Baldwin encouraged about jobs by LTC visit

August 6, 2013

From sheboyganpress.com: “Baldwin encouraged about jobs by LTC visit” — Sen. Tammy Baldwin says she worries about the middle class and the people whose lives have been irreversibly changed by the recession and job loss.

 

On Monday, she met some of those people at Lakeshore Technical College and was heartened by what she learned.

“Their enthusiasm inspired me,” said Baldwin after touring the campus and its public safety, robotics and advanced manufacturing programs. “They’re really excited about the challenge they have either just tackled or are about to tackle. I know going back to school in one’s 40s or early 50s has got to be incredibly intimidating but again, it really inspired me.”

Baldwin, who has made manufacturing jobs one of the centerpieces of her work on Capitol Hill since she was elected in November, serves on a variety of Senate committees that have an interest in the work LTC is doing.

They include the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and its work with the Workforce Investment Act, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Baldwin has traveled across the state visiting technical colleges to learn about how they are training students for high-skilled positions, growing their manufacturing programs, and partnering with local businesses and organizations to address local employment and skill-training needs.

“Advanced manufacturing in the 21st century is different than it was last century,” she said. “A lot of folks who were displaced in the deep recession and for other reasons from manufacturing jobs, you would think they are ripe for the picking for advanced manufacturing industries, but (that is) not so much the case. Really, many have had to go back mid-career to get advanced skills. That’s exciting and an opportunity.”

Alan Michaels is one of those people.

Now 51, Michaels enrolled in the LTC’s electromechanical program after his first career in dairy farming ended.

Talking with Baldwin outside LTC’s mobile advanced manufacturing lab, Michaels said his opportunities are already better than they would be if he’d gone for a liberal arts bachelor’s degree.

“The demand for electromechanical graduates is greater than the supply,” said Michaels, 51, of Glenbeulah. “Everybody’s getting two, three, four job offers.”

Michaels and Rich Hoerth, the executive dean of manufacturing, trades and agriculture, also talked briefly about the stigma that still keeps high school graduates out of technical schools like LTC in favor of four-year colleges.

“The problem is, (parents and high schools) are sending them to college and not to a tech school, where the jobs are and the pay is,” Michaels said.

After touring the public safety program facilities, including the props used to teach aspiring firefighters how to handle fires in buildings, train cars, trash bins and vehicles, Baldwin checked out the robotics lab and machine tool lab.

“The reason I ran for the U.S. Senate in the very first place is I want to see Wisconsin manufacturing thrive, I want to see the middle class grow and become strong again,” she said. “We’re a state that historically has grown things and made things and I think we can’t get ahead in a globally competitive future without a strong investment and strong attention to our manufacturing and industrial sector.”

Baldwin said the students she met, including Monica Larson and Michael Nelson, are symbols of what technical education and public-private cooperation can mean in the lives of families and communities.

“As they are trying to improve themselves, improve the future prospects for their families, their children, they’re living the American dream,” Baldwin said. “I want to make sure there’s adequate public support for what they’re doing. Whatever that form takes, I want to be there supporting what they’re doing to improve their communities, their families and their lives.”

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