From “What Works for Women in IT” — Obstacles and solutions are a large part of the IT professional’s career choice. Organizations assemble IT staffs to solve business problems. Traditionally, it’s been a man’s world, with women in a decidedly minority role. The IBM midrange community is no different. But last month at the Wisconsin Midrange Computing Professionals Association Technical Conference, a session called Women in IT put the gender topic in a new light.

The role of women in IT is changing. And it’s not changing because we’ve all sat around and waited for change to happen on its own accord. It’s changing because there are people who want it to change and because it’s time for change.

According to the 2013 statistics by the U.S. Department of Labor, 57 percent of professional occupations in the U.S. workforce are held by women, yet only 26 percent of professional computing occupations in the U.S. workforce are held by women. If the number of women in IT careers doubled, it would still fall short of current benchmark for professional women in all categories. Obviously, there is room for improvement.

One person who takes that as a challenge is Beth Akerlund. She was recruited as the keynote speaker for the Women in IT session by Sue Zimmermann, vice president of the WMCPA user group that hosts the annual tech conference for IBM i advocates who take their career development seriously.

Akerlund began her career in IT with a Milwaukee area software company after graduating from college. She moved on to work for Groupon when it was a start-up. There her career experiences expanded as she began working with engineering teams, process improvements, implementing a variety of technologies, and software development. Later she returned to her hometown of Milwaukee, where she is works in custom software development for Centare.

Through a variety of industry networking events, Akerlund became acquainted with women in IT. Their conversations included the need for a women’s network that would provide the platform for meeting, building peer relationships, improving career skills, and provide mentoring to a younger generation of women in computer science as well as other areas of high technology.

As a result of those connections, Akerlund and others launched a Milwaukee chapter of Girls in Tech, a global non-profit organization with 35 active chapters. The Milwaukee chapter’s launch event had 75 attendees. Ten months later, the local chapter membership is 325 and the organization has discovered local business support and support from tech leaders in the greater Milwaukee metro area.

Already in place are programs for conferences, mentoring young girls, mentoring college-aged women, mentoring for women already in technology, a boot camp that teaches entrepreneurial skills, and cultural exchange programs.

One example of a youth outreach program for the Girls in Tech Milwaukee branch is a partnership with Girl Scouts. Another partnership has been set up with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “Businesses in the Milwaukee area supportive,” Akerlund said during a phone call with me last week, “and they encourage us (and men, too) to develop a greater interest in tech careers.”

At the WMCPA Tech Conference, the Women in IT session was peppered with stories about inspiration, enthusiasm, and empowerment.

“Sharing personal stories–triumphs and challenges–benefits everyone who hears them,” Akerlund said.

Alison Butterill, product offering manager for IBM i, was one of the speakers at the WMCPA conference. Women in IT and women in business are topics she enjoys talking to women about, she said in an email.

“It’s important for women to establish goals for themselves–pick something to aspire to and strive for that,” she said. “Business is a game and it’s crucial that women learn the rules and key players in that game quickly. Those who do can leverage their natural human characteristics–like being nurturing and collaborative–to advance quickly. It’s also important for women to find a mentor, male or female, who can be a sort of coach for them throughout their career. Women have come a long way in the IT business, but they are still coming into their own and face challenges.”

Karyl Ruiz, a student at Gateway Technical College (one of the most prominent IBM i-oriented schools in the U.S.), attended the WMCPA Conference and the Women in IT session. Ruiz will graduate in May with associate degrees in software development and Web development. She’ll also have two certifications–programmer/analyst and iSeries operator.

“The Women in IT event helped me to see that we don’t have to know everything come graduation,” she said via email. “With experience those gaps would be filled. It also showed that women do hold a strong place in IT and that the way I was feeling up until this event was common among other women just entering into the field. The speakers made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”

Jessica Wagner, a second Gateway student, looked around at the women who attended the session and took note of the variety of ages.

“A lot of these women came into a field when it was all men,” she said in an email. “It can be intimidating to join a field when it’s all men, especially at a time when women were deciding they didn’t want to be in the home anymore and find their own path. Alison gave a lot of really useful information about what to expect in the business world. One thing schools don’t teach is how to interact in business and the importance of acting professional in the way you dress, your hair style, and the way you interact with coworkers and the boss. I also was really impressed with Beth; her wanting to bring more information to the younger generation about this field is important. I think more women like her talking to the younger generation is important to know that this field is no longer for just men and that women can make a difference.”

Akerlund said her focus and the focus of Women in IT is to show women success stories and demonstrate there is an increase in women in computer science and engineering.

“Organizations that are taking the steps to empower girls and women,” she said. “They’re not just saying there is a problem; they’re taking action.”

Additional information on the Girls in Tech Milwaukee branch can be found at the organization’s Meetup page and also on the group’s Facebook page.

Other resources for women in technology provided by Akerlund include: Women in Technology, She ++, The Anita Borg Institute, and Lean In.

From “Professional attire offered free to local collegians” — College students living on a budget now have an opportunity to dress the part when they apply for jobs.

The Revolving Career Closet will be open to all area college students two days only: From 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 31, and Tuesday, April 1, in Room 109 at Moraine Park Technical College.

The closet will offer free professional business attire to students who present a college identification card. Clothing such as suits and ties, sport coats, dress shirts, dresses, blazers, blouses and dress pants will be available in all sizes.

The innovative project was developed by five members of Leadership Fond du Lac, a community based program offered through the Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce.

The group timed the opening of the closet so students planning to attend MPTC’s April 16 Job Fair can dress appropriately. The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Team member Patty Breister, a supervisor at Charter Communications, said the group was looking for a project that would benefit the community and identified there was a need for students in the area to dress more professionally when they went for job interviews.

Back in August 2013, the Leadership Fond du Lac team started brainstorming ideas and contacted key people at Marian University, MPTC and University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac to find out how they group could reach out to students.

“We also spoke to area businesses and surveyed about 15-20 business leaders. They told us that this was definitely something that was needed,” Breister said. “Students need more education on how to come prepared for a job interview.”

More and more young people are applying for jobs dressed in casual jeans and T-shirts, Breister said. The group felt that if it could provide free dress clothes to students it would improve their chances of being hired and teach them how to better promote themselves.

Society Insurance loved the idea so much its employees held an internal clothing drive. Marian University also sponsored a clothing drive.

“We have a large room that is filling with donations — more each day,” Breister said.

Another team member, Caron Daugherty, dean of general education at MPTC, said although the “pop-up” closet will only be offered for two days the intent is to bring it back annually.

“Even people coming in for interviews at the college level, I have seen some not wearing the appropriate dress,” Daugherty said. “And it’s so important to make that first good impression.”

The plan is to have career counselors from the area colleges available at the Revolving Career Closet to counsel students on how they should dress.

“I have heard counselors say that you should dress one step above the position you are applying for. For example, if it is an entry level position, you should dress at the management level,” Daugherty said. “Even if it were a cook position, I would not wear jeans and a polo shirt.”

Mary Hatlen, academic advisor at Marian University, said the collaboration between the three campuses underscores what can be achieved when the focus is on helping all students down the road of success.

Next year Marian will host a job fair and the Revolving Career Closet.

“It takes a team effort to ensure the sustainability of this project moving forward and we are excited about that,” she said.

Other members of the Leadership Fond du Lac Team are Marcus Butts, CitizensFirst Credit Union; Travis Van Dyn Hoven, American Family Insurance; and Sue Toll, from Aurora HealthCare.

From “Making success part of college culture” –  Editor’s note: This article continues a series profiling nominees of the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) 2014 Awards of Excellence. Featured this week are the four finalists in the category of student success. Winners in each of the six categories will be announced at the AACC Annual Convention next month.

At Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC), student success is more than a concept – it’s a part of the culture. The college’s Dream…Learn It. Live It ​initiative ensures that student success is woven into every facet of the student experience.

Every employee at NWTC is responsible for finding ways to help students master their courses, remain in college and complete some kind of credential.

“For people who are willing to work and earn that credential, helping them succeed is both a smart policy and the right choice,” said NWTC President H. Jeffrey Rafn.

Program advisors work with students from application through graduation. Four-week courses allow students to concentrate on one subject at a time while maintaining full-time status. Supplemental learning with academic coaches and tutors is available for the most difficult courses. Struggling students are identified earlier and directed to the appropriate student services.

To help students struggling financially, college employees created a food pantry, a second-hand clothing store and an employee giving campaign on campus.

What the data show

The college also improved the quality of its data, allowing for more informed decision-making.

This transformation at NWTC wasn’t always easy or comfortable — systems and assumptions had to be changed — but college leaders, faculty and staff have found ways to turn challenges into triumphs.

“The business intelligence available to us has been significantly redesigned so that we can see what helps students succeed and where they may fall through the cracks,” said Matthew Petersen, associate dean for general studies at the college.

From “Column: Ring in a New Year with MSTC” — By Sue Budjac, president of Mid-State Technical College – I hope you had a joyful holiday season and wish you a happy New Year. This time of year is a culmination of sorts for many Mid-State Technical College students. An impressive class of 142 graduates gathered Dec. 19 for fall semester commencement ceremonies to celebrate a transition from their MSTC hands-on college education to new beginnings and enhanced opportunities in the workforce.

The solid reputation of this college and the impressive skill set of MSTC graduates are well documented. Nearly nine out of 10 MSTC graduates are employed within six months of graduation, and 95 percent of employers who hire MSTC graduates are satisfied or very satisfied with their education, training and skill set. These are some of the reasons why nearly 9,000 people make MSTC their preferred choice for education and training each year.

Yet statistics alone will not ease fear of the unknown. Anxiety sometimes can hinder our desire to achieve the skill set that enhances our career options. Fear ultimately “… holds us and binds us and keeps us from growing.”

However, success is often driven by a willingness to step out of our comfort zones and try something new. The following stories show how two students faced fear, made sacrifices, rolled up their sleeves and tackled the unknown.

Nancy, a 27-year-old mother of three from Stevens Point, was a small-business owner before undergoing an organ transplant, forcing her to give up her business to focus on her recovery. While taking classes on Stevens Point campus in spring 2012, she realized she wanted to pursue a career that empowered her to help others feel good about themselves; cosmetology was a natural fit. She graduated in December with a technical diploma in cosmetology and is currently readying to take her State Board licensing exam. Nancy isn’t going anywhere though; she plans to continue taking classes this semester in MSTC’s business management program.

Dan also stepped away from the status quo. While still a senior in high school, Dan completed paramedic technician program classes at MSTC. Dan since has finished his paramedic core courses, passed his National Registry exams and became licensed in Wisconsin as a paramedic — all before celebrating his 19th birthday. He subsequently was hired as a full-time paramedic, where he works today.

Maybe you know someone who needs encouragement overcoming a fear of trying something new, someone who will benefit from enriching skills they need to be successful in the local workforce. MSTC is the first stop on a path to a new or enhanced career. Our helpful and caring employees provide the custom support and assistance each person needs.

Ring in the New Year with small class sizes, hands-on instruction and engaging faculty with real-world experience. It’s not too late to register for MSTC’s spring semester — classes start Jan. 13. Stop by any of our four locations, call 888-575-MSTC (6782), or visit to learn more.


CVCT grad is also EMT trainer

December 20, 2013

From “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.

From “MSTC graduates prepared with more than just industry skills” – MARSHFIELD — For Jasmin Jurgensen, Thursday not only marked the end of a 18-month-long educational experience, but also a the beginning of a new chapter.

The 21-year-old Marshfield native said she was relieved to have graduated with an associate’s degree in business management from Mid-State Technical College, and she looks forward to the next step in her life.

“It feels really good, like I accomplished something,” said Jurgensen, who currently works as a receptionist and night auditor at Hotel Marshfield. It took her only 18 months to graduate, an unusual feat for a business management degree, she said, taking 18 credits each semester.

Jurgensen’s parents, grandmother and her 3-year-old son were there to support her.

She is one of 142 students across Mid-State’s three campuses who graduated Thursday. A total of 29 students graduated from the Marshfield campus Thursday night at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center.

Many of those who graduated Thursday already have jobs, said Connie Willfahrt, vice president of Student Affairs & Information Technology.

“We’re seeing more and more students preparing their application materials earlier than in the past,” Willfahrt said. “Students (are) taking a more proactive approach sooner.”

It’s a trend college officials attribute, in part, to a more difficult job climate but also a greater emphasis in so-called “soft skills,” such as communication, trust-building and teamwork, just to name a few, Willfahrt said.

“They’re really recognizing the need to put forth what I call the total package,” she said. “I really attribute the bulk of that to our faculty and how they have incorporated it into our curriculum in a way that is heard by our students.”

Employers, too, are looking for workers who know more than just the basics of their specialized industry, Willfahrt said.

“Employers really emphasize the need for … problem solvers, punctual, team-oriented (workers),” she said. “That’s been a key factor in some of the changes that our faculty have made.”


From “NWTC offers mentors to minority students to help boost grad rates” – Maria Almanza is studying to be a medical assistant at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

As a busy first-year college student, the 21-year-old mother of two said she appreciates the help of mentor Alana Dallas, who talks to her about her studies and navigating the community college campus.

They are part of a new Peer Mentor program designed to help minority students succeed in school. The new program, launched in October with help from a state grant, aims to increase success by offering a variety of academic, social and personal support.

“Not only does this program provide important support to keep students successful and in school, but it gives our student mentors a chance to give back,” said Gema Garcia, program coordinator. “These students have been there and they know what’s it’s like. They’re here to provide guidance to their fellow students to help them overcome any hurdles they might face.”

NWTC’s program has 10 mentors who are helping 20 students this semester. Mentors are students who have been in school for at least a semester. Mentors were chosen for their commitment and willingness to support students as they transition to college, Garcia said. They must meet grade-point average requirements and are fully trained.

Minority students lag a bit behind other students in terms of grades and graduation rates, noted Vickie Lock, dean of student success at NWTC.

In 2012-13 about 64,000 white students were enrolled at NWTC, and 82.46 percent of them received passing grades of A, B or C. The school had 8,200 minority students that year, and 74 percent of them had passing grades.

“That’s a 5.81 percent gap that we really want to close,” Lock said.

Minority students may fall behind because they did not take adequate courses in high school and often are the first in their families to attend college, so may lack home support, she said. They may be low-income, which means they have to work one or several jobs, she said.

“All of these are factors that lead to a harder time achieving,” Lock said.

Mentors can help by providing support families may not be able to provide, she said.

Blaire Xiong, a student in the administrative professional program and a peer mentor, said the mentor relationship is an opportunity to lead by example.

“We may have come from similar backgrounds as many of the mentees, “ Xiong said. “But because we’ve already been here and know what’s available, I think we can really help them succeed.”

The peer mentor program is part of a larger NWTC initiative focusing on helping more students graduate, Lock said.

Almanza’s mentor recently guided her through preparing a resume and cover letter for a class, she said. She plans to graduate in December 2014.

“The mentorship program … makes sure you have more self confidence. Once you are feeling confident, you start doing things better, in my opinion,” Almanza said.

Some minority students may struggle if English is not their first language, she said.

“Also, high school is easier,” said Almanza, who graduated from Green Bay’s East High School. “College can be pressure. If you have someone else to cheer for you and is there for you, it makes you more likely to be successful.”

Those in the program participate as along as they feel they need help. Lock hopes students who are being mentored eventually will become mentors.

“We are looking at, do they stay enrolled? Do they complete?” she said. “We’re also looking for some intangibles, such as, ‘Do students really feel connected to college? Are they reaching out to other students?’ I think those would be important pieces for us to see.”


From “World Championship Cheese Contest adds first female assistant chief judge” – Masters Gallery Foods, Inc. proudly announced that Sandy Toney was selected as the new Assistant Chief Judge for the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, the first woman to hold the position for the World Championship Cheese Contest since it began in 1957. Responsible for overseeing the contest, Assistant Chief Judges choose the technical expert judges and administer instructions for grading, cheese types and defects. “This is a terrific honor for Sandy. We couldn’t be happier for her,” said Jeff Gentine, the company’s co-owner and Executive Vice President. “She takes her craft very seriously, and it’s gratifying to see that recognized within our industry.”

Toney, Vice President of Corporate Quality and Product Development for Masters Gallery Foods, has been a licensed cheese grader for close to 20 years and has served as an expert technical judge for the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest and the World Championship Cheese Contest for nine years. She also serves on the FDA Advisory Board. Toney holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Silver Lake College and an associate degree in food science from Moraine Park Technical College. 



From “State leaders encourage students to consider manufacturing jobs” – GRAND RAPIDS — State and local leaders are encouraging students across Wisconsin to consider manufacturing jobs when planning their academic future.

As a major part of the state’s workforce, manufacturing jobs play a key role in growing the economy, Gov. Scott Walker told students today as part of the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce’s Heavy Metal Bus Tour, which gave dozens of south Wood County middle and high school students the chance to tour local manufacturing plants and hear about the industry.

“I’d love to have it in every community, connected with every technical college and employers in every part of the state of Wisconsin, just because it’s a great opportunity to open the eyes of not only students, but really of parents, of guidance counselors and others to see there are great careers — not just jobs — but great careers in manufacturing,” Walker said during a lunchtime stop at Mid-State Technical College’s Wisconsin Rapids campus. “Getting these kids interested early on is key to this.”

The local event coincided with October Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin, which is designed to spur job creation through the promotion of manufacturing as a career. Nearly 75 seventh- through 10th-graders from across south Wood County participated in the bus tour, which took them to Domtar Corp., Corenso North America, Tweet Garot Mechanical and Mariani Packing Co., said Melissa Reichert, president of the Wisconsin Rapids-based chamber.

“They’re learning all kinds of things about the great careers that are here in central Wisconsin,” Reichert said. “These are good-paying jobs that average over $52,000 a year, and these companies are hiring.”

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson, state Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and state Rep. Scott Krug, R-Rome, also participated in today’s event.

The state should financially support programs that make technical education more affordable and expose students to the importance of manufacturing — through hands-on learning and other activities — at an earlier age, Krug said.

“We’re looking to close that financial gap (and) make sure it’s accessible to everybody,” he said. “Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, those programs are important … (in) helping local employers fill those jobs they have open right now. It’s a no-lose situation, and it’s a small investment for the state to make.”

On a more local level, Mid-State Technical College continues to work with local employers and other agencies to help address the so-called “skills gap” — the difference between the qualifications company leaders are looking for and the skills potential workers possess, MSTC President Sue Budjac said.

“When we talk to employers in manufacturing, what they’re telling us is that in the very near future, they’re going to have retirements on a massive scale, and they are going to need skilled and qualified workers to fill in behind those retirees that are going to be leaving their industry,” Budjac said. “We are adjusting our curriculum — the content and our courses — in ways so that we make sure that we’re responsive and delivering the skill set that they need.”

Such local efforts — one of two programs in the state and three rural sites nationwide — can serve as a model for other parts of the state as a successful partnership between private-sector employers and post-secondary education and training institutions in order to help spur workforce development that meets employers’ needs, Walker said.

“The more frequent (the) communication, the more partnership there is, the more shared accountability there is; employers will step up and put money and time and resources and equipment, in many cases, behind technical colleges that are responding to the needs that they have with the jobs they have right now as well as those in the future.”

From “NWTC medical program achieves national distinction” – Northeast Wisconsin Technical College has received a Certificate of Merit from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting for achieving a graduate pass rate above 90 percent on the national Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credentialing exam.

NWTC is one of only 152 colleges in the nation to achieve the distinction.

Students in NWTC’s Surgical Technologist program prepare the operating room by setting up surgical instruments, equipment, drapes and solutions.  They also provide safe patient care, check charts, assist the surgeon mid-surgery, and help transfer patients to the recovery room among a variety of other duties.

In a 2011-2012 Graduate Follow-up, Surgical Technologist graduates reported job placement rates of nearly 90 percent, working as surgical technologists, central supply technicians, private scrub technologists, and claims approvers. Median wages for graduates was over $36,000.

NWTC’s Surgical Technologist technical diploma is a three-semester program that is completed in 37 credits. For more information on the Surgical Technologist technical diploma and other programs and degrees, visit

From “WCTC, Workforce Development Board join together for machining boot camp” – PEWAUKEE – A few minutes after his graduation ceremony at Waukesha County Technical College on Friday, Gary Davis felt so proud that he took a photo of his certificate laid out on the table in front of him. He wasn’t alone in that feeling of accomplishment as 18 other male and female participants expressed gratitude and optimism to the instructors and others who made the program possible.

“I get goosebumps,” Davis said. “I actually accomplished something in life.”

The 19 adults learned how to operate computer numerically controlled (CNC) machinery during a boot camp at WCTC. Funding for the boot camp came from a federally funded Water Accelerator Grant administered by the Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington Workforce Development Board. WCTC submitted a proposal to be the training provider for the grant and was awarded it. As a result, CNC and welding boot camps were created in partnership between the WOW Workforce Development Board and WCTC, with input from water industry employers.

While looking for jobs in the newspaper, Davis, 48, of Watertown, said he would see companies always looking for CNC machinist positions. When he learned about the boot camp at WCTC, he thought it would be a great opportunity to get the skills he needed to land one of those jobs.

“It’s a great accomplishment. It makes me feel so good,” Davis said.

Several people in the class, including Davis, had to overcome obstacles like transportation issues, but they also had the staff at WCTC and Workforce Development there to help them succeed.

After completing the coursework, WCTC and Workforce Development staff will continue to work with the students to get their résumés out to employers.

On Friday, WCTC President Barbara Prindiville was excited to see the diversity of the students who had completed the CNC boot camp. And as a person who returned to school as an adult herself, she expressed an appreciation for their effort to better themselves.

“Continue to learn at your job,” she said, addressing the room. “Try to do the best you can do and be recognized in your company as an outstanding performer.”

Francisco Sanchez, president of the WOW Workforce Development, encouraged the boot camp participants to keep in touch with the WCTC and Workforce Development staff who would help them with their job search. He also said Workforce Development has funding available for employers to continue on-the-job training for the boot camp participants.

“I hope I can see you in a company when I go to some of the companies I go to,” Sanchez said.

Qusay Al-Ani of Milwaukee and his father, Abdalhameed, both took the boot camp at WCTC in order to help them find jobs here in the U.S. While living in Iraq, Al-Ani worked as a mechanical engineer and his father worked as an electrical engineer.

Al-Ani said he had good base skills, like math, but didn’t have knowledge of CNC.

“This class is a chance for everyone who comes here,” he said. “I feel like I learned everything about CNC. I am so proud of myself.”



From “Chippewa Falls mom reinvents herself for new career” – EAU CLAIRE — In her early 30s, Mandi Leos found her life in crisis. With four children under age 10 at the time, she was going through a divorce and facing the prospect of living on her own and raising her children without a good enough job to bring in the income and benefits she would need. She had long-term concerns about her health, too.

Five years later and weighing 70 pounds less, Leos crossed the stage to receive her associate degree in radiography from Chippewa Valley Technical College. She’s ready to launch a new career, has high hopes for a job interview coming up next week, and has her eyes on a bachelor’s degree and saving some money for her children for college. Her oldest is now 14.

A great example of how to take control of one’s own life, Leos was the student speaker at the CVTC summer commencement ceremony, held at Memorial High School in Eau Claire. Leos, though, says she didn’t take control on her own, but let a higher power take the lead.

“My faith is what made me strong,” she said. I couldn’t have done it without faith.“

A 1993 Chippewa Falls Senior High School graduate, Leos took some training to be a hair stylist and worked in that field in Texas, where she and her husband lived for a time, and in Wisconsin. When her marriage ended, she realized the hair care business wasn’t going to cut it.

“You really can’t support four kids on that and help them with college or anything,” she said. “I thought to myself that I should look into the medical field. My mother is a nurse.“

She also thought she needed to be strong physically to meet the challenges of her changing life. There’s a history of diabetes in her family.

“I thought, if I am going to do this, I have to take better care of myself. I started running and changed my diet,” she said.

Leos explored the radiography program at CVTC and found some decisions she made in high school came back to haunt her. She was pretty light on the math and science credits. She then started attending CVTC to get the prerequisites she needed to attend CVTC’s radiography program.

“When I started I was terrified. I could hardly send an email,” she said.

Now, five years later, she’s one of the top graduates in the program and was selected as the student speaker for the ceremony.

“Whatever your field, this journey has not been an easy one,” she told her fellow graduates. “As a single mother of four, I can attest that this path has been perilous. I have had to expand my focus to include not just my family and current employment, but also my program requirements and future career path.

“When I chose to continue my education, it wasn’t just my decision, but a decision that required the support and patience of the people around me.“

The faculty speaker also came from the radiography program. Instructor Deb Kjelstad noted that all of the graduates were more self-assured and confident after two years in the program, and she predicted that Leos two years ago never would have dreamt that she would be the speaker.

“Knowledge gives us the inner strength and power to do things we never thought we were capable of,” Kjelstad said. “I have had the privilege of watching the graduates grow and develop into the future workforce and leaders of our community. Confidence is the companion of success.“

CVTC President Bruce Barker in his remarks to the graduates referenced a quote from Albert Einstein in urging the graduates not to settle for success.

“Don’t be satisfied with success,” Barker said. “Strive to be a person of value.“


From “Findind success after college rooted in the practical” — By Kyle Jones - We understand that college degrees are a necessity when venturing into today’s job market. Though, all degrees are not made equal. The phrase, “a college degree shows employers that you have the ability and capacity to learn,” may be obsolete in the trying times of our troubled economy. It may not be about what you can learn, but what you already know and what you can do.

The Ashland area is surrounded by institutions of higher learning such as Northland College, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, The University of Wisconsin-Superior and Michigan Tech University. The question is, when planning for your educational future, what schools and what fields of study are going to be the most prosperous?

Annual placement and graduate follow up reports are in for students who graduated between 2011-2012.

At Michigan Tech, of 1,220 graduates contacted, 896 responded, 662 of them have full-time employment, with students who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree accounting for 564 of those who have full-time jobs. Now, take into account others, a total of 126 people, went on to pursue higher education and are attending a graduate school full-time.

By industry, graduates are reporting that they are finding work in manufacturing and energy/utilities/minerals, with automotive and consulting being tied for third. The lowest being the entertainment industry and contracting.

This type of focus in primary areas of work and industry is to be expected from a technological university, but how are others fairing at different institutes of higher learning?

Over at UW-Superior a total of 500 2011-2012 graduates were contacted, with 370 of them responding. UW-Superior’s numbers show that 75-percent of those contacted are employed and 20-percent are continuing their education. Some of the highest average salaries based on department come from business and economics ($42,401), Math and Computer Science ($40,654) and Natural Sciences ($34,000). Other career paths that fall into the category of arts make a considerably lower average salary – just over $20,000 in some cases.

This theme is not unique to large traditional four-year colleges. What does an associate or technical degree get you?

The Ashland campus of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) surveyed 187 graduates, with 164 responding, 116 are employed and 85 of them are working in fields relative to their training.

On average, graduates from the Ashland campus make $33,408, note that those with an associate degree make considerably more than those with a one-year degree or short-term training. The highest paid fields are those who work in trade and technical professions, allied health and business, with these fields all making at least the campus annual salary average.

At this moment Northland College could not submit their placement reports.

What we’re finding is that it seems, to no surprise, those students studying hard sciences or practical fields of study are graduating and going on to find financially rewarding careers compared to their colleagues who studied disciplines in liberal arts or fine arts.

UW-Superior’s data also shows that 61.3-percent of students are finding jobs in Minnesota, 54-percent in the Duluth/Superior area and 34-percent throughout Wisconsin.

Collectively, this data leads us to believe that students looking for work in the Great Lakes area should focus in areas such as manufacturing, industry, business and healthcare.

From “Employers are picking off skilled students before they graduate” – One of the issues for Pete Rettler and the West Bend campus of Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC) is keeping students through the end of their education programs.

The market is so hot for the skills offered that the students are picked off by employers before they graduate. That’s true for the electricity program, and it’s also true for the CNC/Tool and Die Technologies program.

“Demand is so high (for CNC) that we have a hard time keeping them in the program,” Rettler said.

The CNC (computer numerical control) trainees are often hired at the end of the first year of a two-year program, so Rettler, administrator of the campus, has to try to convince the employers that it’s worthwhile to have the students complete the second year, even if they are working at the same time.

There has been a ton of debate and analysis about the “skills gap” in Wisconsin. The major conclusion of the most recent high-level analysis was that a shortage of high-skill jobs in the state’s most dynamic economic clusters is a major strategic concern. Skill shortages in those sectors, like advanced manufacturing, can hold back the growth the state’s economy.

The Be Bold 2 study conducted last year by Competitive Wisconsin and The Manpower Group showed that one in ten jobs in key economic sectors cannot currently be filled. The projection was based on previous trends for retirements and training. These sectors include critical skill areas such as accounting and finance, IT, mechanical engineering, nursing and related fields, and metal manufacturing. Within a decade, their report said, key industries that now account for over 50 percent of Wisconsin’s GDP will be looking for 60,000 more skilled workers than will be available.

By 2016, for example, metal manufacturing will be short 7,100 jobs and nursing 5,200. By 2021, the shortages grow to about 13,000 each.

Conversely, though, if those jobs, call them the tip of the economic spear, can be filled, Wisconsin should be able to move out of the stagnation of the last decade. Rettler would say that is exactly what the MPTC campuses are doing. For instance:

  • Its CNC classes are full, with the students coming right out of high school or being sent there by employers. Wages for graduates range from about $29,000 to $65,000 or more. Not bad for getting started. Not bad compared with what a lot of four-year graduates make out of college. More than 60 students are now enrolled.
  • It offers welding at three of its campuses and also runs a series of 15-week boot camps that include advanced welding and fabrication. Classes are eight hours daily. That should quiet critics who complain about the short supply of welders.
  • It offers a high-tech simulation room where the plastic patients give nursing students a chance to do hands-on work. One of the dummies simulates giving birth. The two-year West Bend nursing graduates have been scoring the highest in the state on licensing exams.
  • Beyond electricity, an addition on the West Bend facility is now home to a broad program in building trades and HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration). Equipment is up to date. Again, the college can’t keep up with the demand as the construction industry picks up steam in the recovery.

Rettler loves showing off the high-end technology at the West Bend campus, which now rivals the headquarters Fond du Lac campus for numbers of students. He knows that if he can get students to just take a tour and learn about the wages available in the market – right now – he has a good chance of landing them for his programs.

He is working on parents and guidance counselors to visit, too, because they often don’t understand the high level of demand and wages for the kinds of skills MPTC offers.

From “Local officers now L.E. Academy grads” – EAU CLAIRE — Lake Hallie Police Department Reserve Officer Cory Dechow didn’t know it when he received his state law enforcement certification at a ceremony at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) Friday, but he was already in line for a promotion. He is now a full officer with the department, though with only part-time hours for now.

Dechow, along with Dunn County Sheriff’s Department Reserve Deputy Nick Hutchinson, were the only two of the 15 summer graduates from CVTC’s Law Enforcement Academy who were able to wear the uniforms of their departments to the ceremony. Others are already looking for their first jobs in the field.

The Academy is a program through which candidates officially receive their certification to work as law enforcement officers in Wisconsin. Admission to an Academy program requires 60 college-level credits and other qualifications. All 15 graduates receiving certifications Friday had just finished a two-year CVTC Law Enforcement Associate Degree program in the spring term before starting the extra course work of the Academy.

For Hutchinson, the graduation represented the end of a long road toward a career he’s always wanted. The 2002 Chippewa Falls Senior High School graduate worked a number of jobs before the CVTC Law Enforcement program and the Academy gave him a real career.

“I’ve always wanted to go into law enforcement. It just took a long time to convince myself to go back to school,” he said. “I like being out with the public, interacting with people, and helping them when they need it.”

In March, Hutchinson was hired as reserve deputy in Dunn County. He helps out with security at public events, but was not certified to be a regular deputy until his Academy graduation. Now he, like his fellow graduates, is hoping to find full-time work.

Dechow, a 2001 Stanley-Boyd High School graduate, found his love of law enforcement in the service. After high school, he spent eight years in active duty in the U.S. Navy, including two tours of duty on aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. He spent the latter part of his military career in military police.

Dechow is currently in the Navy Reserves. In September he was hired as a reserve officer. A part-time position just opened on the Lake Hallie regular force. Chief Cal Smokowicz said after the Academy graduation ceremony that the position would be offered to Dechow.

Dechow says he looks forward to a long career in law enforcement. “I like to educate people when I have contact with them — simple things to improve people’s lives,” he said.

That attitude was also expressed by Joel Benson, the student speaker at the Academy graduation. “We don’t pursue this career to make people’s lives harder than they have to be. We pursue this career to help people,” he said.

Attorney Layne Yost, an Academy faculty member, was the keynote speaker and emphasized law enforcement as public service and policing for the “right reasons.”

“What mental attitude will you bring to a life of public service?” he asked. “Are you motivated to be good? Are you motivated to do good?

“As we send you out into the world, we do so with the fondest wish — make us proud,” Yost concluded.


From “Graduation at Madison College: Against All Odds” – Eric Romero, who graduated from Madison College this spring with an associate’s degree in the liberal arts transfer program, received a vision when he lost his vision in his native Carolina, Puerto Rico. Romero lost his vision back in 2004.

“I lost my sight in an accident,” Romero said as we sat in the hallway at Madison College-South. “I hit my head and didn’t go to the hospital in time. The pressure on my brain damaged my ocular nerves. When I lost my sight, I went to a place in San Juan they call CATT, a place where people who lost their sight go to finish their high school diploma and get computer training. They were talking about UW Wisconsin. By coincidence, my brother was here, so I decided to come to Madison.”

So Romero and his family moved to Madison in 2004 so that Romero could follow his dream. Romero has a kind of inner-peace about him, a peace that does not involve being sorry for himself or bitter about what life has presented him.

“When I lost my sight, I had to be aware that life goes on,” Romero said. “I had to continue. I wouldn’t be doing anything by sitting down and wasting my life. I just kept going, taking care of my family. I enjoy listening to music and do what I used to do before the accident. I keep doing everything I did before. Of course, I cannot drive and things like that. But I keep myself doing all of the things that I love to do. I play with my daughters. I do exercise. I go on walks with my wife and my daughters. I have fun.”

The first obstacle that Romero had to overcome was his lack of English proficiency. For his first three years in Madison, he attended ESL classes at Madison College.

“What really helped me is… in Puerto Rico they teach English one hour every day,” Romero said. “The reality is we don’t really get to know how important it is until you come to the United States. But that made it easier for me to learn the language. I had to put my time in for the writing part. I had to study every day and put my time in to be able to speak and understand the language. They had Screen Reader for
blind people.

“The good thing about MATC too is they have the DRS, the Disability Resource Center service. They make the books into CDs.
So for me to be able to navigate through the text and get the spelling and basically read it with my computer was great. All of my textbooks
were on CDs.”

Then in 2008, Romero began the liberal arts transfer program that would take him five years to complete. Romero is a patient man.

“You don’t get anything by being frustrated,” Romero said.

As Romero talked, it became apparent that he looked at his blindness as an obstacle, but not a barrier.

After he got to school the first day and found his classes and had the resources provided by the Disability Resource Center, his blindness was not the problem. His
biggest problem, he said, was staying focused.

“When people ask me how I can do it, I think it is just the same,” Romero said. “I think about all of those young students too. They have to work and go to classes. It’s just keeping focused and keep working for your goals. Even if you have all of your senses, if you go to school
and waste your time, you won’t go through.”

Romero is only part of the way to his dream. The next step is to be admitted to UW-Madison. Eventually, Romero would like to earn a
Master’s degree from the UW School of Social Work.

“I’m going to go into social work to be able to help people,” Romero said. “I would like to be working with people in need of help. For
example, I’m thinking about working in a correctional institution as a social worker. With my experience, I would be able to do well.

“Everything is possible. I want to teach people like me that going into a situation like this, anything is possible as long as we keep working
to reach our goals. You have to believe in yourself, that is the key. Life is only one and we should enjoy it as much as we can no matter
what. The main thing is to believe in yourself. ”

With his patience and perspective on life, it is clear that Romero won’t stop until he has fulfilled that vision he had back in San Juan. It’s only a matter of time.

From “Federal index ranks Wis. 49th in economic outlook” – “It’s about a full time job,” said Kandyce Hunter, a recent Madison College grad. She’s currently trying to find her dream job. “Supporting someone in an executive role is what my goal would be,” she said. “In an institution either with education or community outreach.”

But as she’s trying to get into the job market, the state’s forecast for economic conditions is looking a little cloudy. That’s according to the latest Leading Index by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which ranks the state 49th. The Badger state is one of five with a contraction score; the only state scoring worse is Wyoming.

Countrywide, the index score is predicted to grow by 1.4%.
Wisconsin’s score was -.74.

But not everybody thinks those numbers should lead to panic.
A career and employment specialist with Madison College tells us that job prospects for their graduates are actually pretty good. “We have a wonderful placement rate and I’m very proud of that,” said Rochelle Wanner, a career and employment specialist for the school. “It’s part of the reason why I stay at this college is because we are very successful in helping our students.”

Prospects vary by field, but she said about 68% of their grads end up working in a related field to what they studied. “One of the things I always work with with students is that they have to go out and work for a job, it just doesn’t come to you,” she said. “You got to go out and look for it.”

Hunter’s following that advice–and feeling confident that she’ll find what she wants in the Badger state. “Definitely not going anywhere,” she said. “I feel like with what I’m seeing out there with job prospects it’s pretty positive.”

Now, even though Wisconsin is ranked near the bottom, the state is actually scoring better than it did last month. It’s improved from a score of -1.7 last month to -.74 this month.


From “New College Grads May Be Entering An Improving Job Market” – Thousands of local college students graduated over the weekend. UWM and Marquette were among those holding commencement ceremonies. More grads will pick up their diplomas next weekend, including at MSOE and MATC.

The last few years have been tough for college grads. They entered the labor force amid a slow-moving economy, when employers were hesitant to hire. And the competition often included experienced people, laid off during the recession. Dennis Winters says now however, there are hints the job hunt may be a bit easier. He works for the state Department of Workforce Development.

“The economy is growing slowly and the employment situation is a bit laggard yet, but I think things are picking up throughout the rest of the year and in the future, so graduates have something a little better to look at,” Winters says.

Another agency that sees promising data is Milwaukee-based Manpower Group. It tracks hiring trends.

“There was healthy hiring last quarter, so I think we’re going to see continuous improvement. It’s certainly not going backwards,” says Chris Layden, who heads one of the Wisconsin divisions of ManpowerGroup. He says some new grads have an advantage over experienced people looking for work.

“Companies are looking for fresh talent out of college, particularly leading companies within the Milwaukee market that are always trying to bring in fresh perspectives and hiring potential.”

Layden says the greatest demand for graduates remains in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The trend puts graduates from the Milwaukee School of Engineering in good standing. Erik Oswald works in MSOE’s careers office. He says employers sought out the school’s students throughout the economic downturn.

“Even in the height of the recession, our students were getting jobs. They maybe were just having one offer at a time. But as things are recovering, the biggest thing we’re seeing is that students are able to choose between two or three offers again,” Oswald says.

Oswald says the pay is good, even for those just entering the workforce.

“The average starting salaries for the 2011-2012 class for all of our graduates was $55,368,” Oswald says.

On the other edge of downtown, Marquette University reports high demand for its grads, across the spectrum. Andy Brodzeller is spokesman.

“One anecdote is that involvement in our career fairs that we host in the fall and spring semester — we’ve seen additional participation by companies and employees. This past year, actually we had to turn down employees, because we simply didn’t have enough space for them in the ballrooms at the career fair,” Brodzeller says.

Brodzeller says grads with a leg up are those who participated in internships and got work experience. The head of UW-Milwaukee’s career development center echoes the sentiment. Cindy Petrites says students’ resourcefulness outside the classroom can be as important as their field of study.

“The person graduating today is probably looking at over a dozen job changes over the course of their lifetime. So it’s really important for us to be helping students to be really nimble in the way they are developing their skills, in the way they are thinking about how they can be marketable — not just for the jobs of today, but for the jobs of tomorrow,” Petrites says.

Another local institution has seen first-hand the changing employment picture graduates face. Mike Kuehnl is with MATC, who says “4,500 of our students already have bachelor’s or master’s degrees and they’ve come to MATC to get the skills that employers are looking for.”

Kuehnl says graduates in the greatest demand are those in the fields of information technology, manufacturing and health care.

From “Mother, daughter earn tech-college degrees” – When Ashley Colbeth came to the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) River Falls Campus a couple of years ago to take a placement test in typing, her mother, Susan, came along with her.

At that point Susan wasn’t even thinking about attending CVTC herself, but layoffs from two jobs led her to give a lot of thought to her future.

Now the future has come into focus for both mother and daughter as both crossed the same stage last Thursday night and accepted diplomas in the same program, from the same school.

The Colbeths were among 67 graduates in six programs honored at the May 9 CVTC commencement ceremony at River Falls High School.

They were among seven graduates in the Administrative Professional program, both receiving scholastic honors.

Though Susan, 52, and Ashley, 22, are at different stages in their lives, they came to CVTC for the same reason, one shared by so many CVTC graduates — a need for a new career direction.

Ashley took a Certified Nursing Assistant class at CVTC a few years ago. She was working in the field in River Falls before attending Carroll University in Waukesha to study physical therapy and exercise science.

The university didn’t work out, partly because of the distance from her support network of friends and family. So Ashley moved back home.

“I got my old job back, but I wanted something more behind-the-scenes, in office work instead of patient care,” said Ashley, about enrolling in CVTC’s Administrative Professional program.

Susan, a 1979 Ellsworth High School graduate, worked at Smead Manufacturing in Hastings, Minn., for 25 years before becoming being laid off in March 2011. She found work at a solar panel firm in Prescott, but got laid off there, too.

About two weeks before the fall 2011 term started, Susan decided to enroll in CVTC, choosing the same program as her daughter.

“It was kind of awesome at first,” Ashley said. “She was a good study buddy.”

Added Susan: “We’re good support for one another. We have a pretty good relationship.”

Ashley was particularly helpful bringing her mother up to speed on the use of today’s essential educational tool — the computer.

For a while Susan wasn’t sure if she would make it.

“It’s a big adjustment to go from factory work your whole life to school,” Susan said. “But Ashley told me to give it two or three weeks. I started feeling pretty comfortable.”

Ashley had challenges of her own, continuing to work full time while going to school.

There hasn’t been much rivalry over bragging rights to the best grades in the Colbeth household, but now the real work of finding post-college employment begins.

“I’m excited, but nervous about graduation,” Susan said. “But I really am optimistic that I’m going to find a job.”

Ashley has signed on with an employment service in Minneapolis.

“Hudson Hospital is putting a big addition on, so I am hoping to get in there,” said Susan.

“No, that’s mine,” Ashley replied with a smile.

As with any graduation, there were plenty of thanks, congratulations and best wishes expressed both during and after last Thursday’s CVTC ceremony.

Student speaker Paul Copeland of the Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement program thanked instructors, a number of them by name, for their selfless dedication.

“We are brothers and sisters raised in an education environment by those who have given their time to see that we are successful, that we are ready, and that we are the best,” Copeland said. “We have been given a proud torch to carry, that we can continue to keep lit with our skills earned here.

Faculty speaker Kristina Novek, a math and science instructor, praised the graduates for taking risks. She challenged them to continue to do so.

“Memorize how you feel at this moment,” Novek said. “Remember the pride and sense of accomplishment that graduation gave you. Strive for this feeling in all aspects of your life. To do this, you will have to take more risks,”

The Chippewa Valley Technical College system has campuses located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls.

CVTC serves an 11-county area in west-central Wisconsin and is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS).

From “Older NTC graduates reflect on economy, need for lifelong education” – More than half of Saturday’s Northcentral Technical College graduates were age 25 or older, telling a compelling story of the impact of a ragged economy and the need for lifelong education.

About 430 students — out of a total of 754 who graduated from NTC this spring — participated in the college’s commencement ceremony in the field house of Wausau West High School. Of the total number of graduates, 55 percent were 25 years old or older. About 43 percent were ages 16 to 24, according to college statistics, with 2 percent unknown to the school. Almost 10 percent of the graduates were 50 and older.

One of those people was Susan Thiel of Elcho, who at age 54 received a medical coding degree from NTC’s Antigo campus. She returned to school after 35 years because she was downsized from a job in the manufacturing industry. It wasn’t easy for Thiel to get back in the academic swing of things; math was particularly difficult, she said, but she was happy Saturday morning.

Future job prospects were bright, she said, and in the long run, losing her job and struggling through school was “positive, very positive,” Thiel said. “I’m confident that I can do it.”

Saturday’s ceremony is not the endpoint for education, NTC President Lori Weyers told the graduates.

“Learning is a lifetime commitment,” she said.

And as technology, the world and “your interests change, you’ll find yourself seeking more education,” Weyers said.

Carolyn Xiong, 30, of Rothschild, wasn’t financially able to attend college after she graduated from high school in 2000. Instead, she went from job to job in fields such as fast food and customer service. It wasn’t until she was laid off from a collections and customer service position, and qualified for financial aid for displaced workers, that she was able to attend college.

She graduated with an associate degree in business management, and she already has made plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business or international business, through either the University of Wisconsin-Stout or Upper Iowa University.

Xiong was wearing a gold cord and yellow sash around her neck, the cord signifying that she earned a 3.5 or higher grade point average. The sash meant she was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society for two-year colleges.

“I’ll be honest, I wasn’t that great of a student in high school,” Xiong said. “But here, I tried harder. I was 1,000 percent motivated.”

From “Diesel Technician students land jobs before graduation” – EAU CLAIRE — Jason Koger of Elk Mound didn’t have any problem finding a job, and right in his home town, after graduating from Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) on Friday, May 10. In fact, he was working at the Lawrence Transportation Services facility in Chippewa Falls while still completing the Diesel/Heavy Equipment Technician program at CVTC.

His fellow graduate, Josh Gagner of Chetek, also landed a job well before graduation, at the Lawrence facility in Barron.

Koger’s and Gagner’s experience is typical of students in the program. A shortage of diesel mechanics in the area has companies recruiting CVTC students well before they earn their technical diplomas.

“I was always interested in diesel engines,” said Koger. “I liked the smoke, but I learned that’s not the power.”

“I wanted to drive (trucks) at first,” said Gagner. “But when (CVTC instructors) talked to me about fixing them instead of driving them, I was sold.”

Gagner had been working relocating utility lines, but decided to look for a job with a little less stress. He loves diesel mechanic work and sees himself working in the field his entire life. There’s plenty of opportunity.

“I had two job offers and I only applied for two jobs,” Gagner said.

“I didn’t have any problem getting into Lawrence,” Koger said.

Most CVTC graduates are not as heavily recruited as the Diesel/Heavy Equipment Technician students, but statistics show 92 percent of them will be employed or continuing their education in the coming months.

Defining moments

CVTC honored 626 graduates in 47 different programs Friday night, with 375 graduates receiving associate degrees and 251 receiving technical diplomas. On Thursday night, CVTC honored 67 graduates at its River Falls campus, including 60 receiving associate degrees and seven receiving technical diplomas.

The most popular programs among this spring’s graduates are Nursing, with 60 graduates, Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement with 54 graduates, and Business Management with 53.

Among the graduates was Randi Johnson of Eau Claire, in the Dental Hygienist program, who was chosen as the student speaker. She urged the graduates to get out of their comfort zones.

“Being willing to step out of our comfort zones led us here,” she said. “Now that we’ve gotten to this point in life, we should push ourselves to keep improving. We will feel uncomfortable in the future, whether it’s in an interview for our dream job or buying our first house. But the moments where we feel unsure usually turn out to be the ones that change our lives and help define who we are.”

Faculty speaker Steve Chronis, from the Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement program, urged graduates to take advantage of opportunities.

“Life is all about deciding to answer the door when opportunity knocks and what you decide to do with the opportunity,” Chronis said. “My hope for each and every one of you is that the education you received at CVTC has opened a door of opportunity for promise and discovery that will last a lifetime.”

Featured speaker Paul Gabriel, executive director of the Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association, put a new twist on the notion of wishing graduates “good luck.”

“For years, I’ve heard graduates refer to themselves as ‘lucky’ to have made it here,” he said. “But, what’s luck really got to do with it?  … If you feel fortunate to be here, it’s not luck at all. It’s the success that you have created for yourself.”

Gabriel told the graduates to make their own fortune. “You make it by realizing your potential, by living and thriving and being happy.”

From “Former Whiting Mill employee charts new course with IT degree” – Dawn Zieher never considered working anywhere other than a paper mill.

A Pittsville native, Zieher said she had family that worked in the paper industry, and she began thinking about it in eighth grade. At 19 years old, she was hired at NewPage Corp.’s Whiting mill, where she worked for more than 26 years. When the mill closed in February 2011, she was working as a rewinder operator, cutting up rolls of paper into smaller sections.

“I was shocked,” Zieher said of the closure. “I had to figure out something to do. I always thought about going back to school, but I had been doing shift work, which didn’t really give me a chance to.”

Zieher, 48, of Stevens Point, said she had a general interest in computers, and settled on Mid-State Technical College based in part on location and cost. On Thursday, she will graduate with other students from the Stevens Point campus with an information technology-network specialist degree.

“I liked the classes they offered, and how the faculty treated students,” Zieher said. “I wouldn’t have thought a couple of years ago that I would be graduating with this kind of degree, but this was a great choice for me.”

Kathryn Doar is an instructor of IT-network specialist courses at MSTC, and she has been at the college for 51/2 years. Of the 15 students graduating with that degree this week, Doar said four, including Zieher, are displaced workers.

“Those kinds of students come in here with a great past work experience and a real drive to learn everything they can,” Doar said.

Doar said Zieher is regularly among those students who put in extra hours to learn, whether it is fixing computers in the college’s PC Clinic or volunteering to work on networks for the Rosholt Library and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She also has helped set up the new IT-network specialist lab at Mid-State’s new downtown Stevens Point campus, scheduled to open in January 2014.

While she’s involved now, Zieher admits that college wasn’t always so easy for her.

“It was a total 180 for me. When I was in school the last time, it was paper and pencil, and we used to look things up at the library,” Zieher said. “I felt overwhelmed, but the instructors here made a big difference because they were always very willing to answer any question I had.”

Zieher said she isn’t exactly sure what her next job will be, but that she’s interested in possibly working with computer servers and would be willing to move if necessary. She will benefit from the college’s near 100 percent placement rate for graduates in her field.

“I’ve been able to get a lot of experience at school, so I feel like I have options,” Zieher said.

From “Dreams come true for local CVTC grads” – Eau Claire — Friday night was a dream come true for Lori Hruza of Chippewa Falls and Devyne Gass of Cornell. Their paths were longer and a bit more winding than many of their fellow Chippewa Valley Technical College graduates, but they all came to the same place together: walking across the stage to receive their diplomas.

Hruza, 42, and Gass, 45, received associate degrees in nursing. They are now well prepared to pass their exams and become registered nurses, opening up greater career opportunities than they have experienced before in their lives.

“Dreams do come true,” said Hruza. “I always wanted to do nursing, and after my third child I decided to go back to school.“

Hruza has been many places in her adult life, as her husband pursued a military career. She worked in child care and taught preschool, at one point in Hawaii. But she always dreamt of becoming a nurse.

“It’s interesting learning about the human body, and I always enjoyed helping people,” she said. It became easier to pursue her dream after her children were older, and she chose CVTC’s nursing program.

Now, ready to enter the nursing profession and after seven years living in Chippewa Falls, she’s excited about a new adventure. “We’re moving to Hawaii!” she said.

Gass has already been working as a licensed practical nurse at a nursing home in Ladysmith. She attended Northcentral Technical College in Wausau some years ago for that training. She’s been wanting to advance her career.

“I wanted to get into a school that’s closer,” she said. “But it took a while to get back into the program.“

Now she’s on the verge of being an RN. It won’t mean an immediate change of scenery for her, but Gass knows it will open up many more employment possibilities.

“It’s been a long time coming,” she said.

That feeling was shared by hundreds of people at UW-Eau Claire’s Zorn Arena, which hosts the CVTC graduation each fall and spring.

CVTC honored 626 graduates in 47 different programs Friday night, with 375 graduates receiving associate degrees and 251 receiving technical diplomas. On Thursday night, CVTC honored 67 graduates at its River Falls campus, including 60 receiving associate degrees and seven receiving technical diplomas.

The most popular programs among this spring’s graduates were nursing, with 60 graduates, criminal justice/law enforcement with 54 graduates, and business management with 53.

Among the graduates was Randi Johnson of Eau Claire, in the dental hygienist program, who was chosen as the student speaker. She urged the graduates to get out of their comfort zones.

“Being willing to step out of our comfort zones led us here,” she said. “Now that we’ve gotten to this point in life, we should push ourselves to keep improving. We will feel uncomfortable in the future, whether it’s in an interview for our dream job or buying our first house. But the moments where we feel unsure usually turn out to be the ones that change our lives and help define who we are.“

Featured speaker Paul Gabriel, executive director of the Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association, put a new twist on the notion of wishing graduates “good luck.“

“For years, I’ve heard graduates refer to themselves as ’lucky’ to have made it here,” he said. “But, what’s luck really got to do with it? … If you feel fortunate to be here, it’s not luck at all. It’s the success that you have created for yourself.“


From “First Urban Farm student joins Gateway grads”  – KENOSHA — A Kenosha woman accepted her diploma Tuesday night, becoming the first student to graduate from Gateway Technical College’s Urban Farm advanced certificate program.

Diana Haglund was joined by about 340 fellow Gateway graduates at the ceremony held at the University of Wisconsin–Parkside Sports and Activity Center, 900 Wood Road, in Kenosha, that recognized those graduating from the 2013 spring and summer semesters.

“It’s really nice to see someone who grabs something like this and takes off with it,” said Gateway Urban Farm Director and horticulture instructor Kate Jerome about Haglund, the first person to receive a certificate from the program which started in the spring of 2012. Haglund also received two associates’ degrees in horticulture, according to Gateway spokesman Lee Colony.

The ceremony recognized 770 prospective students from the 2013 spring and summer semesters. The total number of students in this year’s class is lower than previous years because Gateway held its inaugural December graduation ceremony in 2012, which recognized 527 students, according to Colony.

The 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Waukegan Fire Department firefighter and paramedic Nathan Skewes, of Yorkville, who graduated in 2006 from the college’s Fire Science program. Skewes has been recognized for his excellence by his employer and recently qualified for the world finals of the Firefighter Combat Challenge, in which contestants compete against one another in a physically demanding course that simulates on-the-job situations.

The night’s keynote address was delivered by Jean Moran, CEO of Label Makers, Inc., who is credited with introducing a number of programs designed to grow the company and empower employees, including continuing education and tuition reimbursement programs.

Earlier on Tuesday, a ceremony was held for the college’s high school graduation and HSED/GED completion.

A student from each county’s campus was awarded the Second Effort Award and a $250 Gateway scholarship. The recipients were Nick Greening from the Racine campus, Shenendoah Doran from the Kenosha campus and Darien Martinez from the Elkhorn campus.

From “Kondex founder heads MPTC commencement lineup” – Jim Wessing, co-founder and president of Kondex Corp. in Lomira, will be the keynote speaker at commencement ceremonies for Fond du Lac’s Moraine Park Technical College.

Graduation will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 18, at the Fond du Lac High School Field House. MPTC President Sheila Ruhland president will preside over the ceremony.

“I am both humbled and honored to be the keynote speaker at MPTC’s 2013 Commencement Ceremony,” said Wessing, who noted his wife, Sue, earned three separate degrees from Moraine Park while they were raising their family and growing Kondex. “I have experienced firsthand the feeling of accomplishment by Sue as our children and I applauded her each time she walked across the stage, realizing the completion of another milestone in her life.”

Associate of applied science degrees, technical diplomas and certificates will be presented by Moraine Park District Board Chair Dr. Richard Zimman, Vice Chair Vernon Jung Jr., and board members Donna Goetz and Shirley Kitchen.

Wessing is a trustee of the University of Wisconsin Memorial Union Building Association and Ag Sector Board Director of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. He is past president of the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association and the Wisconsin Buy Recycled Business Alliance.

Wessing, who received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is also a member of The Executive Committee and a long-time Junior Achievement instructor. His awards include FEMA’s Golden Presidents Club and C.P. Nicholson Memorial Award. Wessing was the 2000 CCLT Distinguished Graduate and in 2009 was named the Lomira Future Business Leaders of America Business Person of the Year.

Kondex was presented with the 2013 C.L. Greiber Award of Merit by the Moraine Park Association of Career and Technical Education in recognition of contributions to the improvement, promotion, development and progress of career and technical education in Wisconsin.


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