From “Budget Watch: Technical Colleges” — In the latest installment of Here and Now’s Budget Watch series, reporter Zac Schultz examines the impact Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal could have on state technical colleges.

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From “New FVTC program helps trucking companies fill skills gap” — Appleton – Instead of working against one another, a group of local trucking companies is teaming up to create a training program that will benefit all of them. The new program is believed to be the only one of its kind in the country.

Appleton West students are some of the first to hear about a new program being created at Fox Valley Technical College. After several local trucking companies found themselves trying to steal trailer tech employees from one other, because there’s a shortage of workers with the necessary skills, those companies decided to team up to create a curriculum to specifically teach trailer technician skills.

“It was a way for us to try and get more technicians in the field that we could all benefit from and ultimately the customer does,” says Margo Kane from Master Fleet, one of the participating companies.

The 18-week trailer tech program will cover a range of skills, everything from welding and electrical work to brake work and accident repair. With a 99% job placement rate, anyone who enters the program is pretty much guaranteed a job upon completion.

“For about $2200 somebody can come in for 18 weeks and go out in the industry and start at a good wage,” says Dan Poeschel from FVTC.

While high schoolers are being targeted for the trailer tech program, Fox Valley Tech officials tell us those who already work in the trades industry can easily transition into this program.

Says Poeschel, “The people that really transition well are somebody that may be a carpenter and they’re having a hard time finding work there. They could go right into, come on with a lot of skills and really excel at this.”

Registration for the new trailer tech program will begin in November. Classes are scheduled to start in January.


From “Column: Dual credits help save money, time” — By Sue Budjac — Today is Dual Credit Day. This day recognizes the role of Mid-State Technical College during the past two decades in helping thousands of high school students accelerate their educational attainment.

Recognition of similarly successful collaborations is happening today at technical colleges all across Wisconsin.

What is dual credit, and how does it work? Dual credit classes are college-level courses taught in high schools by high school teachers who are Wisconsin Technical College System certified.

Essentially, specific classes in the high school use MSTC books and curriculum, and students receive college credits for successful completion. Examples of dual credit classes include college accounting, advanced computer applications, medical terminology, alternative energy and marketing principles.

Each high school partners with MSTC to determine classes that are eligible for dual credit, so dual credit classes will vary from high school to high school. Eleven high schools currently offer dual credit classes in the Mid-State Technical College District.

The 16 colleges in the WTCS have offered dual credit opportunities for more than 20 years. During that time span, we have expanded dual credit into new program areas and presented high school students with numerous opportunities to get an inexpensive head start on their college education. Technical colleges across the state are specialists in transitioning high school students into higher education.

Every dual credit earned is one less credit to pay for in college. How so? With dual credit, high school students take a free MSTC college course that also counts toward their high school graduation requirements. Dual credit is thus a great way to reduce the cost of a college education.

Dual credit saves time and money. Students can focus their time in college on those courses and skills they need most to graduate quickly. Who wouldn’t prefer a paycheck in their pocket over another semester of college loans? Dual credit students also gain an early appreciation for the demands and rigor of college courses while putting themselves on the fast-track to a good-paying career.

About 20,000 Wisconsin high school students each year are already taking advantage of this head start on the path to a college degree. They learn a high-quality skill set and acquire hands-on experience in less time for less money. Dual credit students are more likely to enroll in college and complete an MSTC degree or certificate. Local businesses also benefit from a well-trained workforce. If our economy is to thrive, our communities need to embrace a healthy workforce that in turn stimulates economic growth and job creation. Dual credit is a means to that end.

If you are interested in learning more about earning college credit in high school, please visit with your local high school counselor or CTE teacher, or call MSTC’s high school career coach, Xiong Vang, at 715-422-5521.

Sue Budjac is president of Mid-State Technical College.

From “Tech school expands to meet skills gap” — The training labs at Lakeshore Technical College have been booked solid, up to 18 hours a day, and the waiting lists are nearly 30 people deep.

“The waiting list for example, machine tool and especially our welding program, are such that we can have a program filled and before the start of the program, we already have almost the next program filled,” explained Executive Dean of Manufacturing Richard Hoerth.

With a changing job market, some employers have been dealing with what they call a skills gap.

They say they are willing to hire, but can’t find qualified people to fill the spots.

And it seems more people are beginning to understand the gap in skilled labor in the state. And so the college decided there’s only one way to address the growing need and interest, expand.

The more than $6 million project includes doubling the size of LTC’s Flexible Training Arena and modernizing the Trade and Industry building.

The expansion project is one of the largest of its kind for the nearly century old school. Officials expect the expansion will increase the number of graduates by 50 each year.

“The manufacturing sector in Manitowoc County and the lakeshore in general is extremely important. It’s about 37% of our employment,” explained Connie Loden, Executive Director of the Manitowoc County Economic Development Corporation.

Economic development officials feel the expansion is coming at the right time, but the skills gap stretches beyond Wisconsin.

According to an annual survey by ManpowerGroup, skilled trades was the hardest job to fill last year in the U.S, and it’s topped the charts since 2010.

“As the economy grows, we’re part of that solution and our employers need a skilled workforce to grow and that’s where we come in, is working with them and working with the students in the area,” explained LTC President Michael Lanser.

The college plans to break ground on the project in June. Officials say grants, loans and private investments will cover the costs.

In addition to this milestone, the college will celebrate its 100th anniversary on May 8th.

From “Free vehicle safety checkup for senior drivers” — Senior citizens in the Madison area have the chance to make their vehicles more safe on the road.

A team of automotive technicians and health professionals have organized the CarFit program. The event is geared to help seniors feel more comfortable and safe in their vehicles.

Darcie Olson is an instructor for the Madison College Occupational Therapy Assistant Program. She says drivers’ vision, flexibility, strength and other physical conditions may change as they age. Volunteers at the event will help drivers clear off blind spots, adjust headroom space, examine their foot positioning, and check safety belts.

The CarFit program will be held Monday May 6th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Madison College West Campus. Anyone who is interested can make an appointment by calling (608)-258-2313.



From “GOP lawmakers propose replacing technical college property taxes with sales tax hike” — Control of the state’s 16 technical colleges would be shifted to a statewide board and a 1 percent sales tax would replace local property taxes raised by technical college boards, under a proposal from Republican lawmakers.

The bill would make all changes contingent on approval by voters in a spring 2014 referendum.

It was authored by Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, and co-sponsored by Joint Finance Committee chairman Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Rep. Tom Larson, R-Colfax.

Bies said he was working on the bill since 2001 in response to constituent concerns about the effect of rising technical college property taxes and local technical college boards not being elected.

“We do not think paying for colleges should be on the property tax,” Bies said.

But he acknowledged he hasn’t received much support from fellow Republicans, and the bill’s prospects are uncertain.

Gov. Scott Walker suggested the referendum, Bies said. Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson didn’t have an immediate comment Friday.

He also didn’t respond to a follow-up email.

The bill, AB 117, was referred to the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, where committee chairman Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, opposes the idea of shifting technical college revenue to a sales tax, spokesman Mike Mikalsen said.

“It was a terrible idea to (broach) the idea of a sales tax increase,” Mikalsen said. “That’s just not realistic.”

Mikalsen said the committee may discuss the role of the state and local technical college boards in the fall. But he noted a Republican attempt last session to add more business representatives to local technical college boards fell flat.

“A lot of legislators are licking their wounds,” he said.

Wisconsin Technical College System officials are open to discussing funding changes but oppose centralizing control of the colleges, system spokesman Conor Smyth said.

“The current government structure is responsive to local communities and the employers in those communities,” Smyth said.

Tim Casper, Madison Area Technical College assistant vice president for budget and public affairs, said the local board — appointed by local elected officials — understands area business needs better than a state board would. He also said the bill is problematic because it doesn’t specify that the sales tax funds would go to technical colleges.

The state’s technical college system provides vocational training, college credit and adult enrichment classes to more than 350,000 students a year.

Technical college boards outside Milwaukee are appointed either by county or school district leaders and must include two employers, two employees, three members of the public, a school district administrator, and a local or state elected official.

Bies’ bill would transfer all district employees, facilities, property, assets and liabilities to the Wisconsin Technical College System Board. The local boards would continue to advise the district director, who would be appointed to the state board.

The bill would increase the state sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent, raising about $900 million in new state revenue. The bill does not dedicate the new funds to technical colleges but calls for legislation to “reconcile” new funding and a shift in control of the system.

This fiscal year, the 16 technical colleges raised $786.7 million in property taxes.

That amount has grown on average by 3.8 percent per year over the past decade.

Much of the statewide increase in recent years came from MATC, which received voter approval in fall 2010 for a $133.7 million building plan.

The college has faced criticism for erecting several new buildings but not having the money to operate them.

“We asked the public and the public pretty overwhelmingly said go forward and provide for the facilities that are needed,” Casper said.

The state cut aid to technical colleges by $36 million, or 30 percent, in 2011-12. Walker proposed a $5 million, or 6 percent, increase in 2014-15.


From “High school students can get head starts through dual credits” — By Gabrielle Banick – Financing a child’s college education can seem daunting. Even with financial aid, and with the knowledge that education is an investment that pays dividends long into the future, many families believe they cannot fit college tuition into their budgets.

That’s why on April 30th, the Wisconsin Technical College System is promoting “Do the Dual” to raise awareness about dual credit programs across the state. Dual credit programs allow high school juniors and seniors to simultaneously earn high school and college credit. At most schools, these classes are free, resulting in significant cost savings for families of college-bound students.

How significant are the savings associated with dual credit? During the 2009-10 school year, Blackhawk Technical College registered 194 students in dual credit courses, saving parents $55,668 in college tuition costs. In 2011-12, that number jumped to 652 students, saving families $284,546.

Still, we believe dual credit is somewhat of a well-kept secret—and that needs to change. At Blackhawk Tech, the general education division has been working with public school staff and administrators throughout Rock and Green counties to ensure that more students and parents know of this opportunity. In fact, Blackhawk Tech has 34 different transcripted credit articulation agreements in place at 10 area high schools.

Nevertheless, more awareness beyond the education sector is needed to help families and students pay for college and understand that dual credit programs have other benefits in addition to tuition savings, such as:

–Employers need access to skilled workers in order to remain globally competitive. We need to supply more well-trained graduates to meet the workforce needs, and dual credit allows students to finish college in less time.

–Students deserve the chance to use their time in the classroom more efficiently and get a head start on college. Many high school students who are career focused and willing to take on the rigor of college classes can begin their pathways to postsecondary education and then to the workforce at earlier ages.

–The partnerships between our secondary schools and technical colleges are outstanding and grow even stronger when aligning curricula.

–Finally, and perhaps most important, a student who leaves high school with college credit is much more likely to pursue, and complete, a college degree. Dual credit helps students overcome real or perceived obstacles to higher education.

It’s clear that dual credit has far-reaching implications. These programs will help foster economic development and make higher education more affordable. Let’s move dual credit from a well-kept secret to one of Wisconsin’s greatest success stories.

Our state, our taxpayers and, most important, our students will be the real winners.

Gabrielle Banick is dean of General Education at Blackhawk Technical College and is a former Wisconsin Technical College System education director for articulation; phone 608 757-6320; email

“Do the Dual” event

On Tuesday, April 30, Blackhawk Technical College will host two articulation workshops at its central campus, 6004 Prairie Ave., Janesville. These are workshops you would normally be able to take as dual credit classes. One in math will run from 9 to 11 a.m. and one in marketing and business education will be from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Blackhawk Tech also will give out “Do the Dual” wristbands and promotional posters at area high schools.

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