Pursuit Intervention Techniques and more.

From  “TECH-KNOWLEDGE-Y: Moraine Park program puts middle school students on career fast track” — FOND DU LAC — The winning combination of fun and learning was in full gear as 250 area middle school students experienced Tech KnowledgeCollege on Moraine Park’s Fond du Lac campus.

Participants got a glimpse last week into college life and potential careers as they made movies, manufactured yo-yos, built robots, prepared gourmet dishes and perfected hair techniques.

Students from throughout Moraine Park’s district participated in hands-on learning through 20 different course offerings. There was something for everyone and the kids took away new skills in a variety of areas, from health care to culinary arts.

Moraine Park has hosted Tech Knowledge College for more than 20 years. Although sessions have changed to complement new and evolving technology, the purpose of the event has remained the same — to give students a chance to get a hands-on look at the skills and careers needed today and in the future.

“It’s very rewarding to see these students receiving the exposure to career and technical education and their excitement about it,” said Katie VandeSlunt, recruitment specialist at Moraine Park. “Even more fulfilling is to see how many students come back for the three years and then send younger siblings.”

VandeSlunt is involved with Moraine Park’s new student orientation events and saw many familiar names from Tech Knowledge College.

“What they’re learning at Moraine Park is resonating when they come back for their post-secondary education,” she said.

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