From “Mother of 8, battling melanoma, earns paralegal degree” – Most days Carol Pingel concentrates on chewing the ear of the elephant rather than trying to eat the whole thing.

It’s a catchy reminder to focus on small, manageable goals. And it is something that has helped the mother of eight complete an associate degree at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College while cancer slowly kills her. She graduates with honors Thursday.

Pingel has Stage 4 melanoma. She sometimes feels too ill to get out of bed. She has worked on homework in the bathroom and she has thrown up on her laptop’s keyboard. She used a feeding tube last month. She’s had crying jags.

“But I needed to finish, “ Pingel said. “If you make a goal, it is doable. That’s such an important message I want to pass on to my kids.

“Eventually, they’re going to have to be without me, and if I can leave any lasting memory, it’s that fighting, goal-getting, reaching for your dreams, you can do it. That’s what I would like my legacy for them to be.”

In high school, Pingel — now 44 — dreamed of becoming an attorney, but said “eight kids later, decided a two-year paralegal degree was the next best thing.”

Pingel lives with her husband Jeff in Embarrass. Four of her eight kids — who range in age from 5 to 26 — live at home.

The busy mom completed a mix of online and in-class courses to earn her degree. She also interns with the Brown County District Attorney’s Office, and would like to work in a public defender’s office.

Pingel receives her diploma on Thursday night, but money is tight, and a friend helped Pingel buy her cap and gown. And another covered her fee to enter the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.

Not giving up

About a year and a half ago, Pingel learned she has a melanoma that eventually will take her life. Doctors don’t know how long she has, and Pingel said her goal is to live long enough to see her youngest child, now 5, graduate from high school.

“I don’t know if that’s possible,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “But that is my goal.”

Pingel acknowledges her cancer, but she has plans for the future.

“My degree was one of the things I wanted to finish. I’m hoping to find a job, with an employer who is willing to work with my illness.”

Pingel takes 27 pills a day and she said intravenous chemotherapy treatments every other week are painful. Yet it’s the medications and treatments that are keeping her alive, she said.

“One morning I wake up fine,” she said. “The next day I wake up and I can’t move.”

Pingel has battled cancer for about half her life. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer 21 years ago, and went in and out of remission for years. About four years ago doctors found cancer cells on her cervix, ovary and uterus. She had major surgery and thought she would be free of cancer. But a routine biopsy check uncovered the melanoma — inside her body.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Tumors often resemble moles, and some develop from moles. Melanoma kills about 8,790 people in the U.S. each year, according to the nonprofit foundation.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 120,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. More than 68,000 of those cases were invasive melanomas in 2010, the most recent information available. More than 29,000 cases were diagnosed in women.

“I think the worst part is the side affects,” Pingel said. “The chemo sores on my face and arms, the scarf or bald head, those are the things that make people start to look at you weird.”

Family togetherness

Pingel’s oldest son, 26-year-old Joseph Reese serves in the Wisconsin National Guard and is stationed in Afghanistan. Her daughter, Sunshinnia, 22, will graduate with honors from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire three days after Pingel receives her diploma.

Daughter Rhondalay, 20, is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and will be home for the summer.

Her other children include 10-year-old Laurel, described as a hugger by Pingel, and 13-year-old Jeffrey, a protector. Five-year-old Johnathon has autism, and 23-year-old daughter Chandra Reese has two daughters of her own.

Pingel said her children have been a big help, including 15-year-old Teddilyn, who helps manage the household. The family often eats spaghetti or macaroni and cheese as easy meals.

“If it’s a good day, I’m up early getting ready for my internship and school, “ Pingel said. “Later, I help the kids with homework, everything from geometry to kindergarten assignments. At 7 p.m., when the kids go to bed, I take my night medications and hopefully I’m in bed by midnight.”

Completing college became important when she realized her cancer had no cure, Pingel said.

“There were certain things I wanted to do in life,” Pingel said. “I got a bronze medal in ballroom dancing. I got a motorcycle license. Now I will have my degree.”

The Pingel family doesn’t splurge much, but spends time playing board games and watching movies. Carol Pingel has long loved ballroom dancing and met Jeff more than two decades ago on a dance floor. Now she watches as her children ballroom dance.

“I gave it up two years ago when my heart started acting up,” Pingel said. “But dancing has always been a part of me, and now it’s being passed on.”

And she hasn’t checked off all the items on her bucket list. She’s looking to find a paying job, and would love to see the Grand Canyon.

“I don’t care about New York or Disney World, but I’ve always wanted to see the Grand Canyon,” she said. “I’m sure it’s beautiful.”

Sharon Chacon, a behavioral science teacher at NWTC, said she shared a part of Pingel’s story with one of her classes during preparation for an exam.

“I wanted to help them keep from getting too upset over one test in the greater scheme of things,” Chacon said. She told Pingel that after the class discussed her story, “The mood shifted. Students that had stopped trying, began trying again. There was more laughter and helping.”

Pingel takes it all in stride.

“I just want everyone to know, everybody gets dealt a hand in life,” she said. “This is the one I’ve been dealt.

“When life gives you a bald head, grab a scarf and move on.”

From “FVTC graduates follow their dreams” – Molly Willis tried the traditional four-year college route.

But after struggling to find the path she wanted to follow, the 25-year-old Oshkosh woman left the university behind, taking a job as a reception with the Bergstrom Automotive group.

Working closely with the administrative assistant, Willis realized that was what she wanted: a job that kept her busy every day, but never doing the same thing.

The Brookfield native began taking classes at Fox Valley Technical College in the administrative professional program, while she continued to work full-time.

“I knew what I didn’t want,” Willis said. “But (FVTC) had the administrative professional program and I thought that would be perfect for me and what I was looking for.”

Willis, along with nearly 1,000 others walked across the stage and collected their diplomas at Fox Valley Technical College’s spring commencement ceremonies at Kolf Sports Center Sunday.

Some of the graduates started at FVTC after graduating from high school, others waited before finding the path they wanted to go down and still others were switching career paths.

“Its never too late to follow your dream. You just have to have it. With the right amount of determination you can accomplish anything,” student commencement speaker Chandra Riley, a graduate of the culinary arts program, said. “All you have to do is set your mind to it. Visualize yourself achieving your goal and the steps to get there will fall into place on their own.”

For Abu Muhit, that dream involved a trip across the ocean and the realization of the vital role automobiles play in the United States.

The 25-year-old Oshkosh resident came to the United States from Bangladesh in 2008. Upon arriving, he realized that it was very common to have an automobile for everyday use and transportation.

“The place I’m from, we never had any cars,” said Muhit, who will be working at CarX in Fond du Lac as a technician. “I wanted to know about cars and how they work.”

Muhit originally enrolled at FVTC to improve his English. He eventually began taking classes in the automotive technology program, with hopes of owning his own auto shop in the future.

“You’re going to walk off this stage today and start a new life,” said Catherine Tierney, the president and chief executive officer at Community First Credit Union, who gave the commencement address.

For Willis, the new life will involve continuing her job at Bergstrom Automotive, where she will work as executive assistant to CEO John Bergstrom. It also means the possibility of continuing her education at a later date.

“Just having my associate’s degree, my options are much more open,” she said. “I’m seeing where the chips fall now.”

From “New CVTC dental hygienist grad focuses now on charity work” – Randi Johnson’s luggage and passport will be ready at home while she crosses the stage at Friday evening’s Chippewa Valley Technical College commencement ceremony.

Just hours after getting her associate degree, the 22-year-old Eau Claire woman and others from CVTC will be on a plane to Mexico to use their skills as dental hygienists to help children at an orphanage in Puebla, near Mexico City.

She’s hoping this is just her first trip of many to provide charitable dental care.

“My main thing is, I wanted to do mission work,” said the 2009 Eau Claire Memorial High School graduate.

The mission trip will last from Saturday through Thursday of next week, during which she and five others from CVTC’s dental hygiene program will educate 75 children and teenagers in oral health and provide a standard cleaning.

Milwaukee dentists had been making the trip for years to do routine checkups. Megan Douglas, a 2011 CVTC graduate, suggested the idea of adding dental hygienists to give the children tips to keep their teeth healthy.

“What kids haven’t had is the prevention piece,” CVTC dental hygienist instructor Debbie Schumacher said.

Schumacher, Douglas, Johnson and three more CVTC students will be the first dental hygienists to make the journey.

After getting to know the children on Sunday, they will do 75 cleanings during the following three days.

“This isn’t vacation, and we know that,” Schumacher said. “Our mission is to provide care for all of the kids.”

They’ll bring donated dental supplies and money for toothbrushes along with them.

Johnson’s five years of middle and high school Spanish might come in handy, though she notes that the Mexican orphanage has English classes for the children. The CVTC team also has a cheat sheet of common dental terms translated into Spanish.

This is Johnson’s first foray into mission work, though she has raised money for charity, and her family sponsors a couple of children in India.

Johnson hopes to fit at least one mission trip in per year during her career as a dental hygienist. She’s had an interest in oral hygiene since she’d enjoyed going to the dentist as a child.

“Once I was in high school, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.

With only a dozen spots in each year of the CVTC dental hygiene program, Johnson got on the waiting list during her senior year at Memorial.

The program currently has a 120-name-long waiting list to get in, Schumacher noted, but it usually ends up taking three to four years for a student to get to the top of the list.

There used to be 18 spots for students each year, she said, but that was exceeding the CVTC area’s need for dental hygienists.

“At about 12, we’re seeing people are getting jobs,” Schumacher said.

After graduating this week, Johnson plans to continue her education through online classes to achieve a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.


From “Outlook bright for trucking industry careers” – The improving economy means manufacturers are busy and need to get their products out to customers.

That means shipping goods out by truck, which translates to steady demand for both regional delivery as well as cross-country drivers. The state projects between 2,000 and 3,000 positions will be available annually in Wisconsin through 2020.

“The outlook suggests that (trucking companies) are looking aggressively to fill the needs they have,” said Jeff Sachse, a labor market analyst for the state Department of Workforce Development.

He said for the next several years, truck driving will be among the fastest growing job sectors in the state.

Numbers from Fox Valley Technical College’s truck driving program in Grand Chute suggests graduates have little trouble finding work. In 2012, about 94 percent of FVTC’s 173 trucking program graduates found a job within six months of graduation.

Rob Behnke, chair of FVTC’s truck driving program, said the college annually graduates between 200 and 215 drivers, who will have a commercial driver’s license after completing the program, which can take up to 18 weeks. FVTC, Waukesha County Technical College and Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire are the only three schools in the Wisconsin Technical College System that offer a truck driving program.

Today’s long-haul truck drivers on average are in their mid-50s to early 60s, Behnke said. Retirements during the next five years means demand for drivers only will increase.

“Opportunity is out there, especially for the entry-level driver,” he said.

Sachse said truck drivers only are one facet of a complex national logistics network. Demand also exists for warehousing and inventory specialists who can track cargo and ensure it arrives at its destination.

“Logistics in general is an area of strong demand because of the variety of jobs in that sector,” he said.

Dispatchers and people skilled in supply chain management are among the assorted jobs showing steady long-term growth, Sachse said.

Because Wisconsin is not a main distribution hub, but is home to many goods producers, those companies depend on the trucking industry to ship products, he said.

This has benefited Ashwaubenon-based Schneider National, one of the nation’s largest trucking companies.

“Manufacturing growth has a two to one impact on the trucking industry,” said Mike Hinz, vice president of driver recruiting at Schneider. “When the country is going through a manufacturing recovery, it means demand increases for raw materials and getting those finished products from the plants to distribution centers.”

Hinz said drivers in general should have little trouble finding work today. However, finding people to consider jobs in the industry can prove challenging.

The National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools reported people seeking training has dropped. The association said its members in 2005 were training about 18,000 students annually but by 2012 that number fell 22 percent to 14,000.

Behnke, who is president of the association, which represents about 130 schools nationally, said some prospective students find the working hours and the possibility of being away from home for extended periods a deterrent.

Hinz said Schneider partners with FVTC to recruit and train drivers. It also has relations with the military who works with service men and women seeking employment after completing a tour.

“We have to take multiple angles to find drivers but we want to make sure we’re out there telling people trucking is a viable career option,” Hinz said.

The Department of Labor said the average national annual salary for a truck driver in 2011 was $54,154. In Wisconsin, the average annual wage was $41,276.

Behnke said FVTC trucking program graduates, who get entry-level work, may earn close to $40,000 annually. Hinz said entry-level drivers at Schneider may earn between $39,000 and $42,000 annually.

Many students in FVTC’s truck driving program are people seeking second careers, those in their early to mid-40s. Behnke said.

Hinz said someone new to the industry but with a good work history is an attractive employee to Schneider.

“We do see a lot of second career folks but these people do bring other skills like problem solving and have been in many situations that can help them,” Hinz said.

From “Technical college graduates find jobs by filling skills gap” – Tabetha Moore was a year away from earning her associate’s degree in human resources when a local manufacturing company gave her a full-time job in her field and agreed to pay for her last two semesters of school.

The 21-year-old hasn’t yet negotiated the salary she’ll earn after obtaining her diploma from Fox Valley Technical College in May, but that fact she secured a job so quickly reflects a new era of opportunity for graduates of two-year college programs.

“What surprised me most was that they would hire a 20-year-old without a degree to work in their human resources department,” Moore said.

She’s one of a new generation of graduates defying a stereotype that technical colleges offer a “second-to-best” option for those who don’t attend a university. Demand for technically-trained, skilled workers has driven up wages and employment opportunities for associate degree holders with highly-sought skill sets.

Analysts and educators refer to the situation as a skills gap. A wave of new jobs in a changing, high-tech economy is rolling in just as a mass of baby boomers retires. The end result is a glut of vacant positions with too few workers with desired skills.

“I think the simple economic theory about supply and demand is going to drive, locally and regionally, what’s driving up those associate’s degree wages. Employers are obviously very conscious about how some individuals joining their organization can add value to their customers and operations,” said Chris Matheny, vice president of instruction services for FVTC.

The competition for skilled workers is blurring the line between two- and four-year degree holders’ career opportunities. Nationwide, nearly 30 percent of Americans with associate’s degrees now make more than those with bachelor’s degrees, according to a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

About 89 percent of 2012 graduates from FVTC were employed within six months of earning their degree, according to a survey of graduates. Three-out-of-four grads found work related to their field of study and earned an average starting salary of $33,000.

Many saw much higher wages. Graduates from the web site development program reported earning as much as $104,000; human resources grads reported earning up to $90,000; business management grads saw up to $80,000; and electrical engineers found jobs paying as high as $59,900, according to the graduate survey.

Not all these salaries are for entry level work. A growing number of adults are returning to college to learn additional skills to either find new work or stay relevant in their current field. More employers are also paying for their employees’ continuing education.

“Once you get in house, we often have to put students through $10,000-$20,000 of aircraft-specific training. Each individual we consider a huge investment for the company,” said Greg Laabs, vice president and general manager of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation in Appleton.

Laabs spoke during a recent forum about the skills gap hosted by FVTC, where a number of employers said they’ve become more competitive with wages, hired younger people into higher-level positions and paid for schooling.

Nearly 55 percent of Wisconsin manufacturing companies reported offering collaborative training programs through local technical colleges and 46 percent reported increasing wages for difficult to fill positions, according a December 2012 survey by Schnenck SC, an Appleton-based accounting and business consulting firm.

“We offer competitive wages… The insurance packages offered are a huge bonus as well as the camaraderie and family values that go into a small to mid-sized business,” said Tony Robinson, vice president of manufacturing for Jay Manufacturing Oshkosh Inc. “Every employee at Jay Manufacturing is offered formal or on-the-job training experiences.”

Some employers are also beginning to hire people with associate’s degrees into management positions that previously required a four-year degree.

Paul Werth, 36, was among the first three people to graduate from FVTC’s new construction management program in 2011. Within nine months he was hired by Neenah-based Miron Construction Co. as a project manager, and he is now overseeing some of the construction related to FVTC’s expansion in Appleton.

“We’ve broke into this very traditional market where pretty much all the time it required a bachelor’s degree. Now, talking with students here (at FVTC), I know some have had job offers a month ago already,” Werth said.

The Georgetown center estimates 29 million jobs paying middle class wages today require no more than an associate’s degree. Similarly, the center estimates associate’s degree holders earn, on average, about $500,000 more over their careers than people with only high school diplomas, but $500,000 less than people with bachelor’s degrees. Those figures vary widely by profession.

A survey of graduates from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh indicates that most local bachelor’s degree holders still find a better starting wage than associate’s degree recipients. A UWO survey of 2011 graduates, which is the most recent available, shows 85 percent found jobs related to their majors within nine months of graduation. They earned starting salaries averaging $45,300.

The UWO survey had a 53 percent response rate, and the FVTC survey had a 78 percent response rate.

UWO Chancellor Richard Wells said a four-year education remains relevant and valuable to employers.

“A general education and the ability of a person to think critically, analytically and communicate effectively” — skills traditionally associated with a baccalaureate education — “is more important than a particular major. In the end, that’s what employers are looking for because you hopefully have someone who is passionate about life long learning,” Wells said.

From “BTC Alumni Association seeking new council members” –  At Blackhawk Technical College (BTC), it doesn’t matter if you graduated from the school 25 years ago or two years ago because to us you will always be considered part of the BTC family. BTC alumni are interwoven throughout Rock and Green Counties and starting this month the Alumni Association is seeking volunteers to be part of the Alumni Council.

The overarching goal for the Council is to work with the director of alumni relations to help create a lifelong connection with BTC alumni. Council members are expected to:
* attend at least three of the four meetings per year
* invite guests to Blackhawk Technical College events
* nominate alumni award candidates
* act as an ambassador for Blackhawk Technical College, advocating for our programs and sharing our messages
* participate as an active member in committees and special events

“Blackhawk is well-known for producing graduates that are intelligent, innovative, and effective in their fields,” said Kelli Cameron, Director of the BTC Foundation. “Our goal for recruiting council members is to reconnect and provide an opportunity for alumni to serve as BTC ambassadors.”

Becoming a member of the BTC Alumni Association is easy. Membership is FREE and open to any alumnus who graduated with an associate’s degree, diploma or certificate. Interested participants can learn more by contacting Kelli Cameron at 608-757-7704 or by email at<>. To sign up as a member online and learn more about the association, go to

“Joining the BTC Alumni Council is a great opportunity for both recent graduates and more experienced professionals,” added Cameron. “Networking, participating in fantastic events and helping celebrate the accomplishments of BTC are all great ways for alumni to contribute to the future of the college.”


From “Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College puts students to work” – Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College is saying “Let’s Get to Work!”

Companies from throughout Twin Ports visited the college to collect resumes and give advice to eager students.

With graduation just around the corner, the college held a job fair to help students transition into the real world.

“They’re starting to think about how to land that first job…we have a number of workshops on how to tie a tie, how to do an interview, and a whole bunch of other topics,” says Bob Meyer, President of WITC.

“It helps me a lot because in my profession cosmetology you want to always look your best, look professional,” says Chenoa Quam, student at WITC.

Meyer says the high demand for skilled workers in Northland states was one of the major reasons “Let’s Get to Work” was created.

“There’s a high demand for skilled workers in Wisconsin and in Minnesota even in the Dakotas with all the drilling for natural gas and oil out there…huge demand for welders, machinists, and of course with the baby boomers retiring there’s also a lot of demand in health occupations,” Meyer adds.

Employers have seen the benefits of attending the fair by finding their next crop of workers.

“We have about a 91 percent placement rate. It’s been pretty much at that level all through the recession,” says Meyer.

And with such a high success rate, businesses like this one, keep coming back.

“Oh we’ve been attending this for a number of years,” says Sandi Wade, a nurse at Interim Healthcare.

And with good reason. Interim Health Care has experienced the advantages of the attending the fair, first hand.

“What’s nice about coming here is they have a nursing program so the nurses that are graduating may apply with us and…we have had students in past years that have applied for us and are still working with us, “Wade continues.

WITC filled the students with career guided information then filled their stomachs with a spaghetti lunch.

The final event showcased a panel of HR employees giving tips on how to make a lasting impression.

42 Twin Ports companies attended the fair.


From “Growing Weld Fixture Design and Build Company Takes Part in Efforts to Close Manufacturing Skills Gap in Wisconsin” –  On March 13, 2013 Governor Scott Walker signed the bill known as “Wisconsin Fast Forward”. This bill is designed to address the skills shortage in the state’s manufacturing workforce and will better link employers and job seekers. This bill will allow Rentapen Inc., a weld fixture tooling company to hire skilled workers with the right education.

Rentapen Inc., a Machine Tool Design Company and Manufacturer of precision metal shims is just one of several manufactures helping with the effort to get the word out that jobs in manufacturing provide job security and require extensive skills. According to manufacturers, there is a large disconnect in Wisconsin between the workforce and the number of skilled workers ready to fill positions.

According to the panel of speakers at the New Faces of Manufacturing Summit hosted by Waukesha County Business Alliance, 68% of manufacturers reported a lack of talent or skills in the manufacturing industry. High school students and college freshman, who have not determined a major, do not think about manufacturing. When they do think of manufacturing, they think of it as dirty and made up of people who are low income and lower skilled.

Rentapen Inc. has been a member of the Waukesha County Business Alliance for almost two years and has been affected first hand by the skills gap. Recently, Rentapen Inc. has joined the “Dream It Do It” Marketing Action Team. This action team is made up of individuals around South-Eastern Wisconsin, and is dedicated to lessening the skills gap.

Rentapen Inc. has found that some of the most skilled workers are graduating from technical colleges. Rentapen has hired over 5 individuals from Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) alone; these students have started as interns and have excelled and been retained.

“It’s exciting to be in manufacturing right now. We are in a busy and growing industry. Finding, training, and maintaining good talent is key to being competitive in the global marketplace,” said Susan Straley, President of Rentapen. “We are pleased to have the support of the College, and the State in helping manufacturers succeed in Wisconsin.”

The second part of the bill that Governor Walker signed creates a workforce training grant program at the Department of Workforce Development. This grant program will be used to leverage additional private dollars to help both new and current employees to acquire additional job trainings skills. The bill, coined “Wisconsin Fast Forward,” creates a website that uses real-time job data to match employers and potential workers, provides $15 million in state funds for worker training grants and creates an Office of Skills Development within the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to help provide specific training for employers who need workers with specific skills.

Rentapen Inc. and many other manufacturing companies are struggling to find skilled workers to fill a variety of positions because the education that people are getting does not fit the skills needed in the actual working environment. Individuals are taking courses to receive a 4-year diploma but are not attaining the correct skills needed to excel in the work place.

“One problem is, parents and adults are pushing students to get degrees in subjects that do not necessarily prepare them for jobs that actually exist in the market,” said Nicole Thies, Marketing Coordinator. “There is a large amount of history majors, political scientists and lawyers than is needed in the workforce. At the same time, the average high schools do not have a manufacturing class or a program designed to teach about a CNC operator. There is also need for machinists and welders; these courses are not offered or encouraged in a lot of high schools throughout the state and the nation.”

Manufacturing is one of the fastest growing industries like nursing, retail and food service. The manufacturing sector is aging. Within the next five years a new generation of workers will need to have the skills and experience to take over for the generation that is leaving. Companies are trying to deal with the hundreds of years of experience that will be walking out the door in the next five to ten years. There may not be thousands of new jobs, but there will be thousands of openings, and Wisconsin does not have the skill sets to fill in.

From “Health care, accounting, tech are hottest fields for area graduates” – Shainah Hughes knows she’ll find a job and support her family when she graduates.

Job security is one of the big reasons the 29-year-old student at Western Technical College is pursuing a degree in electronics and computer engineering.

“When I graduate, there’s going to be a need for that,” Hughes said.

Health care, accounting and technology are big draws for grads who want to live locally, but college officials agree there’s no hard and fast trend.

Job security is “huge” for today’s graduates, said Beth Dolder-Zieke, director of career services at Viterbo University.

Many started college on the eve of the recession.

“They heard you go to college, you do really well, get a job,” Dolder-Zieke said. “And then they go to college, and for those of them who were aware of what was going on, it was very discouraging.”

College grads have high expectations from their first job. Nationally, they expect a salary approaching $50,000 and “want opportunities for future growth,” Dolder-Zieke said.

For that, many are looking to health care.

More than 160 students graduated from Viterbo’s un-dergraduate nursing and nursing-completion programs last year. Western, UW-L, Winona State University and Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical in Winona all offer degrees in health care, too.

Radiography, certified nursing assistant and physical therapy programs have a consistent following because of local hospitals, said Jackie Newman, career services specialist for Western.

“The regional area makes health care a popular pick,” Newman said.

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners are also in demand by local hospitals “because that’s a way that they can serve underserved populations,” said Tim Tritch, UW-L’s associate director of career services.

Health care-related work makes up nearly 20 percent of La Crosse jobs, and about 24 percent of Winona County jobs, according to state employment data.

Issac Tillman went back to college with plans to open a restaurant but wound up working in financial aid.

Tillman started in Western’s business management program, hoping to pad years of experience and a past degree in food service. He soon realized he wanted something more stable.

Tillman graduates this year and has already found work in Western’s financial aid office.

“It clicked,” Tillman said.

Accounting and technology are both strong choices for students like Tillman, who stay in the region, college officials say. Employers want skilled workers in both fields.

“Even when the economy goes bad, they still need accountants,” said Gale Lanning, director of admissions for Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical. “They have always been our consistent program that still will survive no matter what.”

Career choices vary as much as certificates and degrees available at the region’s colleges — especially when an aspiring college grad is willing to move for work, Tritch said. Proximity of two major job markets, the Twin Cities and Madison, creates myriad possibilities for students.

From “Technical colleges head likes Walker’s budget incentives” – The head of Wisconsin’s technical colleges told state lawmakers yesterday that she supports the way Governor Walker’s budget would tie future state funding to performance.

Under Walker’s plan, the amount of state money tech schools receive would be tied to factors like how many students they place in the workforce and the number of degrees they award in high-demand fields. Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy says it should lead to increased funding for tech schools, since these are already areas where they excel.

“I think the hope is that it’s going to make an easier decision and a more likely decision that new resources allocations to the technical college system will be seen as an investment from the state in which you are getting some great return.”

Democrats pointed out that Walker’s budget would boost funding for technical colleges by just $5 million in this budget, after cutting them by $71 million in the last.

From “Forestry program provides graduates for a growing industry” – Antigo – The first graduating class from a Northwoods forestry program will receive their diplomas this May, and most of them have job offers.

It’s a program that’s taking the forest industry to another level.

But it’s not just about the trees.

It’s about jobs. “We’re just trying to develop the best possible people for this industry that we can,” said Brown.

Northcentral Technical College’s Wood Tech program is teaching future forest industry employees, right in Antigo.

“The equipment that we have here on the floor, the curriculum that we teach here at NTC is very unique, and it is cutting edge. It’s what employers are looking for when they’re hiring new employees,” said instructor Travis Allen.

The forestry industry job market looks good too.

With almost 60 thousand jobs in Wisconsin in 2011, compared to 52 thousand in 2010, according to the DNR.

Oradei sees it as a sustainable job market too.

“It’s a very desirable industry to be involved with; you’re always working with a renewable resource,” said Oradei.

Brown is happy to see business growing.

“Business has picked up in the united states and worldwide, so it’s getting a lot more fun,” said Brown.

Sixteen students in Travis Allen’s class are hearing from employers too.

“A week ago I had three different employers contact us for skilled employees, and the nice thing is our curriculum is covering exactly what they want to hire on,” said Allen.

From “Madison College officials wary of Scott Walker’s funding plan” – For some time now, Republicans in general, and Gov. Scott Walker in particular, have suggested that the state’s system of higher education is not focused enough on readying students for jobs.

How the governor would address that concern remained vague, particularly with regards to UW-Madison and other UW System schools, whose appeal comes at least in part from world-class liberal arts programs — few of which purport to guarantee young people high-paying jobs right out of college.

But this week he took his first stab at it, proposing to tie funding for technical colleges to the ability of their graduates to find jobs.

Says the governor’s summary of the plan:

“(T)he budget will phase in performance funding for all of the state aid given to technical colleges. It will begin at 10 percent in 2014-15 and would eventually total all $88.5 million general aid through performance by 2020. This would be roughly one-tenth of Wisconsin Technical College System school operational budgets. The funding formula would be developed by WTCS with Department of Administration oversight. The formula would be required to have a focus on job placement and programs focused in high-demand fields.”

So what do local tech school officials think about the proposal?

Terry Webb, provost of Madison College (formerly Madison Area Technical College), says accountability and even performance-based funding is welcome, but that tying funds to job placement is a flawed approach.

“Madison College and all the technical colleges are equipped to be tested on the career readiness of our graduates. We have systems in place that objectively measure that,” he says.

The ability of a qualified, well-trained student to immediately get a job in his or her field, however, is based on a number of variables that are out of the college’s control, he says, including the number of jobs available, the geographic location of the jobs and, of course, the personal choices the graduate makes after finishing school.

The school seems to be well-equipping its graduates for careers in health care, a rapidly expanding sector of particular importance to the Madison area.

For instance, according to Mark Lausch, dean of the School of Health Education, 100 percent of students graduating from Madison College’s dental hygiene program passed the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, a required feat for anybody who wants to work in the field. Nationally, the pass rate was 83 percent.

The lowest pass rate comes in the medical assistant program, where 88 percent of students pass, compared to a national average of 67 percent.

“That’s a good reflection of how prepared our students are to find a job in the field they’re studying,” says Lausch.

But, he says, tying funding to job placement would fail to recognize the many students who attend tech schools with no intention of seeking a related job immediately after graduation.

“We have people who come here for a degree for something unrelated to what they’re working in. They’re looking for a credential or something that augments what they already know,” he says.

Webb says gearing the college’s programs toward job opportunities has always been the school’s chief concern, but that he hopes politicians and policymakers are wary of putting too much emphasis on whatever the “hot” sector is at the moment. After the tech bubble popped in 2000, he says, the college did not take resources away from information technology training, in recognition of the long-term benefits of such programs.

Nevertheless, there are frequently programs that are discontinued when the job prospects are deemed too bleak. For instance, the college recently ended its long-running printing program.

“The printing business went in some ways into a slump,” he says.

From “WTCS announces new program for nurses” – Registered nurses with a two-year degree from a Wisconsin technical college can now fully apply those credits toward a bachelor degree, according to a release.

The agreement originated with Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) and Cardinal Stritch University, but the replicable approach was immediately made available to nursing graduates of all 16 Wisconsin technical colleges.

The one-day-per week program, part of the university’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing Completion program, is designed for registered nurses looking for enhanced career opportunities, promotions and management positions.

“It makes career progression very attainable for our highly skilled nursing graduates,” said Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, in the release.

Cardinal Stritch, with its main campus in the Milwaukee area and campuses throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota, designed the program specifically for working registered nurses. It is accredited through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

From “MPTC boot camp graduate honored by Gov. Walker” – When Diane Stepp was laid off last August, she probably didn’t think that six months later she would be recognized by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

In Walker’s Jan. 16 State of the State address, the Fond du Lac woman was among those honored for completing a vigorous 15-week Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machinist Boot Camp through Moraine Park Technical College. Stepp was one of 12 graduates who completed the first boot camp funded through the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation Inc.

The only female in her CNC class, Stepp was not intimidated by her fellow students after growing up with five brothers.

“All of my classmates were very good people and very smart,” Stepp said. “It seemed like everyone really enjoyed themselves and supported each other. We were all there to succeed and that was a good feeling. It was never a competition.”

Each student was required to complete an internship at one of the partnering companies. Stepp was placed at Ameriquip in Kiel for her internship and was asked if she wanted to continue working there in a full-time role as a CNC operator.

Six months ago the Governor awarded a $705,647 Wisconsin Workforce Partnership grant that allowed MPTC to quickly train students in CNC and welding, two job platforms in need of skilled workers.

In October, 12 students who were unemployed or working in a position unrelated to CNC entered the boot camp. On Friday, Jan. 11, they received completion certificates at Moraine Park’s West Bend campus.

Cmpleting the boot camp in addition to Stepp were Jeremy Blonigen of Eldorado; Jason Sippel of St. Cloud, Alex Anderson of Hartford; Paul Dadian of Jackson, Patrick Enright, Bob Lepak, Steven Maitz, and Jay Reisdorf of West Bend; Matthew Metrusias of Slinger, Michael Rath of Hubertus and Frank Vroman of Cedarburg.

The second set of 15-week boot camps begins in February. In all, MPTC expects to offer nine boot camps with the partnering companies and fill 108 new positions over the three-year grant period.

• For more information about the boot camps, visit camps.


From “Next chapter: 56-year-old adds FVTC degree, new job to life” —  When displaced worker Mitch Wilke enrolled at Fox Valley Technical College in early 2011, he hadn’t taken a math class in about 40 years.

Wilke, 56, of Two Rivers, says getting back to basics was worth the challenge. Through FVTC he is completing his studies in the mechanical design technology program. He also found a new job before graduation at F.C. Dadson in Greenville with the assistance of Wisconsin TechConnect, a service available to students and graduates at all 16 Wisconsin technical colleges.

“I have been titled ‘engineer’ in the past without a degree,” Wilke said Friday, a day before FVTC’s fall 2012 commencement ceremony. “I was looking for the extra education and the paperwork to go with it, to say, ‘Hey, I can do this.’ Throughout all my classes I was the oldest one in class except for one teacher. I’m just kind of taking it in stride. Because of my age as well, I’ve got more of a sense of responsibility. Right now, I’m at a 3.96 (grade point average) out of 4.”

Wilke is one of 686 FVTC students who applied for graduation for fall 2012. FVTC recognized those students Saturday afternoon with a formal cap-and-gown commencement ceremony at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in downtown Appleton.

Each academic year, about 2,000 students graduate from FVTC, representing all of the college’s regional centers and campuses throughout its five-county district. FVTC recognizes graduates with both fall and spring commencement ceremonies.

Wilke, who said FVTC is his first college experience, was laid off in September 2010 from his job at Burger Boat Company in Manitowoc. There, he had designed interior spaces of yachts and then had moved to a department in which he used machines to fabricate parts for the yachts from drawings.

“It was seen coming,” he said of his layoff. “They just weren’t selling any boats because of the economy downturning. Even millionaires were looking at how to better spend their money. There were a lot of used boats on the market. Rather than buying a new one, they could buy a used one for pennies on the dollar and then have it custom-fit the way they wanted.”

Wilke said he spent time checking out colleges and decided upon FVTC in part because of the guidance he received prior to enrollment. That has continued throughout his time at FVTC, he said.

“They made me feel welcome here,” he said. “I remember right after I registered, on orientation day we got our class schedules, and my counselor actually called me while I was in transit going home from orientation to let me know that math class was a lab and not a lecture class. I had preferenced four lecture classes, but ended up getting a tutor to help me along and once I got through that, it wasn’t too bad.”

Wilke credits Dean Sommerfeld, team leader for the mechanical design technology program, for making a difference in his time at FVTC.

“He will take whatever time is necessary to help you understand a problem that you don’t get,” Wilke said. “I would be sitting in class for two, three hours of my free time between classes and he would help me work through it.”

Sommerfeld said nontraditional students, including displaced workers, often bring unique perspectives to the classroom because of their life and past work experiences.

“I find they tend to be maybe more motivated, because they want to get back out working again,” Sommerfeld said. “They realize they may be competing against younger people, so they want to get themselves as good of an education as they can, to be prepared. When they do go out into the job field, they do have a lot of experience from the previous work they’ve done.”

Classes at FVTC wrap up several weeks after commencement. In one of Sommerfeld’s classes, Wilke is working on a team project with a younger student.

“He’s willing to help other people in class,” Sommerfeld said. “There’s some mentoring going on. I see that as a benefit.”

From “Gov. Scott Walker unveils agenda for Wisconsin during speech in California” – Gov. Scott Walker unveiled major new policy initiatives Friday night in a speech in California, including decreasing taxes, boosting the school voucher program and requiring Wisconsin’s schools, technical colleges and universities to meet certain benchmarks to earn state funding.

Among the proposals was one to tie funding for technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System with how well those institutions prepare students to take available and needed jobs in Wisconsin.

The glimpse into Walker’s legislative agenda came at the end of an hourlong talk at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation in Simi Valley, Calif. Walker had been in Las Vegas for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association, where he was elected vice chairman.

The speech was not covered live by Wisconsin media but was available on the Internet. Among those in attendance was one of Walker’s biggest campaign donors, Diane Hendricks of ABC Supply in Janesville.

Walker’s talk focused on what the governor described as his successful initiatives to reduce the cost of benefits for public workers, improve the quality of education, boost the economy and maintain social services. After the speech, a woman who described herself as a “fellow Wauwatosan” asked what Walker planned to do now that Republicans had regained control of both houses of the state Legislature.

“We’re working on massive tax reform,” Walker said.

“We think if we want to continue the economic success we’ve had over the last year and a half, again one of the best ways to do that is to put more money back in the hands of entrepreneurs, more money back in the hands of small business owners, more money back in the hands of our consumers.”

Walker added he plans to push for lower property taxes, which is the primary revenue source for schools and local governments. And he said he will propose “aggressive income tax reduction and reform.”

Education reform

The Republican governor said his proposals for education reform will tie funding to outcomes, including how well the education system meets the need for trained workers. Walker said he has heard “tremendous concerns” from employers in health care, manufacturing and information technology “that they have jobs but they just don’t have enough skilled workers to meet those jobs.”

The governor said he plans to tie education funding to performance, ranging from kindergarten-through-12th grade schools, which now are evaluated by state-required report cards, to the technical college and University of Wisconsin systems.

“What we’re going to do is not just put money in … we’re going to make investments that are driven off of performance,” Walker said.

“We’re going to tie our funding in our technical colleges and our University of Wisconsin System into performance and say if you want money, we need you to perform, and particularly in higher education, we need you to perform not just in how many people you have in the classroom.

“In higher education, that means not only degrees, but are young people getting degrees in jobs that are open and needed today, not just the jobs that the universities want to give us, or degrees that people want to give us?”

Walker also said he wants to do more to help choice, charter and virtual schools in Wisconsin but offered no specifics.

Senate Minority Leader-elect Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee said he was disappointed Walker chose to unveil some of his initiatives in California before Republican supporters and donors rather than Wisconsin residents.

Larson said his impression from the talk was that Walker has no plans to moderate his stances and instead plans to continue a path of “divide and conquer.”

He contrasted Walker’s plans to “hyper scrutinize” public schools while giving more money to “unaccountable” private schools that studies show perform no better or worse than public schools.

The Democratic lawmaker said Walker’s proposal for higher education funding sounds like “social engineering” that would force students to study “what industry wants” rather than what students want.

UW System spokesman David Giroux said in the last state budget, the Legislature ended up for the first time giving the UW specific performance measures that it is required to report on annually.

When the UW System put in a modest request for new funding in this biennium, it said specifically that it would tie the funding to new initiatives focused on workforce development and economic development, Giroux said.

“In some respects at least, we’re already there,” Giroux said. “We’re not just asking for new money carte blanche. We’re asking for state investment. And we are promising to deliver a return on that investment.”

Christina Brey, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union, said it’s one thing for Walker to give lip service to world-class schools and it’s another thing to back his words with actions.

“The actions we’ve seen in the state are historic cuts to education funding, even though there is no better return on investment to taxpayers than education,” Brey said.

She said it defies common sense that the state would now refuse to direct aid to students who need it most, while at the same time telling schools they are responsible for implementing new accountability systems, educator evaluation systems, and Common Core standards — a uniform standard for what students should know each year that is used by most states, among other initiatives.

The public schools are responsible for all of these initiatives, Brey said, and to talk about cutting funding or refusing funding increases for schools that need it most, while siphoning more public funding away from public schools to the unaccountable voucher schools, is wrong.

GOP on board

State Assembly Speaker-elect Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he saw snippets of the California speech and it contained simple ideas Assembly Republicans have been talking about on the campaign trail for the last six months: reducing the income tax rate, trying to make it easier for a business to begin and thrive, and ways to make the state’s education system more accountable and produce better results.

“I think it’s pretty much consistent with what we have been saying,” Vos said. “I’m excited about it. I think that Gov. Walker joins a cohesive group of Legislative Republicans who are all heading in the same direction. I hope the Democrats will take our hands and work with us to try to find some common ground.”

Walker’s vision for the state has focused on letting families keep as much of the money they earn in their pockets as possible, and have the state do things that are necessary, but figure out ways to do that more effectively, Vos said.

“He’s laying out a good first step,” he said, “which is to put the agenda out there and involve the public early, and now we’ll have an opportunity for the Legislature to get involved.”

From “WTCDBA honors MSTC graduate with 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award” – Scott Glinski, president of Skyward, Inc. and Mid-State Technical College (MSTC) graduate, was honored Friday with the Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award. The award recognizes one person each year for their demonstrated value of a technical college education through career advancement, community service, continued personal and educational growth, and support of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS).

Glinski earned a Computer Electronics Associate Degree in 1986 and an Instrumentation Associate Degree in 1987, both from MSTC. He is now a 25-year veteran of Skyward, a premier provider of K-12 administrative software. Born and raised in Stevens Point (WI), Glinski is engaged in numerous local activities, leaving an indelible positive mark on the area. He is an active member of the Portage County Business Council’s Board of Directors and also serves on the Stevens Point Area YMCA Board of Directors.

Glinski regularly praises the quality of a technical college education, substantiated by the company’s steady employment of MSTC and other WTCS graduates. Skyward’s corporate office in Stevens Point employs more than 50 WTCS alumni, 60% of them from MSTC. To date, 26 MSTC students have received Skyward, Inc. and Skyward Employees scholarships, established in 2002 and awarded to central Wisconsin information technology students demonstrating financial need and high academic standing. The company also helps keep the MSTC Information Technology-Programmer/Analyst program current by providing a representative for the program’s Advisory Committee.

“Widely known for his successful business acumen, Scott Glinski represents the ideal of a committed, industrious, and caring individual to whom Mid-State Technical College looks to as a distinguished alumni,” said MSTC President Dr. Sue Budjac in nominating Glinski for the award.  “Scott’s endorsement of a Wisconsin technical college education is second to none.”

With Glinski as president, Skyward has experienced annual double-digit growth, has grown to more than 350 employees, and is now serving more than 1,500 school districts in 17 states and eight countries.  The company serves over 80% of Wisconsin’s K-12 school districts and its 98% business retention rate is a standard seldom matched among software product companies.

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Technical College System Board presented Skyward with the Futuremakers Partner Award for significant contributions to technical college programming and workforce development. The company has also been recognized as the 2008 Wisconsin Family Business of the Year, a Top 100 product by District Administration magazine in 2010, “head of the class” in the field of school district software by Corporate Report Magazine, and one of the top 50 products for 2012 through a eSchoolNews Readers Choice award. Skyward was touted by industry journals in 2006 as “One of the Most Influential Technology Leaders” and honored by Corporate Report Wisconsin as a Small Business Success Story for the State of Wisconsin based on its combination of growth and stability.

Under Glinski’ s leadership, Skyward also received the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Patriot Award in 2009 for its leadership practices and personnel policies that support employee participation in the Guard and Reserve. The Portage County Business Council Decree of Excellence was awarded to Skyward in 2010 for the company’s contribution to the area’s economic vitality and community service.

“Scott is an exceptional and deserving winner of this Distinguished Alumni Award,” said Budjac. “Mid-State Technical College is proud to be the higher education institution of choice for Scott and others throughout Central Wisconsin.”

From “Clintonville company, employee honored” – CLINTONVILLE – October is Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The state is honoring a company in Clintonville, for rehiring a former employee who is now wheelchair bound.

Operating the press brake at Walker Forge is a job Jake Dudzik loved to do.

“It was definitely a fun job out there that’s for sure,” said Dudzik.

It was until 2007. That’s when Dudzik was partially paralyzed in a diving accident. But being wheelchair bound doesn’t mean he’s out of work.

“It was Jake’s initiative to go to school and be successful at school that allows him to work here. We didn’t take his classes or get his degree for him, he did all of that himself,” said company president Richard Recktenwald.

Three years and a drafting degree later, Dudzik returned to Walker Forge full-time in March.

“I was never one who wanted to go back to school before this that’s for sure, but I had a good group of classmates and teachers and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be,” said Dudzik.

Dudzik now works in front of a computer analyzing projects and preparing cost estimates. While Jake no longer works on the factory floor he says he enjoys his new position and most of all, he says he appreciates being treated like everyone else.

“Just another guy in the shop pretty much is all it is and that’s the way I want it,” he said.

Dudzik’s father Brian also works at the company. He says the state recognition is well deserved.

“It was a long road to go down and today is a proud day for all of us; I mean he had a lot of hard work today.”

Recktenwald says Jake is still a valuable member of the company.

“All we did was give a job to a person with the right skills at a time we had an opening,” said Recktenwald.

And that was all Jake was looking for.

The state gave both the company and Dudzik plaques Tuesday. Walker Forge employs more than 400 people in Clintonville, including several others with various disabilities.


Trucker tribute honors father

September 20, 2012

From “Trucker tribute honors father” – PEMBINE – Jonathon Pierce is climbing aboard for his final exam. The truck driving school student is taking this road test with a heavy heart.

“He’s constantly on my mind, 24/7. I try to focus on my schoolwork, on my studies, but he’s always back there,” said Jonathon.

This class of student drivers usually sticks to the highway and the weigh stations. But for this day, Pierce had a special request.

“He had asked if we could, on our final voyage, go up to Pembine to see his father. We feel honored,” said Charles Nelson, Fox Valley Technical College truck driving instructor.

So Pierce leads the way. He will be a fifth generation trucker. His mind is on his father, who is battling terminal cancer.

“I kind of wish he was better, unfortunately like I said under the circumstances, I don’t think he’s going to be around too much longer,” said Jonathon. “It’s really heartbreaking for me, but it is what it is.”

It’s 110 miles from FVTC’s Grand Chute campus to Pembine. It’s a trip Pierce has made many times before, but today is different.

“Now, he’s going to get to see me riding in a semi today for driving,” Jonathon said.

And as his father stretches to get a glimpse of his son behind the wheel, it’s a reunion that goes beyond words.

“Jonathan always wanted to go trucking with his dad, and I guess this is as close as you’re going to get now,” said Pam Pierce, Jonathan’s mother. “I’m proud of him.”

“I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be right now than right here,” said Jonathon.

“He pulled off one more; I just hope he makes it. It’s a long ways to go,” said Steve Pierce, Jonathon’s father.

A proud father to the end.

“Yeah, I know he is deep down inside, even though he rejected me from doing it for years and years and years. I know he’s happy,” said Jonathon.

The students will have one more road test before graduating on Friday.

As for Jonathon Pierce, he says he already has a job lined up with a trucking company with a terminal in Green Bay.


From “Great Lakes Awards Grants to 14 Wisconsin Programs Improving College Completion” – Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation (Great Lakes) announced today that it has awarded $1.8 million in grants to 14 programs helping Wisconsin college students from disadvantaged backgrounds complete their degree, diploma, or certificate. Each recipient program will receive funding for services designed to strengthen the connection between these students and their campus or community, thereby improving persistence from semester-to-semester and year-to-year.

Studies show that students lacking socioeconomic or educational advantages — including students of color, those from low-income backgrounds, and those who are first in their families to attend college — are the most likely to leave college before completion. Not only do these students miss out on the benefits of postsecondary education, they are more likely to face higher unemployment rates and earn less income over their lifetime than peers who complete. In addition, students who drop out of college often leave with student loans to repay, but no credential with higher corresponding earnings to meet the costs of monthly payments.

Programs funded by Great Lakes’ Wisconsin Postsecondary Persistence Program Grants have developed specific strategies to address the unique challenges that their participating students face. Specialized services may include proactive advising, tutoring, mentoring, career exploration assistance, and placement in structured learning communities. The goal of each program is to increase their participants’ re-enrollment rates compared to those of similarly situated peers. Program outcomes will be used to identify what works best in increasing persistence and, ultimately, college completion to inform Great Lakes’ future funding decisions.

“We are pleased to partner with Wisconsin colleges, universities, and community-based organizations in their efforts to provide targeted services designed to help disadvantaged students finish their postsecondary education,” said Richard D. George, Great Lakes’ President and Chief Executive Officer. “The results-focused approaches these programs use can become models for programs elsewhere, and can help ensure that more students are able to reach their full potential.”

Wisconsin Postsecondary Persistence Program Grants have been awarded through Great Lakes’ philanthropic Community Investments program to the following recipients:

Alverno College, Milwaukee Promise Scholars Based on a successful pilot that featured a proactive advising model, this program has been awarded $151,425 to increase participation from 131 students to 250 first-generation students.

Carroll University, Waukesha Project 2016 Students in this program, 40 incoming freshmen from low-income backgrounds, will meet weekly with an advisor, attend five workshops designed to connect them to on-campus resources, and receive academic help, thanks to this $62,527 grant.

College Possible, Milwaukee College Program College Possible uses a technology-based coaching model, making use of social media, social networking, and texting to connect participating students to campus resources, to each other, and to potential employers. More than 1,300 students from Wisconsin who are attending colleges across the country will benefit from this $255,904 grant.

Madison Area Technical College Mentoring Minority Male Scholars Program (3MSP) Through this program, 40 students of color will benefit from meeting monthly with a faculty or staff mentor, as well as being part of a strong learning community. A grant of $75,608 has been awarded to expand this program to female students.

Milwaukee Area Technical College Student Support Retention Pathway (SSRP) This program supports students who have been conditionally admitted, which means their standardized test scores do not meet the minimum requirements. Through the help of a $208,407 grant, 300 of these students will be paired with another student in the program, will receive tutoring, and will be required to attend workshops on topics such as study skills and test taking.

Mount Mary College, Milwaukee Promise Plus A $214,000 grant for this program, designed to address the non-academic challenges of staying in college, will expand services to 60 students. These students will be mentored by older students in the program using online and offline methods.

St. Norbert College, De Pere Students Taking Academic Responsibility (STAR) This program provides services to assist 35 first-year students of color in adjusting to their new environment and overcoming challenges they may face. Thanks to this $61,606 grant, students will be able to participate in weekly meals, study hours, and meetings throughout the year.

United Community Center, Milwaukee Abriendo Puertas This community-based program serves Latino undergraduates from low-income backgrounds attending Milwaukee-area universities. A $155,260 grant will help 150 students identify a career path and provide them with financial counseling, professional networking, and mentoring in partnership with the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee.

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Blugold Beginnings Learning Community for Underrepresented Students A $148,108 grant will provide 40 students with placement in a peer group that attends classes together and has weekly meetings with a peer mentor and bi-weekly meetings with a faculty or staff coach.

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Commanding English This program was created for students who show great potential, despite lower grade point averages and standardized test scores. The 22 participating students have been granted admission to UW-Eau Claire contingent upon participation in this one-year program. Students take skill-building classes and general education courses together as a learning community. A grant of $40,665 has been awarded to this program.

University of Wisconsin – Marathon County Student Support Services (SSS) Through this program, 165 students with lower grade point averages or standardized test scores will meet weekly with a learning strategy specialist, explore majors, and learn about ways to fund their education. Most of the key staff in this program, which has been awarded a $67,055 grant, are first-generation college students themselves.

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Life Impact Program This $146,322 grant will help to serve 40 parent-students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Students in this program, which provides services throughout their time at UW-Milwaukee, will be required to attend workshops and will have access to a team of life coaches, as well as a resource center.

University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh Student Support Services (SSS)

This $169,420 grant will help to expand the program to serve 150 additional students. These students will receive advising and peer support, and be part of small learning groups led by an experienced program student.

University of Wisconsin – Parkside Project Success A $51,272 grant will help this structured learning community provide career course and assessment help, placement in a reading and composition course, and tutoring to 50 students through a team of students, instructors, peer coaches, and advisors.

For more information on Great Lakes’ Wisconsin Postsecondary Persistence Program Grants and other Community Investments initiatives, visit or contact Amy Kerwin at or (608) 246-1785.

From “Wisconsin to join the Complete College America Alliance of States” – MADISON — Today, the Governor’s College and Workforce Readiness Council (CWRC) made the recommendation to join the Complete College America (CCA) Alliance of States.

The CCA is a national non-for-profit, focused on increasing the number of certificate and degree holders in the nation. States joining CCA’s alliance pledge to significantly increase the number of students successfully completing college and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations. Currently, almost 30 states have joined CCA’s alliance.

CWRC representatives include leaders of the University of Wisconsin (UW) System, the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU), the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the Department of Workforce Development, and the Department Health Services, as well as private industry representatives and members of the state legislature. Council members unanimously recommended joining the coalition to embark on common data reporting and initiatives that can help improve Wisconsin’s effort to boost the number of postsecondary certificates and degrees.

“It’s important to consider new ways to improve job placement among college graduates,” said Governor Scott Walker. “Wisconsin’s membership in Complete College America will strengthen our workforce by better enabling our colleges and universities to prepare our students for the jobs of the future.”

“We believe that joining CCA can help us achieve the goal of the ‘more Graduates for Wisconsin’ initiative of graduating an additional 80,000 degree-holders beyond our current trajectory by 2025,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly. “In the process, we can demonstrate once again our strong commitment to transparency and accountability, and help our external stakeholders learn more about our successes in this area.”

“Joining Complete College America is a step towards complete and transparent information for Wisconsin,” added CWRC chair Tim Sullivan. “We need to be able to compare ourselves to other states to improve our strengths and address our challenges.”

“Participating in Complete College America provides Wisconsin’s technical colleges another opportunity to assess our student success efforts and communicate those efforts to state and national policymakers,” said Wisconsin Technical College System President Dan Clancy. “Improving retention and credential attainment for all learners is a WTCS priority. We look forward to learning about and implementing innovative best practices from around the country as part of CCA,” added Clancy.

“Although the 23 colleges and universities in WAICU are all private, nonprofit organizations, they all share in the goal of increasing educational attainment in Wisconsin and look forward to working in partnership with the UW and the WTCS as well as CCA to move Wisconsin forward,” Rolf Wegenke said.

From “Local film grad directs movie on Silver Spring” – For as long as he can remember, Nate Schardin has wanted to be a filmmaker.

After taking a film production class at Nicolet High School, he went to Milwaukee Area Technical College, where he recently received his degree in television and video production.

Shoppers on Silver Spring Drive received a sneak peek of him filming his latest effort, “The Vampire Formerly Known as Dracula,” Friday morning in front of the former El Guapo’s building near Berkeley Boulevard.

Schardin directed the film, which was written byMilwaukee High School for the Arts freshman Ian Walls. Schardin decided to shoot some of the scenes outside the former El Guapo’s space because he works next door at Fox Bay Cinema Grill, which is one of three historic theaters in the Milwaukee area hosting this year’s film festival.

Schardin got involved with the film because of his long involvement in the Milwaukee Film Festival’s Collaborative Cinema program, where he has interned since his days at Nicolet. Schardin has done everything from staffing the craft services table to shooting a promotional documentary for the program.

“For as long as I can remember my life has been devoted to the love of and production of movies,” Schardin said. “I am so honored, excited, and humbled to have been chosen to direct this year’s Collaborative Cinema film. To stand amongst the talented and visionary directors of years past is incredibly validating.”

The film is a comedy about a traditional Dracula ending up in contemporary America only to find himself displaced by a new breed of fashionable vampires. The short film will be shot over the course of three days and will premiere in “The Milwaukee Show” at the 2012 Milwaukee Film Festival, which runs from Sept. 27 through Oct. 11.

This year, over 50 high school students, college students, and local writers enrolled Milwaukee Film’s Collaborative Cinema screenwriting workshops. Writers developed a short script idea from a one-page treatment into a 10-page script, and worked with screenwriters, educators and filmmakers over the course of several months.

The top five scripts were then pitched by five emerging local directors to a deciding panel of industry professionals, which included Carlo Besasie (Tempest Pictures), Mark Foote (Flexible Films, LLC), Jeff Kurz (Milwaukee Film Production Coordinator), and Kara Mulrooney (Gal Friday Films).

“Ian’s script immediately won over the Collaborative Cinema screenwriting mentors with its wit,” said Milwaukee Film Education Director Susan Kerns. “In Nathaniel’s pitch, he followed the script’s lead and sold us on an amusing, historically based tale of past meeting present and cultures colliding. Ian and Nathaniel will be a terrific fit for each other’s work. I couldn’t be more excited to be working on this production for the next few months with these talented young filmmakers.”

From BizTimes:  “Tech College grads are landing jobs” — Students graduating from high school this month are making critical career path decisions that will determine their life’s arc at a time when such decisions have never been more complex or uncertain.

Many are questioning the value of a four-year college degree that will saddle them with tens of thousands of dollars of debt before they even earn their first paycheck.

Meanwhile, ManpowerGroup’s seventh-annual Talent Shortage Survey indicated that 49 percent of U.S. employers are experiencing difficulty filling mission-critical positions within their organizations.

Something’s got to give.

For many students, a one- or two-year technical college degree is a safer bet for gainful employment.

Despite Wisconsin’s current economic challenges, a new survey of 2011 Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) graduates revealed 88 percent of graduates were employed within six months of graduation and most of them (71 percent) were employed directly in their field of study.

According to the system’s annual Graduate Follow-up Report, 86 percent of respondents indicate they are working in Wisconsin. The WTCS includes 16 technical college districts throughout Wisconsin, including the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC).

“This is a bright spot in Wisconsin’s economy,” said Dan Clancy, president of the WTCS. “Our graduates are employed within Wisconsin’s borders and are contributing to the economic recovery in our state. The results show that the curriculum aligns with industry skill needs and that employers value our graduates’ abilities.”

The technical colleges attribute their success in large part to advisory committees established in each program area. The committees are comprised of local business and industry representatives in their respective fields. They advise the colleges on various matters based on first-hand knowledge of supply and demand in addition to skills desired for today’s job market.
The median salary for all new tech graduates is $31,822, with those earning associate degrees receiving a median salary of $36,033.

The fields with the highest median starting salaries are utilities engineering technology, technical studies-journey worker, fire science, biomedical electronics, automated manufacturing systems technician and applied instrumentation and process control automation. Several program areas have median starting salaries of $60,000 or higher.

Nancy Merrill, policy advisor and federal relations officer for the WTCS, noted some of the hottest degree programs, as documented in the new report:

* 85 percent of IT-programmer/analyst graduates who responded were employed, with a median salary of $40,000.
* 100 percent of the logistics graduates who responded were employed, with a median salary of $49,000.
* 93 percent of dental hygienist graduates who responded were employed, with a median salary of $50,488.
* 96 percent of associate degree nursing graduates who responded were employed and reported a median salary of $47,836.

Among less-than-one-year and one-year technical program graduates, 89 percent of practical nursing graduates who responded indicated they were employed, with a median annual salary of $33,745 while 76 percent of air conditioning, refrigeration and heating graduates were employed with a median salary of $32,238.

“In total, as noted in the graduate follow-up report, 45 programs had graduates who reported median annual salaries of $40,000 or more approximately six months after graduation,” Merrill said. “In short, the graduate follow-up study proves that the WTCS works for both Wisconsin businesses and Wisconsin students.”

From “Phil Hartley column: MSTC graduates own local business” – SKS Machine Inc. is locally owned and operated in Wisconsin Rapids. The three owners of SKS — David Serafin, Patrick Smolarek and Daryl Kingery — all are proud graduates of the Mid-State Technical College machine tool program. SKS services companies are located from the east to west coast of the United States, including here in the Wisconsin Rapids area.

“SKS Machine is a precision machine house,” said David Serafin, president of SKS. “We specialize in (computer numerical control) machining. The parts we manufacture service the medical, aerospace and paper industries.”

SKS distinguishes itself in its industry by combining key machines, such as a 60-tool machine or a four-axis turning center, with the necessary support machines. By utilizing these tools, along with vigorous work procedure and safety measures, SKS is able to provide high quality products with competitive pricing and on-time delivery. SKS is certified and registered as meeting the nationally recognized quality system requirements of ISO 9001:2008.

SKS prides itself in providing the machining of hard-to-build items, including 3-dimensional surfacing along with high speed machining of aluminum “hogouts.” In addition, SKS routinely produces items of critically close tolerances. The company specializes in short-to-medium production runs, allowing exceptional attention to detail, a higher degree of accuracy and quick turn-around service.

SKS is not your “grandfather’s machine shop” — it is a high-end, high-tech facility that needs a highly skilled workforce. If you have a student in your family looking for a career track, companies like SKS Machine Inc. — with their combination of state-of-the-art-technology, clean and climate-controlled facility, quality concepts and skilled manufacturing — are a great example of future companies that will thrive and help our community grow now and in the future.

SKS is committed to continuous improvement of the manufacturing process by providing an environment that supports communication and teamwork between employees, suppliers, and customers. SKS Machine Inc. is a growing business in the Heart of Wisconsin.

From “First Hmong woman in Wisconsin earns law enforcement certification” – For one local student, the graduation march is not only significant because of the certification she’s earned but the barriers she is breaking.

Shoua Bauer, from Altoona, is the first Hmong female in Wisconsin to earn a law enforcement certification, and only the second in the entire country. Friday she received her certificate from Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Shoua Bauer, was presented with her law enforcement certification.  She is the first Hmong female in Wisconsin to go into the field.

CVTC Graduate, Shoua Bauer, says, “This is a really hands on, dirty, gritty job that we were taught from a young age this is mens work and then there’s girls work. And I think it’s one of those things where we’re still really new to the country and still changing into the American culture and I think that’s one of the reasons why we don’t see too many Hmong females in this type of profession.”

For a long time, Shoua kept her training a secret.

“I didn’t tell anybody until my dad passed away, it was actually the day before he passed away that I told him I was going into law enforcement” says Bauer.

In 2008 Shoua’s dad passed away suddenly from a heart attack, but she says she is happy she was able to tell him.

She says, “He was supportive, the only thing he wanted me to do was remember, who I was, where I came from, and don’t get a power trip.

“My dad’s final words to me were, leadership is not a position you have, it’s in the actions that you take.” These are the words Shoua shared with her classmates during their graduation ceremony. She was chosen by her peers to be their class leader throughout training.

“She’s a lot of things that were very important to the academy, through communication and leadership. She did a lot of mentoring with the students and helping other students and at the same time she’s trying to get herself through the academy. She’s stepping up and being a mentor and a leader to others” says, CVTC Law Enforcement Academy Director, Eric Anderson.

Shoua stands at 4-feet 10-inches, and as she prepares to enter the work force, she has concerns.

“I am not intimidating appearance wise by any means. I fear that I many not set the right impression to be a law enforcement officer, I do worry about that” says Bauer.

But what has Shoua excited about her career path is one of the reasons she pursued law enforcement in the first place ….. The chance to help other people in the Hmong culture.

“There’s the Hmong females out there that do need help and sometimes they’re not comfortable with speaking to those, to those guys, and so I think by me brining myself out there, I will  be saying, hey, it’s ok. You can talk to me, you can talk to anybody out there” says Bauer.

Shoua says she would like to stay in the area and has been applying for jobs.  Eventually, she would like to be a canine officer.


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