March 7, 2014
From weau.com: “Tax cuts could change tech school funding” – A proposed tax cut could affect the way area technical colleges are funded.
Earlier this week, the state senate approved Governor Scott Walker’s plan to use the state surplus to cover $504-million in tax cuts.
Under the changes technical colleges would get more than $400-million from the state’s budget surplus- meaning homeowners would pay less toward funding schools like Chippewa Valley Technical College.
“From our point of view as a system it really brings us some balance in the system in terms of where our funds come from,” Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy said.
Foy says the changes to buy down homeowners property taxes using the state’s surplus would mean more balance when it comes to funding schools.
“With this change happening in 2015 we would go back we would have greater balance state aid would account for 45-percent of our operating costs as opposed to 10-percent,” Foy explained.
What the cuts would mean for the average home owner and tax payers is more money in their pocket.
“For a typical working family in the state it means their property taxes will be down more than 100 dollars and it means there withholding the amount they see in their paycheck will actually go up by over 500 dollars through the end of the year,” Governor Scott Walker said.
Governor Walker says in addition to the shift in funding due to the budget surplus, the state will also give a one-time payment of $35-million to technical colleges to help cut down on the amount of time it takes to enroll in classes.
“There was $35-million available in the Wisconsin Economic Development budget and we shifted that into helping our technical colleges buying down our wait list,” Walker said.
Despite the increased money to technical colleges, area Democrats say it still doesn’t make up for the deep cuts that were made in the past year.
“It doesn’t address a few things. The first is it doesn’t address the fact that there was $72-million cut last year,” State Representative Dana Wachs said.
The tax cut bill now heads to the state assembly for a vote on March 18th. If approved it would head to the governor’s desk for his signature.
March 7, 2014
From weau.com: “Walker attends Manufacturing Show at Chippewa Valley Technical College” – How technology is used in manufacturing was the major focus of a show at CVTC Thursday.
The manufacturing show featured more than 20 companies and a number of programs at the college. It also included a junkyard battle competition where area high school students showcased their talents.
Governor Scott Walker was at the event to see all the college had to offer. He said it’s great to have the connection between the technical college and area high schools to show younger students the opportunities available after graduation.
“It’s amazing to see the things they make, really incredible work, and its great to see all the high schoolers coming by to see the oppourtunities in manufacturing,” said Governor Scott Walker.
More than 40 regional manufacturing businesses were also at the event to talk to guests about career opportunities.
March 3, 2014
From leadertelegram.com: “Manufacturing in the spotlight” — A group of high school students stood wide-eyed as a Chippewa Valley Technical College student dropped a metal ball that seemed to defy gravity as it fell through a simple copper tube. It fell slowly through the tube as if moving in molasses, never touching the sides.
The demonstration of electromagnetic forces took place in the Nano Engineering Technology area of CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center last March at the annual Manufacturing Show, which returns for a third year Thursday.
That simple ball-and-tube trick will have to take a distant back seat to other high-end demonstrations this year. For instance, CVTC now has equipment that uses streams of water under extremely high pressure to cut metal in precise detail, without the harmful effects heat-based metal cutting can leave behind.
Manufacturing Show demonstrations also will include a three-dimensional printer that doesn’t use ink. Instead, it produces, layer after layer, at high speed, a 3-D plastic model of items drawn up with paper and numbers.
“It gives us an ability to replicate a concept or design, showing the working parts,” said CVTC Associate Dean of Manufacturing Jeff Sullivan. “The printers are being used a lot in the medical field.”
New machine tool program equipment that will be on display is capable of speeds up to 12,000 rpm. “The purpose of the high speed is higher accuracy and tighter tolerances,” Sullivan said.
And the purpose of students working on such a machine is to prepare them for the kind of equipment being used in the industry today, important given the prevalence of the machine tool industry in the Eau Claire area.
Welcome to the world of modern manufacturing. People who still picture manufacturing as taking place in dark, dingy places with low-skilled workers doing simple repetitive work will have their minds changed by attending the show, people affiliated with the event said.
“The entire show will present a good overview of manufacturing careers in western Wisconsin,” said Roger Stanford, CVTC vice president of instruction. “We have a great diversity of manufacturing companies in this area, many of them producing products that are getting attention worldwide. Attendees can learn more about these companies at the Manufacturing Show and how CVTC prepares workers for lucrative careers in manufacturing.”
About 20 manufacturing companies will have displays about their role in their industries and in the Chippewa Valley economy. They will use the show to recruit new workers as well.
Joining those companies will be representatives of CVTC’s manufacturing programs: electromechanical technology, industrial mechanic, industrial mechanical technician, machine tooling technics, welding and welding fabrication. Some of the physical science programs, such as nano engineering technology, manufacturing engineering technologist and industrial engineering technician also will be involved.
Students play a vital role in the show. As part of regular course work, they have constructed and programmed robotic equipment that performs such tasks as playing a guitar, making a golf putt or resetting bowling pins.
Area high school students also will be heavily involved in this year’s show. Back again will be the Junkyard Battle, in which high school welding students will compete with their creations made of scrap metal. Last year the contest featured student-made sculptures of their school mascots. This year’s show will feature several more competitions.
Machine tool students will compete in the Amazing Maze event, creating complicated mazes in competition for the best design. Engineering students will use computer-aided design programs to draw up plans for devices. The top design will be reproduced on the 3D printer.
In the electromechanical area, students will create robots that work through a maze without human intervention. The industrial mechanics program is working on a competition involving development of miniature cannons.
“We are reaching out to our K-12 school district partners to develop agreements and programs that expose younger students to manufacturing and prepare high school students for entry into CVTC’s manufacturing programs,” Sullivan said.
The event has been well-attended by the general public since its inception, and area school districts take advantage by using it as an educational experience for students. Some parents bring their children who are starting to think about careers.
The show offers plenty for attendees to do, such as trying out simulators, watching robotic welders, learning what local manufacturers are producing and witnessing student creativity.
February 24, 2014
From riverfallsjournal.com: “For tech college students, simulation lab brings medical reality” – When nursing students at Chippewa Valley Technical College in River Falls work on a training scenario with one of the school’s high-tech simulation mannequins, they can rely only on their own knowledge and instincts.
There’s no glancing over at an instructor in search of a nod of approval for a chosen course of action.
The instructor watches from a separate room, behind glass that students cannot see through. She listens, observes, and controls the simulator to react accordingly to what the students do — good or bad.
“This is more realistic than it was before,” said student Anna Hinde, originally from Barron. “We are able to have some hands-on, real-life experiences.”
Added Colin McConville of Hudson: “We have a lot more space, there are more mannequins, and we’ve got a new teaching lab.”
Use of computerized simulation mannequins — that breathe, react, and have vital signs like real patients — have been part of the CVTC Nursing program at River Falls for years. However, the new simulation lab, which opened in January, seems to be a vast improvement.
“Our environment here is more representative of an actual hospital room,” said Simulation Technician Cynthia Anderson, registered nurse. “The old lab was about half the size of one room in the new lab, and had a noisy air compressor in the room to run the mannequins. Our air compressor is now in another room.”
The mannequins were used to be placed on something like old hospital gurneys. Now there are real hospital beds for the mannequins and sometimes live people playing patients.
“We’re not tripping on cords anymore,” said Bethany Geske, a nursing student who lives in Menomonie, in reference to power cords to the equipment that used to be taped down but are now under the floor.
The lighting is far better, and includes a large window to provide natural light, but set high enough to prevent outside distractions and watchers.
Even small details, like the addition of an in-lab telephone, are important. Students sometimes have to call a doctor or pharmacist (played by an instructor) from the simulator bedside.
“They get the experience of calling the physician, and learning how to speak with the physician,” said Anderson, a registered nurse since 1990 with years of experience at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn.
An adjacent Learning Resource Center (LRC) for the nursing program is also an important addition.
The center is equipped with smaller artificial body parts like arms, hands and heads. Students practice skills such as making injections and inserting intravenous needles.
For CVTC Nursing students, doing homework involves more than reading a textbook.
“I’ve used it on occasion to practice skills like suctions and inserting catheters,” McConville said.
Another major addition to the program this term is “Noel,” a birth mother simulator. The mannequin actually simulates the birth of a little rubber baby newborn, with realistic vital signs and potential problems for the mother.
“The baby can be born breach, with a stuck shoulder, or with respiratory difficulty,” Anderson said, mentioning a few of the complications.
A newborn infant simulator, separate from the rubber birth baby, is also new. It shows vital signs and reacts like the adult models.
A newborn baby can have a bluish hue, which is normal and soon fades. The simulator is sophisticated enough for instructors to prolong the bluish tint and observe when students notice it as a matter of concern.
“We didn’t have the baby mannequin before this year,” said Natalie Miranda, a student from Lakeland, Minn. “We would have to drive to Eau Claire to do that.”
February 14, 2014
From leadertelegram.com: “Candidate tours tech: Democrat running for governor discusses worker education, jobs” – By Joe Knight Leader-Telegram staff – Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Thursday she supports a proposal by her opponent, Gov. Scott Walker, to spend $35 million to help the state’s technical colleges provide additional training for high-demand jobs.
She also supports the governor’s initiative to find work for people with developmental disabilities.
However, Burke said the proposal would require future funding for technical colleges to keep those efforts ongoing.
Burke spoke briefly with reporters during a tour of high-tech industrial programs at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Gateway Campus. She criticized Walker for cutting $71 million from technical colleges in the first budget he oversaw as governor “just at the time when our technical colleges needed a boost.”
At the time Walker said budget cuts were needed because of a $3 billion state budget shortfall.
Burke said the types of high-tech manufacturing skills being taught at CVTC would help the middle class and would help grow the state’s economy. She spent time speaking with CVTC students, asking them about their career aspirations.
Jamie Rasmussen, a 35-year-old CVTC welding student, said more funding for CVTC programs will help more of them receive the training they need to find jobs.
Asked whether the process she observed Thursday could help build bicycles, Burke, a former Trek Bicycle executive and a former commerce secretary under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, said she wasn’t sure but noted Trek works closely with technical colleges in southern Wisconsin.
February 12, 2014
From chippewa.com: “New CVTC simulation lab boosts medical realism” — When nursing students at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s (CVTC’s) River Falls campus are working on a training scenario with one of the college’s high-tech simulation mannequins, they can rely only on their own knowledge and instincts. There’s no glancing over at an instructor in search of a nod of approval for a chosen course of action.
The instructor is watching from a separate room, behind glass that students cannot see through. She listens, observes and controls the simulator to react accordingly to what the students do — good or bad.
“This is more realistic than it was before,” said student Anna Hinde, originally from Barron. “We are able to have some hands-on, real-life experiences.”
“We have a lot more space, there are more mannequins, and we’ve got a new teaching lab,” added Colin McConville of Hudson.
Use of computerized simulation mannequins — which breathe, react, and have vital signs like real patients — has been part of the CVTC Nursing program at River Falls for years. However, the new simulation lab that opened in January is a vast improvement over the previous facility.
“Our environment here is more representative of an actual hospital room,” said Simulation Technician Cynthia Anderson, R.N. “The old lab was about half the size of one room in the new lab and had a noisy air compressor in the room to run the mannequins. Our air compressor is now in another room.”
The mannequins were previously placed on something like old hospital gurneys. Now there are real hospital beds for the mannequins and sometimes live people playing patients.
“We’re not tripping on cords anymore,” said Bethany Geske, a Nursing student who lives in Menomonie, in reference to the power cords to the equipment that used to be taped down and are now under the floor.
The lighting is far better and includes a large window to provide natural light, but set high enough to prevent outside distractions and watchers.
Even small details, like the addition of an in-lab telephone, are important. Students sometimes have to call a doctor or pharmacist (played by an instructor) from the simulator bedside. “They get the experience of calling the physician, and learning how to speak with the physician,” said Anderson, an RN since 1990 with years of experience at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn.
An adjacent Learning Resource Center (LRC) for the Nursing program is also an important addition. The center is equipped with smaller artificial body parts like arms, hands and heads. Students practice skills such as making injections and inserting intravenous needles. For CVTC Nursing students, doing homework involves more reading a textbook.
“I’ve used it on occasion to practice skills like suctions and inserting catheters,” McConville said.
Mother and child
Another major addition to the program this term is “Noel,” a birth mother simulator. The mannequin actually simulates the birth of a little rubber baby newborn, with realistic vital signs and potential problems for the mother.
“The baby can be born breach, with a stuck shoulder, or with respiratory difficulty,” Anderson said, mentioning just some of the complications.
A newborn infant simulator, separate from the rubber birth baby, is also new. It shows vital signs and reacts like the adult models. A newborn baby can have a bluish hue, which is normal and soon fades. The simulator is sophisticated enough for instructors to prolong the bluish tint and observe when students notice it as a matter of concern.
“We didn’t have the baby mannequin before this year,” said Natalie Miranda, a student from Lakeland, Minn. “We would have to drive to Eau Claire to do that.”
Sometimes a birth mother and baby were brought from Eau Claire, but transportation and set-up are cumbersome, Anderson said.
Nursing students go out into the field to do “clinical” studies at hospitals, clinics and nursing homes, but the simulation lab work is an essential part of the training.
“It allows them to experience things differently,” said Jennifer Buekema, a CVTC Nursing instructor. “In a clinical situation, we of course don’t let students harm patients. Here, we can let the students make mistakes in the lab.”
“They set up scenarios that we may not see in the real-life clinical settings, but can see later in our professional lives,” said Miranda.
The instructor from the observation room can demonstrate with the mannequin the consequences, through a sudden change in vital signs, evidence of pain, and even a “code blue” cardiac arrest.
“A couple of weeks ago, we were in a code blue, when we had to do CPR,” Geske said.
The students say this kind of hands-on experience is one of the reasons they chose to attend CVTC. It allows them to be ready to enter the workforce right away, even if their plans include further education.
Geske, McConville and Hinde plan on getting nursing jobs after their May graduation, but going back to school to seek four-year or advanced degrees gaining experience as they complete their education.
February 10, 2014
From chippewa.com: “Dental pros, students, work to ‘Give Kids a Smile’” –EAU CLAIRE — Alyxandria Lunemann clutched her stuffed animals tight and opened her mouth. The 6-year-old girl was nervous about having cavities filled, her mother, Janice Lunemann, said. Dr. Walter Turner’s chairside manner put her at ease, though.
Janice was happy to bring Alyxandria to Chippewa Valley Technical College from their New Auburn home on Friday for the Give Kids a Smile event at the CVTC Dental Clinic. The cavities had been diagnosed previously, but she was having trouble getting Alyxandria in to see a dentist to have them filled.
That’s what Give Kids a Smile is for. Sponsored nationwide by the American Dental Association and locally by the Chippewa Valley Dental Society and the Wisconsin Dental Association, the event offers free dental care to children ages 2-13. This is CVTC’s ninth year hosting the event locally.
The event is particularly helpful for families who lack dental insurance and can’t afford to pay for dental care on their own.
“There is an access-to-care issue,” said Pam Entorf, CVTC dental program instructor. “There is a shortage of dentists who are able to take patients who don’t have insurance or can’t pay. For many of these kids, this is the only time they get any sort of dental treatment. That’s why this event is so important.”
Helping at the event were the CVTC dental hygienist program students and instructors, professional dentists from around the Chippewa Valley, and hygienists and assistants from their staffs. The stars of the show, though, are the young patients.
“I’m pretty happy to be here,” said Janice Lunemann. “Alyxandria had gummy snacks when she was younger and it created some issues with her teeth, but she flosses well.”
Brian Insteness of Lake Hallie brought his 11-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, who had an x-ray taken by Joe Granica, a hygienist with North Lakes Dental in Hayward.
“We don’t have dental insurance, so we take advantage of this,” Insteness said. “She’s getting her check-up and we’ll go from there.”
The kids treated leave with more than healthier teeth. They also take home information and advice. The day is also about education — for children and for the next generation of dental care professionals.
“Childhood dental decay is a communicable, infectious disease,” said Entorf, pointing out that if one child in a family has decay, the bacteria that causes it could spread to other children. “It’s important to teach children as young as possible about how to take care of their teeth so they don’t have problems as they get older.”
The student hygienists work on patients in regular clinic settings as well, but the Give Kids a Smile event is a much busier day, and teaches them that giving back to the community is part of all health care professions.
“A lot of the students who were graduates of the program here come back to volunteer. It’s like a class reunion,” Entorf said.
Turner, of Turner Pediatric Dentisty in Eau Claire, has been giving back through participation in Give Kids a Smile for 25 years.
“The technical college does a very good service for people and kids, and this facility is large enough to handle it,” he said. “I love doing it, and they like my service for the kids. I want to get them off to a right start.”
February 10, 2014
From leadertelegram.com: “CVTC working with line workers on safety” –Bandi Henke understands the difficulty in convincing electric power distribution line workers to use fall prevention equipment. He had plenty of training and experience in the field before becoming an instructor at Chippewa Valley Technical College and knows how fast and seemingly easy it is to for workers to “free climb” a wooden power pole.
But falls and injuries are still too common in a trade in which there is an increasing emphasis on use of safety equipment. That’s why Henke had excellent attendance at sessions called Fall-Arrest Fundamentals during CVTC’s Line worker U Feb. 4-5 at the Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Eau Claire.
More than 80 line workers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan attended the event, which featured 18 break-out sessions on topics ranging from updates on the latest in industry equipment to a review of code changes.
“It’s to update your skills and learn new things you don’t see every day,” said Beau Blade, a line worker with Eau Claire Energy Cooperative for the past 14 years. “The technology is new because everything’s computerized.”
While sessions on new technology and equipment were well-attended, sessions dealing directly with the health and safety of line workers were particularly popular among the workers from electric power cooperatives, municipal utilities and power companies.
Henke said line workers not currently using fall prevention equipment will do so soon.
“The power line industry is not letting people free climb as much as they used to. They are going to some form of fall protection,” Henke said.
In the session, Henke held up an early device commonly called a “Buck Squeeze” and found a few line workers are still using them. “It’s not user-friendly,” Henke remarked. “But it’s better than dying.”
He then showed the updated version of the device, calling it “180 percent better.” He also showed a number of similar devices from various manufacturers and demonstrated their use on an eight-foot wooden practice pole.
Attendees then donned their own climbing gear and tried out the devices for themselves.
“I’ve never used one before, but they say it’s going to be coming to the industry,” said Scott Devoe of Barron Electric Cooperative. “They will take a lot of getting used to. There are so many different adjustments.”
CVTC Electrician apprenticeship instructor Randy Larson, who led the team organizing Line worker U, said another popular session was conducted by Dr. Kevin Schultz of Hallie Chiropractic on reducing risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
“Fifteen years ago, he never would’ve had anyone attend his session,” Larson said. “But people are much more concerned about their health than before. The guys are interested in how to stay healthy and live longer.
“Dr. Schultz must have had 30 guys in there. When he got done, people didn’t want to leave. He was in there for two hours answering questions,” Larson continued.
It’s not just their own health and safety that concern line workers.
“We did an emergency response training on what to do on the job if someone is injured and what procedures to use,” said Steve White, a line worker with Rock Energy headquartered in Janesville. “Sometimes we’re out in the middle of nowhere and it could take a while to get response.”
Larson said Line worker U had been a dream of his for 15 years, and now that it’s off the ground, he’s considering how to make it better and expand the offerings.
January 31, 2014
From chippewa.com: “Manufacturing still drives area, state economy” – by Ross Evavold – This question was once posed to me: Where would Wisconsin be without manufacturing?
It’s basically a rhetorical one, since the answer is quite obvious. Consider these facts:
- Wisconsin leads the entire U.S. in manufacturing jobs per capita.
- Ten percent of the state’s pool of workers 16 and over are employed in manufacturing. That’s twice the national average.
- Manufacturing is the state’s single largest employment sector.
- We have more than 9,000 manufacturers in the state, and more than 400,000 workers in that area.
- All but one of Wisconsin’s 37 largest industries are in manufacturing.
- It provides jobs for a majority of Wisconsin workers who do not have a college degree.
So as you can see, manufacturing is still the driver of the Badger state’s economy, for now and the foreseeable future.
Manufacturing is responsible for about 20 percent of the gross state product, and that figure translates to roughly the same percentage in the Chippewa Valley.
Our heavy reliance on manufacturing also comes with some risks. Wisconsin has many fewer manufacturing jobs than it did in 2000, but it has also retained more jobs than other manufacturing-heavy states, while manufacturing has also weathered the Great Recession of our lifetimes better than other job sectors.
Not that there won’t be challenges. Charlie Walker, director of the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation, said that in trying to stay ahead of the curve, this area has been very proactive in identifying long-range issues that will impact growth.
He cited three major criteria for this area’s manufacturing success: the talent level of the workforce; accessibility to the marketplace through rail and highway infrastructure; and reliability of power. Walker says we stack up well in all three categories.
The Chippewa Valley also ranks well when it comes to advanced manufacturing, encompassing the high-tech assembly industry like the one we feature on the cover.
SGI has roots here dating back to when Silicon Graphics bought Cray Research in the mid-’90s. And now Jabil Circuits will become the latest worldwide player to land here, with its purchase of SGI’s manufacturing facility.
Jabil’s success story is impressive: Since its start nearly 50 years ago in Detroit, the company has expanded relentlessly through acquisitions and by evolving to serve numerous industries. In 2012 it ranked 157th in Fortune magazine’s list of the 500 most admired companies.
Oh, and SGI is very much sticking around here, as so many other related businesses have also done once they come to the area. TTM Technologies still produces circuit boards with about 1,000 workers in Chippewa Falls, and Cray, Inc., just installed and filled more supercomputer orders than any quarter in its history, sending its stock price soaring.
They have all found workers in this area to be among the best in the nation, which supports Walker’s contention as to the talent level.
Helping produce those workers with specific skill sets for our manufacturing companies are UW-Stout and Chippewa Valley Technical College, which have forged relationships with many area firms. The schools have been so successful that some graduates have actually had to turn down job offers.
Our winter issue also takes a look at why Five Star Plastics in Eau Claire’s Sky Park Industrial Center is undertaking its second large expansion in five years, and Nanospark, a young spinoff company in Altoona with a bright future.
A key area with manufacturers is often exports, and Momentum West, an economic development group representing 10 area counties, is expanding its horizons this year by going beyond our borders. It is targeting two international trade shows with hopes of landing businesses for this area.
January 28, 2014
From weau.com: “Cold weather brings diesel dangers” – Semi-trucks, plows and school buses are all in danger when the temperatures drop below zero.
Mechanics say the proper fuel and care by truck drivers could save valuable time and money, especially on days when we don’t see temperatures above zero.
“The biggest thing is the filters get plugged. Once the filter’s plugged, then we run out of fuel,” Chippewa Valley Technical College diesel mechanic instructor Rusty Naylor said.
“The diesel fuel will start gelling when it gets down around 0 degrees. Anything below that, additives have to be put in to keep the fuel from getting thick,” Mid State International Trucks service manager Tom Behling said.
“Drivers in this area, what we have most problem with, is people coming from the south. They’re coming up from Florida, Texas, they fuel up in Missouri, and then when they hit here, our climates 20 below (zero), plus. They don’t think about the fuel gelling. They don’t have a problem down south,” Naylor said.
Behling said his Eau Claire shop has seen more than 100 trucks come because of cold weather problems, twice what it saw last year.
“If they can drive the truck here, they can easily get out of here for a couple hundred dollars. You get towed in; you’re probably looking at $1,000 or more because towing gets expensive.”
He along with Naylor said there are things drivers can do to avoid diesel from gelling up.
“You need a blended fuel, that will drop the temperature at which this wax will develop … Also to that you have to put additives in,” Naylor said.
“This is a trial and error time. I’m looking at tomorrow morning myself, got good fuel, blended fuel; we’ll see what happens at 25 below zero.”
Naylor said if a truck starts, but power drops while driving, that could be a sign that diesel is gelling.
January 28, 2014
From weau.com: “Filing your taxes soon? You’ve got options” – It’s your ticket to a big check from Uncle Sam, or for some it’s payback time to the IRS. Your W-2 should be in the mail soon and in 2014, there are plenty of different ways for taxpayers to file their taxes.
“I just got my W-2 in the mail. I may have to do it in the next week or two, I might need to get started on that,” said student at Chippewa Valley Technical College, Nathan Hakes.
Hakes and millions of Americans will be able to file their taxes now, but due to last year’s government shutdown, the IRS delayed the tax filing season by ten days.
“You can still prepare you return and send it, it’ll just be held until January 31st timeframe,” said Casper Haas, a tax manager at InCity Tax Service in downtown Eau Claire.
That means the IRS won’t begin processing tax preparations sent in until the end of the month. The April 15th deadline is still in place
Haas knows all about filing taxes because he thinks about it 365 days a year as a tax manager.
“Tax preparation can be stressful and we’re in the business of preparing tax returns. This is what we do, this is what we live for, this is what we study for,” said Haas who said people have begun bringing in their taxes for him to help prepare.
He said a professional preparer is something to consider, especially if you’re dealing with more than just a W-2.
“(If they have) two income households, they own a home, they have dependents, so they more than likely would itemize deductions, so Schedule A.,” said Haas. “We work with small businesses as well as LLCs, sole proprietors; we can do those returns as well.”
If you feel comfortable doing your own taxes, technology can help you do just that. New this year are tax preparation apps that can be downloaded on a mobile device. H&R Block came out with a Tax Preparation 2013 app and so did TurboTax with its new app called SnapTax.
SnapTax is as simple as snapping a picture of your W-2 on your smartphone and it will put all the information into the app program, calculating your federal and state returns.
Some people turn to software, like TaxACT and Intuit TurboTax.
“I now use TurboTax online,” said Hakes. “It’s so much faster and I can answer everything myself.”
Hakes said his mother taught him how to file his own taxes.
“I tried going through H&R Block but I think through TurboTax, I was able to find the deductions I knew. Now online works for me, it’s simple,” he said.
The IRS lets you file your taxes for free if your income is below $58,000. A free tax prep software is offered online at the IRS.gov website. For income above $58,000, it offers free file fillable forms which will be available on January 31, 2014.
And if you’re low income and want something free, CVTC is offering VITA, the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program.
“We have students who are very, very eager to help out and it’s great experience for them as well because gives them that real life feel and real interaction,” said accounting instructor Jason Szymanski.
He said it’s a chance for people who can’t afford professional help to get their taxes prepared by a trained and certified volunteer. Volunteers can help with services that are not too complicated, like income tax credit, child care tax credits, unemployment compensation and Wisconsin homestead tax credit.
CVTC said the VITA service is offered Thursdays Feb. 6 through April 10 in room 240 of the Business Education Center, 620 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire. The service is provided on a first-come-first-served basis, with sign-up beginning at noon and tax preparation from 1-4:30 p.m. each day.
January 24, 2014
From leadertelegram.com: “CVTC leader: State aid boost keeps job training in high gear” — Any way you look at it, Gov. Scott Walker’s announcement during his State of the State address Wednesday that Wisconsin technical colleges will receive an additional $35 million is good news, Chippewa Valley Technical College President Bruce Barker said.
Barker was enthusiastic after hearing Walker’s remarks about increasing funding for the technical college he oversees and others.
“It’s certainly good news,” Barker said of the additional money, part of a program dubbed Wisconsin Fast Forward. “It’s definitely more money for training and education, and that’s a good thing.”
However, Barker said while that money can be used to hire more teachers, he doesn’t believe it can be spent to add laboratory space, already in high demand at CVTC.
“It’s additional dollars, but we have to see what the requirements will be,” Barker said. “The problem is the capacity of our labs. Our welding lab goes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and these are year-round programs.”
The main components of Wisconsin Fast Forward aim to eliminate waiting lists in high-demand job markets such as manufacturing, agriculture and information technology, and help high school students get credits through dual enrollment programs between high schools and technical colleges.
CVTC has longer waiting lists for nurse hygienists and nursing programs than in manufacturing or agriculture programs, Barker said.
“We’re certainly seeing a big demand in manufacturing and transportation, for truck drivers. Both of those programs, we’re at maximum capacity,” Barker said.
State Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, who introduced Wisconsin Fast Forward in the Assembly, said the initiative is a step in the right direction.
“Linking job seekers with employers that target critical and in-demand jobs while working with tech colleges and workforce development centers across the state puts a sharp focus on employment issues at a local level, where need and demand can be best addressed,” she said in a news release.
In addition to those programs, Walker proposed replacing $406 million in property taxes for technical colleges with state dollars. That would be accomplished by lowering the property tax levy that technical colleges can assess on homeowners.
“It’s a step in the right direction for local taxpayers,” Barker said. “But with the switch to state dollars, you fear losing local control. You also fear a cut in the state budget.”
Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy said in a statement Thursday that Walker’s plan brings better balance to the system’s funding structure. Foy said the system has “long sought greater equity between local and state investments.”
January 23, 2014
From aspeninstitute.org: “2015 Eligible Community Colleges” — The Aspen Institute is pleased to name the following 150 community colleges eligible for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. We recognize that there are many community colleges around the country that are employing innovative strategies and achieving excellent results for their students. The bar for the Aspen Prize is intentionally set high in order to identify those institutions that have demonstrated exceptional levels of student success.
In a comprehensive review of the publicly available data, these 150 two-year institutions—from 37 states—have demonstrated strong outcomes considering three areas of student success:
- student success in persistence, completion, and transfer;
- consistent improvement in outcomes over time; and
- equity in outcomes for students of all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
To ensure full representation of the range and diversity of the sector, adjustments were applied with respect to mission, size, and minority representation.
- Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire, WI
- Lakeshore Technical College Cleveland, WI
- Moraine Park Technical College Fond du Lac, WI
- Northcentral Technical College Wausau, WI
- Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Shell Lake, WI
From hudsonstarobserver.com: “Hudson students explore healthcare careers” – Camryn Letcher placed the stethoscope on the rubbery surface and listened. “I heard a heartbeat,” the Hudson High School freshman said. “It was really weird because it felt like it was alive, like I was listening to a real person.”
The patient simulators at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in River Falls bring to life realistic vital signs and symptoms. For Letcher, the experience was closer than she had ever been to real patient care in a clinical setting. “I’m thinking of being a pediatric nurse,” she said.
The trip to CVTC was part of the Hudson High School Healthcare Discovery Day, which also included visits to Hudson Hospital and Catalyst Sports Medicine in Hudson.
Forty-one Hudson freshmen took part in the day-long event. At CVTC, in addition to checking out vital signs on the adult and infant patient simulators, the students learned how to use a hypodermic needle by practicing on an orange, tried on neck braces, tried out various medical testing devices and talked with faculty about careers in healthcare.
“They seemed very engaged,” said CVTC Nursing Instructor Renee Christensen, R.N. “Simulation is very exciting for this age group, and they asked good questions.”
“The purpose of the event is to provide students with the opportunity to explore healthcare careers, to understand what career ladders are, and to see how they can bring value to the community,” said Melisa Hansen, school-to-careers coordinator at Hudson High School.
Healthcare Discovery Day was made possible by a $2,500 grant from the nonprofit Northwest Area Health Education Sector. Students registered for the event.
“They were asked why they wanted to come, and a lot of them already had their eyes on high-level health care careers,” said Hansen. Others just wanted to explore. They got a good taste of it during the three on-site visits.
Christensen showed the students a video of a full-scale emergency room scenario in which students interacted with professionals in a mock response to victims from an auto accident coming in for treatment. Patient simulators and even live actors were used to depict various conditions in the fast-paced environment.
“That is really good experience for students,” Christensen said of the video scenario. “Sometimes they make mistakes, and sometimes we allow them to make mistakes, because it’s not going to hurt anyone. They’ll probably never make that mistake again.
“I’ve had students get really involved in the simulations, and cry when a (simulated) baby comes in,” Christensen continued.
The students found their experiences with the simulators and the information on the training involved in healthcare careers much more interesting than what they usually experience in a high school classroom.
“I’m thinking about being a physical therapist,” said Braxton Belt. “I really liked the simulators. We listened to the heart and lungs.”
“It’s really interesting to see how it’s done in the real world,” said Logan Nelson, who is considering a career in sports medicine.
Students like Nelson and Kyla Schewe, who is also considering a sports medicine career, had the opportunity to see the profession up close in a visit to Catalyst Sports Medicine that afternoon, where they viewed the treatment of a simulated injury.
At Hudson Hospital, ninth-graders learned about an array of healthcare careers with educational and hands-on learning opportunities. Sarah Stockman, manager, laboratory, Hudson Hospital & Clinics, is the hospital representative on the healthcare advisory council. Her role is to partner with the council to offer educational experiences for students that are leaning towards a career in healthcare.
“It’s great to get a chance to help our high school students discover all the career options that are available to them in the healthcare field. We hope to inspire them to continue their education and become healthcare professionals,” said Stockman.
Students learned about various healthcare careers from hospital staff including lab, dietary, Birth Center and Surgery & Procedure Center. They also toured the Emergency Center, Imaging Center and Rehabilitation Center Physical Therapy.
At the hospital, they also watched the simulated resuscitation of a choking baby, met with a dietician and observed lab work, among other activities.
“We wanted them to see that healthcare is a profession in which they need 21st century skills, like problem solving, team building and critical thinking,” Hansen said. “This experience provided relevance. They follow the routine at school, and they didn’t have an understanding of what goes on outside of school.”
Hansen added that the Healthcare Discovery Day was a teambuilding exercise for the students. “They were learning together today. There’s power in that.”
In planning the day, Hudson High School staff worked with a community advisory council of professionals in healthcare and education. Hansen said they are very appreciative of the help of the council members, as well as the cooperation of Catalyst Sports Medicine, Hudson Hospital and CVTC.
“The people here are absolutely amazing and I applaud them,” she said.
The grant was only able to fund this year’s event, with any leftover funds being used for healthcare career exploration. To continue the program on an annual basis, either additional grants or school district funding will be needed, Hansen said.
January 2, 2014
From thecountrytoday.com: “Broadening opportunities: New CVTC instructors bring industry insider knowledge” – EAU CLAIRE — With a few fresh faces on its agricultural staff, Chippewa Valley Technical College is looking forward to a bright future in 2014. In the past year, the college hired three new agriculture instructors. CVTC horticulture instructor Susan Frame said the new additions bring industry knowledge that will help students excel in their fields.
“One of the advantages Chippewa Valley Technical College students have is that the instructors have been in the industry,” Frame said.
Among the new arrivals are animal science instructor Adam Zwiefelhofer, agronomy instructor Jon Wantoch and farm business instructor Maria Bendixen. All three are UW-River Falls alumnus.
Zwiefelhofer, who majored in agricultural education, hails from the Eleva-Strum area.
The former Genex breeding specialist said teaching was a natural transition, noting, “I always knew I wanted to teach.”
Wantoch, a Mondovi native, majored in agricultural studies with minors in dairy science and biology and was previously employed by Lakeland Cooperative.
The switch to teaching was an easy one, he said, adding, “Helping others fits who I am.”
Bendixen taught high school agriculture in Colby and spent a year serving as UW-Extension agriculture agent for Taylor and Marathon counties before signing on as Clark County’s agent, a position she held for seven years.
Though she worked directly with producers as an ag agent, Bendixen said she was interested in being able to work with them on a more continual basis.
“I’m excited to be able to work with farmers for an extended period of time and to be able to follow up,” she said.
Bendixen joins veteran farm business instructor Mark Denk in aiding farmers in continuing education throughout western Wisconsin.
Zwiefelhofer said many people don’t realize the extent of continuing education CVTC offers.
The ag programs have 80 students on campus. Another 160, mainly farmers, are enrolled in the Farm Business and Production Management program, which offers resources to improve management skills. The program features part-time instruction with topics rotating over six years, versus the typical time-intensive 32-week school year.
Students range from high schoolers (enrolled in the youth option) to farmers in their 70s, Denk said, noting the broad variety of ages and backgrounds creates a unique peer setting not found at larger educational institutions.
“There’s a lot of knowledge transfer that comes into play there,” Bendixen said. “It leads to some lively discussions — which is fortunate, because in agriculture, there’s no one right way to do things.”
Zwiefelhofer said the school has adjusted its curriculum for the ever-diversifying niches of Wisconsin agriculture.
“I think we’ve flexed with the times,” he said. “If there aren’t jobs for our students, we’re not going to be around in the future.”
Though their three main program areas are agriscience technician; landscape, plant and turf management; and farm business and production management, Denk said the instructors have helped students branch out into other topics.
“We’ve had students interested in hops, for example,” he said. “In that case we end up working with them on a more individualized basis or connect them with an industry partner, but the backbone of what they need to learn remains the same.”
That backbone is rooted in ag-focused marketing, sales, equipment and facility courses. From there, students can branch out into the varying tracks.
Industry partners, such as Case IH and John Deere, have been instrumental in CVTC’s ag programs, Denk said.
“I personally feel like we touch on community more than the larger universities,” Zwiefelhofer said. “The labs we do are mostly on farms or businesses in our local community.”
The college has an active biofuels program in which students grow the crops used to generate biofuels. Students can also become certified in skills such as commercial pesticide application, skid-steer operation and performing animal ultrasounds.
Two greenhouses on campus allow students to grow produce, which this year was sold in an on-campus farmers market.
“We also do hydroponics and work closely with cooperating farms and the local farming population,” Frame said.
Students also benefit from a strong internship program, Zwiefelhofer said.
“The internships they take between their first and second year are really what separate us from the larger schools,” he said. “A lot of times it leads into employment.”
Those interested in learning more about the ag programs are welcome to shadow classes.
CVTC also has a transfer agreement that allows students to carry credits into the UW system.
Denk is eager to see how the ag programs develop with the influence of the new instructors.
“We’ve got a great staff here,” he said. “We’re committed to working together for the students’ success.”
December 20, 2013
From piercecountyherald.com: “Double Duty: CVTC grad is EMT trainer” – Jessica Brickner was not out of her element at all as the student speaker at the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) River Falls campus graduation Dec. 16 at Meyer Middle School.
Brickner has had a dual role in the healthcare field for the past few years. While she has been a student in the CVTC Nursing Associate Degree program, she’s also been active as a health educator.
She is a member of the Ellsworth Area Ambulance Service as a volunteer EMT and was elected as the service’s training coordinator. In that capacity, she speaks to groups frequently, teaching refresher courses to fellow EMTs.
“I’ve been at it four years last August,” she said of her work as an EMT. “I did a ride-a-long and loved it!”
Of the 39 graduates receiving degrees at the CVTC River Falls campus at the end of the fall term, 32 were nursing students, with the others completing Administrative Professional, Accounting, Business Management and Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement programs. In addition, four students received certificates of General Education Development (GED).
At the Eau Claire campus, 373 graduated in 33 different programs, with 70 nursing graduates being the largest program.
Brickner had long focused on a healthcare career. She started at a university with some required courses, but with difficulty getting into a highly competitive nursing program, switched majors and earned a degree in health promotion with an emphasis on community health. But she didn’t give up the dream of becoming a nurse. She entered the CVTC Nursing program and her background in health education made her a natural to become a peer tutor for her fellow students.
“I have numerous memories of working with students as they overcame struggles with a subject matter,” Brickner said. “Seeing the ‘light bulb come on’ and hearing students say, ‘I finally get it!’ are true reminders of why I like tutoring and being an educator/mentor.”
Brickner also works as an EMS instructor at the Oakdale (Minn.) office of Regions Hospital. She sees a future for herself in nursing education after she passes her boards to become an RN.
“My experience tutoring and helping other students has definitely given me encouragement and a sense of reassurance that a future as a nursing educator would likely be a good fit,” Brickner said. She hopes to work soon in a hospital setting, but adds, “long term, I would like to get my master’s degree in nursing and become an instructor of future nursing students.”
Brickner urged her fellow graduates to go beyond their professions.
“Demonstrate your strengths and strive to be the outstanding individual you have become,” she said. “When you are satisfied, challenge yourself a little more. Become a member of the community in which you live. Use what you have learned at CVTC to better the world around you.”
One of the current nursing instructors, Jennifer Buekema, was the faculty speaker at the ceremony.
“Many of you want to continue your education in your chosen field, and for that I say, ‘good for you.’ If I had given up whenever something was hard, well then I would not be standing here, and I know many of you graduates can say the same thing,” Buekema said.
The guest speaker was Deb Callow, the director of nursing services at Spring Valley Senior Living and Health Care Campus, who told a story to encourage graduates to listen to the stories of others. She told how her first patient as a nurse was an elderly lady, for whom she was to perform a head-to-toe assessment.
“I noticed numbers tattooed on her inner wrists,” Callow said. “I questioned her about them and she told me her story, a story of a young Jewish girl in Nazi Germany. Her parents took her to France and then sent her with nuns to relatives she never met in New York City. She never saw her parents again.
“I learned that day to cherish the life experiences of others and learn from them. I can never imagine what she went through and I will never experience in my life what she did. But what I really learned that day was to listen to the story others have to share, and learn from them,” Callow said.
December 16, 2013
From leadertelegram.com: “Area mom, judge adds nurse to her agenda with a degree from CVTC” – Mindy Carothers-Harycki wears plenty of hats: mom, business manager, judge.
The 35-year-old Cornell woman on Tuesday will be able to add nurse to her list of titles.
Carothers-Harycki is among this semester’s graduates from Chippewa Valley Technical College, where she earned a nursing degree through CVTC’s two-year nursing program.
Carothers-Harycki said CVTC’s flexible class options made it possible for her to complete her degree without having to drop her other obligations.
“They’re all priorities in my life. My family comes first but education is also important to me…(CVTC) does a nice job of offering classes in different formats,” Carothers-Harycki said, noting she took a mix of online and in-person classes.
Carothers-Harycki didn’t need a new career. She already helps manage her husband’s construction company, Otter Creek Construction. She also has served three terms as the city of Cornell’s municipal judge, a part-time elected position, where she presides over traffic citations, municipal citations and other matters. She plans to continue in that role.
And Carothers-Harycki has an 11-year-old son and twin 7-year-olds, a boy and a girl. She graduated from Cornell High School in 1996, and earned a two-year-degree in business management from CVTC in 2002.
Still, becoming a nurse appealed to Carothers-Harycki. She liked the idea of working in a profession where she could have a positive and profound impact on others.
“And having my children, I really got to see what a difference nurses can make. And I had just recently lost my grandmother and had spent some time near the health care business. And then I decided to go back to school,” Carothers-Harycki said.
Danielle Ryan, a CVTC nursing instructor, said Carothers-Harycki has a talent for focusing on patient needs and listening to them. Those attributes are characteristics of a good nurse but listening and being empathetic with stressed-out patients is something young nurses can lose sight of while juggling their job duties, Ryan said.
“She is an extremely conscientious and a smart individual,” Ryan said.
Carothers-Harycki said she has hopes of working in a hospital or becoming a legal nurse, which would combine her interest in health care with her interest in the law. A legal nurse consults with attorneys on medical cases, insurance claims and other matters.
“It’s a nice combo,” Carothers-Harycki said.
November 21, 2013
From chippewa.com: “Academy graduates ready for law enforcement careers” – Eau Claire, WI – It wasn’t just family tradition that attracted James Jarecki to a career in law enforcement, but he did find inspiration there.
“It’s in my family. My dad (James, Sr.) worked for Bayfield County as a patrol officer,” Jarekci said.
Now Jarecki is about to follow in his father’s footsteps. On Friday, Nov. 15, he graduated from the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) Law Enforcement Academy, renewing his certification to work as a law enforcement officer in Wisconsin. He’s been hired as a reserve officer for the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department and is on the eligibility list for full-time work.
Jarecki, who was elected class leader, had been through the academy once before, but the 2007 Drummond High School graduate was working outside law enforcement for a time, and since he was hired by Chippewa County in January, his certification needed to be renewed. He’s looking forward to getting started in his new career.
“I like patrol,” Jarecki said of his preferred law enforcement job. “You’re not sitting in an office all the time. It’s always something different. You never know what you’re going to get into.”
Being a law enforcement officer in Wisconsin takes a great deal of training. Most of the Law Enforcement Academy graduates, including Jarecki, previously completed CVTC’s two-year Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement program or one at another technical college. Others obtained four-year university degrees before entering the academy.
That provides a good, required foundation, but the 14-week academy program gets down to the practical. Completion of an academy program is required for certification.
Eric Anderson, director of the CVTC Law Enforcement Academy and associate dean of emergency services at CVTC, said the program instructs the recruits in six areas: policing in America, tactical skills, patrol procedures, legal context, relational skills, and investigations.
“The graduates learned to interact with the community as a professional,” Anderson said in his remarks to the graduates and family members at the ceremony. “They learned how to protect themselves. . . they learned how to provide safety and security to all citizens.”
Graduate Christopher Allen, chosen as the student speaker for the ceremony, spoke of the task ahead of the graduates in their careers. “We’ll be given an awesome amount of responsibility. We will be called upon to calm chaos in the most professional manner possible,” Allen said.
“Don’t let it end here,” Judy Anibas, academy faculty member and long-time Eau Claire police officer, told the graduates. “It means a lifelong journey of continuous education and training.”
Anibas called upon the graduates to honor the people they work with, their community, their loved ones and themselves. “And honor the department that hires you. They saw something in you that they thought would enhance their department.”
Of the 22 graduates, four had already secured full-or part-time positions with departments.
November 19, 2013
From chippewa.com: “CVTC names center after Caspers” – A conference center at the campus of Chippewa Valley Technical College, 620 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire has been named in honor of William and Gertrude Casper of Chippewa Falls.
The Casper Conference Center is in the Business Education Center, and is in the former site of a auditorium. A partition can be used to divide the rooms space, which can seat 298. The new center has six large high-definition projection screens, wireless network capability and a wireless microphone.
Casper Park in Chippewa Falls also bears the name of the Caspers.
William J. Casper was the grandson of the founder of the Leinenkugel Brewing Company, Jacob Leinenkugel. William served as the firm’s president from 1964 until he retired in 1971. He also served as chairman of the company’s board of directions until 1989. That’s when he and his wife, Gertrude, established the Casper Foundation.
That foundation has given CVTC several gifts, allowing the technical college to construct buildings, upgrade equipment and improve programs. Casper Foundation grants have also been given to several students.
The Casper Conference Center is available for public use. For information, go to http://www.cvtc.edu.
November 14, 2013
From chippewa.com: “Latest equipment helps prepare students for job market” – Instructor assistant Corey Wegner proudly shows off a steel cutout in the shape of an elk, done in such fine detail that the texture of the hairs on the elk’s neck is apparent. The metal was cut on the latest piece of equipment in the welding shop at Chippewa Valley Technical College.
Amazingly, the metal was cut without applying any heat, and in fact, it is specifically because no heat was used that the detail was so fine.
A Flow waterjet cutter did the job, and students enrolled for the fall term will be learning how to use it. It’s another example of how CVTC continues to stay on the “cutting edge” of manufacturing equipment. It’s rare indeed for the graduate of a CVTC manufacturing program to enter the workforce and be baffled by the technology. The college is generally ahead of the curve.
“We are constantly talking to companies, and they are very good about telling us what the new trends are. The college is very good at keeping up with that,” says Jeff Sullivan, associate dean of manufacturing.
A case in point is the waterjet cutter, which uses a high pressure fine stream of water to cut metal in fine detail.
“It’s cutting using the erosion process instead of heat, so you don’t get the heat-affected areas you do from heat cutting,” says Walter Quaschnick, head of the welding program. Intense heat can affect the properties of the metal being cut.
“And because we use water, we can cut through other things like ceramic, wood and rubber,” Quaschnick continues. “It’s a unique type of cutting process.”
One of the biggest applications is in cutting stainless steel, which is susceptible to rusting if cut with a torch. One local company, Midwest Stainless in Menomonie, uses a waterjet and appreciates that CVTC manufacturing graduates are familiar with this technology.
CVTC’s strategy works two ways. Students are better prepared to enter the workforce by having training on the latest equipment, and the fact that trained workers are available encourages industry to modernize. It’s how education can drive economic development.
Also new at CVTC this year is a Haas VM-2 unit in the machine tool area. Sullivan notes it is capable of a 1,000-rpm spindle speed. “If you make an analogy, it would be like a standard computer compared to a high-speed computer,” Sullivan said.
Examples of such high-technology capability at CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center area abound:
- The welding program has a computer interface so students can evaluate their techniques with a computer program.
- The machine tool program has the capability of micro-machining.
- The industrial mechanic program has an assembly line simulator in which students can troubleshoot problems.
- The nanoengineering technology program has a Class 100 cleanroom, unique in the state.
CVTC’s manufacturing technology is so sophisticated that the college receives requests from private industry to use it, which is possible through the college’s Equipment Access Program.
Chippewa Valley Technical College campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west-central Wisconsin. It is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.
November 14, 2013
From chippewa.com: “Region’s colleges prep students for food careers” – When you chew your food, should you thank higher ed, too?
Contributions by higher education to the value-added food sector in the Chippewa Valley are immense, if little noted.
Three applied majors — one each at Chippewa Valley Technical College, UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout — illustrate direct, substantial and ongoing work leading to a supply of trained talent.
The Nestle plant in Eau Claire, for example, has become the largest unit of infant formula production for the firm anywhere. Nestle, a Swiss giant, may be the largest food company in the world. A UW-Eau Claire spokesperson says the plant’s payroll includes perhaps 90 grads doing an array of work, from its labs to supervision to sales.
Three other majors at the same schools are less directly food sector, but hardly less important. Packaging at Stout, chemistry at UWEC and electromechanical technology at CVTC each account for contributions of other talent to the value-added food sector in the Chippewa Valley and beyond. Contributions by the schools, however, are by no means limited to either applied or other majors.
To be clear, value-added food does not include agriculture, the behemoth industry from which it springs. Agriculture and higher education have a long and path-finding history, often dated back to Lincoln, who signed the Morrill Act in 1862 establishing land grant colleges. Most of the colleges of the Big Ten are such.
Agriculture and value-added food in the United States are historic in their successes. U.S. supermarket shelves fairly groan with consumer selection. Items stocked per supermarket tripled from 1980 to 1999, from 15,000 to nearly 50,000. And there’s been an upward spike since. Food exports are the salvation of our trade balance. Starvation from want of calories in North America is rare, even if malnutrition is not.
Oh, there are ills and controversies in the food industry. Forty-two million in the U.S. are on food stamps and excess of the wrong sort of food can be said to be a leading problem with the U.S. diet. There’s endless debate about diet and health, genetically modified organisms, consumer recalls, processed versus organic foods, acidic versus alkaline, additives, herbicides and more.
What cannot be debated is the abundance and safety of the U.S. food supply. It is unprecedented in world history. And it is responsible for Americans spending a smaller share of their income on food than the rest of the world.
A case is easily made that higher education is a leading force for much of the success of a food supply that is not only abundant, but overwhelmingly safe.
Food science at Stout
UW-Stout’s Naveen Chikthimmah provides the clarity of an outside perspective. A native of the Indian subcontinent and holder of a prestigious science Ph.D. from Penn State, Chikthimmah has a perspective on food that he sometimes graphically describes to his students in Menomonie.
He remembers as a boy being asked by an aunt to behead a chicken for a meal, doing so, and feeling the blood of the animal flow warmly from his hand down his arm.
His storytelling aims to provoke thought about food in his young, mostly American students; where it comes from, how it can be produced, prepared and preserved, and how precious it is to many.
The son of a tea buying and processing mother in India, Chikthimmah remembers marveling as a boy at a can of sweetened milk. He was stunned by the can’s ability to seemingly preserve the milk indefinitely. India’s privations left a mark on Naveen the lad, who today is Professor Chikthimmah at an esteemed polytechnic in the heart of the U.S. dairy industry.
He is charged with teaching food science and technology, using microbiology and chemistry to develop new and superior food products. Chikthimmah says not to be lost is the opportunity created for the sons and daughters of the Chippewa Valley and beyond. Impressive careers await graduates of the rigorous program, he emphasizes. The world’s population in his career will expand by billions. The food scientists produced by UW-Stout will certainly be called upon to play ever larger roles.
UWEC targets food safety
The global village impacts Dr. Crispin Pierce’s students no less. His environmental and public health major at UW-Eau Claire has educated about 55 graduates in the last five years and achieved 100-percent placement of those grads.
International trade agreements have done much in just the past 10 years to boost imports of fresh produce to the U.S. and create a demand for more scrutiny of food imports. Frequently there is disparity in foreign and domestic food standards. And while his grads most often serve as public health generalists, with portfolios including responsibilities in everything from immunizations to STDs, safe water and safe food are part of the core of their education.
“Graduates of our program serve the public by providing information and inspection of food establishments, reducing foodborne illness and associated liability,” Pierce says. “Alumni choosing to work in industry are the foundations of health and safety programs to protect workers and facilitate productivity.”
The downside risk of a food recall can send the stock of a publicly-traded food firm plummeting, making for unhappy, even litigious shareholders. Going to work every day to help manage that risk are graduates of Pierce’s program, a major seemingly poised to grow in importance as world trade, travel and communication charge a new era.
CVTC starting food program
Quick to serve the changing workplace, CVTC intends to soon formalize a yet-to-be named food program, designed to give technical college students with a food science interest transferability to a number of universities including UW-Stout, says Jeff Sullivan, a newly installed associate dean.
Dr. John Wagner and Hans Mikelson, known for their nanotechnology instruction, will also teach in the new associate degree food program. Mikelson says the Food Safety Modernization Act is creating demand for the two-year degree.
The Food and Drug Administration calls the act of 2011 “the most sweeping in 70 years,” with an emphasis on the prevention of food borne pathogens and contaminants. Federal regulators in the past have focused on responding to contamination, the FDA says. More food scientists and technicians are certain to be needed.
Discovery Center adds value
Talent is one thing, training another. UW-Stout’s Discovery Center, staffed by Renee Surdik and Randy Hulke, is charged with applying Stout’s considerable fund of industry expertise to the needs of firms. The center has four goals: advance knowledge, enhance student learning, provide solutions to industry, and promote economic development in the region.
Working with Stout’s Manufacturing Outreach Center, the Discovery Center enables project management across disciplines and on site, Hulke says. He emphasizes that the effort is far from an encroachment of the work of private consulting firms, and is first and foremost focused “on adding value to the future of the student.”
All of which includes extensive but not exclusive work for the value-added food sector. Sconnie Foods and Fiberstar are two recent interesting examples, not the least because their chief executives are wed. Brock and Tracy Lundberg (see sidebar) both have offices at CVTC and attribute part of their success to higher ed.
Brock, the CEO of Fiberstar, is a newly minted University of Minnesota Ph.D. He is a food engineer and his R&D firm is now selling in 60 countries. His high surface area orange fiber products are engineered to augment and impart enhanced taste and texture characteristics in food products.
Not too many years ago, Tracy Lundberg noticed a puddling or denaturing of the sauerkraut at a ball game. She complained to Brock and he more offhandedly than seriously told her to start her own sauerkraut firm. She took him up on it and today her product is on a growing number of supermarket shelves with much broader distribution planned. Both have offices and use labs in CVTC’s Applied Technology Center, and both owe much to educators.
CVTC, working with state grants, has trained hundreds of food sector workers recently.
“Over the last two years, CVTC’s Business and Industry Services staff has partnered with regional food service industry businesses to train over 750 incumbent workers in topics including welding, transportation, electromechanical and safety,” says Roxann Vanderwyst, director of Business and Industry Services at the technical college.
All educators interviewed for this article believe a new emphasis should be placed on the food sector’s potential for economic development in the Chippewa Valley. Tempting as it may be to chase high tech, shouldn’t Wisconsin stick to its knitting?
More than 1,000 food firms locate in Wisconsin with a payroll of 63,000, according to the Midwest Food Processors Association. In the U.S. the food sector contributes 20 percent of the gross domestic product. It’s a benevolent sleeping giant often reared by higher education. And no foreign nation with low labor costs can ever seduce the sleeping giant into a foreign fling.
November 11, 2013
From chippewa.com: “Real-world scenarios challenge health care students” – An alarm sounded and the blue light flashed. Paramedics, nurses and a respiratory therapist sprang into action. Each member of the team had a role to play, and they worked together, communicating constantly through each step of the life-saving procedures.
The scene last week in one of the labs at the Health Education Center at Chippewa Valley Technical College was only a simulation, and the students had worked frequently in the past with the human patient simulators. But there was something vastly different about this exercise.
This time, the students from nursing, respiratory therapy and paramedic technician programs were working with resident physicians from the UW-Health Clinic, all under the observation of professionals and faculty members. And this time simulator patients actually spoke to the students with complaints, questions and realistic reactions through instructors wired to microphones in another room.
Adding a little more flavor to the mix were volunteers playing the parts of family members who provided comfort to their loved ones, but also sometimes got in the way.
The hours-long scene was as close to a real, live critical patient care situation as the students would see prior to their upcoming graduations. In planning the training session, organizers could not find anything similar being done elsewhere.
“This is fairly groundbreaking,” said CVTC respiratory therapist instructor Don Raymond, who helped put together the scenarios. “Multidisciplinary education is becoming more important. It teaches collaborative teamwork, communication, respect across disciplines and professionalism.”
“This is to help all the disciplines understand the roles of team members and the importance of collaboration and communication, with the ultimate goal of improving patient care,” said CVTC associate dean of health Linda Krueger.
Four patient simulators were used, simulating a pediatric patient, a pulmonary embolism, a heart attack, and severe COPD symptoms. Students were used to working with the simulators, but typically they learned to do specific procedures involved in their disciplines, one at a time. The multidisciplinary training involved more than one patient in the unit to care for, with more than one problem, with other health care workers helping, and sometimes with unexpected results.
“Sometimes we operate in separate silos,” said Kim Ernstmeyer, CVTC nursing instructor. “We do our nursing thing, respiratory does its thing … in scenarios like this, we all work together.”
“In true hospital settings, everyone works as a team,” Raymond said.
“This gives them a chance to work together as a team like they will be doing when they graduate,” Krueger said.
Part of the purpose was to get students out of their comfort zones. One scenario involved a “code blue” – a patient going into cardiac arrest. In a fast-paced simulation, a respiratory therapist worked to maintain air flow while a paramedic did chest compressions, and nurses monitored signs and operated the defibrillator. A nurse eventually took over chest compressions for the fatigued paramedic.
The “patient” ultimately died.
“We were really hesitant to have that patient die. We did not want the students to feel they did something wrong or had failed. But sometimes you do everything perfectly and a patient still dies,” Krueger said.
That point was emphasized in a post-exercise debriefing with the students. Ernstmeyer told them that death was decided no matter what they did. Mike Miller, a critical care paramedic with the Eau Claire Fire Department and a CVTC adjunct faculty member, told students dealing with death is part of the job.
“Don’t get down on yourself if someone dies. It happens,” Miller said.
“We want you walking away thinking you did everything you could,” Ernstmeyer added.
Nursing student Sarah Crotty of Alma found herself out of her comfort zone when a person playing a family member tried to wake the deceased person. She had to deliver the news.
“I said, ‘Well, he passed away,’ ” Crotty related. “I’ve never been faced with that before.”
“Acting it out instead of just looking at it in a textbook really puts things into your mind,” said Emily Nelson, a nursing student from Jim Falls. “And not knowing what you are coming into is what is going to happen in the real world.”
The pace of the exercise was new to the students. Respiratory therapy student Kayla Bowe of Bloomer said she learned to “Keep calm, and keep doing what you’re doing.”
All student participants were in their last semester of their CVTC programs.
November 8, 2013
From chippewa.com: “Manufacturing a new image” – Baldwin-Woodville High School student McKenzie Kohls asked Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and a panel of manufacturing experts for some reassurance about the field.
“My grandfather was a welder who came home looking like a coal miner every day,” Kohls said. “How has manufacturing changed?
It was a good time to ask. Dispelling the myths of manufacturing was the theme of panel discussion during a Women in Manufacturing event held at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire Tuesday to mark October as national 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, and students in Bloomer, Cumberland, Gilmanton, Pepin, Shell Lake, Turtle Lake, Shell Lake and Webster schools followed via video conferencing.
In answering Kohls’ question, Mary Isbister, president of GenMet, a metal fabricator in Mequon, Wis., dispelled the notion that welding was a dirty job in modern manufacturing.
“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.”
Changing the image
Both manufacturing professionals and educators have been working for years to change the image of the sector.
“We still have people who view manufacturing as a dirty place, with things lying all over,” said Craig Simingson, superintendent of the Eleva-Strum School District, which received much 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, COO 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.”
“These are ‘smart jobs,’” said Kleefisch. “We need your brains. We need your bright ideas in manufacturing.”
“I always use the term ‘advanced manufacturing.’ We won’t hire you unless you go to school after high school,” said Dan Conroy, vice president of human resources at Nexen, a manufacturer of power transmission and other products with a plant in Webster, Wis.
Conroy said about 12 percent of jobs in his company require only a high school education, but those positions are never open. Another 70 percent require a technical college education, and 18 percent require a university degree. Kleefisch added that over the next decade, between 54 and 72 percent of jobs will require more than a high school education, but less than a university degree.
Some of the students present asked questions about job opportunities available and the courses they should be taking to prepare themselves for the jobs available. The panelists explained that there are a wide variety of careers available, from operation of sophisticated equipment, to the design and maintenance of that equipment, improvement of manufacturing processes, and many levels of support positions.
“You can do almost anything within manufacturing, but you have to understand how manufacturing works. Today’s manufacturing operates very complex equipment,” Isbister said. She urged students to have an understanding of mathematics and how it is applied, but a broad education is valuable. “There probably aren’t too many classes that wouldn’t be advantageous to you.”
Women were particularly encouraged to explore careers in what is still a heavily male-dominated field. Tabat shared her story of a 42-year rise from production and secretarial work at Generac Power Systems to human resources and eventually chief operating officer.
“I started out with a small company and the company grew bigger and bigger, and I grew with it,” Tabat said. She added only six percent of her type of position is held by women nationally.
Isbister noted that a woman who started in customer service at GenMet eight years ago, “basically runs the place when I’m not there.”
“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.
Gold Collar Careers are high tech manufacturing jobs that are pushing the limits of technology by demanding bright individuals who understand and embrace the latest machining, electronic, computer, and other technologies; and creative thinkers with applied/hands-on abilities to solve problems and get things done.
November 7, 2013
From weau.com: “As new GED test rollout approaches, rush is on” — Americans who want to finish the GED test are at the 11th hour, before a new version rolls out in January.
The GED tests are changing in January 2014. The new high school equivalency exam will wipe out all incomplete GED test scores from the 2002 version of the exam.
The Chippewa Valley Technical College says if you’ve already passed a portion of the five tests, you must take the writing test by December 5th and everything else by December 13th.
“Any student who hasn’t finished their GED, needs to get into their nearest CVTC Learning Center as soon as possible and complete the remaining tests that they have,” said instructor in Adult Education Services and department chair Jill Mayer.
Mayer said the January 2014 tests are completely different and based on the Common Core Standards. There would be five exams instead of four in the subjects of language arts, social studies, science and math.
“And they’ll be computer based,” said Mayer. “We’ll be dealing with a lot of teaching students computer skills and keyboarding and writing their essays online.”
In the math portion, she said there will be heavier focus on algebra which wasn’t the case before.
The price will also go up.
The current class for the 2002 GED testing series is $90 and that includes all five tests and the credentialing fee,” said Mayer. “And for the 2014 test, it will probably cost about $124.”
Mayer said there are still hundreds of students in the area that have to finish the test. Before the fall semester, she said CVTC had a marketing plan, sending out hundreds of postcards to student who partially took the tests, reminding them to come back and finish it.
And because of the rush, CVTC had to extend hours and double up on instructors for the GED.
One student who wants to beat the deadline is Alan Robertson who wants a change in career.
“I have all of them done except for math and writing, so two left,” said Robertson who began taking the test two years ago. “Earlier this summer I did my science one and the other two was a couple years ago so I procrastinated a little but this year I’m cracking down,” he said.
Robertson said once he gets his GED completed, he wants to continue going to school at CVTC and enroll for classes in welding.
“Something where I don’t have to worry about sitting at a desk all day, kind of a mixture of both, you’re kind of using your head and being physical (as a welder),” said Roberston.
November 7, 2013
From weau.com: “Number of employers up at CVTC job fair” – Employers and potential employees got the chance to connect Wednesday thanks to a career fair held at CVTC.
More than 70 employers were on hand for the fair that was held for CVTC students and alumni. The technical college says the number of employers at the fair has increased from past years pointing to more growth in the number of jobs available in the Chippewa Valley.
Manager of Student Services Grants & Operations Natti Marlaire told us they’re “up 16 employers more than we’ve had in the past, which shows that the economy is bouncing back. Employers are specifically looking for CVTC grads, looking for the skilled worker, and it’s a great opportunity to match our business industry needs by matching them up with students who will be graduating. “
CVTC says 87% of its graduates find jobs related to their field after graduation.