WITC president listens to public comments

November 25, 2013

From haywardwi.com: “WITC chief gets earful on needs here” — Local residents and businesspeople spoke about what new classes might help them and the local economy at a Nov. 5 community forum conducted by Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) President Robert Meyer in Hayward.

Meyer said WITC is developing a strategic plan for 2015-18. Headquartered in Shell Lake, the college has campuses in Ashland, Superior, Rice Lake and New Richmond, and outreach centers in Hayward and Ladysmith.

Meyer noted that “Washington Monthly” magazine has ranked WITC among the top 10 best two-year colleges in the nation in three consecutive studies, most recently fourth best in 2013.

Also, WITC surveys its students every year on topics including their interaction with faculty and opinion of student services, Meyer said. “We use those surveys for continuous improvement. Our staff is dedicated to that and to customer service,” he said.

Hayward resident and WITC adjunct instructor Matt Fitch said “I got a great education through WITC. I did a lot of classes right here in Hayward. I would like to see more blended classes (online, interactive TV and face to face),” he added. We need more staff here, such as teacher’s aides, who can answer questions about the subject matter and the technology in use.”

Meyer responded, “We have to demonstrate the demand for a program. The intent of outreach centers is to provide a place to get started on classes.” He added that WITC covers a large area geographically; on the average, each student travels 37 miles to attend a class.

Craig Faulstich, Hayward assistant police chief,  has taught police science classes for WITC. He said he favors in-person, hands-on instruction, especially for inservices for professional personnel, rather than via interactive TV. “It would be nice to have those held locally in Hayward,” he added.

Amanda Fitch, an X-ray technician, said that as a mom with kids at home and with a full-time job, local ITV and night classes are a good fit for her.

Jennifer Moe, assistant director of nursing for Golden Living Center-Valley of Hayward, said, “We have a lot of job openings for nursing assistants.” People take the class, but then have to travel elsewhere to be tested, she said.

Jan McKichan, vice-president of nursing administration for Hayward Area Memorial Hospital, said, “We’re in the same boat. We have an absence of CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) classes in the area.” She said the state stopped registering and certifying CNAs and a company named Promisor has taken over certification — “and that changed everything.

“There is an absence of CNA classes in the area,” McKichan said. They do test for personal care workers here,” she added. She indicated that the hospital is working on a five- to 10-year strategic plan and has identified a need for more therapists.

“WITC grads are probably 90 percent of our staff,” McKichan added. “I would love to see more clinical time (offered by WITC).” A two-year nursing graduate is probably equal to a four-year graduate in many settings, she added. Another big need is for training programs in medical coding and electronic health care records, for which there is an absence of instructors, she indicated.

Meyer responded, “We know that health occupations will explode and that we’re an aging population, so we will lean more on the health care system.”

Bill Johnson of Johnson Timber said he graduated from the Hayward Community Schools and served on the school board for 11 years. “There’s always that push for four year colleges,” he said. “But a lot of kids won’t make it through a four year college. It’s not always a four year program that we want, but skills.”

Meyer said “We need to do a better job of helping the guidance counselors,” adding that “The scope of jobs has exploded; clearly 50 to 70 percent of the jobs will require a two-year degree. The No. 1 influence on kids is the parent, so we need to educate the parent about four-year college graduates versus two-year college graduates. Parents need to look at all the options.”

Meyer cited a 2012 survey of graduates indicating that WITC has a 92 percent job placement rate within six months, with 73 percent of those graduates employed in jobs related to their course of study at an average salary of $33,800. Also, 81 percent of graduates stay and contribute to the state’s economic development, with 69 percent of them staying in the WITC district.

Karen Melasecca, manager of Namekagon Transit, said that “Here in Hayward we need courses to train skilled mechanics and a commercial driver’s license course. We have 29 employees, nine of them working in the office, of whom seven are older than me. They struggle with computer skills,” she said.

Melasecca said it’s not economical for people to drive to Rice Lake to take a course.

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