From “Senior year as bridge to a career” — PEWAUKEE – If more high school students were like Bradley Servidas, things would be easier for Trace-A-Matic President Thorsten Wienss.

Gov. Scott Walker, right, talks with dual-enrollment student Ian Weiberg of Eagle during a tour of the Waukesha County Technical College CNC machining lab.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Servidas is a senior at Brookfield Central High School and is also in Waukesha County Technical College’s Dual Enrollment Academy as a member of the Tool and Die/CNC cohort. He said the program is a great way to start a career and it has been fun to make new friends and do something that not every high school senior gets to do.

“It’s more hands-on than I thought,” he said. “I love it. This is what I want to do when I grow up.”

For Wienss, the president of a machining company, the problem is that not everyone shares Servidas’ desire to pursue a career in his industry. He told a crowd at WCTC on Tuesday that most parents believe their son or daughter must go to a four-year college or university.

“We’re driving our kids in the wrong direction,” he said, adding that there are already too many lawyers stuck working as bartenders.

He said that when his company tries to recruit people, it is difficult to find potential employees with the necessary educational level. The problem is commonly referred to as the skills gap.

The crowd Wienss was speaking to wasn’t just any gathering. Gov. Scott Walker was on hand, along with Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson, WCTC President Barbara Prindiville, officials from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, school superintendents, lawmakers and other officials.

They were all there for the official launch of the Dual Enrollment Academy, a yearlong pilot program permitting high school seniors to receive credit from the technical college and their schools at the same time. To be eligible, students must have a minimum of a 2.0 grade point average, be on track to graduate and meet college entrance requirements.

The program has cohorts in tool and die/CNC, welding/fabrication and IT networking, all industries the schools identified as high-demand areas.  Students spend the majority of their day at WCTC during both semesters, and depending on the program could earn an industry certificate by the time they graduate high school.

Two school districts, Elmbrook and Waukesha, were involved in the initial development of the program. The Arrowhead, New Berlin, Pewaukee, Sussex Hamilton and West Allis school districts, along with Light House Academy, have since joined in the collaboration.

From “Students, construction industry partner to build for the future” — Green Bay – A Green Bay non-profit group tasked with renovating and rehabbing run-down homes and neighborhoods is setting to work on a new mission, partnering with a crew you’d least expect.

At first glance, it looks like just another construction project — a garage being built behind a century-old home.

Look closer, and you’ll see the crew is far younger than most, consisting solely of juniors and seniors at Green Bay West and Southwest High Schools.

“We’ve learned how to put up the walls, rafters and headers and kind of just how it starts out,” says Southwest High School senior Xavier Massey.

It’s the result of a new partnership among the Green Bay Public School District, the Brown County Homebuilders Association, NeighborWorks Green Bay and NWTC to not only rehab a blighted property but help students focus on their futures.

“What we’re trying to achieve is give the students a clear path to the construction industry,” says Tim Denissen, NeighborWorks Green Bay project manager.

“Brown County Homebuilders was a big part of that, because there was a need for skilled laborers in the construction trades, and they really wanted to start a program like this at Green Bay Southwest and West,” says Kyle Wagner, residential construction program teacher at Green Bay West High School.

Under supervision from an experienced instructor and local contractors, the nine students are doing nearly all the work, building a new garage and renovating the foreclosure in the 300 block of Oakland Avenue back into the gem it was when built in the late 1800s.

“This home was in serious, serious trouble, but when we’re done with this, it’ll be another housing option for people in the neighborhood,” says Denissen.

And the students like knowing they’re work is making a difference.

“This is my first time actually noticing this house, but it’ll be cool when it’s all done. We can drive past and know the people that actually live here,” says West High School junior Katie Clark.

“It’ll be nice to know that I actually helped and made my community better,” adds Massey.

The students will finish the project in January.

NeighborWorks will then take over and rent out the two-family home.

From “New high-tech classrooms at FVTC” — GRAND CHUTE – Fox Valley Tech is going high tech in its classrooms.

KI paid $150,000 to help bring four new learning labs to the school at the start of the fall semester.

An official dedication was held Tuesday afternoon.

The rooms include multi-media screens and walls and desks that can be written on.

“We have learned through a lot of research and education that collaboration is key for student learning and I think these classrooms really give us the opportunity to provide the students with a lot of different ways to collaborate with each other,” said Cris Gordon, social science instructor at FVTC.

School leaders say general education courses are taught in the new classrooms.

From “Police officers take seriously commitment to protect, serve” — My daughter raised her right hand to be sworn in.

“On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the Constitution, my community and the agency I serve.”

I always knew this day would come. Before she could write, she scribbled “tickets” to offending family members. Lights and sirens evoked heartfelt prayers and a million questions. Halloween “uniforms” were easy. Unusual gifts included handcuffs and police scanners. Most mothers encourage children to avoid traffic. As a Police Explorer, my daughter’s whistle and expertly executed hand motions finally allowed her access to busy intersections. It really struck home when a bulletproof vest hung in my laundry room.

Some public servants, like my daughter, are born for policing, ingrained with a sense of justice, an undeniable passion to help and an unwavering commitment to goodwill.

The police badge represents the shield medieval knights carried into battle. Daily, they strapped on armor, shields and weapons as they protected the people. Brave law enforcement officers do the same today.

None of us know what we may face when we walk out the door on any given day. Neither do our public servants. The difference is when they get ready for work; they strap on a gun, bulletproof vest, and shield and rush to help with unforeseen tragedies. They walk out their door in the morning with a noble purpose — to protect and serve.

I interviewed dozens of law enforcement officers, looking for the proverbial bad apples — the power-hungry bullies above the law whom the media loves to vilify. I couldn’t find one. Although the media would have us believe most citizens resent police officers, I found the opposite.

Grand Chute Police Chief Greg Peterson confirmed most people respect police officers.

“We consistently deal with 2 to 5 percent of the population in their worst moments — people with tremendous needs,” he said.

Safety agencies want feedback to prevent negative perceptions. Peterson said, “We encourage people to contact us if they were treated unprofessionally. We only get a handful of complaints and we take them very seriously. We want the best for our community and demand it from our officers. That is why the hiring process is so rigorous.”

Mark Kohl, the Law Enforcement Recruitment Academy director at Fox Valley Technical College, trusts the academic system.

“We set extremely high standards for these young men and women,” he said. “The recruit process weeds out candidates with wrong motives. Abilities to multitask, problem solve, collaborate and meet high cognitive standards, along with physical stamina and precise technical skills, are what graduates must prove.”

Though part social worker, health care provider, translator, counselor and advocate, police officers are also fathers, sons, brothers, sisters, mothers and daughters just like us. The difference is their commitment to a job most of us would never consider.

Academy recruits from FVTC shared their perspective about policing. They agreed values like honor, courage and commitment to community have been passed down through legacies of law enforcement. Eager to uphold values from their oath, they trust the training, academics and character tests that prepare them to take their place as the next generation of public servants.

While visiting New York City, I met NYPD Officer Lawrence DePrimo. You may remember him as one of People Magazine’s Heroes of the Year in 2012. A tourist’s photo of DePrimo giving shoes to a homeless man went viral. DePrimo humbly said, “It was just a normal day on the job. I got up, went to work and helped someone. Any officer would have done it. We do it every day.”

Most police officers are men and women of integrity who honor the badge and oath they swore to uphold. So the next time you see flashing lights in your rear-view mirror, get cited for a traffic violation or are asked to inconveniently detour, remember these men and women are working to protect the community, ensure public safety and save lives.

Today, they may provide that service to you or someone you love.


From “Program to train high school students for high-demand fields launched” — Village of Pewaukee — High school seniors from seven area school districts are earning their high school diploma while also learning skills for high-demand fields under a program launched at Waukesha County Technical College.

The yearlong pilot of Waukesha County Technical College’s Dual Enrollment Academy started this fall with 40 high school seniors. The program offers manufacturing-related skills training in welding and metal fabrication, tool and die, and information technology.

Each of the three programs has eight to 18 students who spend a majority of their school days at WCTC, while also completing high school requirements.

At the end of the school year, the students will receive industry-recognized “workplace certificates” in addition to a high school diploma, so they can either seek employment immediately or continue honing their skills in college. They will earn 20 to 24 college credits, depending on the program.

A seminar before they graduate also will teach them résumé writing, interviewing, personal branding, portfolio creation and other industry-specific steps to secure a job.

State and technical college officials said Tuesday at an official announcement of the program that they hope to expand the dual enrollment program to other school districts and technical colleges across Wisconsin.

Waukesha County is a logical trailblazer because it has one of the highest concentrations of manufacturing businesses in the state, they said.

The state Department of Workforce Development and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. each contributed $77,576 toward instructional costs for the pilot. Waukesha County Technical College contributed about $235,000 toward the pilot program.

There currently is no cost to the students beyond their transportation to WCTC, and the technical college doesn’t intend for there to be a cost to students in the future, according to a WCTC spokeswoman.

“This example illustrates the future pathway for workforce development,” Lee Swindall, vice president for business and industry development with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., said during a news conference at WCTC.

Swindall said he believes it will be “a highly effective” model that’s mutually beneficial to high school students with a passion for this type of work, and manufacturers seeking qualified workers to either maintain or expand their operations in Wisconsin.

Participating schools

School districts participating in the program include Waukesha, Arrowhead, Elmbrook, New Berlin, Pewaukee, Hamilton and West Allis-West Milwaukee, along with the Light House Academy for home-schooled students.

Brookfield-based Trace-A-Matic has committed to offering 10 jobs to tool and die students when they complete the program, and an additional stipend based on their grade point average.

Trace-A-Matic President Thorsten Wienss said during the news conference Tuesday that selling parents on the idea of technical training instead of a four-year university degree is difficult.

“Today, parents believe my child is college-bound and I’ll be driven nuts if they don’t go to college,” Wienss said. “We’re driving our kids in the wrong direction.”

Students who choose technical fields can contribute to society sooner than their four-year college counterparts, and buy homes by the time they’re 26 or 27, rather than be faced with $60,000 to $70,000 in college loan debt, Wienss said.

Master craftsmen and craftswomen deserve the same respect and recognition as doctors and lawyers, Gov. Scott Walker said. They are key to the nation’s economic recovery, as businesses will only grow if they have the workforce talent to sustain them, he said.

“I am convinced the state that gets out front of this will lead the recovery of the economy,” said Walker, who attended the Tuesday news conference at WCTC. “We’re going to be able to attract more businesses to grow here and to come here.”

Industry involved

Area industry leaders played a key role in developing the criteria for the new workplace certificates. They also are involved with classroom presentations and with providing job-shadowing opportunities, industry tours and internships.

To be chosen for WCTC’s Dual Enrollment Academy, students had to be high school seniors with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher, be on track to graduate from high school and meet college entrance and program requirements.

Students also were tested to make sure they have the fundamental math skills to succeed in the technical fields.

Manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin pay an average $52,000 a year, and have about half the turnover rate of other jobs, Walker said.

The fastest growing segment of technical college enrollment is students with four-year degrees who realize the job market is strongest for those with technical skills, the governor said.


From “Manufacturing panel meets at CVTC” — Baldwin-Woodville High School student McKenzie Kohls was looking for reassurance about the future of manufacturing in Wisconsin.

“My grandfather was a welder who came home looking like a coal miner every day,” Kohls told the state’s Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and a panel of manufacturing experts gathered at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire Tuesday. “How has manufacturing changed?”

Panel members spoke to Kohls’ question, hoping in the process to dispel the idea that manufacturing is a dirty job.

Mary Isbister, president of GenMet, a metal fabricator in Mequon, said welding and most other manufacturing jobs are no longer dirty professions.

“You can’t have smoke and dust and dirt in places that have advanced manufacturing equipment,” Isbister said. “The equipment that we use, and the processes that we use, have advanced light years. It doesn’t look like it used to.”

Panel members were attending a Women in Manufacturing event at CVTC in recognition of October’s designation as Manufacturing Month. The event, sponsored by Wisconsin Gold Collar Careers Manufacturing Works Group, included a tour of CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center and a public-private speed networking session.

Students from Eleva-Strum and Baldwin-Woodville schools attended the panel discussion in person while their counterparts in Bloomer, Cumberland, Gilmanton, Pepin, Shell Lake, Turtle Lake, and Webster schools followed the event via video conferencing.

Manufacturing professionals and educators have been working for years to change the image of the industrial sector.

“We still have people who view manufacturing as a dirty place with things lying all over,” said Craig Semingson, superintendent of the Eleva-Strum school district, which received praise at the event for having one of the best manufacturing education programs in the state. “But these are professional places where you’re not going to wear your Metallica T-shirt to work every day.”

Dawn Tabat, chief operating officer of Generac Power Systems, a Wisconsin home generator manufacturer with facilities in Whitewater, Waukesha and Eagle, acknowledged there was some truth to manufacturing’s poor image in years past.

“There were a lot of people making good money in manufacturing for what were pretty low-skilled jobs,” Tabat said. “But those unskilled jobs are gone. U.S. manufacturing got smart. These are jobs that are going to require a lot of special skills. There’s a whole new world in manufacturing.”

Kleefisch echoed that sentiment.

“These are ‘smart jobs,’ ” she said. “We need your brains. We need your bright ideas in manufacturing.”

Dan Conroy, vice president of human resources at Nexen, a manufacturer of power transmission and other products with a plant in Webster, said just 12 percent of jobs in his company require only a high school education while 70 percent require a technical college education and 18 percent a university degree.

“I always use the term ‘advanced manufacturing.’ We won’t hire you unless you go to school after high school,” Conroy said.

Students asked questions about job opportunities in manufacturing fields and which courses they should be take to prepare themselves for those jobs. Panelists said a wide range of manufacturing-related jobs are available.

“You can do almost anything within manufacturing, but you have to understand how manufacturing works. Today’s manufacturing operates very complex equipment,” Isbister said, noting students should not only focus on math but should have a broad-based education to be attractive to employers. “There probably aren’t too many classes that wouldn’t be advantageous to you,” she told students.

Panel members encouraged women to explore careers in what remains a heavily male-dominated field.

Tabat shared her story of a 42-year rise from production and secretarial work at Generac Power Systems to a human resources job and eventually to chief operating officer.

“I started out with a small company and the company grew bigger and bigger, and I grew with it,” Tabat said, noting just 6 percent of company leaders are women.

“There are no other places that have a greater opportunity for women to compete on a level playing field than manufacturing,” Tabat said.

“You can use a laser cutter to break the glass ceiling,” Kleefisch said.


From “Walker: ‘Manufacturing Matters'” — Wisconsin is open for business. Manufacturers are welcome.

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College hosted over 150 people, including Gov. Scott Walker, during a Manufacturing Month event Monday morning, Oct. 21.

“I think manufacturing matters,” Walker told his receptive audience, which included area dignitaries and high school students. “I think it has been a proud part of our state’s history, but more importantly I think it is going to be an even more dynamic part of our state’s future.

“We just got to make sure we have people ready to fill those positions.”

The event was made possible in part due to the efforts of the Southwest Wisconsin Chamber Alliance, a new collaboration of six Chamber of Commerce groups (Dodgeville, Fennimore, Lancaster, Mineral Point, Platteville and Prairie du Chien).

“As an advocate for all of our businesses and communities, we endorse southwest Wisconsin as an economically feasible region to start or relocate a business,” said Southwest Wisconsin Chamber Alliance co-chair Robert Moses. “Our goal for today is to bring a higher level of awareness for the manufacturing opportunities in southwest Wisconsin.”

In his opening remarks, Southwest Tech President Dr. Duane Ford noted several successes the College has enjoyed relating to manufacturing since 2011.

Southwest Tech has increased the number of workers it trains per year by more than 63 percent since 2009. In addition, the College has developed two new programs.

One program assists maintenance technicians to understand how the machines they utilize network with computer systems. The second helps electricians work in specialized environments of dairy and food manufacturing plants.

Ford noted Southwest Tech has benefited from more than $3.93 million in support from 27 different private, state and federal grants.

“What ensures our success is when employers, economies and state governments work in partnership,” he said. “So thank you, manufacturers, and thank you Governor Walker and Secretary [Reggie] Newson, as well as members of the legislature.”

Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) of the 51st Assembly District and Lee Nersion (R-Westby) of the 96th Assembly District were among those in attendance. Jeff Curry attended on behalf of Rep. Travis Tranel, who is currently traveling abroad in Taiwan.

Walker has toured other Wisconsin Technical College System schools this month, where Ford believes the governor has heard similar success stories.

“Southwest Tech’s story is not at all unique,” he said. “All 16 of Wisconsin’s technical colleges are at the heart of workforce, economic and community development within their local districts.

“All 16 listen and respond. All 16 succeed via productive partnerships with numerous private and public stakeholders. And all 16 are this month celebrating successes similar to what you see in southwest Wisconsin.”

Walker proclaimed October as Manufacturing Month to recognize the contributions of the state’s manufacturing employers and workers and to highlight manufacturing as a valuable career pathway.

“Our focus in October is on manufacturing, but really our focus needs to be all year around,” he said Monday morning.

“There are two key industries that drive this state’s economy: one is manufacturing and the other is agriculture.
“There are some great opportunities to grow and expand in that regard.”

Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector contributes nearly $50 billion a year to Wisconsin’s economy and ranks second in the country in the relative size of its manufacturing sector, which employed more than 450,000 workers as of July 2013.

Walker told the audience when it comes to manufacturing in Wisconsin, there are many key areas the state government can help.

“One is lowering the cost of doing business in Wisconsin,” he said. “More often than not, it is just getting out of the way.

Walker noted he signed into law Sunday a property tax relief bill. The two-year, $100 million increase in state school aid is projected to save $13 for the typical homeowner this December.

He also mentioned the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit, which is available for income derived from manufacturing or agricultural property in the state. It will offset a share of Wisconsin income taxes.

In 2016, the credit will increase to 7.5 percent.

“When you lower the cost of doing business, you put money into the hands of people, as consumers, and into the hands of employers,” Walker said. “That makes tremendous business.

“The time is right for us for us, particularly when it comes to manufacturing, to make a case that we have a pretty compelling argument to be in the state of Wisconsin.”

Walker also explained the state aims to become a better partner in the role of education.

“When it comes to manufacturing, one of the things we did, in particular in this budget, is we put funding in so we in the future can start as early as sixth grade, doing academic and career planning,” he said.

The state’s technical colleges will also be counted on to play a role.

“We want to stress when it comes to manufacturing, how important it is to have good technical colleges focused on advanced manufacturing, healthcare and IT, those are the areas with the biggest work shortages in Wisconsin,” he said. “We think filling those positions, and putting more resources in our technical colleges and worker training programs are key to economic growth and ultimately more jobs in the state.”

Walker said some members of his generation are in need of a “wake up call” in regards to the changes in manufacturing.

“If you look in the state of Wisconsin, the average manufacturing job will pay $52,000 a year,” he said. “That’s 25 percent higher than all jobs out there.

“It’s not just a higher salary, 87 percent of all manufacturing jobs have benefits, compared to 72 percent of jobs statewide.”

The turnover rate in manufacturing careers is 4.7 percent, compared to 8.1 percent across all jobs, Walker pointed out.

“Manufacturing is the place, and we need to do a better job of selling that, particularly to schools,” he said. “There is a tremendous need and opportunity out there, and it is only going to get bigger.”

The third and final area Walker indicated the state could assist manufacturing is in infrastructure.

“You need a good transportation system to get product from market,” he said. “That is why we invested $6.4 billion in the state’s transportation system this year.

“Whether you are a manufacturer, whether you are a cheese maker, or a dairy farmer, or anything else, you have got to have a good transportation system. And it has to be in all parts of the state of Wisconsin, not just around the big cities.”

In closing, Walker referenced a voluntary portal for employers to list job openings. Many of the 30,000 to 40,000 jobs listed weekly are manufacturing jobs.

“Consistently, we hear from manufacturers that one of the challenges is not that they don’t have jobs open, they do, the challenge is not having enough training to fill those jobs,” Walker said. “So we got people looking for work over here, and we got jobs over here.

“We need to do more to connect the dots, to make that connection.”

Following his remarks, Walker told the media gathered it is an exciting time to be a young person in Wisconsin, but also an exciting time as Governor, as he tours the state and learns success stories.

“Today is a good example, you have a great crowd here. You have some young people, you have some businesses,” he said. “It is similar to when I was earlier in the year was over at Cabela’s and we saw some of the students involved in the Gold Collar program, and saw the partnerships not just with Cabela’s but other businesses that were partnering with that as well.

“What I like about what you see at Southwest Tech, and you see it at other great technical colleges around the state, is a very real connection between the technical college and employers in that region. And I think that is the key to success.

“We can’t just have people going through courses, whether it is in our technical colleges or for that matter our University of Wisconsin system. We have got to have a focus on, what are the needs, what kind of perspective employees are employers looking for and how do we help make sure there are more?”

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