From pbn.com: “Mobile lab considered for marketing, training” — Gerald J. Bronkhorst, 45, of Suamico, Wis., trains students from six high schools in northeast Wisconsin in an advanced-manufacturing mobile lab – a model Rhode Island educators are considering emulating.

The Iraq War veteran decided to attend Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, Wis., to earn certificates in advanced manufacturing when he got back to the United States in 2006, and five years ago was hired by the college as a lab technician, he told Providence Business News in a phone interview.

For the past three years, he has worked as the mobile-lab technician with a few teachers and as many as 12 high school students at a time in the mobile lab, which travels about 50 miles within the school district and cost about $300,000, Bronkhorst said. The high schools pay about $5,000 for every two semesters of use, he said. Precise costs for the lab itself, a trailer hitched to a commercial grade pickup truck, and its operating costs were unavailable.

“If I can convince some of these kids to go out and learn a trade and get a job, that’s a huge win,” said Bronkhorst, the lab technician.

Rhode Island educators found out about a Michigan mobile lab just being implemented this summer and fall that is based on the Wisconsin model, and are actively exploring how such a vehicle might be used in connection with programs at the University of Rhode Island, the Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College.

Chris Semonelli, one of several co-directors in the Newport County Mentor Co-Op, met on June 27 with URI President David M. Dooley to further the conversation. Semonelli said he focused on the collaboration between North Central Michigan College, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance, and a local manufacturer, Precision Edge Surgical Products Inc. of Boyne City, Mich.

From wjfw.com: “NTC’s Ag Center of Excellence gives students valuable, hands-on dairy experience” — WAUSAU – Programs offered at the Northcentral Technical College’s Ag Center of Excellence help students interested in the agriculture industry.

The Ag Center offers hands-on learning opportunities for its students.

That includes learning about a robotic milker and feeding calves.

Right now, more than 100 students are involved in Ag Center of Excellence programs.

“I think it’s a great opportunity. Just the learning experience and being able to see the different aspect of the farming industry, or part of the agriculture business. I don’t have much experience myself, so any opportunity is a great opportunity,” said Rylee Gregoriche, a Dairy Science Student at the Ag Center.

Gregoriche says she appreciates learning more about agriculture and being able to participate in the internships that are available with the Ag Center.

The center offers Associate degrees in dairy science, veterinarian sciences and agriculture business.

There’s also a technical program for operating agriculture equipment.

Leaders at the Ag Center believe these programs adequately prepare students for their futures.

“They can go on to do a variety of things in the agriculture world. Most of the time, that experience coupled with the degree, [agriculture] people are more than happy to hire them because they’ve had that experience,” Katie Vandergeest, Agriculture Sciences Development Manager.

The Ag Center of Excellence opened its doors in June of 2011.

There is still room available in summer and fall classes.

From wausaudailyherald.com: “NTC’s Agriculture Center continues to grow” — WAUSAU — Enrollment at Northcentral Technical College’s Agriculture Center of Excellence has more than tripled since the academy opened about three years ago and though the farm part of the center still is losing money, administrators are confident that soon will change.

In 2009, the Marathon County Board voted to give NTC $1 million to help start the center, a farm-based learning laboratory in the town of Maine. NTC’s initial investment was $164,338, according to NTC marketing & public relations director Katie Felch.

Two years later, students started using the facility, with 31 signing up for one of the two available associate degree programs: dairy science and agribusiness.

In the 2013-14 academic year, 107 students were enrolled in an expanded selection of four programs taught at the center. Veterinary science, an associate degree program, and agriculture equipment technician, which offers a technical diploma, recently were added to the course offerings.

In 2013, 12 students graduated from the dairy science program, according to figures provided by the college. Of those, 11 responded to a follow-up survey, with two listing “farm owner” or “family farm owner” as their occupations.

That means the program isn’t churning out graduates who take over or start their own family farms, but NTC leaders said the students being educated at the academy are contributing to central Wisconsin’s farming economy in myriad other ways.

By the numbers

From a budgetary standpoint, the Agriculture Center is split into two components; the instructional budget, which includes expenses such as instructional pay, supplies, printing costs and minor equipment; and the farm operations budget, which includes revenue from crops, milk, calves and cows and expenses including seed, fertilizer, livestock, fuel and repairs.

The instructional budget is a fixed cost for the college, but the farm operations spending plan can be affected by a variety of factors, including weather and milk prices, said NTC president Lori Weyers.

The farm has been operating in the red since it opened, losing about $24,000 in fiscal year 2013 and with losses projected to be about $5,000 in the current fiscal year, according to figures provided by the college.

While that might not be ideal, Weyers said it’s not unexpected.

“We said we had a five-year budget plan we were working toward to get to be cost-neutral,” Weyers said. “But it is very dependent on milk prices and how we do with the crops, if we have a good growing season, because then we don’t have to buy as much feed for the cows.”

Weyers said learning to cope with weather’s whims and fluctuating milk prices is a good lesson for students preparing for lives as farmers.

“We’re dependent on the weather, we’re dependent on milk prices, so our students need to understand this — that if they go into this field they’re going to be very much dependent on what happens with their crops and what happens with their milk prices,” she said. “It’s real life, it’s real-world living, and so that was our goal.”

The center lost about $85,000 in fiscal year 2012, but Felch said that figure doesn’t reflect a fully operational year; its herd still was growing and the center had yet to secure the annual milk-purchase contract it now has with Mullins Cheese.

The herd took time to build, said Vicky Pietz, NTC dean of agricultural sciences.

“We have over 100 animals now; we can have up to 110 on the property for the zoning,” Pietz said. “We started off with a smaller herd so it takes time for your cows to come up through the milking lines.”

Ag Center graduates

Of the 12 students who graduated from the dairy science program in 2013, 11 responded to a six-month follow-up survey from the college. Two of them reported owning farms — one a family farm — and others held jobs such as property manager, farm technician and farm hand.

Weyers said the industry is trending toward large farm operations and away from smaller family farms, so it’s not atypical for those entering the ag business to get jobs as farm managers instead of farm owners.

“The research says that larger farms are coming in and the smaller dairy farms of the ’60s and ’70s is no longer going to be the case,” Weyers said. “It’s tough to make a living when you’re talking about 40 or 60 cows, you’re going to have to have an outside job. … So either the wife works outside the home or somebody does.

“But then you’re seeing these 2,000-herd farms, the large operations, and they need a lot — they need a herdsman, they need somebody in charge of the crops, and that’s where our graduates are going.”

Brian Brendemuehl of Merrill, who graduated in May from the dairy science program, said he and his classmates got both a degree and real-world experience at the academy — a valuable combination when it comes to landing a job.

“It gives you credentials going into somebody’s farm; credentials that you were on a working farm with animals,” Brendemuehl said. “A lot of people will hire upon experience and you also have a degree, so if you have both, you have a leg up on the competition.”

The 30-year-old said the best part of the program was the hands-on learning.

“It gives you a perspective with the cow being there, it’s not all done by simulators,” Brendemuehl said. “You actually can see how things act and how the cows react to what the students are doing with the cows, so it gives you something to expect out in the real world and some perspective of how it’s going to happen.”

Growing a farm

The center, which sits on 110 acres on Highway K in the town of Maine, was developed in partnership with the Dairyland State Academy, a consortium of agribusiness advocates that helped raise money to make the facility a reality. In March 2009, the Marathon County Board voted 29-7 to spend $1 million to develop the center.

Then-county board chairman Keith Langenhahn was one of the yes votes.

“When we took the vote, the flavor of the (county) board was that agriculture is very important in Marathon County and with the average age of the producer at 57 or 58 at that time, we thought it was important to have young people trained to take over the industry and retain the agriculture base in Marathon County,” Langenhahn said.

The center includes a cow barn, calf and heifer barn, robotic milker, parlor and a “green” classroom that has the capacity to seat 32 students. The calf and heifer barn has the capacity to house 40 to 50 animals and the freestall barn has 50 stalls. The main building is equipped with a milking parlor and a Lely robotic milking machine.

The farm includes 83 acres of tillable land planted in a variety of crops — peas, oats, alfalfa, red clover, grass and corn. Through an agreement with Case IH, students are able to use the latest agricultural equipment and precision farming technology.

A farm operations manager oversees the center and is helped by two assistant managers, Pietz said. Two full-time instructors and some adjuncts round out the staffing.

Selling the center

The center is marketed in a variety of ways, Felch said, from career coaches promoting it in the high schools, to getting the word out at events such as the state fair, this month’s dairy breakfasts and organizations such as the FFA.

Felch said farm staffers also give frequent tours and hold high school-geared events where students can see the farm firsthand.

“That’s really what sells them,” Felch said. “That’s the great thing about the Ag Center of Excellence is that it’s that learning laboratory, you have that hands-on opportunity, you’re not just learning in the classroom, you’re actually seeing first hand all those experiences.”

In addition to its efforts to present the center in a good light, Pietz said the college wants to put a good face forward for the agriculture industry.

“We work really hard to make sure the place looks nice, looks clean, stays looking new, so that when folks do come in and tour they leave feeling great,” Pietz said. “They’ve had a good tour, they’ve had a good experience.”

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Giving back through flowers” — In a time of uncertainty, the Lions Clubs local to Kewaunee County helped Cathei Mincheski and her fiance, Russ Naze, with Naze’s medical bills when he was diagnosed with cancer. More than a year has gone by and Mincheski finds herself working to give back to the community that helped her.

Now facing graduation from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s Leadership Development Program on May 9, Mincheski is finishing part of her coursework, which involves a “capstone project” that must encompass service learning.

She decided to use the skills she has acquired from the program to give back to the Lions Clubs. Mincheski decided to host a community plant sale at the Algoma Youth Club May 30. Funds raised will be donated in the name of the Luxemburg, Casco and Algoma Lions Clubs to fund children attending Lions Club Camp in Rosholt.

“If I can help them like they helped us, that is all I really want to do,” Mincheski said.

Looking at the project objectively and deciding that she wanted to incorporate more into the plan, Mincheski contacted Algoma Elementary School to see if the students would be able to help plant the seeds.

“They are our future leaders, and this gets them involved with community service, which hopefully, when they become adults, they will continue to practice what they learned as a child,” Mincheski said.

Algoma Elementary was more than willing to contribute the students’ talents and time. Coincidentally, the school had just received a grant for a fourth-grade science class to learn about planting and growing. Mrs. Tamara Smith’s fourth-grade class started planting two weeks ago with guidance from Mincheski and Smith.

The grant specifies the children are to do all of the work, including determining how much soil and water to use. Fourth graders will learn what plants look like when growing and how to instill proper care. The approximately 40 children Smith teaches will be involved in the growing of vegetables such as green peppers and tomatoes along with herbs, fruits, blooming flowers and organic seeds.

Planting and growing materials came from the school’s grant money. The majority of the plants will be going towards the sale, and a select few will remain with the school to be planted in a garden in front of the school.

So far, about 200 plants have been sown, with more to come from Mincheski herself and by way of the children who attend Tina Alsteen’s Country Heartland child care center in Luxemburg. Mincheski plans to visit the school as needed to plant more seeds or help the children transplant them to larger pots.

One obstacle poses mild worry at this time: the weather. Hopefully it will be favorable for the seeds to germinate and grow enough to be presented at the sale. The project plans are to involve the students in setting up fliers around the community advertising the sale and including them in the sale day productions.

Mincheski has been working on this capstone project since the end of January. She was required to do her project to assist an nonprofit group.

Luxemburg Lions member Johanna Peterson stated that Mincheski is not paying the Lions back, but rather, paying it forward.

“She is involving the community; it’s a simple and attractive project raising money for a good thing,” Peterson said. “Fundraisers are not easy things to put together, and she did it creatively while involving children into the mix.”

The Lions are also honored Mincheski decided to incorporate three clubs, because when it comes down to it, the Lions clubs work together to make the community a better place, Peterson said.

Mincheski has been employed as a teller at Harbor Credit Union for 20 years, and for the last five she has also been working at von Stiehl Winery. She enrolled in the leadership development program to expand her management, human resources and supervisory skills.

From chippewa.com: “How not to get burned” — EAU CLAIRE – Kim Nessel, director of the new Fire Safety Center at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC), explained that the heat from a fire of flammable liquids is so intense that a firefighter facing it might have a natural inclination to turn his or her head away from the heat, but that would be a mistake. The proper approach, he said, is to face the fire and let the heat wash around the protective headgear and attack the fire.

The opportunity for firefighters to learn such techniques through firsthand experience is one of the many benefits of the new Fire Safety Center unveiled at Chippewa Valley Technical College Thursday. Nessel, dressed in a silvery protective suit, described the strategy to a crowd of visitors who had just witnessed Nessel quickly extinguish such a fire indoors in a specially designed room.

One of only 5 worldwide

It was one of several demonstrations held at an open house for all of CVTC’s Emergency Services programs in conjunction with a ribbon cutting at the Fire Safety Center.

“This is really a unique facility. There are only five facilities similar to this in the entire world,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker.

The facility, located at the CVTC Emergency Services Campus on Eau Claire’s northwest side, was made possible by donations from the L.E. Phillips Family Foundation and the CVTC Foundation.

“This is a world-class facility head and shoulders above any other facility in the world,” said Maryjo Cohen, president of the L.E. Phillips Family Foundation.

“The Fire Safety Center is set up for multiple functions,” said Nessel. “One is to do testing and research and development of products in the manufacturing phase.”

Burning questions answered

The demonstration at the open house involved the effectiveness of fire extinguishers, which can be weighed at the start and finish of the test to help determine the amount of fire suppression substances needed to handle certain size fires. Future uses for the facility, with some modifications, could include fire testing of building materials and household products.

“At some point manufacturers have to do fire testing, and that’s what the burn room will be set up to do,” Nessel said.

The facility also includes an outdoor burn area, but the indoor 50’ X 50’ burn room is a remarkable feat of engineering, with thick concrete walls 30 feet high and a ceiling lined with fireproof and heat-dissipating calcium silicate tiles. Two fans on the roof and can each move 15,000 cubic feet per second of air. Air intake vents on the walls can be adjusted in conjunction with the fan speeds to tightly control the amount of air fueling the fire. A foam fire suppression system is on hand if needed.

Conditions are controlled by computer in an adjoining observation room, which includes a window into the burn room from which the open house visitors watched the demonstrations.

Greater safety

Use of the facility for product testing will greatly benefit businesses in the area and around the Midwest, and also provide funding to maintain the center.

Highlighted most at the open house, however, was how the center will improve fire safety in the Chippewa Valley through its use as a training facility.

“We’ve never been able to train for certain types of scenarios. This will make the area safer,” Barker said.

“It will allow personnel in our area to get quality training,” said Allyn Bertang, deputy chief of training for the Eau Claire Fire Department. “This is going to be a real controlled environment and help us understand the science of fire behavior.”

“My grandfather would have been very proud to have his name associated with this fire center,” said Cohen, referring to L.E. Phillips. “He would have been the first to give credit where credit is due – to the people of Chippewa Valley Technical College who made this possible.”

“We are extremely grateful to the Phillips Family Foundation for working with us,” Barker said.

Besides the tours and demonstrations at the Fire Safety Center, the open house provided visitors with opportunities to try on fire gear, use a fire extinguisher to put out a fire, try the Jaws of Life for vehicle extrications, learn firearms safety and basic firing range techniques, lift fingerprints from a simulated crime scene and test their handgun accuracy in a firearms simulation game. There were also several demonstrations to observe, including operation of fire trucks and pumps, firefighters rappelling from a tower during a rescue demonstration, EMT and paramedic students demonstrating a cardiac arrest scenario, and criminal Justice students demonstrating a tactical scenario.

From wjfw.com: “Northwoods college students design food pantry” — RHINELANDER – Some local college students helped design the new Rhinelander Area Food Pantry building. Nicolet Technical College Business Management and Marketing students created the plans for the building.

It took them the entire semester to come up with the design.

“It’s been super exciting,” says Bailey Wheeler, Nicolet Technical College Student. “We started out being a little bit overwhelmed with it but it’s definitely as the time went on we got used to the whole project, and I think we were able to narrow it down a little bit and really see how we were able to help.”

Students were divided into three groups to come up with the new design. Each group handled a different section of the building. After the plans were submitted an architectural student rendered the design. Doing this project gave students real world experience.

“This is a powerful way of learning,” Dianne Lazear, Business management program instructor. “It allows students to concretely see what they’ve learned and use it in a way that matters.”

“These students are engaged and they are committed to the project. For an instructor having commitment and enthusiasm from your students about what they’re learning and doing is just the sweet spot of teaching,” says Lazear.

The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry will move into the new building in July.

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Area students learn about employment in agriculture” — Seventh- and eighth-grade students from five area public schools had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of 32 different agricultural employment fields at the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp.-sponsored Ag Career Days. More than 900 students gathered at Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy April 10-11 to learn about potential future careers based in agriculture.

“Today is about showcasing opportunities available in agriculture,” said Tori Sorenson, GreenStone Farm Credit Services and co-chair of the KCEDC Ag Committee. “Students are getting further away from family farms, and we want to make these local opportunities known.”

Students had the opportunity to rank four different “clusters” of careers: Dollars and Sense, Grinding Gear, Diggin’ Deep and Cow “Tipping,” with the intention of learning about specific jobs within those clusters.

After a bus tour of the Ponderosa, the students broke into their groups and had the opportunity to interact with local business people.

“We need to put the tools in the toolbox and offer the opportunity to learn about where food comes from,” Sorenson said.

Monica Streff, a nutritionist at Cornette Farm Supply, dairy farmer and custom calf ranch raiser, served as one of the stops in the Cow “Tipping” cluster, and she talked about mixing products to create a formula for calf nutrition.

“I look at kids as the future of agriculture. If we don’t educate them today, we may not have a future,” Streff said. “There are jobs that involve more than just animals, like in horticulture, crops, sales, mechanics, fruits and vegetables.”

Steve Bretl of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College was a presenter in the Grinding Gear cluster, informing students about the diesel technician program at NWTC. He was showing the students how to use a PTO dynamometer, which can calculate if a piece of machinery is producing the horsepower and torque it is rated for.

“The complexity of the industry requires students to have communications, math, and technical skills in high school to prep them for program soft skills,” Bretl said. “It is important to make them aware now of what they can do and how they can obtain their goals.”

Students from Luxemburg-Casco, Algoma, Kewaunee, Denmark and Southern Door attended the two-day event.

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