From “Summit addresses skills gap, new ways to prepare students” — Representatives from business and education discussed how to better prepare students for the workforce through improved curriculum and partnerships at the second annual Business Education Summit held Friday at Blackhawk Technical College (BTC).

The event featured updates on the latest efforts to close the skills gap.

BTC Vice President of Learning Sharon Kennedy kicked off the morning with an overview of what’s been accomplished in the past year in terms of better preparing students for employment. She said employers surveyed on what they wanted last year had reported a long list of soft skills from new employees that were sorely missing. The skills ranged from interview skills to being on time.

After getting the employer input, Kennedy wrote a letter to the different college units to determine if such soft skills were being taught and learned that about 50 percent of classes were not teaching the skills.

The soft skills reported in demand from employers have been streamlined to include the ability to communicate professionally, use appropriate technology, work effectively in teams, demonstrate professional work behavior, show respect for diversity, solve problems efficiently and lead by example. Those core abilities are being incorporated into all departments including highly technical fields.

The soft skills now have been incorporated into all classes at BTC. For example, welding classes have adopted a strict attendance policy to re-enforce the importance of showing up to work on time. There also have been math instructors embedded in welding curriculum to help students apply math and use it in blueprints.

Kennedy said BTC also has adopted a new assessment to test students on their written and oral communication skills, and Kennedy noted plans are under way for a Career and Professional Development Center. BTC continues to partner with area business people with more than 300 partners who meet regularly with BTC advisory committees.

During the Summit, Stateline Career and Technical Education Academy (SCTEA) Director Heidi Carvin, a retired Evansville Superintendent, gave an update on the progress of the partnership.

SCTEA, a not-for-profit collaborative partnership, was formed to give students real life skills to improve prospects for future employment. The idea is that the students would learn technical skills taught by industry professionals. Organizers had hoped that students would be entered into career pathways as dictated by regional business requirements.

In the Stateline Area those areas included manufacturing, business and finance, construction, healthcare, hospitality, pre-engineering and automotive and transportation. The following school districts are affiliated with the regional program: Beloit, Beloit Turner, Clinton, Evansville, Janesville and Parkview.

There have been four active Centers of Excellence through the consortium — the automotive program in Beloit, construction program in Janesville, along with health and welding classes offered at BTC.

On Friday, Carvin said transportation had been a challenge for students who preferred to stay at their own schools as opposed to going to the Centers of Excellence.

SCTEA’s new focus is to work on aligning curriculum to the career pipeline. SCTEA is focusing on getting more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes at area schools. Carvin said SCTEA meets regularly with the participating schools to work on incorporating more STEM courses, as well as extra math courses.

Another new focus is on getting more career guidance and relevant courses to middle schoolers. There are efforts underway to give eighth graders more information on different career opportunities and the necessary courses to take in high school to reach their career goals.

BTC invites public comments

February 10, 2012

From “College invites public comments” — 

Blackhawk Technical College is undergoing a comprehensive evaluation by the Higher Learning Commission of North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and local residents are invited to submit comments about the college.

Written, signed comments must be received by April 3. Written comments can be sent to Public Comment on Blackhawk Technical College, c/o The Higher Learning Commission, 230 S. LaSalle St., Suite 7-500, Chicago, IL. 60604.

Comments should include the name, address and telephone number of the person providing comments. Comments will not be treated as confidential.

An evaluation team from the commission is scheduled to visit Blackhawk Technical College April 25 – 27.

From “MPTC on list of GI Jobs’ Military Friendly Schools” — G.I. Jobs recently released its 2011 list of Military Friendly Schools, recognizing the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that are doing the most to embrace America’s veterans as students.

Moraine Park Technical College was included on the list for the second year in a row for its excellence in serving veterans as students. The complete list can be viewed by visiting:

“Moraine Park is honored to be included on the 2011 list of Military Friendly Schools,” said Sheila Ruhland, Moraine Park president. “We are grateful for the dynamic and diverse background military students provide in the classroom and throughout the College. Moraine Park is proud to work with such exceptional students who serve our country and community.”

Alex Siedling, of Fond du Lac, joined the Wisconsin National Guard in 2008 as a high school student. He continues to serve as a sergeant in the National Guard and was deployed once to Iraq as a mechanic. Upon his return, Siedling decided to take his mechanic skills to the next level by enrolling in Moraine Park’s Automotive Technology program.

Siedling had a great experience working with Moraine Park staff when he decided to attend as a student veteran. “Moraine Park has done a fantastic job of making it extremely easy for me to get my benefits and work with payment due to reimbursement,” said Siedling. “Moraine Park staff members have passed along multiple emails for job offers for veterans and keep me informed if new opportunities arise.”


From the Green Bay Press Gazette: “Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. told how to create jobs” — ASHWUABENON — The new Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. can promote job growth in the state by helping develop a qualified manufacturing work force, board members were told Monday.

The 13-member board of directors of the new public-private corporation, which on July 1 replaced the disbanded Department of Commerce, met at the Department of Motor Vehicles complex in Ashwaubenon.

All board members, including Gov. Scott Walker, who is chairman, attended the quarterly meeting. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who met with women business owners later at Advance Business Center in Green Bay, also attended.

Six Northeastern Wisconsin business owners who participated in a roundtable discussion were posed three questions by Paul Jadin, CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.: Why are their businesses in Wisconsin, what are their growth opportunities and what are their challenges?

High tax rates and insurance costs were mentioned early as barriers to growth, and most agreed, but work force availability generated the most discussion.


From the  Journal Times: “Speakers tout importance of technical education at Gateway Centennial” — RACINE – Technical colleges paved the way to economic prosperity 100 years ago and they are poised to do so again right now.

That was the message from several leaders who spoke Tuesday at the centennial commemoration of Gateway Technical College, which began in 1911 as the first publicly-funded technical college in the nation.

“One hundred years ago Wisconsin was facing some economic challenges,” said speaker Dan Clancy, Wisconsin Technical College System president, explaining manufacturing and the industrial revolution were sweeping the state and workers were needed.

Technical colleges like Gateway, then called the Racine Continuation School, stepped up to train workers. Now the technological revolution and increased global competition are sweeping Wisconsin and technical colleges can and must again rise to the occasion, Clancy said.

Read more from The Journal Times

From The New York Times: “Community College as a Bridge to New Skills”— The recession hastened a trend that has been under way for at least a decade: the disappearance of jobs paying middle-class wages that required no more than a high school education.

On Sunday, I wrote about how vocational programs could help keep students in high school, and in turn, engage them enough to continue to college.

But in the course of the recession and its aftermath, many of those who have flocked to community college programs in health care, manufacturing, aerospace, biotechnology and other vocational subjects are those who lost their jobs during the downturn.

Mark McSweeney, a 34-year-old former welder featured in a report from the video journalists at Purple States, started out trying to improve his skills to find work in a new sector. Halfway through his studies, he lost his job.

After two years, he obtained an associate’s degree in applied science in the metals engineering technology program at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, N.C., where about three-quarters of the students are people who had been working before returning to college. After Mr. McSweeney completed his degree, he landed a job inspecting electronic parts.

Read more from

From the Post Crescent: ” Economic growth hits summer lull”— When the government released its latest jobs report last week, it revealed 54,000 new jobs were added in May, the lowest gain in eight months.

What the experts called weak numbers caused more hardship on Wall Street, which ended its fifth consecutive week with losses.

Economists have said the economy must generate at least 100,000 jobs every month just to keep up with population growth and prevent the jobless rate from rising. They add those gains need to be at least double that total to drive down the rate, which nationally now sits at 9.1 percent.

In my view, Fox Cities employers are doing their part to help the recovery.


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