October 31, 2012
From ashlandwi.com: “WITC points workers toward their goals” — In a tough economy, finding a good job probably ranks higher than gathering free advice, but if the latter leads to the former it’s all good.
And that’s why the free career seminar from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College-Ashland (WITC) might be a good way to spend a couple of hours for anyone interested in selecting the right field, as well as the appropriate educational options.
Dan Miller, WITC’s career specialist, will facilitate the seminar, which is designed to be fun as well as informative. The seminar will focus on the broad spectrum of the workforce, including recent high school graduates considering choices for a first career, those thinking of changing careers, and those who want to get ahead in their present working environment.
“In health careers, there are so many openings right now with the growth due to the Baby Boomers,” Miller said of one prime career opportunity. “But you still want to match them up, you just don’t want to force them into something they don’t like.”
The free career seminars have been an ongoing feature at WITC for three years, Miller said, held on the first Tuesday of each month in Room 208 at WITC-Ashland, 2100 Beaser Ave.
To help match people with the proper career, Miller said he opens the seminars with personality and career assessments.
“We try to find something that matches up with what they like to do and what their talents and strengths are,” said Miller, who has been with WITC for 18 months. “I even talk about things they were interested in when they were a child and they kind of forgot about.”
A priority, Miller said, is finding careers for people that will allow them to remain in the Chequamegon Bay area.
“Without a doubt,” Miller said. “But it depends on the person. A lot of people do not want to move, or have a family or are working right now and they either want to enhance what they have or are changing careers with the loss of a job.”
Miller said medical careers, thanks to Memorial Medical Center, nursing homes and other health care facilities, provide many jobs for those wishing to remain in the area.
“Health sciences right now is booming,” Miller said. “The Baby Boomers, we call them ‘Golden Boomers,’ their health care needs are huge. And there is a shortage of nurses right now. It’s just amazing. The growth there is hard to comprehend. There is a gap we’re tying to fill.”
Miller said there are also careers linked to the health-care industry, such as information technology, coding and business management and administration.
He said there is also a pressing need for tool and die makers and welders.
“There is definitely a gap that needs to be filled in the manufacturing industry,” Miller said. “The industry is screaming for skilled laborers right now. So we’re trying to bridge that gap from the high schools to the tech colleges because there is such a high demand for it.”
For those already employed and looking to enhance their current positions and pay, Miller said WITC has classes and technical degrees to help reach those goals.
“When we add programs to our college we don’t just do it based on what we think.” Miller said. “We do a lot of research with area employers. They’re on our panel. So we kind of see what’s out there and what the demand is.”
Miller said the seminars have room for 12 people, but have been averaging about five for each session.
“It depends on the weather, to be honest with you,” Miller said. “Sometimes it’s intimidating for middle-aged people walking into any college. What’s nice about getting them in the door here is to feel how comfortable it is.”
Miller said after a career seminar he often will meet one-on-one with the attendees to determine the pros and cons of pursuing a chosen field of endeavor.
“When people leave a seminar they have a different outlook,” Miller said. “And it’s real positive. There’s nothing better than actually finding something that matches up with them and actually seeing them enroll to one of those programs. So it’s pretty neat to see.”
From lacrossetribune.com: “Western Technical College celebrates official opening of new BRF campus” — Officials from Western Technical College and the area celebrated the official inception of the college’s new downtown Black River Falls campus last week.
The group held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 16 at the Fillmore Street site to mark the end of the three-year project of what one speaker deemed a “state-of-the-art” building.
“It’s just an amazing, amazing thing,” said Western Technical College President Lee Rasch. “We’re here to stay for the next 100 years.”
WTC officials began exploring the possibility of revamping its former site on Red Iron Road or relocating to the former site of the IGA building in the city’s downtown more than three years ago. The college’s addition of a nursing program and the expansion of other coursework prompted the need for more building space.
Students began classes at the new 18,000-square-foot site in January, but crews just this fall officially ended work on the building, which includes solar panels and other energy efficient amenities.
The $3 million project also is expected to draw increased enrollment for the BRF location because of its move from an out-of-town rural area. About 300 students have enrolled per semester since the new campus opened, which is up anywhere from 50 to 100 students from the Red Iron Road location.
“What a great thing for Black River Falls,” said Larry Lunda, who assisted the college while it prepared to make its move downtown.
October 31, 2012
From fox11online.com: “Special delivery for FVTC Public Safety Training Center” — GREENVILLE – It’s a big addition to the new Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center.
A 727 was donated by FedEx at a ceremony at Outagamie County Regional Airport in Greenville Tuesday.
The plane will be used by emergency responders for fire, tactical and medical training scenarios.
The Boeing 727 saw its best days hauling cargo for FedEx. Now it will be used for an even more important task on the ground.
“From opening emergency exits, to pulling crew members out to shutting down systems, this is a very unique opportunity,” said Bill Ewing, fire chief for Pro-Tec Fire Services, which serves Austin Straubel and Outagamie County airports.
FedEx donated the plane that will now become a training ground for emergency personnel as part of the new public safety training center partnership between the airport and Fox Valley Technical College.
“It’s very difficult to simulate this setting and make it work, so we are extremely grateful to be able to provide this kind of resource in this kind of environment,” said Fox Valley Technical College president Susan May.
The plane will be outfitted with seats and permanently grounded. It will be used for tactical and fire training as well as emergency medical scenarios, making it a training destination for the region and the country.
“Existing public safety personnel from the state, the region and even nationally depending on how specialized the training may be,” said May.
The aircraft is still worth about $1.5 million, but first responders who will use it say the training it will provide will be invaluable.
“This is an opportunity for us to train hands on doing the things that we would do in real world scenario,” said Ewing.
Making sure responders are as prepared as they can be in the event of a real local emergency.
“Any training is good training, but the level that this aircraft is going to provide us is going to take us to the next level,” said Ewing.
Fox Valley Tech and the airport having been working for about 15 years on acquiring an aircraft like this one for training purposes.
October 31, 2012
From wuwm.com: “Project Milwaukee: Workers follow different paths to build skills for new jobs” — Businesses in the Milwaukee area say there are not enough skilled workers to fill available jobs.
We heard about that frustration Tuesday when WUWM’s LaToya Dennis spoke with local managers. Today, in our Project Milwaukee: Help Wanted series, we learn how people seeking jobs are striving to acquire the skills needed.
Often the journey is punctuated by emotion.
Fresh paint covers brick walls along a hallway of the old Square D factory. Roger Hinkle says its workers made electrical transformers.
“I went in and worked with workers in that factory education center and so they could work on their basic educational skills but within a few years that closed and this building became transformed to a newer use,” Hinkle says during a tour of the center.
Today’s newer use is called the HIRE Center, and Hinkle serves as one of its training specialists. The agency is tucked inside the Milwaukee Enterprise Center-South at 8th and National. It uses federal funds to retrain workers who’ve been displaced due to factors beyond their control.
“People coming into this program come from every walk of life, every background, the common thing they have is they’ve lost their jobs,” Hinkle says.
The center provides a range of services. It teaches some how to run complex machinery. For others, it offers a basic education. Hinkle says often mixed in, is the need to overcome the pain and fear of losing a job.
I hear those emotions in the voices of Connie Skonecki and Robin Klein. Skonecki’s job evaporated when the t-shirt factory where she worked outsourced production.
“It’s devastating, especially when you’re there for 16, 18 years, you lose it all,” she says. I ask if she has a family. “My kids are grown but I got grandchildren,” Skonecki says and adds job loss has had an impact on her extended family. “I can’t get ‘em anything,” she says.
Robin Klein nods knowingly at the story. She tumbled into the ranks of the unemployed when the day care center where she worked closed abruptly.
“There’s not enough jobs out here for people nowadays because they don’t have the skills,” Klein says.
Klein says she quickly realized she needs her GED, so that’s what she’s tackling.
According to the HIRE Center, of the 2,800 people it serves every year, 80 percent find employment.
A few miles south, white sparks dance on the concrete floor as students practice skills they hope will pay off with a family supporting job. This is the welding lab at the Oak Creek campus of MATC and the students’ backgrounds vary from landscaper to chef.
Tom Wicinski drove a forklift until his employer left the state and he lost his $18 an hour job.
“I don’t know if I’ll get into welding. I may. I may not, depending on how my skills will develop. For some people that think welding is easy, they should go out try it,” Wicinski says.
Fellow trainee Shannon Bartley has also found parts of the trade, daunting.
“It’s a challenge to remember how to do dimensions and figuring it out in your head first before you can actually put it on paper,” Bartley says.
A family welder encouraged her to enroll.
Nearby, is Clinton McCarey, a veteran who served with the Army National Guard in Iraq.
“It was miserable. I’m happy to say I made it through, a couple of my soldiers did not, and here I am, picking up a new trade,” McCarey says. I ask if he was working prior to enrolling at MATC, following his service. He says, “Yes sir, I was a roofer. I had to wait a year just to get into this program. I was on the waiting list. I’m doing it and I like it,” McCarey says.
McCarey will attend classes five days a week for one year. Course material includes not only welding practice, but also math and economics. MATC reports that every graduate last year, landed a job with a manufacturer.
Technical school is not the only route to learning industrial skills.
Equipment is humming at Pereles Brothers on Milwaukee’s northwest side. The company makes plastic parts such as handles for power saws.
President Ted Muccio says he could not find skilled applicants, so he created his own training program.
“We have what we call entry level positions, someone comes in and runs a molding press. They’re given instructions on sheets about what they need to watch for, and then there are some other levels above that,” Muccio says.
Muccio partners with the nearby Silver Spring Neighborhood Center. It identifies potential entry-level workers and gets them up to speed on work readiness skills such as showing up on time.
Derrick Roby joined Pereles Bros. a couple years ago.
“I never knew what a machine operator was, and now, I’m pretty good at what I do. I’m trying to advance in this company,” Roby says.
Roby mentioned it was difficult to find a job on account on his background.
“I’m a three time felon, and one thing I like about Pereles, they opened the doors for me and offered a helping hand, which is something that no one would do. Everyone was shutting the door in my face,” Roby says.
On Thursday, WUWM’s Erin Toner will look further into what’s working and what’s missing, in local efforts to close the skills gap.
October 30, 2012
From wbay.com: “NWTC grand money to help train skilled workers” — Green Bay -Northeast Wisconsin Technical College is one of 16 technical colleges in the state to get part of $15 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The school is looking to expand and add more students with the money.
“We’re looking at adding another full time machine shop here, basically doubling our capacity for our first year program. Also, we’re looking to update some of the older equipment,” said Matt Schmelzer, a machine tool instructor at NWTC.
NWTC hopes to increase the number of students in skilled trade programs.
“Last year alone we had well over 400 job postings in the northeast Wisconsin area. We’re only graduating 60 students a year,” explained Schmelzer.
Part of the grant money also allows for partnerships with local employers like at Lindquist Machine.
Students from NWTC are able to go there and further their skills.
“When they’re here working, that’s where they get that next step of the education process going to the real life work and real life situations that come up,” explained Mark Kaiser, CEO of Lindquist Machine.
Workers are also able to re-train and learn different skills.
“Technology is constantly changing and so we are able to keep our associates at the highest level we can from a technology stand point working with NWTC,” said Kaiser.
Kaiser also reiterates the need to get more younger people interested in trades like manufacturing which the grant money will help with.
He says it’s the only way business like his can expand.
October 30, 2012
From madison.com: “Wisconsin Technical College System looking for a new leader” — As UW-Madison takes its time choosing a new chancellor, Wisconsin’s technical college system is in a relative sprint to get a new chief after former president Dan Clancy unexpectedly announced his retirement in July.
“We’ve got a very compressed schedule,” said Mark Tyler, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System board and head of the seven-member search committee. “Our intent is to fill the role as quickly as we can but make sure we do it with the right candidate.”
Applications for the vacant position — Clancy’s last day was in September — were due Friday. Tyler wouldn’t say how many applications came in but said he expects the committee to be able to choose from a “sufficient pool” including candidates within Wisconsin and outside the state because of the system’s national reputation.
Bettsey Barhorst, president of Madison Area Technical College, said it’s important that the committee consider a wide range of candidates who can look at the sprawling technical college system with fresh eyes and new ideas.
“It’s a good thing they’re doing a national search so they can get people paying attention to the national and the global scene,” she said. “Wisconsin tends to be insular in some things.”
The initial screening of candidates is being overseen by Marion Smith, director of labor research at the law firm of Michael Best & Friedrich. The search committee hopes to have six to 10 candidates in for interviews in mid-November and to forward a short list of finalists to the statewide system board for mid-December interviews.
The board, made up of representatives from each of the state’s 16 technical college districts, has final say in the hire, Tyler said. Stan Davis, a private practice lawyer in Sun Prairie, represents the Madison district. Davis also is part of the seven-member search committee.
Major growth, major challenges
The new president will take over at a time of dramatic growth for technical colleges but significant funding challenges.
Under Clancy, who was system president from 2004 until his retirement this year, enrollment at the colleges grew 40 percent statewide, fueled in part by the economic recession that put an unusually large number of adults out of work and in need of retraining for new jobs. Locally, MATC is in the middle of a major building boom thanks to passage in 2010 of a $134 million public referendum.
However, funding for the system was cut 30 percent, or $71.6 million, in Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-13 budget. The system is hoping for a return of some of the lost funding in the next budget, for 2013 to 2015.
In its budget proposal sent to the Department of Administration in September, system vice president Morna Foy said employers projected a need for 39,000 more new workers over the next two years in skilled manufacturing and other fields than the colleges can provide. Part of the problem, she said, stems from a 12,000-student waiting list at the state’s technical colleges.
Tyler said it would be ideal to have a new president in place by January, when a new legislative session begins and lawmakers hash out the next biennial budget. However, he said the board was more interested in getting the right candidate even if it requires waiting into the spring or summer.
Barhorst agreed, saying it can be difficult finding a new president during the academic year when most in education are locked into contracts. Getting it right is more important, she said.
“The leader of the system needs to be out there telling our story, understanding the political arena in which we operate today and understanding the needs of employers,” she said. “We’re the answer to the skills gap in the state.”