From jsonline.com: “BMO Harris Bradley Center buys MATC parcel” — The BMO Harris Bradley Center is expanding its footprint.

Arena officials and the Milwaukee Development Corp. announced Thursday a partnership that will enable the BMO Harris Bradley Center to purchase property owned by the Milwaukee Area Technical College at the southwest corner of N. 4th St. and W. Juneau Ave.

Under terms of the agreement, the arena will purchase the half-acre property with funds from a low-interest loan from the MDC.

The purchase price is approximately $1 million.

Steve Costello, president and CEO of the Bradley Center Sports and Entertainment Corp., said in a statement that the arena plans to work with city officials to continue the existing 30-car parking operation on the northern end of the site and begin planning to demolish the MATC building on the southern end of the purchased property.

“This is a good business move for the current BMO Harris Bradley Center and our operations,” Costello said in a statement. “The terms of the MDC loan are such that we can pay for it with revenues generated from the parking that already exists on the site.”

Costello said the purchase agreement gives the BMO Harris Bradley Center complete ownership of the property between N. 4th and N. 5th Sts., and W. State and W. Juneau Ave.

Costello said that, no matter what happens with talk of a new arena in Milwaukee, having additional property is critical.

“We are pleased to work with the MDC on this important effort,” Costello said. “This move helps us extend the life of our building and maintain the BMO Harris Bradley Center as the crown jewel of the downtown Milwaukee entertainment arena.”

From superiortelegram.com: “WITC offers free adult basic education” — Free basic education classes for adults are available at the Superior campus of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. This summer the Student Success Center in Room 213 is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays through July 24. Fall classes will resume Aug. 19, and the Student Success Center will be open 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Whether students want to prepare for college, earn their GED/HSED or enter the workforce with confidence, they can brush up on basic skills — reading, grammar, science, social studies, basic computer skills or math — in the Student Success Center. Most courses are self-paced with instructor assistance. Students can enroll any time.

The GED/HSED tests change Jan. 1 to a new computerized testing format. Individuals who have started, but not completed, the current written battery of GED tests, will need to finish by December or start over with the new test. Beginning Jan. 1, students will be required to follow the new computerized testing format.

For more information, call 715-394-6677, ext. 6210.

From hngnews.com: “Blackhawk Tech’s Milton facility on track” — “I think we’re on a good roll.”

Blackhawk Technical College President Tom Eckert was upbeat on June 19 as he talked about the college’s plans to open a new manufacturing education center in Milton.

He appeared at the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly general membership meeting in Newville to give a presentation on the proposed BTC Advanced Manufacturing Training Center.

The Wisconsin Technical College Board in March gave approval for Blackhawk to lease the former Burdick/ANGI Energy System building at 15 Plumb St. to serve as the new facility. Eckert said last week the lease on the property had been secured and engineers were beginning to look at the building to evaluate needs.

The Milton Plan Commission will also hold a public hearing on July 9 at 5 p.m. to consider a conditional use permit (CUP) request for the facility. The meeting will be held in the City Council chambers at 430 E. High St.

Eckert said he anticipates the college’s big manufacturing programs – precision machining (CNC), industrial maintenance, electromechanical technology, welding and metal fabrication – to begin classes in the new facility in the fall of 2014. The remaining manufacturing programs would relocate to Milton in the fall of 2015.

He said modern manufacturing is “no longer dirty and dark” and manufacturers are using more automation. The manufacturers are in need of employees who can master the new technology.

“It’s good for our economy to make things,” he said, touting the importance of keeping manufacturing in the United States.

The Advanced Manufacturing Training Center will be designed to allow more cross-training, creating well-rounded graduates, Eckert said. There will be double the number of welding booths compared to current setup at the central campus in Janesville and more space to take on bigger projects.

Eckert said the “capstone” project for students will be to create a manufacturing line that makes a product.

Moving the manufacturing program to Milton will also free up much-needed space at the central campus for other programs.

From thewheelerreport.com: “NWTC and Oneida Tribe formalize partnership” — A charter formalizing a partnership between the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College was signed on Thursday, June 20 on NWTC’s Green Bay campus.

The document, endorsed by Oneida Nation Area Manager of Education and Training Norbert S. Hill and NWTC President Dr. H. Jeffery Rafn, outlines the long-term goals of collaboration between the nation and College. Goals include increased post- secondary educational attainment for tribal members, more cooperation on higher education policy and programming, and ultimately, sustained economic vitality for the Oneida Nation.

“This builds on a relationship between an institution and a nation,” said Hill. “It starts with students, but education is also the vehicle to help Oneida build a nation.”

“We talked about how we could do more together, and this really commits us to increasing the educational level of tribal members, making sure people have the access that they need, and most importantly, that they’re successful,” said Rafn.

Approximately 100 Oneida students attend NWTC per year, making it one of the most highly attended higher education institutions for tribal members. Still, Hill and Rafn see opportunities to increase degree completion and to strengthen community relationships.

“We’ll be working together to only to assess how successful students currently are, but also how we can continue to improve the overall success of their students,” said Rafn.“We sit right on reservation land, right across the street is the Oneida Nation. It seems to me that we have a great opportunity to do some really good things together.”

Other goals contained in the document include increased employment for tribal members, improved student satisfaction, and more collaboration on workforce development issues, internships, and grants.

The charter builds on two recent partnerships between NWTC and Oneida that included the Food Sovereignty Summit in April, and visits to Oneida Nation High School by NWTC’s Mobile Manufacturing Lab.

“We’re holding each other accountable to achieve some specific goals,” said Hill.

“It’s really more than just sending kids to school and achieving a diploma or a two- year degree. It’s much more than that, it’s saying ‘how do we make this work?’ and it could be a model for other tribes across the nation.”

From wiscnews.com: “Supervisors get insight into leadership training for department heads” — Fourteen Columbia County supervisors Tuesday got what Mike Baldwin called a “crash course” in the management and leadership training that county department heads have undergone since the beginning of this year.

Baldwin, business and industry services account manager for Madison Area Technical College, said role-playing, case studies and conversations among the department heads have been just some of the tools used to help department heads discern the distinctions between leadership and management.

Management, in a nutshell, entails putting out fires, Baldwin said, whereas leadership entails considering ways to keep fires from igniting in the future.

County Board Chairman Andy Ross had invited all supervisors, but particularly those who lead the County Board’s 13 governing committees, to get a glimpse of the training that department heads are receiving through MATC.

There was $20,000 set aside in the county’s 2013 budget, according to Ross, to offer management-leadership training for department heads, including those who hold elected posts.

For next year’s budget, Ross said he will propose setting aside an additional $20,000 to extend the training to employees in supervisory positions who report directly to a county department head.

And, County Board members — especially those who might be elected to their first term in April 2014 — likely will undergo some form of leadership training, Ross said. For the last two County Board election cycles, newly elected supervisors had an orientation session that lasted a few hours; Ross said he’s looking for something a little more in-depth than that.

Baldwin said one of the things he heard frequently from county department heads during their training sessions was that County Board members, too, should have leadership training.

Supervisor Susan Martin, chairwoman of the County Board’s human resources committee, said she would like to find a way to quantify the extent to which department heads use the abilities gained in the training, and incorporate them into the annual evaluation that each department head undergoes with his or her governing committee.

Supervisor Fred Teitgen, chairman of the planning and zoning committee, said there are times when department heads need the skills of a manager to accomplish day-to-day tasks, and times when they need the skills of a leader to create a long-term vision for their departments.

“You need to know when to utilize those two roles,” Teitgen said.

Baldwin said all department heads were interviewed individually, and underwent an online evaluation of their leadership skills, before the department heads began monthly group training.

Ross said he does not have the data from either the interviews or the online evaluations, because he does not want department heads to fear that any of them are being targeted.

Trust, Baldwin said, has emerged as a value that department heads hold as vital. They’re not saying that there is a lack of trust between the department heads and elected officials who oversee their work, he said — only that maintaining trust is important.

 

From wisbusiness.com: “Original food biz concepts feature natural, Wisconsin ingredients” — Finalists of this year’s Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge have something in common – they all incorporate Wisconsin-made ingredients. This challenge to find Wisconsin’s next great food entrepreneur is sponsored by Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), Reliable Water Services a local provider of commercial water heaters, boilers and water softeners and FaB Milwaukee, an industry network for the food and beverage cluster of SE Wisconsin.

Aspiring chefs and home cooks entered by submitting a short application and photo of their concept. Finalists were selected based on the originality and viability of their concept and appearance based on an initial photo. Three finalists include:

• Andrew Bechaud– Milwaukee, Wis. – Bechaud Elixing Co., a line of handcrafted small batch beverages made with Wisconsin agricultural ingredients. Tempting flavors include Chocolate Chai Veloute and Spring Blossom Cherry Soda. His dream is to start a small production facility and sell to local upscale grocers such as Sendik’s or Whole Foods.
• Pete Cooney –Milwaukee, Wis. – Pete’s Pops – Handcrafted Ice Pops, a frozen treat made with fresh fruits and natural sugars in flavors like Strawberry Basil and Pineapple Jalapeno. Cooney wants to produce through a commercial kitchen, start selling via a push cart at local events and ultimately distribute through area grocers.
• Marcus Thie –Shorewood, Wis. –Sauceformations, a line of gluten-free and Paleo-diet friendly organic sauces for home chefs including Tomato Choka, a recipe from Trinidad packed with flavor and nutrients. He wants to launch StreetBeet, a food truck where he can promote locally grown food and showcase organic recipes featuring his sauce line.

Finalists will compete for the grand prize in a Food Network-style judging event at MATC’s student-run restaurant Cuisine located at 1015 N. 6th St on the MATC campus on Wednesday, July 31th at 3 p.m.

The grand prize winner will receive $2,500 in seed money from Reliable Water Services; a comprehensive entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC; $500 of professional cookware from Boelter Superstore and a two-hour private meeting with food industry executives serving on FaB Milwaukee’s Advisory Council. Judges for the contest include:

• Jan Kelly, owner and chef, Meritage restaurant, Milwaukee
• Angela West, co-founder/publisher, Alcoholmanac Magazine, Milwaukee
• Betsy Gilmore, general manager, Bel Air Cantina/Wauwatosa
• Jack Kaestner, chef instructor for Milwaukee Area Technical College
• Lynn Sbonik, co-owner of Beans & Barley Deli, Market & Full Service Café
• Eric Olesen, owner and president, O&H Danish Bakery of Racine
• Peter Gottsacker, president of Wixon, a manufacturer of seasonings, flavors, and technologies for the food, beverage, and meat industry.

“We were impressed with the level of creativity and passion of the many entries we received,” said contest judge Eric Olesen, owner and president of O &H Danish Bakery and council co-chair for FaB Milwaukee. “Our three finalists stood out as having concepts that would not only be delicious but also marketable in our community.”

From wrn.com: “Next batch of cartoonists a quick study” — A professional artist teaches kids in his hometown of Madison as a way to give back to the community. Jeff Butler remembers the beginning of his career in the early 1980s when Madison was a “hotbed” of comic book art, a phenomenon that has since waned. The artist, whose work spans from comics to video games, decided recently to start teaching as way to “pay back some of the stuff I had learned.”

Butler teaches, at Madison College, a daily four-hour Boot Camp for Cartoonists for middle school and high school students. “I’m absolutely flabbergasted at how good these students are,” says Butler, an alum of Madison College and UW-Madison.

Butler says a reason these kids pick it up so quickly is due in large part to the internet and the information accessible from it. He also teaches adults in a separate continuing education course but admits it’s the kids who learn really quickly.

 

From marshfieldnewsherald.com: “Former school now home to teachers, students” — After graduation, most students are happy to leave their school building and never return. And although young children often think so, teachers do not live in their classrooms.

But in Marshfield, however, some students are living where they learned and some teachers where they taught.

For decades, the historic Purdy Building nestled in Marshfield historic downtown district, served as the city’s junior high and vocational school.

Named after Marshfield’s World War I war hero, the Willard D. Purdy Junior High and Vocational School began holding classes in fall 1920. After McKinley High School burned in 1936, the Purdy School served as both junior and senior high, and in 1971, after the completion of Marshfield’s new high school, Mid-State Technical College moved into Purdy.

Throughout the years, many students and teachers passed through the hallways of the Purdy Building, and some of these academics are back because of the site’s transformation into a retirement community. Maintaining many of its original features and its unique collegiate gothic style, Purdy was transformed into the Aster Retirement Community of Marshfield in 1996.

Don Erpenbach, a Neillsville native, taught psychology at the Purdy Building when it was Mid-State Technical College. Today, he enjoys his meals near his former classroom.

“We had classrooms, and now we have apartments,” he said. Aster hosts 53 apartments, and living in one of them brings back memories of Erpenbach’s teaching days.

Another former teacher, Joey Mulholland, also resides at Aster. Although she taught at Columbus Catholic High School, her four children attended school in the Purdy Building and she took MSTC courses. Her decision to live in a former school was purely coincidental.

“There’s no rhyme or reason,” she said. “I like the location and I like what (Aster) offers, and the staff is wonderful.”

Tenants often casually remark how this room used to be their home economics classroom or that room used to be the gym, and it is these stories that Activities Director Janice Christiansen enjoys.

“It’s kind of neat how much history is in this building, and it’s interesting that you get to hear about it every day from the residents, to learn what it was like back then,” she said. “It’s surprising that we have several teachers that live here. One is even 100 years old. It’s the full circle of life, where they were teaching here and now they are living here.

“Many residents here were students, too,” she added. “I think it gives them a sense of home.”

Reunions between students and teachers also have occurred within the walls of this former school building. Before one memorable performance, local musician Mike Holubets, who often donates his talents to entertain the residents at Aster, recognized the familiar face of Bob Campbell, his childhood music teacher and career inspiration.

“It think it’s so cool,” said Christiansen. “A former student took and went into music, and here his teacher is listening to him.”

Campbell passed away earlier this year, but his wife, Janet, continues to marvel at the unexpected reunion between teacher and student. “It’s interesting how people connect,” she said. “It isn’t very often that you find someone that lives in the same place he taught.”

Whether residing at Aster Retirement Community by choice or karma, former teachers and students living in the historic Purdy Building definitely feel at home in a classroom.

From journaltimes.com: “Several Gateway Technical College students take honors” — Seven Gateway Technical College students captured honors at the national leadership conference of the Business Professionals of America held May 8-12 in Orlando, Fla.

Gateway Technical College students took first through third place in the following categories, competing against students from across the United States:

  • First place: Web Design Team: Kasey Knudson, Kelly Kendra and Nicole Rugen.
  • First place: Financial Math and Analysis: Mark Short.
  • Second place: Presentation Management Team: Elizabeth Klinzing, Holly Anderson and Magan Lawrence.

Rugen also placed fourth in Graphic Design Promotion, Short placed sixth in Insurance Concepts and Klinzing took 10th in Interview Skills.

Students were judged by industry professionals who are able to also share their expertise with students.

BPA is the national career/technical student organization for students preparing for careers in the business field.

From leadertelegram.com: “CVTC enrollment shrinking to pre-recession levels” — By Andrew Dowd – After the Great Recession helped boost enrollment at Chippewa Valley Technical College as unemployed workers sought retraining for new jobs, student numbers are declining as the economy has improved.

Following a peak in spring 2011, enrollment fell in the past two years, and CVTC’s new budget forecasts it will decrease slightly in the upcoming academic year.

President Bruce Barker referred to the enrollment trend as “returning to pre-recession” levels, but still higher than the college’s numbers in the early 2000s.

Enrollment spiked in spring 2008 and 2011, reaching 4,623 and 4,720 full-time equivalent students, respectively. (CVTC measures its enrollment in full-time equivalency, where one student equals a full-time student or a few part-time ones that combine to equal a 15-credit course load.) Next year’s enrollment is projected at 4,300, a slight drop from the 4,340 full-time equivalent students that attended this spring.

Smaller high school graduating classes also are figuring into the decline.

“What we’re seeing is a smaller number of high graduates that the technical college is competing for as new enrollees in higher education,” CVTC spokesman Mark Gunderman said.

High school senior classes will decline 5 percent by 2019 in the technical college’s district, according to a forecast from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

Tuition is going up by 4.5 percent next year at all Wisconsin public technical colleges, but CVTC is expecting to see a 1 percent decline in its tuition revenue because of the declining enrollment.

“The individual’s cost is going up, but total revenue is down,” Barker said.

Tuition contributed $16.32 million for CVTC’s 2012-13 budget, but is expected to fall to $16.08 million next year.

Four-year universities and colleges also are coping with the same decline in graduating high school numbers, Gunderman noted. However, technical colleges have a larger proportion of nontraditional students who work full time, raise a family or both while attending college.

To that end, CVTC is enhancing its catalog of eight-week classes geared toward working students that would have a more difficult time taking a regular 16-week course.

 

From itjungle.com: “Take a Survey, Help Gateway Technical College help you” — by Dan Burger –There are two ways to look at the IT skills shortage: macro and micro. Macro is an industry-wide view and micro is how the skills shortage affects the organization where you work. A week ago, in the But Wait There’s More section of The Four Hundred, readers were encouraged to participate in a survey designed to gauge the severity and focal points of the IBM i skills shortage. Equally important was the objective of matching up companies that are searching for talented entry-level workers with IT educations that included IBM i-related skills with the colleges that specialize in that training.

One of the best-known schools for IBM i education is Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin. Jim Buck, who guides the IBM i educational curriculum at Gateway and who is monitoring the survey responses, called me last week to say he had 81 responses from IBM i shops interested in collaborating on skills development and the idea of developing an improved pipeline of talent from two- and four-year colleges to their companies.

Buck is working with IBM’s Academic Initiative program and with the administrators at Gateway Technical College to apply for a Department of Labor grant that would further the development of a standardized IBM i curriculum that could be implemented at participating colleges and universities. In addition, with the help of the grant money, he plans to develop a “teach the teacher” program that would benefit schools where IBM i curriculum is in demand. Also in his sights is the building of advisory groups–made up of IBM i shops, independent software vendors, and IBM i business partners in the sales channel–at the schools.

Buck describes this as “industry-driven training” and he is emphasizing the role of IBM i shops in the preparation of training and the job placement support following the completion of training.

Receiving surveys from 81 companies in just one week had Buck ecstatic. He admitted that his best-guess estimate one week earlier was that maybe two dozen surveys would be completed. The surveys and the early indication of company interest will be used to support the Department of Labor grant request. Apart from the grant-writing process, Buck plans to contact the companies that participated in the surveys and guide them to colleges that can help them with current hiring needs as well as advice on setting up advisory councils at schools were training can be tailored somewhat to specific skills that are in demand.

Companies interested in helping themselves get connected to a skills pipeline while also helping the IBM i community and their local communities by hiring home grown talent can become participants by taking the survey, which is only a click away.

Do your part. Be helpful.

From fdlreporter.com: “MPTC holds GED/HSED graduation ceremony” — Cheers, tears, hugs and applause were all part of Moraine Park Technical College’s GED/HSED June 13 graduation ceremony.

A total of 56 students earned General Education Development (GED) and High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) certificates. Students had to pass five standardized tests in math, reading, writing, social studies and science to earn their GED/HSED.

More than 300 students completed the program at Moraine Park this year.

Angela Long of Hartford, one of two student speakers, delivered a speech sharing her struggle to earn her GED after having a child at age 15.

“I have been waiting for this for a long time,” Long said. “This is a huge achievement for me and it shows that it is so important to follow your dreams and never give up.”

Long also shared that her instructors at Moraine Park, especially Jessica Zappia, had a huge impact on her success.

“There were many times I wanted to give up, especially on math, but one amazing teacher, Jessica Zappia, pushed me to keep going,” Long said.

Angel Cortes of Fond du Lac provided encouraging advice to all graduates. She completed her GED in 2011 and is a May 2013 graduate of the cosmetology program at Moraine Park.

“My journey began after getting my GED. At the end of the tunnel I felt very proud and strong,” Cortes said.

Before presenting their certificates, Sheila Ruhland, president of Moraine Park, commended students for their hard work in completing the program.

“Lifelong education will be part of your journey,” Ruhland said. “Your journey this evening hasn’t ended — it is just the beginning.”

Two students, Christina Bogue of North Fond du Lac and Lisa Gurley of Beaver Dam, were presented with the Moraine Park Foundation Basic Education scholarship, a $500 scholarship for students pursuing further education at MPTC. The annual Friend of Basic Education Award was also presented to Lt. David Weske with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department for his support of education in the Washington County Jail. This is the 13th year this award has been presented.

 

From blackhawk.edu: “A taste of the Culinary Institute” — The high school students of five area Culinary Arts teachers may want to turn the tables next fall by asking those teachers what they did during their summer vacations.

The answer would be I went to Blackhawk Technical College’s two-day Culinary Institute.

“We’re here to make their lives just a little bit easier,’’ said BTC Culinary Arts instructor Joe Wollinger, better known as “Chef Joe’’ to those students who have made their ways through the BTC kitchens the past 25 years. “We’re trying to give them something they can use in a 45-minute class. This is a way for them to network and take advantage of that.’’

Chef Joe worked the kitchens on Tuesday and Wednesday this week with five teachers turned students that included what he called the southern contingent from Illinois – Jacqualine Mitchell of Harlem District #122, Jane Lang of Hononegah Community High Schools and Susan Fryer of Byron High School – and the northern contingent from Wisconsin – Jennifer Dail of Edgerton and Heather Buttchen of Evansville.

Chef Joe said this was his fifth workshop with high school instructors during his time at BTC.

The menu began Tuesday with some interesting appetizers – Crème Bulee, Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries and homemade soft-serve ice cream. If those sound like traditional desserts, you’re right. But it made for an interesting lunch during the mid-day break.

Over the two days, the students also worked on a wide variety of sauces and Tapas, those small plate meals usually loaded with spices and always loaded with taste. They also spent time on what should prove to be a classroom favorite when they return to their own kitchens next fall – French-Mediterranean Style Pizza made with quick rising dough for the crust.

Teachers stand to earn continuing education credits or further certification designations as a result of taking the seminar. Yet, those teachers turned students envisioned even more rewards beyond the delicacies they were creating.

“We do it for the learning experience,’’ Buttchen said. “It makes so much sense to do something like this because it helps us keep up with what’s going on in the industry. It keeps us fresh.’’

 

From homehealthcarenews.com: “Higher Education Puts Home Health on the Map” — As the number of home health workers are expected to grow by 1.6 million jobs by 2020, according to a report from Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, colleges are recognizing a demand to include home health care training into their curriculums.

This month, Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) in Green Bay embarked on an expansion of the school’s health sciences building. The already existing three-story structure looks to add on another floor to accommodate three new training labs—one of which specifically designated for home health care worker training.

The first college in Wisconsin to offer an Associates Degree in Wellness, NWTC’s expansion was a necessity, especially when considering recent healthcare trends, according to Cynthia Theys, associate dean of health sciences.

“We’re always trying to stay a step ahead of the trends we’re seeing in patient healthcare,” said Theys. “Right now, we see a big shift coming in keeping people out of costly institutions.”

This is where the school’s personal care worker program comes into play. The program is only one third of the expansion plans, joining a wellness lab focusing on exercise physiology and a simulation lab for NWTC nursing students.

Don’t expect to find Bunsen burners or glass beakers in NWTC’s home health lab. Instead, the training space will resemble a home-like setting to give students a feel for the working environment they will experience after graduation.

“These graduates are doing work in people’s homes, not in a nursing center,” said Theys. “We worked with designers to say that we want [the lab] to look like one of the homes in the area.”

The lab’s design will take after a 1970s ranch-style home, as these types of single-story homes resemble many of the residences in the particular area, according to Associate Dean Scott Anderson, who is also organizing the school’s new wellness center.

“One of the trends we’re seeing is the whole concept of aging in place and keeping people healthy in their homes longer,” said Anderson. “Now we’re designing a learning space that will have an impact on that.”

Other features of the home health lab include built-in barriers—such as narrow doorways and other non-compliant features under the Americans with Disabilities Act—so students learning and working in this environment can learn how to care for individuals with these obstacles in place, said Anderson.

Reason for the expansion is two-fold, as it addresses an increasing demand from the number of students enrolling in NTWC’s health programs and also creates partnerships with nearby home health agencies in town.

While the school’s personal care aides program is only about a year old, according to Theys, the training program had 70-80 graduates in its first year. On average, the program looks to graduate about 10 students a month, which NWTC has relayed in the past to Helping Hands, a local home health agency, to help expand its business.

NWTC is not the only school to implement home health worker training into its curriculum. Also noticing a nationwide demand for home health workers, the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) has designed a course to prepare students for jobs as home care aides.

The CSN course, developed by the Department of Labor with federal funding, has already seen two of its recent graduates find positions with a Nevada home care agency.

Growth looks promising for home health workers, according to Steve Gleicher, owner and operations director for Right at Home—the agency that hired the CSN graduates—in an article from Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“The growth prospect for health care aides is huge and the task before us is getting trained, qualified and responsible people to work in this industry,” said Gleicher in the article. “The CSN program is positioning itself to provide these individuals to grow with us.”

NWTC is also confident it will see even further interest from students wanting to enroll into its various health programs, home health included.

“Demand will increase as we’re hoping, but we may be a little ahead of our time,” said Theys. “As things evolve and some of the federal healthcare reforms fall into place, demand for the personal aide course will rise.”

NWTC received substantial community support in terms of capital dollars for the $3.5 million expansion project before its late May groundbreaking.

“We went out on a fundraising campaign, with various businesses and private donors donating over a million dollars to see this vision happen,” said Anderson. “They responded with enthusiasm and with dollars.”

School officials anticipate full occupancy for its three health labs in January 2014.

 

From gazettextra.com: “BTC board OKs $67.5 million budget, Eckert contract” — By Katherine Krueger — The Blackhawk Technical College District Board approved a $67.5 million budget and a new three-year contract for college president Tom Eckert without debate Thursday.

The board approved the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget, which contains an 11.8 percent increase in spending, most of which will go toward the college’s remodeling of a new instructional space. The new budget will be effective July 1.

The District Board has already leased the 18,819-square foot industrial building at 15 N. Plumb Street in Milton as the future home for its Advanced Manufacturing Training Center. The center, which is set to open in 2014, will include training labs for computer-numerical controlled and industrial maintenance technician programs.

These programs are currently one-year diploma programs, but the additional space means the college can add an option for a second-year specialization for students.

Vice President for Finance and Operations Renea Ranguette said the budget reflects declining support for the state’s 16 technical colleges and is also owed in part to decreased enrollment from peak levels in 2009-10, when around 2,900 students were enrolled.

Board members said the Milton campus means the college will remain a significant engine for creating skilled jobs in the area and the state.

“We’re bringing high-quality and high-paying jobs to the community,” said Victor Gonzalez, a board member. “The dollars and the graduates stay here.”

The board also unanimously approved a new three-year contract for Eckert.

Board vice chair Barbara Barrington said the contract includes a 2 percent salary increase for the first year of the contract. Eckert also will have to pay 50 percent of the total contribution to the Wisconsin Retirement System under the terms of the new contract.

The contract was drafted after a “market analysis” of the state’s other technical colleges, Barrington said.

She added that the three-year contract allows for stability in the college’s leadership team heading into such major projects as the Milton expansion.

“We recognized the need for a salary adjustment,” she said.

The board will have to revisit the president’s salary for the remaining two years of the contract down the road.

From fox11online.com: “FVTC unveils 1st of its kind ag program” — APPLETON – A new program at Fox Valley Technical College aims to make farming as precise as possible and the school says the program is the first of its kind in the state.

This field of soybeans was planted by Fox Valley Tech Students.  It’s a jumping off point for the school’s new program: Precision Agriculture.

“Optimize yield and decrease what it takes to grow the crops,” said Instructor Jason Fischer.

Fischer said precision ag encompasses a whole host of 21st-century farming techniques.  That includes self-driving planting equipment, tracking crop yield and the use of GPS and GIS systems in the fields.

“Completing maps that tell the farmer where were the high yields on the field and where were the low yields on the field and then make management decisions out of it,” explained Fischer.

What makes precision ag different is that instead of treating a field as one big piece of land it treats it section by section.

“So we’re gonna treat by the acre or even by the square foot differently across the field,” explained Fischer.

One example is fertilizer.

“Instead of putting the same rate of fertilizer across the field it puts more fertilizer where the plants need it and less fertilizer in areas of the field that do not need it,” said Fischer.

Mike Cattelino is associate dean of the manufacturing and agriculture technologies division.  He told us the college was able to start this new program thanks, in part, to a structural expansion of the agriculture department.

“Expansion started here in March and we’re scheduled to be ready for business in mid to late August,” said Cattelino.

Cattelino told us it’s important that Fox Valley Tech is the first school in Wisconsin with this program.

“The demand for precision ag really came from our business partners looking for people to fill the demand for precision ag specialists,” explained Cattelino, which means there should be jobs for students after graduation.

The precision ag program will start this fall.  It’s a year long program — covering planting to harvest, as well as the mechanic and business aspects of precision ag.

From weau.com: “Science education on the fast track” — Sam Strecker’s car got off to a fast start, but started to spin a bit, tilted up on one side, then veered off and crashed in the grass.

“It’s not just going fast, it’s staying on the road,” said Sam, who will be an 8th grader at Chippewa Falls Middle School in the fall.

That fundamental of racing summed up his immediate problem, but there are more technical ways to look at it, and Sam learned about those, too, this past week. He was one of 25 students in grades 8 through 11 taking part in the Ten80 Student Racing Challenge: NASCAR STEM Initiative, a five-day camp at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in Eau Claire. The racing helped show youth the fun side of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The camp, which began Monday, June 17, culminated in a day of racing and awards recognitions this past Friday.

“There’s a national shortage of people going into STEM-related fields, and a lot of STEM jobs are in manufacturing,” said Mark Hendrickson, special projects manager in the manufacturing area at CVTC. “We want to stimulate interest in these fields among young people, who may not realize how exciting and challenging STEM careers can be.”

The participants were divided into teams, with each given a radio-controlled one-tenth size NASCAR stock car replica. Through a week of activities, students learned about concepts such as how might a car be geared differently if the race is a short, straightaway drag race, compared to a longer race on a circular or oval track. They discovered which tires are for different courses, and how different batteries affect performance.

Of course, aerodynamics will affect the car’s performance. So will the surface of the track. Cory Haas, an Eau Claire Memorial sophomore, found that out in being the “driver” in a morning drag race, not long after a rain.

“We had the best car, but not the best terrain,” he said. “We had a pretty clear lead, then spun out into the grass.”

“I had a blast this week,” said Leo Plewa, a 9th grader attending the Wildlands School in Augusta. “I hadn’t worked with radio-controlled cars before. I’m amazed at how fast they can go, and at the science behind the cars.”

Faith Bowe, a Chippewa Falls 8th grader, was the only girl on the teams on race day. She said she learned a lot during the week, and likes science class. But she was on the same page as many of the boys as the class wrapped up and participants got a little crazy with some cars they brought from home. “Watching the cars crash together is pretty funny,” she said.

CVTC instructor John Wagner, one of the camp leaders, said some of the participants had a background in radio-controlled vehicles, and they mixed them with people with no background in forming the teams. He said students not only enjoyed racing, but also the modifications to the vehicles. Some wanted to take it a step further.

“Some of the more advanced students wanted to do more in car building,” Wagner said.

A summer camp has to include fun, and the participants had plenty of that. This camp also served to stimulate interest in science and technology. Cody Funk, a freshman from Owen-Withee High School, said his favorite part was actually the tour of CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center and the seeing the high tech machines there.

Leo was totally in his element at the camp. “I love science,” he said. “It’s probably my favorite subject.”

Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.

From jsonline.com: “Opinion: A partnership to fill jobs” — An article June 9 by the Journal Sentinel’s John Schmid provided an overview of the debate among researchers about the existence and extent of a skills gap in Wisconsin (“Program’s new approach to skills gap? Talk to employers”). However, the debate misses the immediate need to focus on a tangible solution. With area manufacturers working together with technical schools, we have an opportunity to begin that process.

We are in a manufacturing-rich region poised for growth. That growth is being squeezed by an increasing demand for advanced skills and an impending demographic shift that will mean too few workers to fill the void left by retirees. Time is of the essence to focus on action. Our ability to train, attract and retain talent to career pathways in manufacturing is simply critical to this region.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s Manufacturing Careers Partnership is a collaborative effort in the truest sense of the word. We share a common mission: to give people the skills they need to fill jobs and create a pipeline of talent now and in the future. The only way we can accomplish our mission is to have educational institutions, workforce development agencies and employers at the same table, talking — in detail — about their needs. And that’s exactly what we are doing.

Our first project, Welding 101, is designed to create a baseline of common skill requirements for entry-level welders among a significant number of employers and to improve manufacturers’ ability to attract and retain talent. To date, more than 50 companies have participated in a survey that asks, in great detail, what employers need from their welders on day one. As more employers complete the survey, we can move with confidence toward aligning course competencies across the region’s technical colleges.

We are pleased to be working in alignment with our manufacturers and our technical colleges: Gateway, Milwaukee Area, Moraine Park and Waukesha County, as well as the Wisconsin State Technical College System on this project. Together, we can give an individual employee the skills to succeed in a welding position and give employers a starting point for building a manufacturing career pathway.

Getting clear on what we, as technical colleges can teach, and we as employers, can then train, lays out a progressive and practical path to solving one of our region’s most pressing needs. We recognize that this project is a starting point. Workforce challenges are complex and the issues impacting the entire talent pipeline will not be solved with a single approach. But much like an entry-level position, we need to tackle Welding 101 and gain some experience and tangible success.

How you can help: if you are an employer of welders, please take the Welding 101 survey at www.mmac.org.

This op-ed was signed by Bryan Albrecht, president, Gateway Technical College; Dave Biddle, manager of technical services, Joy Global (MCP co-chair); Michael Burke, president, Milwaukee Area Technical College; Shelley Jurewicz, vice-president for economic development, MMAC/Milwaukee 7; David Mitchell, president, Monarch (MCP co-chair); Barbara Prindiville, president, Waukesha County Technical College; and Sheila Ruhland, president, Moraine Park Technical College.

From lacrossetribune.com: “Western breaks ground on $4.1 million addition” — Western Technical College officials broke ground Thursday on a $4.1 million addition for training diesel and heavy equipment technicians.

It is the first project to get underway from Western’s $80 million referendum in the fall. The referendum is slated to fund six major building projects, including extensive remodeling to the Coleman and Kumm centers, and the college’s technology building.

College officials expect to support an extra 1,000 students with the new spaces funded through the referendum.

The 20,000-square-foot training addition begun Thursday in La Crosse includes more classrooms and more space for teaching students in-demand technical skills, according to the college.

The revamped Truck and Heavy Equipment Facility is scheduled to be finished next spring and open to students in the fall.

The new building will also house Western’s new compressed natural gas training program, funded by a grant from the state’s tech college system.

 

From wiscnews.com: “Madison College finalists to visit Portage” — By Jen McCoy – The next president of Madison College will be one of three finalists who will visit the campuses next week.

After 33 applicants from around the nation, the finalists are: Stephen M. Curtis, president of Community College of Philadelphia; Jack E. Daniels, president of Los Angeles Southwest College; and Ann Valentine, chancellor of the Wabash Valley Region of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana.

“They’re all highly accomplished in a number of areas, and I think it was reflective of Madison College with its national presence reflected in our pool of candidates. We’re very pleased,” said Jon Bales, District Board trustee.

Public forums have been scheduled for each of the MATC regional campuses and at its Truax campus in Madison. For Portage, the open meet-and-greet will be from 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ann Valentine

Valentine will be at the Portage campus on Monday.

“We’re hoping for and open to feedback directly from the public. There will be a chance for questions and answers, people can see what motivates them, how they interact,” Bales said.

Before joining Wabash Valley in 2011, Valentine served for six years as president of Minnesota State Community and Technical College. She has also served as vice president and provost at Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin for five years; as chief academic officer at Independence Community College in Kansas; and dean for general education at Moraine Park Technical College in Wisconsin. She coordinated the Interdisciplinary Health Professions Education Program in the Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Iowa while also developing and delivering curriculum for the program, according to a news release.

Jack E. Daniels

On Tuesday, Daniels will meet the public in Portage.

Prior to Daniels position as president of Los Angeles Southwest College in July 2006, he served for three years as president at Lincoln Land Community College.

Daniels served for five years as president of Central College, one of five community colleges within the Houston Community College System. He also served as a tenured psychology faculty member at Laney College and has held several administrative roles at other community colleges and a baccalaureate/graduate granting institution, according to the release.

Stephen M. Curtis

Curtis will be at the Portage campus on Wednesday.

In 1999, Curtis was named the fifth president of Community College of Philadelphia. He previously served as president of Hudson Valley Community College/SUNY and, in The City University of New York, as acting president of Queens College, acting president of Borough of Manhattan Community College, and as dean of academic affairs at the same institution, according to the release.

Bales said he hopes to have a new president for MATC chosen by the end of next week and installed this summer.

There will be high expectations for the new president Bales said.

“One is to maintain a culture of innovation and really help us with that the commitment the public has given us with the new facilities by turning them into meaningful programs for public, steer that well; Secondly, sustain an environment open to change, the rate of the change of applied fields is pretty dramatic, keep that momentum, and critical to keep community involvement. We want somebody who’s very engaging; and finally somebody who can really capitalize on our biggest asset, which is the faculty and staff,” he said.

Residents are encouraged to provide feedback by contacting Bales at 235-8622.

From wisbusiness.com: “BTC Chapter of Society of Human Resource Management earns Merit Award for excellence and achievement” — Blackhawk Technical College’s chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) has been named a Merit Award winner for excellence and achievement for the 2012-13 school year by SHRM’s national organization.

The annual Merit Award program recognizes chapters for activities that enhance the professional development of members and the professional operation of the chapter’s program. Each chapter applying for a Merit Award is required to formally outline its activities, which is then evaluated by the national organization. A program earns a Merit Award if it accumulated enough points for its activities.

Beth Chambers, a Human Resources Instructor, and Colleen M. Koerth, an Employment Specialist Instructor, are co-advisors of the BTC chapter.

The BTC chapter will be recognized for its program online at shrm.org and acknowledged in the national chapter’s Student Focus Magazine, which is distributed quarterly to 17,000 student members as a supplement to HR Magazine. It also will be recognized during the Society’s annual convention.

The Society for Human Resources is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. It represents more than 250,000 members in over 140 countries. There are 575 chapters in the United States.

 

From madison.com: “As construction booms in Madison, skilled workers are in short supply” — Wisconsin may be lagging the rest of the country in job creation and Madison is falling behind peer cities in economic growth, but the economy here is great for union electricians.

Dave Boetcher, business agent for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 159, says the 900 members of his Madison-based local are at “150 percent employment.” No joke.

“All of our local members are working and we’ve had to bring in members from other locals and other states to man the work,” he says.

There is so much work, he says, that the local has been calling up members from other union locals elsewhere – as far away as Chicago – to offer them jobs on projects around Madison.

By far the biggest construction project is the expansion at Epic Systems in Verona. On that campus alone, 450 electricians are earning a paycheck, says Boetcher.

The effects of Epic’s rapid expansion are evident far outside of its sprawling suburban campus. The company’s constant hiring is driving a mini real estate boom throughout Madison, as developers scramble to build apartments to house the young, middle-class workers moving here in droves.

“There’s like 1,600 apartment units coming downtown in July and August,” says Harry Sulzer, an inspection supervisor for the city of Madison. “Some of that is driven by our friends in Verona. A lot of those professionals are moving to downtown Madison.”

The housing boom reflects a welcome reality after the long recession: There are nearly no vacant apartments in downtown Madison. And of the existing units, many are old and run-down; they’re barely suitable for penniless UW students, let alone young professionals with disposable income.

More houses are going up too. Andrew Disch, a spokesman for the Madison Area Builders Association, says 403 permits for new single-family homes have been issued in the first five months of 2013, compared to 307 during the same period last year.

For many people who are thinking of setting up permanently in Madison, there’s never been a better time to stop renting and start buying. While landlords continue to raise rents in response to the saturated market, home prices remain fairly low and interest rates are quite favorable.

“I think we’ve finally reached a point in the consumer’s mind – (while) they may not have a real high level of confidence in the economy, they’ve come back to their strong belief and confidence in housing,” says Kevin King, president of the Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin.

This is all great news for workers in the construction trades – the sector that was devastated by the housing bust in 2008. Or, it’s great news for those who remain.

“We’ve had a number of calls from our contractors looking for employees,” says Stephen Stone, director of business development for the Associated Builders & Contractors of Wisconsin, a group of non-union contractors. “They’ve called back their employees they’d laid off and now they’re looking to expand.”

The problem is, many workers became so discouraged during the recession – or so desperate for money – that they stopped looking for construction work.

“They’re doing something else now,” Stone says. “And I don’t think those people are going to come back to our industry – they’re not going to leave that other employment until we as an industry can prove that the market is back.”

That’s why John Stephany, who teaches construction and remodeling at Madison College, says the trades are a great opportunity for young people looking to make a good living. Almost all of the 24 students who recently graduated from his program found jobs immediately after finishing school. And unlike many college graduates, they can expect pay raises in the next year.

“I think the average wage for graduates has increased $2 in the past year,” says Stephany. “The average starting wage has gone from $10 to $12 an hour to $14 to $17 an hour.”

Keep in mind, that’s just the starting wage. Experienced trades workers make far more than that. A union electrician in Madison who has completed a five-year apprenticeship earns a base wage of $33.45 an hour (roughly $70,000 a year if working full time) plus benefits.

And yet, as the economy slowly recovers, large swaths of young workers who are struggling to find good jobs aren’t considering the trades. The message across the country, from guidance counselors to the White House, has emphasized the importance of college in the 21st century.

Indeed, as manufacturing jobs that once offered middle-class wages have been shipped overseas or made obsolete by mechanization, many parents likely see college as the only responsible path for their kids to take.

But unlike manufacturing, the trades aren’t going away anytime soon.

“These are jobs that can’t be outsourced,” says Stephany.

And unlike traditional college, where the typical student accrues thousands of dollars of debt, a trades apprentice makes money while attending school to learn the trade. To become a union electrician, for instance, one undergoes five years of on-site and classroom training — all the while getting paid.

Women, who increasingly dominate college campuses and are surpassing men in many white-collar professions, remain greatly underrepresented in the trades. At Madison College, in fact, there is a program, Tools for Tomorrow: Women in Trades and Technology, designed specifically to offer women a glimpse into a potentially profitable field.

The head of the program, Nancy Nikkoul, says the percentage of women in the trades has hardly budged in the past two decades. Currently, she says, only 2.3 percent of construction apprentices in Wisconsin are women.

Two decades ago, Sandy Thistle, who now is an instructor in the program, was one of the few women who went into construction. After dropping out of UW, where she had been studying to enter the female-dominated field of nursing, she decided to give carpentry a shot.

“I was good at math, I was kind of athletic, I wanted to work outside and do something physical,” she recalls.

There were also practical considerations: “I wanted to be able to have a decent living and union carpentry paid very well.”

Specifically, being in a union — where pay for all workers is negotiated in a contract — ensured that she would be paid as well as her male peers. “We all know that if (employers) could pay me less because I’m a woman they would,” she adds.

So how much longer is this building boom going to last?

Much of it is being driven by several major projects – notably Epic – and some of it likely represents homeowners and businesses making up for the break they took from building during the recession.

“Four more years,” predicts Awad Hanna, a UW professor of civil engineering who studies the construction labor market. “I can see at least four more years of this tight (construction) labor market and then construction will be tied to the economy.”

From a construction worker’s perspective, another four years of steady employment is welcome, but those who endured the Great Recession – when the national unemployment rate in construction was at one point as high as 27 percent – may wonder if it’s only a matter of time before the next downturn occurs.

Mayor Paul Soglin, however, believes that the building frenzy represents a long-term shift toward economic development in Madison.

“The volume of construction here in Madison that’s under way or will be under way shortly is a significant increase which outperforms what you would expect to see in this recovery,” he says.

He attributes the building bonanza in part to a message he believes his administration has sent to developers that their projects are welcome.

Zach Brandon, president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, says Soglin deserves credit for his development efforts, but argues that the move toward a development-friendly city hall began with Soglin’s predecessor, former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.

“I think it’s certainly true that over the last few years there’s been an epiphany that development isn’t going to happen on its own,” he says.

While the jobs provided by Epic and building projects on the UW campus are great, Brandon says the most encouraging signs are the cranes on smaller, private-sector sites.

“It’s not just Epic, it’s not a single point in time,” he says. “It’s becoming a trend line.” 

 

From wsaw.com: “Mid-State Tech College Sets Opening Date” — New size, access and ownership are three reasons Mid-State Technical College in Stevens Point is moving to its new multi-million dollar home downtown.

“We’ll be able to look at the region and serve it in a much better way,” Mid-State Campus Dean Steve Smith said. “We’ll be at the cornerstone of downtown Stevens Point so we’re very excited about that.”

With more than 2,800 students attending the technical college, smith said the reason for the move was obvious.

“There was a critical need,” Smith said. “If we were going to continue to grow and serve the region, there was a critical need to expand facilities. We’ve been looking for five to 10 years since it has been a problem for us.”

Planners have worked on the move since May 2010. The old building is 36,000 sq. feet, and the new home will be 54,000.

The new school will be built in place of the old Center Point Mall.

“We are standing in what will be our main entrance,” Smith said. “The JC Penny is directly west of us, and what was the center point mall is directly east of us.”

One of the main new features of the building will provide students a quiet place to study.

Other changes include adding a special lab for Emergency Medical Services, where before they only had a couple closets designated for the school’s program and classes.

As for what will be put in place of the old building, Smith said they are not sure who will move into it.

“I do know there has been conversation between the Boys and Girls Club of Portage county and the city,” Smith said. “There is another organization that has also expressed interest in the facility.”

Students will begin to get used to the new space in February 2014 for the first day of classes.

 

From wxow.com: “Western Tech. College praises Doyle/Nerison assembly bill” — An administrator at Western Technical College praised a bill that recently passed the Wisconsin State Assembly Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 226, co-authored by Rep. Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska) and Rep. Lee Nerison (R-Westby) cleared the assembly one week ago on a voice vote.
It’s now awaiting passage in the senate.
The bill pertains to yearly small business grants doled out by the state technical college system board.
The grants, which were established eight years ago, are given to partnerships between businesses and technical colleges.
Doyle said, on average, a grant is “a few thousand dollars.” The money is awarded in July of each year and can be used as needed through the following August, said Patti Balacek, Director of Business and Industry Services and Life Long Learning at Western Technical College in La Crosse.
Balacek said grant money is currently used exclusively to train workers.
But the Doyle-Nerison proposal would change that — and allow the money to also be used for “market expansion” and/or “business diversification,”
“We’re opening up a new market by helping them see what steps they need to take to get to a new market,” Balacek said.
“It might involve exporting, for example, to a business that has never looked at selling overseas,” she said. “So we can help them research what they need to do and write a plan to help them do that.”
Training employees is vital, Balacek said, but “it’s not always what a business needs.”
Doyle and Nerison said in a joint news release last week they’re hopeful the bill will pass the senate and be signed into law.

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Area groups get $1.8 million in grants” — Mishandling a $5,000 financial aid refund check can land a student in steep debt and eventual poverty.

Since August 2012, the Financial Wellness Center of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay has been helping students develop spending plans to manage those large sums of money each semester.

“Financial aid is the largest piece of money they’ve ever seen,” said program financial coach Michael Brown.

Refund checks are intended to supplement a student’s income during a semester and should be used for housing, transportation, food and other basic needs, Brown said.

However, some students spend all the money within a month on cars, electronics, dining out and clothes, he said.

The program has been awarded a $50,000 grant to improve operations through the Basic Giving Needs Partnership, which announced Monday it will award almost $1.8 million in grants to more than 80 Fox Valley-area groups that are working to address assorted community issues from domestic violence to social development for children.

The partnership is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Venture Open Fund for Basic Needs, the J.J. Keller Foundation Inc., the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region and the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.

This year’s cumulative grant awards total of $1,772,473 is $344,544 more than last year’s figure of $1,427,929.

Sarah Schmidt, director of the U.S. Venture Open, an annual golf outing fundraiser, said last year’s event raised about $1.86 million to benefit the basic needs fund.

“Poverty is real in Northeastern Wisconsin,” Schmidt said to about 30 local leaders who attended the grant announcement Monday at the Student Center at NWTC, 2740 W. Mason St., Green Bay. “We know that working families with two working parents are having a more and more difficult time meeting their basic needs.”

Since beginning in 1986, the U.S. Venture Open has raised more than $16.2 million, including more than $10 million made for grants.

“These programs are teaching people how to have the independence that they really desire,” Schmidt said. “It’s critical that leaders in this community step up and really think about ways that they can impact this positively because these are problems that we can solve.”

Organizers hope to raise more than $2 million for the 28th annual U.S. Venture Open, which will be held Aug. 14 at several regional golf courses. Former Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver will be the event dinner’s featured guest.

The partnership donated almost $400,000 to 11 programs in the Green Bay area involving dozens of nonprofits, groups and public agencies. The new NWTC financial coaching program is in the second year of a three-year grant plan totaling $160,000. The funds will allow Brown to work full-time on campus instead of off-site a few miles away. So far, he said he has provided one-on-one counseling to 120 students, but has spoken to about 380 students overall through classroom appearances. The program is modeled after a pilot program at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton. That project is now in its third year.

More than $715,000 in grants was awarded to organizations in the Fox Cities area and the partnership will give about $215,000 to the Oshkosh area. About $240,000 in grants was announced for national and regional projects, including a leadership program for 16 nonprofit executive directors.

One participant of that program is Robyn Davis, president of Freedom House Ministries, which operates a Green Bay shelter for homeless families in Brown County.

The program is helping Davis and other leaders study how other organizations have been successful in battling poverty and encouraging participants to find solutions to the unique problems facing their communities.

Freedom House has partnered with Integrated Community Solutions and the Crisis Center of Family Services on the Supporting Our Families Together Project, which was awarded the first installment of a three-year $135,000 grant to continue to provide motel vouchers and case management for homeless families with children.

“Our goal is to make sure no homeless families with children are on the street,” Davis said.

Like the families it serves, Freedom House is not expected to rely on grants forever, and Davis said the organization may develop a business or form a partnership that can generate revenue in the future to fund operations.

“We have an understanding of why it’s important to become self-sufficient, and then we can certainly pass that along to our families,” she said.

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