From “Madison College dedicates wings” — New opportunities for training in manufacturing and other areas of study now are available at the Madison Area Technical College campus in Fort Atkinson.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday to recognize completion of a campus renovation and expansion that was part of the a larger $134 million vision of growth within the college’s 12-county district.

Madison College’s $134 million Smart Community Plan for new facilities, renovations and upgrades at the affiliated campuses was approved by voters in the November 2010 election. The referendum received nearly 60 percent of the ballots from electors in the 12-county vocational-technical college system.

The plan called for meeting the increasing demand of local residents who need affordable education and job training during a time of struggle in the economy while Madison College’s student enrollment and waiting lists are at all-time highs, and interest rates and construction costs are low.

The Fort Atkinson project consisted of remodeling 3,000 square feet of existing space and adding 6,000 square feet of new space to the current facility. The addition, a house nearly 3,000-square-foot metal fabrication/manufacturing lab.

Meanwhile, the addition on the east end of the building is for student support, and will include a new library and a Student Achievement Center.

Ribbons were cut on each end of the building, one traditional ribbon representing the library, achievement center and student support expansion and the other, a stainless steel ribbon with the Madison College logo designed by Brian Boden of Boden Machining Services in Cambridge for the new manufacturing lab.

Mark Dziewior, who is enrolled in welding classes this semester, had the honor of “cutting” the ribbon with a torch.

“It seems like we’ve been doing this a lot in Fort Atkinson,” Madison College President Bettsey Barhorst said of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, referring to past renovations and projects at the Fort Atkinson campus.

In 2008, the campus underwent an extensive renovation and expansion of nursing skills labs, science labs and community rooms. Two years ago, Madison College constructed the vocational district’s first small wind energy system in Fort Atkinson.

Barhorst recalled the groundbreaking for the latest project last fall.

“It was an exciting day, but it was a bit daunting,” the college president said. “We had embarked on a significant project that we knew would have a substantial impact on the community and we knew we had to get it right.”

With a smile, Barhost said it appears they got it right.

“I think the new facilities here are just wonderful for what they will give to our students,” she said, thanking taxpayers for supporting the building referendum.

Also, Barhorst recognized the faculty and staff at the Fort Atkinson campus for providing students with the knowledge and skills they need to be work-ready and “real-world” smart.

“We celebrate today the opening of a wonderful facility that will enhance Madison College’s ability to collaborate with business and industry partners in the Fort Atkinson area, as well as build tomorrow’s workforce,” she said.

Barhorst stressed how every square inch of the expansion was carefully designed to maximize the learning experience for students and the rate of return for area taxpayers.

“Now we’ve been referring to this project as a ‘renovation,’ but we’re not just talking about the renovation of physical space,” she said. “This project is really about expanding educational opportunity for every learner who steps through these doors.”

Meanwhile, the college president pointed out that 2012 marks Madison College’s 100th anniversary.

“While that alone is reason to be proud, it is a new century of promise that excites us most,” she said. “I’m proud of this campus, of what we hope to do for the future and I hope that you are because it’s your campus.”

Lynn Forseth, executive director for economic and workforce development in Madison College’s Eastern Region, served as the master of ceremonies for the ribbon-cutting event.

“This is a very exciting event this afternoon as it celebrates the culmination of several years of hard work on behalf of numerous college staff and external community partners,” she said. “The college is eternally grateful to the Fort Atkinson community and our contributing partners for your ongoing generosity and support of the Fort Atkinson campus.”

She said the additions were designed to address two critical needs: the shortage of skilled workers needed to fill jobs in advanced manufacturing and renewable energy.

“Specifically, this flexible lab space will be used to train individuals in welding, metal fabricating, machining, CNC operations, industrial maintenance and automation using a combination of fixed and mobile equipment,” Forseth said.

Secondly, the space provides access to facilities and support services that help student succeed academically, socially and emotionally at Madison College. Forseth said the center is intended to support students so they can get extra help on campus with their coursework, meet with faculty or work in groups with each other.

“I hope you agree that the college’s recent investments in Fort Atkinson were well spent,” she said.

Representatives of the Madison College Board of Trustees also offered praise for the project.

Board President Frances Huntley-Cooper, who usually would share her perspective on the importance of the campus expansion and how it enhances the learning experience of the students, instead yielded the microphone to board Treasurer Joel Winn of Fort Atkinson.

“The renovations of the Fort Atkinson campus affirm the commitment of Madison College’s Board of Trusteess to respond to the unique needs of the communities that are served by each of our regional campuses,” he said. “Foremost among those needs is providing our students with the digital-age tools technology and facilities that create an environment that builds knowledge and promotes hand-on learning.”

From “Fox Valley group helps homeowners” — KAUKAUNA – Jon Minkebige has been a resident of the city of Kaukauna for more than two decades.

In 1987, he moved into a home that was built in the late 1800s, with intentions to restore it.

Those plans changed after Minkebige was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  As his health continued to deteriorate, his home did as well.

“Because I lived here, I was used to the problem,” said Minkebige. “But I had mold issues, and when I saw the plaster falling through the kitchen I knew something had to be done.”

Rebuilding Together Fox Valley recently stepped in to help him.

The non-profit organization’s goal is to help senior citizens and those with disabilities make home repairs that if not taken care of, could force them to leave their homes.

RTFV gathers professional contractors, volunteers and students to help with the repair work. It is funded through corporate sponsorships and private donations, relieving the homeowner of the financial burden.

Many of the students who help RTFV are part of the construction management program at Fox Valley Technical College.

“We partnered with Rebuilding Together Fox Valley in September of last year,” said Rich Cass, a construction management instructor for FVTC. “Our students are able to work with a live client, do some design work and schedule subcontractors on the labor side.”

Cass assigned student Chris Deiss to take the lead on Minkebige’s home this past spring. Deiss says it was no easy task, as Minkebige’s home needed major work. Plumbing, new windows, a new ceiling and a front deck were just several items on the to-do list. Deiss recalls seeing snow and rain coming through Minkebige’s bathroom ceiling when he made his first visit.

“If things had continued the way it was, he may have not been able to stay here,” said Deiss.  “He might have had to go to an assisted living home or somewhere along the line.”

It took Deiss and scores of volunteers and professional contractors to make-over Minkebige’s home. The project was finished in three months.

“You say thank you so many times,” said Minkebige. “I actually get emotional just thinking what they did to help me out.”

RTFV expects to make repairs to as many as 100 homes by the end of 2012. You can help by making a monetary donation, or by offering any skilled trade services you may have.


From “Guest column: NWTC turns 100, continues key educational mission” — Happy 100th birthday, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

A century ago, NWTC was born upon the creation of local boards of industrial education overseeing continuation and trade schools.

In 1912, it was the exception to have graduated from high school. Yet, the country was in the beginning of massive industrialization that begged for higher and more complex skills.

In a 1927 publication of the Green Bay Board of Vocational Education, it was noted that: “A rapidly changing world forces the American citizen — to face the constantly changing problems and difficulties of an almost kaleidoscopic environment. Even the individual himself is in a ceaseless process of change in his employment, his attitudes and ambitions, his social contacts, his interests and opportunities.”

This phrase is as relevant today as it was almost 85 years ago. The difference is that now most people have a high school diploma, and the minimum requirement for gaining a career with a living wage is education beyond high school.

I am struck, when looking at pictures of students in classes in the beginning decades of NWTC’s history, how many men came to school wearing ties. Wearing a tie spoke of a relatively high status. Attending the Green Bay Vocational School increased your social status. In fact, in the late 1920s a Green Bay Vocational School publication was subtitled The University of the Adult.

Sadly, today, too many times we have heard a graduating high school student say when asked about post-high school plans, “I am just going to the tech.” How many times have we watched community college students demeaned on television comedies, by stand-up comics, or in popular music? What happened?

The importance and status of a higher education technical degree was overtaken by the assumption that the only way to achieve the American Dream is to have a four-year college degree. Don’t get me wrong, achieving a bachelor’s degree or higher is a worthy endeavor and we encourage students to aspire to these degrees. But the vast majority of careers do not require more than a two-year technical associate degree. In fact:

• Two-thirds of students who have an associate degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field will earn more than someone with a bachelor’s degree. The overlap of lifetime wages between all associate degree and bachelor degree holders is in the range of 80 percent.

• Many CEOs and business leaders started their careers with an associate degree. Associate degree holders are excellent problem-solvers, have outstanding team and people skills, and have a clear understanding of the world around them.

• Associate degree students graduate with new learning skills and practices that they will use throughout their lives as they keep pace with rapid business and industry changes.

Some think that the rigor and complexity of the education is somehow less than that learned at a four-year college. Actually, hundreds of adults with bachelor’s degrees come to NWTC each year to train for new careers, and they often comment that the intensity and difficulty of the course work is greater than what they experienced while pursuing the bachelor’s degree.

Rapid technological and business process changes require ever higher levels of competency that can only be obtained through applied learning techniques — and applied learning has always been the specialty of Wisconsin’s Technical Colleges. How many of us can design and program a machine that operates on four or five axes? Do you know what to do when a person has a heart attack or is bleeding profusely? I cannot develop a website that will attract someone to a new product, can you? Successfully de-escalating a domestic violence situation is beyond my capability. Never mind fixing a car, installing an electrical system, or repairing infrastructure after a catastrophic event.

We are surrounded each day by highly educated NWTC graduates. We bring them our illnesses, our design challenges, our security needs and our ambitious plans, and they return skilled solutions. They are the firefighters, EMTs, child care providers, network analysts and other specialists who make nearly every area of our economy — and our personal lives — run more efficiently. An education like that is something to be proud of, to celebrate and honor. Join me as we salute our students and celebrate our widespread community support.

Happy birthday, NWTC. Thank you for remaining committed to preparing all people to lead fulfilling lives, earning a living wage. You will achieve your vision of being a cutting-edge, life-long learning college that transforms, strengthens, and inspires our people, our families, our businesses, and our communities for another 100 years.


From “New manufacturing lab at Wausau’s NTC” —  The new Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering Center of Excellence is in business at the North Central Technical College. School, community and business leaders joined together on campus for a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Developers say it is designed to be a collaborative effort between the school and area businesses. Mark Borowicz, NTC Dean of Business & Industry Solutions says, “This is really an opportunity for our students to learn the latest technology and for workers at area businesses to get the training they need, too.”

Wisconsin manufacturers have repeatedly voiced concerns that there aren’t enough highly skilled workers to fill the job openings they have in their businesses.

For more information on the project or any of the programs at NTC you can check out there online information at

View video


From “Manufacturing expo focus on skilled worker shortage” — Montello-based TW Design and Manufacturing LLC has been hiring workers right out of high school for its precision CNC milling and turning business.

TW was one of the exhibitors Wednesday at the Manufacturing First Expo & Conference in Green Bay, an event that put part of its focus on finding workers to fill open manufacturing jobs.

“We don’t have a skilled pool to draw from, so we hire energetic people out of high school and train them with the people who are already there and have been there for years,” said Brenda Hrobsky, the company’s quality assurance administrator.

Hrobsky said she senses that prospective employees are taking a look at careers in manufacturing.

“For the longest time it seemed like colleges and everyone directed people into the service industry and we got away from manufacturing,” she said. “I think people are starting to see its not a dead industry. We’re doing great as a company.”

Hrobsky said she’s seen employment at TW grow from 30 people to 65 in the seven years she’s worked there.

Manufacturers around the state continue to voice a need for skilled workers to take open positions in shops and production facilities around the state.

More than 600 people and 100 exhibitors were at the conference, networking and discussing what can be done to help address the shortage of skilled workers facing the manufacturing sector.

Jim Morgan, vice president of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, said one of the keys to addressing the shortage is exposing students, parents and teachers to the realities of manufacturing in the 21st century.

“We’ve got a serious image problem in manufacturing and all of you know that,” he told the conference Wednesday morning. “We’ve got people out there that think manufacturing looks like it did 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago. … If that’s their perception, and it’s that far off, they are not going to go where we need them to go.”

A small card on Sturgeon Bay-based Marine Travelift’s exhibit table indicated it — and its sister company, ExacTech — are looking for workers with skills ranging from welders and computer numerical control burn table operators to a brake press operator.

Kristen Sommer, the company’s marketing communications manager, said there is a challenge to find workers with specific skills.

“They type of worker we’re looking for is such a niche market, it can be a little bit difficult,” she said.

Tim Sullivan, former president and CEO of Bucyrus International Inc. and a special consultant for business and workforce development for the state of Wisconsin, said the state and industry need to pursue a number of different options to help alleviate the shortage.

He recently completed a report on the matter for Gov. Scott Walker.

Options range from implementing real-time labor market software that would link open job positions with people seeking those jobs, to state funding of job training programs and encouraging legal international immigration.

“The two countries in the world that have the least problems with the skills gap are Canada and Australia,” he said. “You know why? They have good immigration laws. They are recruiting people to come to their countries that are required for the skill set.”

This is the second year for the conference and it focused on innovation and addressing the skills shortage. Event organizers brought in more than 100 high school students to see the job opportunities available in the manufacturing sector.

“So they can see first-hand there are hundreds of companies in our region that manufacture stuff and get a first-hand look at the kinds of things that are made here,” said Ann Franz, strategic partnerships manager with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay. “It’s opening their eyes that manufacturing is alive and well in northeast Wisconsin, and if they are looking to stay in this area, a great career choice could be manufacturing.”

Franz is the coordinator of the NEW Manufacturing Alliance and one of the organizers of the conference.

From business networking to discussions on the issues facing the industry, Franz said this kind of annual event can make a difference.

“You have to start the conversation somewhere,” she said.


From “VIDEO REPORT: Madison College Helping Student Veterans” — Adjusting to life after serving overseas can be difficult as it is, then add going back to school to that list. A new clinic at Madison College’s Truax Campus is helping ease the veterans’ transition.

Randy Bouzek served overseas for several years. When he got back, he realized he was missing one thing, a college degree. He’s now a student at Madison College. He says “VA Connections” will help him as well as other vets adjust to school and succeed at getting their education. The clinic will offer therapy, crisis management and health care.

The vets will then be able to focus on their futures and bring their leadership and experiences to the college to share with classmates.

There were at least 800 veterans enrolled at Madison College last year.


From “Jennifer Shilling: Wisconsin must narrow its ‘skills gap’ — As Wisconsin continues to struggle with the effects of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, employers are still having a difficult time finding workers with the necessary skills to fill vacant positions.

Workforce development professionals refer to this as the “skills gap.” Narrowing that gap and ensuring that Wisconsin’s workforce has the necessary skills to meet the needs of current and emerging industries needs to be a priority as we continue to pursue efforts to get our economy moving again.

On Sept. 19, Sen. Jessica King and I convened a hearing about job training and workforce development to learn about the skills gap and discuss ways the Legislature can be a more effective partner in addressing Wisconsin’s workforce training needs.

This hearing was an opportunity for elected officials and stakeholders to have an open dialogue about important workforce development issues confronting Wisconsin, including the skills gap. We heard from the state Department of Workforce Development, as well as representatives from technical colleges, businesses, and the construction trades who are engaged in public-private partnerships that provide training in high demand occupations.

Two main themes emerged from that hearing:

  • Wisconsin’s technical colleges, businesses, construction trades and other community partners are engaged in many successful local and regional worker training initiatives throughout the state, and we need to find a way to build on these success stories on a statewide level.
  • Adequate resources are needed, including both public and private sector investments, to move workers through the educational pipeline and get them ready to enter the workforce with the proper skills in a timely manner.

The 2011-13 state budget, which I voted against, cut funding for the Wisconsin Technical College System by 30 percent, which put state funding assistance for our technical colleges at a level not seen since the 1980s. Consequently, technical colleges reported almost 12,000 students on waiting lists for high-demand programs throughout the state in June.

It doesn’t take a workforce development expert to make the connection between the significant funding cut for our technical colleges and the growing skills gap dilemma facing our state.

With the next legislative session scheduled to begin in about three months, now is the time to consider our options, have a bipartisan discussion and come up with proposals to tackle our state’s top priorities: preparing Wisconsin’s workforce to meet the needs of employers and growing our state’s economy.

As a member of the Governor’s Council on College and Workforce Readiness, I attend regular meetings focused on creating a bipartisan package of job creation and workforce development recommendations for Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature to consider during the upcoming legislative session and state budget process. I’m hopeful that the work of this council will lead to more bipartisan cooperation in addressing our state’s educational and workforce development needs.

I have confidence that Wisconsin can meet the needs of employers and employees in current and emerging industries, and I also appreciate the limited resources with which we have to work. By including all stakeholders, continuing to have an open dialogue and learning about successful workforce training efforts in high demand occupational fields, we can better understand how to direct our resources to develop and foster a successful statewide workforce development strategy.

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