40 students start dual credit program at WCTC

October 30, 2013

From jsonline.com: “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.



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