March 7, 2014
From weau.com: “Walker attends Manufacturing Show at Chippewa Valley Technical College” – How technology is used in manufacturing was the major focus of a show at CVTC Thursday.
The manufacturing show featured more than 20 companies and a number of programs at the college. It also included a junkyard battle competition where area high school students showcased their talents.
Governor Scott Walker was at the event to see all the college had to offer. He said it’s great to have the connection between the technical college and area high schools to show younger students the opportunities available after graduation.
“It’s amazing to see the things they make, really incredible work, and its great to see all the high schoolers coming by to see the oppourtunities in manufacturing,” said Governor Scott Walker.
More than 40 regional manufacturing businesses were also at the event to talk to guests about career opportunities.
March 6, 2014
From postcrescent.com: “Fox Valley Tech opens expanded transportation center to fill industry need” — GRAND CHUTE — Automotive students at Fox Valley Technical College have made themselves at home in the newly expanded J. J. Keller Transportation Center.
With the goal of helping to meet a growing demand for automotive careers, the school enlarged the facility by more than 20,000 square feet. The $6.2 million addition created 10 learning bays for automotive programs; three drive-through learning bays for diesel programs; classrooms; an instruction bay for the school’s truck driving program; and a learning bay for a trailer technician program.
The bigger transportation center is the third of five major building projects completed at FVTC so far since 2012, when voters approved $66.5 million in spending.
Aric Van Ess, a second-year diesel technology student from Cedar Grove, likes having more room and using new tools.
“There’s a lot more activities you can work on,” Van Ess said. “You’re not all bunched up working on a truck.”
Van Ess works part-time in the industry, and he sees the same things in the classroom that he does on the job. Students work on trucks that are driven on roads, so the problems they fix in school are the same ones they would see in the real world.
Van Ess plans to take courses in the new transport trailer service technician program after he completes the diesel technology area.
The new program is possible because of the extra square footage added to the facility and was started at the request of local industries, said Dan Poeschel, associate dean at FVTC.
The referendum allowed the automotive program to double in size, accommodating every student who enrolls. In the past, officials had to put students on waiting lists because there wasn’t enough room.
Most students will have jobs lined up immediately after graduation. FVTC automotive students who graduated last year have a combined job placement rate of 98 percent, according to figures provided by the college.
Poeschel said graduates can earn starting wages of $15 per hour or higher.
“[The addition] provides education and good jobs to students coming in who can really have a lifelong career in this industry,” he said.
From northlandsnewscenter.com: “Businesses in Wis. eligible for $15 million in grants to close skills gap” – Wisconsin businesses are now eligible to apply for a grant to help close the workforce skills gap.
The Fast Forward worker training grant program is providing $15 million worth of funding to help businesses address the need for skilled workers.
On Tuesday, Shelly Harkins from the State Department of Workforce Development spoke about the program at Wisconsin Indian Head Technical College in Superior.
The grants enable businesses to deliver customized training to workers and local job seekers.
Bob Meyer, president of WITC, says this new program will help address the shortage of skilled labor which many businesses in the state are facing.
“It has been estimated that if we can match the right skills and talent with vacant jobs, we can actually reduce unemployment by 2.5 percent in the Minnesota, Wisconsin region,” said Meyer.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed the program into law last March.
Walker is proposing to add another $34 million to the program.
So far, two rounds of grants have been given out.
In round one, $2.6 million was awarded to 32 grantees in the targeted training sector.
Almost half of the grants partnered with a technical college to provide training in their area.
In round two, $7.5 million will be awarded to seven areas of Wisconsin.
March 3, 2014
From leadertelegram.com: “Manufacturing in the spotlight” — A group of high school students stood wide-eyed as a Chippewa Valley Technical College student dropped a metal ball that seemed to defy gravity as it fell through a simple copper tube. It fell slowly through the tube as if moving in molasses, never touching the sides.
The demonstration of electromagnetic forces took place in the Nano Engineering Technology area of CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center last March at the annual Manufacturing Show, which returns for a third year Thursday.
That simple ball-and-tube trick will have to take a distant back seat to other high-end demonstrations this year. For instance, CVTC now has equipment that uses streams of water under extremely high pressure to cut metal in precise detail, without the harmful effects heat-based metal cutting can leave behind.
Manufacturing Show demonstrations also will include a three-dimensional printer that doesn’t use ink. Instead, it produces, layer after layer, at high speed, a 3-D plastic model of items drawn up with paper and numbers.
“It gives us an ability to replicate a concept or design, showing the working parts,” said CVTC Associate Dean of Manufacturing Jeff Sullivan. “The printers are being used a lot in the medical field.”
New machine tool program equipment that will be on display is capable of speeds up to 12,000 rpm. “The purpose of the high speed is higher accuracy and tighter tolerances,” Sullivan said.
And the purpose of students working on such a machine is to prepare them for the kind of equipment being used in the industry today, important given the prevalence of the machine tool industry in the Eau Claire area.
Welcome to the world of modern manufacturing. People who still picture manufacturing as taking place in dark, dingy places with low-skilled workers doing simple repetitive work will have their minds changed by attending the show, people affiliated with the event said.
“The entire show will present a good overview of manufacturing careers in western Wisconsin,” said Roger Stanford, CVTC vice president of instruction. “We have a great diversity of manufacturing companies in this area, many of them producing products that are getting attention worldwide. Attendees can learn more about these companies at the Manufacturing Show and how CVTC prepares workers for lucrative careers in manufacturing.”
About 20 manufacturing companies will have displays about their role in their industries and in the Chippewa Valley economy. They will use the show to recruit new workers as well.
Joining those companies will be representatives of CVTC’s manufacturing programs: electromechanical technology, industrial mechanic, industrial mechanical technician, machine tooling technics, welding and welding fabrication. Some of the physical science programs, such as nano engineering technology, manufacturing engineering technologist and industrial engineering technician also will be involved.
Students play a vital role in the show. As part of regular course work, they have constructed and programmed robotic equipment that performs such tasks as playing a guitar, making a golf putt or resetting bowling pins.
Area high school students also will be heavily involved in this year’s show. Back again will be the Junkyard Battle, in which high school welding students will compete with their creations made of scrap metal. Last year the contest featured student-made sculptures of their school mascots. This year’s show will feature several more competitions.
Machine tool students will compete in the Amazing Maze event, creating complicated mazes in competition for the best design. Engineering students will use computer-aided design programs to draw up plans for devices. The top design will be reproduced on the 3D printer.
In the electromechanical area, students will create robots that work through a maze without human intervention. The industrial mechanics program is working on a competition involving development of miniature cannons.
“We are reaching out to our K-12 school district partners to develop agreements and programs that expose younger students to manufacturing and prepare high school students for entry into CVTC’s manufacturing programs,” Sullivan said.
The event has been well-attended by the general public since its inception, and area school districts take advantage by using it as an educational experience for students. Some parents bring their children who are starting to think about careers.
The show offers plenty for attendees to do, such as trying out simulators, watching robotic welders, learning what local manufacturers are producing and witnessing student creativity.
February 26, 2014
From wxow.com: “WMC Foundation looks into 20-year strategic plan for Wis.” – LA CROSSE – With the baby boomers retiring, Wisconsin will soon lose it’s largest group of workers.
The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Foundation is looking for ways to replace them.
WMC Foundation President Jim Morgan traveled to Western Technical College Tuesday to find out where there is a job shortage in La Crosse, and discuss ways to train students to fill those positions.
The foundation will use that information to create a 20-year strategic plan for the state, called “Future Wisconsin.”
“And we’re trying to look at a couple of key areas like talent attraction, business competitiveness, globalization, entrepreneurship. The types of things that I think if we’re going to be successful in 20 years, we’ve got to start planning for now,” Morgan said.
There’s already a need for welders and machinists, he added.
The WMC Foundation will be meeting with 16 technical colleges, along with other schools, businesses and commerce associations for input.
February 25, 2014
From fox6now.com: “Increasing demand for apprenticeships as aging workers retire” – Want to get paid to go to school? With an apprenticeship — you can do just that! Through an apprenticeship, an individual has access to on-the-job training and related classroom instruction. A participating employer teaches the skills of the trade on the job. The classroom instruction is theoretical and practical knowledge pertaining to the given trade. It’s an option more and more students in Wisconsin are taking — with the growing need for skilled manufacturing workers in the state.
“The student works 32 hours a week and goes to class eight hours a week, but they’re paid for 40 hours a week,” Debbie Davidson with Gateway Technical College said.
In a nutshell, that’s how an apprenticeship works. Students get hands-on and in-classroom training in a service, construction or industrial field. Typically, the programs run anywhere from three to five years.
“Apprenticeship is really unique in that you start with an employer with a need and match them with an individual to go through the training,” Davidson said.
Officials with Gateway Technical College say the demand for apprenticeship opportunities has grown, as has the number of students enrolling in programs at the school.
“In 2012, we had a total of 49 apprentices. Then, a year later, we had 80 apprentices. Now we have 140,” Davidson said.
“We’ve already started plans on four brand new programs coming up and we know that we’re going to be doubling our numbers within a very short time,” Wisconsin Apprentice Training Representative Sandy Briezman said.
So what’s driving the renewed interest in apprenticeships? We’re told it’s a skills gap, fueled at least in part by soon-to-retire workers.
“The skills gap that we’re seeing now is what was projected even before the downturn in 2009 because people were planning to retire at that point. They stayed a little bit longer, but they kept aging, so now we’re seeing people are actually at that point of retirement and companies are seeing that we need to fill that gap — and before our people leave and retire how can we utilize them to train that next generation of worker?” Davidson said.
Davidson says the late 90s were really kind of the high point for apprenticeship programs.
The Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards says statewide, there were more than 15,000 apprentices in 2001. By 2012, they had dropped to about 9,700.
February 24, 2014
From madison.com: “As trades rebound, demand for apprentices grows” — By Dennis Punzel – If Donald Trump hosted “Apprentice Wisconsin,” he’d have to change his catchphrase from “You’re fired” to “You’re hired.”
As the economy slowly pulls out of its funk, the dormant construction industry is starting to experience a revival. And as construction cranes sprout up in the skyline, the demand for skilled workers across the spectrum of construction trades also is ascending.
“The problem the last several years has been a shortage of work for contractors in the construction industry,” said Wayne Belanger of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin. “Now, it’s a shortage of workers. It’s critical.”
And when construction companies need skilled workers, they turn to the state’s venerable apprenticeship program to fill the void.
Wisconsin’s apprenticeship program, founded in 1911, was the first of its kind in the nation and led to the creation of the state’s technical school system.
“Wisconsin apprenticeship is still considered the leading model in the country,” said Jim Cook, apprenticeship manager at Madison Area Technical College. “In Wisconsin, everybody is at the table — employers, colleges, state government, labor organizations, employer associations.
“Apprenticeship here has survived all the economic and social upheavals of the last century. And because it’s done that, it’s going to survive for a long time.”
The most recent economic downturn, however, did take a toll on the system. As construction projects dried up, many firms had trouble finding jobs for their established journeyman workers and had no need to take on apprentices.
ABC’s apprentice numbers around the state plummeted from around 1,200 in 2006 to just a few hundred. The group sponsors apprenticeships in 12 trades, including electrical, carpentry, plumbing and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning).
“I don’t want to even think about how low it was,” Belanger said. “We’re back to 850 now. We’re on the rebound. It seems like there’s a pent-up demand, and people are putting projects together again.
“The trouble is that a lot of people in the trades have either retired or gone on to something else, and they’re not coming back. That leaves a huge void pretty much at all levels because they haven’t hired new people in the last five years.”
Statewide, the number of apprentices in all trades has dropped from 15,767 in 2001 to 9,793 in 2013, according to the state Department of Workforce Development Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards (DWD-BAS). In the construction trades, the numbers have fallen from 8,890 in 2001 to 4,843 last year.
Belanger said the recovery has yet to hit many parts of the state, but that Madison is booming and the Fox Valley and Milwaukee are showing signs of life.
“In Dane County, there’s going to be a construction boom this year,” said Cook, noting that apprenticeships are up about 10 percent with 600 in the program at MATC. “The drive right now for economic development is fever pitch. The only other time we’ve seen this was around World War II, where you had this incredible need and a skilled worker shortage.”
One of the biggest challenges is convincing young people to look into apprenticeships after being pointed toward the four-year college route most of their lives.
“We do a lot of outreach to schools around the area and have more success at some than others,” said Mike Pohlman, president of Nickles Electric. “Some schools don’t seem to want to point kids to the trades.
“We certainly don’t dissuade kids from going to college. We always tell them the trades are another option after you graduate. We’re open to getting a kid into our program that has a four-year college degree.”
One who took that route is Pohlman’s son, Kaleb. After graduating from Marshall High School, he studied electrical engineering at UW-Milwaukee for two years before transferring to UW-Madison, where he earned a degree in civil engineering in 2009.
But with the job market dried up, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue an electrical apprenticeship. He’s finishing up the fifth year of the program and just took the state exam with the hope of gaining journeyman status.
“They’re both gratifying,” Kaleb Pohlman, 28, said of his dual accomplishments. “When I got done with college I was like, ‘Wow, I did it.’ It was a long time and a lot of hard work and when I got done I felt great. Learning this and getting through this apprenticeship is just as much, if not more gratifying.
“I feel like I can do almost anything in the electrical trade. I can bend that conduit, I can run that wire, I can put that piece of switch gear up. You start feeling like you can do anything.”
Kaleb Pohlman’s goal is to use both parts of his education by working about five years in the field and then moving into project management.
“I went to school for a reason, and I did this for a reason,” he said. “I’ve put myself in a pretty unique situation that I think makes me a little more valuable.
“There’s a need for people who can do this stuff. In the next couple years as the baby boomers start retiring, the workforce is going to drop like crazy. There’s not as many people who do trades. That should bode well for people of my generation. If people want to do this, there should be a future in it.”
Apprenticeships, of course, are nothing new, as they date back to the middle ages. Ben Franklin was a printing apprentice; Henry Ford a machinist apprentice.
The state program offers apprenticeships in three broadly defined areas — construction trades, industrial/manufacturing trades and service trades.
Unlike their college-bound brethren, who frequently build up huge debts going to school, apprentices earn while they learn. Employer sponsors are required to pay their apprentices, starting at half the journeyman worker rate for that trade, with scheduled raises as they continue through the program.
Apprenticeships last three to five years with apprentices spending about 90 percent of the time on the job and 10 percent in the classroom. In addition to paying apprentices, many sponsors will also pick up all or part of the costs of tuition and books for the classroom part of the deal.
Upon completion of the apprenticeship and any licensing requirements, the apprentice receives a state certificate and a journeyman license and goes to work for the sponsoring firm. The construction trades tend to pay the highest, with the base pay for a construction worker at just under $33 per hour.
“It’s a great program,” said Greg Jones, CEO of Dave Jones Inc. “As a plumber, after a five-year program you can be making $70,000 a year with no student debt.”
Jones, 32, completed his apprenticeship in 2004. His father, Dave Jones, also went through the apprenticeship program and founded the company in 1977. The company now has 220 employees and 34 apprentices.
Phil Klahn, 23, got a head start on the five-year apprenticeship he is now finishing up when he started working at Dave Jones Plumbing part-time through a school-work program at Oregon High School.
“The trades were something I was always looking into,” Klahn said. “I wanted to work with my hands. I didn’t really think I could sit behind a desk my entire life.”
Klahn said that, like most high school graduates, he felt the pressure to go to college, but the work-study program opened his eyes to other options. And unlike many of his former classmates, he’s finishing his education with no student loans.
“I was lucky because I knew right away this was what I wanted to do,” said Klahn, who hopes to someday become a project manager or field superintendent. “Everybody thinks that plumbing is backed-up sewers and leaky faucets and leaky pipes. There is a service end to it, but right now I’m working on a 12-story apartment building in downtown Madison. There’s a lot more to it than people understand.”
Klahn’s advice to young people pondering their future?
“I just say keep your mind open to the apprenticeship program,” he said. “It might not be for everybody, but I tell people to at least look into it.”
Mike Pohlman of Nickles Electric thinks that message is spreading, and he emphasizes that the trades are actively recruiting a diverse workforce.
“This whole industry is changing,” said Pohlman, who began his apprenticeship in 1979 and rose through the ranks to become company president. “People are understanding that the trades are a pretty good option these days.
“Our city’s going to keep growing, and we’re going to need people to build it.”
February 14, 2014
From leadertelegram.com: “Candidate tours tech: Democrat running for governor discusses worker education, jobs” – By Joe Knight Leader-Telegram staff – Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Thursday she supports a proposal by her opponent, Gov. Scott Walker, to spend $35 million to help the state’s technical colleges provide additional training for high-demand jobs.
She also supports the governor’s initiative to find work for people with developmental disabilities.
However, Burke said the proposal would require future funding for technical colleges to keep those efforts ongoing.
Burke spoke briefly with reporters during a tour of high-tech industrial programs at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Gateway Campus. She criticized Walker for cutting $71 million from technical colleges in the first budget he oversaw as governor “just at the time when our technical colleges needed a boost.”
At the time Walker said budget cuts were needed because of a $3 billion state budget shortfall.
Burke said the types of high-tech manufacturing skills being taught at CVTC would help the middle class and would help grow the state’s economy. She spent time speaking with CVTC students, asking them about their career aspirations.
Jamie Rasmussen, a 35-year-old CVTC welding student, said more funding for CVTC programs will help more of them receive the training they need to find jobs.
Asked whether the process she observed Thursday could help build bicycles, Burke, a former Trek Bicycle executive and a former commerce secretary under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, said she wasn’t sure but noted Trek works closely with technical colleges in southern Wisconsin.
February 5, 2014
From channel3000.com: “Walker plan for worker training gets support” — Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to spend $35 million to help technical colleges train people for high demand jobs is finding support at a legislative hearing.
Backers of Walker’s proposal testified Tuesday before the Assembly’s Committee on Workforce Development. The full Assembly was expected to vote on the plan next week.
Walker wants to spend $35 million to eliminate waiting lists for high demand fields at technical colleges, help high school students get trained for high-demand jobs through dual enrollment programs and support programs that help people with disabilities find work.
Wisconsin technical college system president Morna Foy says she is “stoked” about the possibility of the funding being approved. She says it would definitely result in more people getting trained for jobs in high-demand areas.
February 4, 2014
From hngnews.com: “Workforce Paradox conference comes to Madison march 27″ — Wisconsin continues to battle the workforce paradox – high unemployment, yet employers desperately seeking qualified workers.
The WMC Foundation, in partnership with the Wisconsin Technical College System and all 16 Technical Colleges, is proud to highlight current workplace solutions and an early preview of a new initiative to establish a 20-year strategic plan for the state called – The Future Wisconsin Project.
Each session will include a panel presentation on innovative practices in K-12, college programming, and customized business solutions followed by discussion. There will be an optional college tour at some sites immediately following the program.
February 17 – Gateway Technical College, Kenosha.
February 19 – Fox Valley Technical College, Appleton.
February 21 – Blackhawk Technical College, Janesville.
February 25 – Western Technical College, La Crosse.
February 26 – Milwaukee Area Technical College.
March 3 – Northcentral Technical College, Wausau.
March 4 – Waukesha County Technical College.
March 6 – Chippewa Valley Technical College, Eau Claire.
March 7 – Indianhead Technical College, Rice Lake.
March 11 – Nicolet Technical College, Rhinelander.
March 13 – Mid-State Technical College, Wisconsin Rapids.
March 14 – Lakeshore Technical College, Cleveland.
March 17 – Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Green Bay.
March 18 – Moraine Park Technical College, Fond du Lac.
March 21 – Southwest Technical College, Fennimore.
March 27 – Madison College.
The cost to attend is $30/person; $20/person for WMC and/or local chamber members.
To register or for more information call 608.258.3400 or visit www.wmc.org.
February 3, 2014
From dailyunion.com: “Sen. Tammy Baldwin tours MATC-Fort, touts GREEN Act” – By Ryan Whisner – U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin visited Madison Area Technical College campuses in both Fort Atkinson and Madison Friday to discuss her new legislation aimed at job training and workforce readiness for high-skilled jobs in clean energy.
The Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation (GREEN) Act allocates competitive grant funding for clean energy career- and technical-training programs so that students are better trained for post-secondary education and better equipped for the high-skilled “green collar” jobs of the future.
“I’m excited about it because we know this is an area where there is job growth that is outperforming job growth throughout the United States,” Baldwin said.
She said more than 3 million Americans are employed in the growing green collar workforce, including in clean energy and sustainability. That is more than the number of people working in the fossil fuel industry, and twice as many as those employed in the biotech industry.
Additionally, Baldwin noted that the jobs created in the clean energy economy pay better than the average American job, with compensation rates 13-percent higher than the national average.
“What the GREEN act focuses on is partnerships between secondary schools and post-secondary schools to actually plant the seed of the potential of these careers earlier,” the senator said.
Both through her campaign for U.S. Senate and as a senator, Baldwin said, she has traveled the state visiting manufacturing and other sites where inspiring things are happening.
Specifically, she recalled visiting manufacturers of solar panels, wind turbines and other green energy sources.
“I talk at these sites about the employment future,” Baldwin said. “One of the things I hear frequently are that the local high school students are looking elsewhere and are not necessarily planning to have careers in the industries that have supported their communities for generations.”
The senator noted that a lot of people are saying that the conversation has to start earlier, even in middle school.
“We’re seeing some really promising outcomes when the conversation does start earlier,” she said, citing examples of schools that have added curriculum through which students can earn technical college or university credit and others that have started energy efficiency and renewable energy class work.
“Part of the bill I’ve introduced focuses on that type of continuing curriculum,” Baldwin said. “It would begin earlier and provide opportunities to expose people at a younger age to the advanced industry around them and the green energy job possibilities and really to establish partnerships between the high schools and technical colleges of our state.”
The bill also provides opportunities for technical schools or high schools to upgrade their own energy systems to serve as model training facilities.
Baldwin said the intention is for students to be able to be actively involved in the installation and maintenance and analysis of how effective the systems are as part of their green collar career tracks.
“It becomes a teaching and learning opportunity,” she said, noting that in some cases, the students write the grants. “We think it is an exciting way to get young people interested at an earlier age.”
Baldwin said her purpose in introducing the bill was to help address the ongoing economic issues.
“There is no greater challenge for our nation or for our state than to get our economy back to full strength,” the senator said. “We know the hits we’ve taken in recent years, whether it’s recession-based or because of other policies.”
She noted that manufacturing, in particular, has taken a huge hit.
“We’ve always made things in Wisconsin and we want to see a clear path back to the forefront, with an emphasis on clean, renewable energy,” Baldwin said. “You are in the front line and I’m really excited to hear more about what you are doing here.”
She noted that it was great to be at the Fort Atkinson campus of Madison College, where so much is happening in terms of preparing students for these types of such green-collar jobs.
“Sometimes I think we talk about this too narrowly,” she said.
During her visit at the Fort Atkinson campus, she spoke with instructors and students involved in renewable energy, transportation and manufacturing. Specific areas highlighted included hybrid vehicle automotive technical training, compressed natural gas technology and renewable energy (wind and solar energy).
Also, Jefferson City Administrator Tim Freitag and Mayor Dale Oppermann were on hand to discuss the recent installation of a solar farm by Half Moon Ventures of Chicago in the city’s North Business Park.
The senator also visited the campus’ state-of-the-art welding labs, where students are involved in learning greener manufacturing processes into the future.
“It is very exciting speaking to both the instructors and the students who are very optimistic about this future of this sector of economy,” Baldwin said after the campus tour.
The senator said she is proud of Wisconsin’s technical colleges for being the “unsung heroes” across the state.
“Madison College is no exception to that rule; in fact, it is a leader among them,” Baldwin said. “In our changing economy and as we have been struggling to recover from a deep recession, they have played such a critical role in helping returning students retool their skills for advanced manufacturing jobs in the future, but they also really are being focused on having the students career-ready on the day they graduate.”
She said it is filling an important need.
“There also are tremendous partnerships with the private sector making sure they are relevant to the needs of employers all around,” Baldwin said.
Following her stop in Fort Atkinson, the senator also visited the Commercial Avenue campus in Madison to tour the solar instructional labs and learn about the net-zero energy home project that the college and the City of Madison Community Development Authority have teamed up with to support the development of net-zero energy performing homes in the Allied Drive neighborhood of Madison.
Baldwin also has visited Milwaukee Area Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay and Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids to discuss the GREEN Act.
February 3, 2014
From madison.com: “Leading state business lobby looks to create 20-year strategic plan for Wisconsin” — By Karen Rivedal – The state’s biggest business group — Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce — is partnering with higher education leaders and the state’s job creation agency on a 20-year strategic business plan for Wisconsin.
Tentatively titled the Future Wisconsin Project, the effort will focus in its first year mostly on the oft-reported lack of skilled workers in manufacturing and many other challenged industries and sectors of the workforce, such as information technology.
But it’s also about taking a longer look at economic development issues facing the state and creating a workable and enduring system for addressing those issues, with timely input from business, government and academia, WMC president Kurt Bauer said.
“I think we’re all a little guilty of operating from month to month, year to year, election cycle to election cycle,” Bauer said. “This is supposed to be broader than that. This (will) look out and see what Wisconsin is going to be, and (ask ourselves), ‘Do we like it?’ and if we don’t, ‘How do we change it?’ ”
The goal of developing a lasting “infrastructure of communication” among the key parties is the main thing that differentiates the WMC project from other broad economic studies and initiatives such as Be Bold Wisconsin, said Morna Foy, Wisconsin Technical College System president. The tech system is one of the effort’s four partners, along with the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the quasi-public job creation agency recommended by the Be Bold Wisconsin study.
By contrast, Foy said, “(WMC leaders) are trying to build a road map that people can follow this year and the year after that and the year after that.
“Some of the topics they’re interested in examining are big. They go beyond the interests or borders of any individual company. It’s really refreshing for us to see them take that longer view.”
UW System spokesman Dave Giroux credited WMC for involving higher education leaders early in the process and said he liked what he described as WMC’s focus on “human capital, the competitiveness of our business and industry, and the overall quality of life.”
“We see ourselves (in the UW System) touching on these areas in many different ways,” Giroux said.
The effort is motivated by troubling demographic projections that threaten a crisis for Wisconsin’s aging workforce in the decades to come, WMC leaders said.
The Wisconsin Applied Population lab projects 14.2 percent overall population growth in the state by 2040, with about 800,000 more people but most of them over age 65, according to Jim Morgan, president of the WMC Foundation, the group’s research arm.
WMC also cites a Georgetown University Study that predicted 317,130 additional jobs between 2010 and 2020 in Wisconsin but only 15,150 new workers.
Incoming WMC chairman Dan Ariens, president of Brillion-based Ariens Co., an outdoor power equipment manufacturer, said WMC and its partners needed to create a “consensus dialogue” over these issues to effectively address the problem before it gets worse.
“There’s a workforce shortage now,” said Ariens, who also is vice chairman of the WEDC board of directors. “It’ll be a crisis later.”
Beyond workforce development — or “talent attraction,” as the Future Wisconsin project terms it — the issue of business competitiveness also is slated to be studied closely in year one of the initiative. Future years could focus on other identified issues, likely including global engagement, government effectiveness, life quality and entrepreneurial spirit.
Discussions and ideas also will center around what the parties see as the state’s various strengths and barriers to growth. WMC’s own agenda, mainly representing the viewpoint of business owners and industry, must be balanced by input from the other partners for the initiative to be successful, Foy noted.
“If the script is already written and all the ideas have been thought of, and (WMC leaders are) just doing a yearlong road show (of their conclusions), other parties won’t want to engage,” Foy said. “That’s not my sense at all about what they’re looking for in this. They are really trying to stretch beyond their own view to make sure they get the best and smartest ideas.”
WMC will share plans for the project more widely in the coming weeks and months, starting with its own members Feb. 6 at the group’s annual Business Day, a key membership and lobbying event in Madison.
Jim Morgan, president of the WMC Foundation, a research arm of the group, then will present the project at each of the technical system’s 16 colleges in February and March, with public listening sessions and regular meetings of the partners and other stakeholder groups throughout the year, leading up to a December forum where notes on problems will be compared and action plans could be issued.
Bauer and Ariens said possible end results could include new legislative proposals that WMC could lobby for, and/or more grassroots steps or decisions that any of the partners could take on their own.
“It’s not just going to be another white paper,” Bauer promised. “It’s a process. More than anything, what we want to do is spark the debate and make people aware of what is coming down the road.”
Giroux agreed the project could be unique.
“We haven’t seen before the state’s lead business organization and the two higher education systems working directly together on something of this magnitude,” Giroux said. “We may have seen this model on a small scale, but not like this.”
January 30, 2014
From jsonline.com: “President Barack Obama to highlight job training in Waukesha visit” — President Barack Obama drops into the Republican stronghold of Waukesha County on Thursday morning and is expected to discuss a subject that unites Republicans and Democrats.
Obama is due to visit GE’s Waukesha gas engines plant, a facility that employs around 700 people and manufactures natural gas engines.
He is scheduled to tour the plant, meet with executives and line workers, and give a speech, before making his way to an afternoon appearance at a high school in Nashville, Tenn.
A senior Obama administration official said that during his Waukesha appearance, the president is expected to discuss taking executive action to enhance reform of job training programs. The official laid out the general themes of Obama’s visit during a teleconference with reporters.
The Wisconsin stop is part of Obama’s two-day tour after his State of the Union address.
According to the official, the president is striving to amplify key themes from the speech, including expanding economic opportunity for Americans.
“That is the focus of the president’s domestic policy agenda,” the official said. “It is the focus of his efforts to try to find common ground with members of Congress. We certainly are hopeful that there would be some bipartisan common ground that could be found on some basic steps we could take that would expand economic opportunity for every American, in areas like job creation, job training and education.”
The official said the president will “also talk about his willingness to act on his own.
“When Congress refuses to act, the president won’t wait for them,” the official said.
The White House announced that after his speech in Waukesha, Obama will sign a Presidential Memorandum to initiate “an across-the-board review of how to best reform federal training programs.”
Vice President Joe Biden will lead the effort.
A competition will also be launched for the final $500 million of a community college training fund. Every state will be awarded at least one grant. The competition is designed to bolster partnerships with community colleges, employers and industry to “create training programs for in-demand jobs.”
The senior administration official said the GE plant in Waukesha employs highly skilled workers who are trained to perform specific tasks.
“What the president would like to see is a re-orientation of our job training programs,” the official said. “The president wants to make our job training programs across the country more job-driven.”
The official explained that such reorientation means greater coordination between federal agencies that oversee job training grant programs and local community colleges, communities and employers.
The official said “there are many businesses across the country that, despite what continue to be elevated unemployment rates, still do have openings for workers. The difference is they are looking for workers with a very specific skill set.”
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has also emphasized the need to get workers the right training to match job openings in fields such as manufacturing and computer technology.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who will greet the president at Mitchell International Airport and be with him at the GE plant, said he expected the focus of the visit will be the economy and jobs.
“It’s something I’ve been talking about for some time,” Barrett said. “It’s what I call ‘ships passing in the night.’ Workers can’t find jobs. Employers can’t find workers. We’ve got to find a way to bring them together.”
The mayor said he hoped to share with Obama the work going on in the Milwaukee area to accomplish that.
He specifically mentioned the work of the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/BIG STEP, which develops resources and services for companies to expand employment and advancement opportunities by upgrading the skills of current employees and training residents to get family-supporting jobs.
Barrett also cited the work of the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, which is a government-business partnership that administers employment and training programs; Milwaukee Area Technical College; and Waukesha County Technical College.
Last week, Barrett and mayors from other cities around the country met with Vice President Joe Biden and discussed the manufacturing partnership between workers and employers.
“I’m guessing this is something in their wheelhouse,” Barrett said of Obama’s visit to Waukesha.
January 24, 2014
From leadertelegram.com: “CVTC leader: State aid boost keeps job training in high gear” — Any way you look at it, Gov. Scott Walker’s announcement during his State of the State address Wednesday that Wisconsin technical colleges will receive an additional $35 million is good news, Chippewa Valley Technical College President Bruce Barker said.
Barker was enthusiastic after hearing Walker’s remarks about increasing funding for the technical college he oversees and others.
“It’s certainly good news,” Barker said of the additional money, part of a program dubbed Wisconsin Fast Forward. “It’s definitely more money for training and education, and that’s a good thing.”
However, Barker said while that money can be used to hire more teachers, he doesn’t believe it can be spent to add laboratory space, already in high demand at CVTC.
“It’s additional dollars, but we have to see what the requirements will be,” Barker said. “The problem is the capacity of our labs. Our welding lab goes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and these are year-round programs.”
The main components of Wisconsin Fast Forward aim to eliminate waiting lists in high-demand job markets such as manufacturing, agriculture and information technology, and help high school students get credits through dual enrollment programs between high schools and technical colleges.
CVTC has longer waiting lists for nurse hygienists and nursing programs than in manufacturing or agriculture programs, Barker said.
“We’re certainly seeing a big demand in manufacturing and transportation, for truck drivers. Both of those programs, we’re at maximum capacity,” Barker said.
State Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, who introduced Wisconsin Fast Forward in the Assembly, said the initiative is a step in the right direction.
“Linking job seekers with employers that target critical and in-demand jobs while working with tech colleges and workforce development centers across the state puts a sharp focus on employment issues at a local level, where need and demand can be best addressed,” she said in a news release.
In addition to those programs, Walker proposed replacing $406 million in property taxes for technical colleges with state dollars. That would be accomplished by lowering the property tax levy that technical colleges can assess on homeowners.
“It’s a step in the right direction for local taxpayers,” Barker said. “But with the switch to state dollars, you fear losing local control. You also fear a cut in the state budget.”
Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy said in a statement Thursday that Walker’s plan brings better balance to the system’s funding structure. Foy said the system has “long sought greater equity between local and state investments.”
January 24, 2014
From fdlreporter.com: “Federal legislation aimed at helping renewable energy industry” – GRAND RAPIDS — Building on a strong renewable energy base in central Wisconsin, a federal lawmaker has introduced a bill she says will help expand opportunities for students to learn more about the industry.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., visited Mid-State Technical College on Thursday to announce the legislation and meet with faculty and students to talk about the benefits of renewable energy jobs to state and national economies.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity to be at a campus which is really taking a leadership role on this issue already, because they’re very excited about the legislation but also have some really good wisdom in terms of having some of these programs under their belt,” Baldwin said.
The Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation, or GREEN, Act would allocate competitive grant money for programs that prepare students for jobs or to attend post-secondary schools. Her office said clean-energy jobs pay about 13 percent better than the average job in the U.S., and the field is growing at nearly twice the rate of the national economy.
The grants also would allow technical colleges and high schools to install renewable energy projects for training purposes, Baldwin said.
In addition, the legislation promotes the renewable energy sector in the classroom in an attempt to get students more interested in the industry at an earlier age, Baldwin said. Mid-State’s renewable energy specialist program prepares students to design an integrated portfolio of renewable and traditional energy-producing systems and is the only program of its kind in the Wisconsin Technical College System.
A number of Wisconsin technical college leaders, including MSTC President Sue Budjac and Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna K. Foy, have expressed support for the bill. MSTC already partners with local employers, including those involved in the Workforce Central Peer Council and the Business Education Partnership Committee.
“We knew that we were kind of out ahead of the curve. We knew that the economy was growing around us, and we’ve begun producing technicians in the last few years that are meeting the needs locally and also on a regional and national basis,” said Ron Zillmer, associate dean of the college’s Technical & Industrial Division. “We’re happy about that, but this is the first real significant federal legislation that addresses that green-collar sector.
“I like the approach that Sen. Baldwin has taken with an educational focus,” Zillmer said. “So often, we try to pour support and funding to business and industry, and that’s fine, but in a situation like this where this is an emerging technology, there needs to be a balance.”
A bill similar to Baldwin’s was introduced in the House of Representatives in June and remains in committee, according to govtrack.us, which tracks federal legislation. The bill, by California Democrat Jerry McNerney, also would spend $100 million to develop career and technical education programs and facilities in the renewable energy field.
Baldwin also visited Milwaukee Area Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay on Wednesday.
January 23, 2014
From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Baldwin: Clean energy bill would aid schools, employers” – Passage of a Senate bill aimed at bolstering education and training for students who want to work in clean-energy jobs would benefit schools and factories in Northeastern Wisconsin, the bill’s sponsor said Wednesday in Green Bay.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said her proposal would help create good-paying jobs in a growing industry, while supporting technical colleges that offer coursework that prepares students for “green energy” careers. The Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation Act, or GREEN, was introduced last week and calls for about $100 million in spending.
“The idea is to make some very prudent, very targeted investments in an area that’s growing … faster than the economy overall,” she said.
The senator met with educators and some students at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s Great Lakes Energy Education Center as part of a statewide tour to tout her bill, introduced last week. NWTC offers programs that prepare students for energy jobs, and is increasing the percentage of its energy supply that comes from green sources.
Scott Liddicott, who teaches energy-management classes at Green Bay Southwest High School, said it’s exciting to hear support for energy education at the federal level.
“It’s so easy to get students and teachers interested in this,” he said. “It’s a compelling and dynamic field. The energy business is really important stuff.”
Baldwin’s bill would allocate grant money for programs that prepare students for jobs, or to attend post-secondary schools. Her office said clean-energy jobs pay about 13 percent better than the average job in the U.S., and the field is growing nearly twice the rate of the national economy.
A hospital in western Wisconsin, she told educators, “completely redid its energy systems” to emphasize green power, and as a result was able to save patients money and avoid staff cuts.
A number of Wisconsin technical college leaders, including NWTC President H. Jeffrey Rafn and Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna K. Foy, have expressed support for the bill. NWTC partners with area school districts, including ones in De Pere and Sturgeon Bay, to deliver energy education, said Amy Kox, the college’s associate dean for energy and sustainability.
A bill similar to Baldwin’s was introduced in the House of Representatives in June and remains in committee, according to govtrack.us, which tracks federal legislation. The bill, by California Democrat Jerry McNerney, also would spend $100 million to develop career and technical education programs, and facilities in the renewable energy field.
Baldwin Wednesday also visited Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, and Milwaukee Area Technical College. She is slated to visit Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids today.
From wausaudailyherald.com: “Walker focuses on jobs during Stratford stop” – STRATFORD — Personal income growth in Wisconsin in 2013 shows more people across the state are working, but job statistics could improve with worker training and encouraging more young people to enter the manufacturing workforce, Gov. Scott Walker said during a visit to A&B Process Systems on Wednesday.
“I hear so many businesses say not only do we have positions open, but we’ve got business waiting … if only we could fill the positions we have,” Walker said.
He said the roughly 50,000 jobs currently posted on the Job Center of Wisconsin website indicate a skills gap in the state.
Walker said he put $100 million of the current state budget toward workforce training, including short-term training and investments in technical colleges, to prepare workers for manufacturing, information technology and health care careers.
“Each of those key industries has the ability to hire more people if we have enough people with the skills to fill the positions,” he said.
Walker said parents and guidance counselors who encourage young people to consider careers in manufacturing will play a role in filling open positions.
“Guidance counselors still have the mindset you have to have a four-year college degree to have a good career, and that’s just not true,” Walker said. He said manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin pay an average of about $52,000 a year, are more likely to offer benefits and have higher retention rates than many other jobs.
Companies such as A&B Process Systems often work with the same customers, but manufacturing different equipment for those customers keeps the job interesting, he said.
Walker said state investment of $6.4 billion in infrastructure and tax incentives for businesses such as A&B Process Systems to invest in capital also will encourage job growth.
A&B Process Systems, which designs, fabricates and installs equipment and accessories for processing liquids, celebrated 40 years in business in 2013. The company employs 425 people, and annual sales exceed $100 million.
Paul Kinate, CEO of A&B Process Systems, credited the company’s success to dedicated employees, the leadership of founder Ajay Hilgemann and a commitment to customer service.
“Our employees are dedicated, innovative, embrace technology and automation and strive to improve every day,” he said.
Kinate called Walker a friend to business who has made a difference in Wisconsin’s economic growth.
Walker will deliver his annual State of the State address Jan. 22. He said he will address jobs, as well as property tax cuts and changes to the state income withholding tax, which will put more money in employers’ and workers’ hands.
January 7, 2014
From biztimes.com: “State program to boost worker training: $15 million in grants available to businesses” – The need to improve worker training in Wisconsin is so significant that even Democrats and Republicans are in agreement. It’s a rare occurrence lately for the Wisconsin State Senate to pass a bill unanimously with bipartisan support. But the Wisconsin Fast Forward bill became that rare occurrence last March when all 33 Wisconsin senators and 94 of 98 state Assembly representatives voted to approve the workforce initiative.
Gov. Scott Walker and Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development Reggie Newson at a recent press event for Wisconsin Fast Forward at Northcentral Technical College.
The legislation was the first to pass in Gov. Walker’s $100 million workforce agenda over the 2013-15 biennial budget period, passing even before the budget did.
“(Wisconsin Fast Forward) is the cornerstone of the state’s workforce investment strategy,” said Reggie Newson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
“It’s the most proactive and most aggressive investment in worker training that I can remember,” said Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical College.
Wisconsin Fast Forward is a $15 million worker training grant program and it’s kicking into gear in 2014.
“The ultimate goal is to develop talent to fill existing jobs and create new ones,” Newson said.
Applications for the first round of worker training grants were due in mid-December, and DWD – and its new Office of Skills Development that was also created as a part of the Fast Forward initiative – is currently in the process of evaluating those grants, which are set to be announced in January.
The first round of grants amounts to $2.7 million, and focuses on worker training in three areas – manufacturing, construction and customer service.
Scott Jansen, director of the Office of Skills Development, said $400,000 of the grant money will go to customer service, $300,000 to small manufacturers (with less than 50 full-time employees), $1 million to manufacturers of any size and the remainder will go toward construction. The grants are set to be announced in late January, and the earliest training grant implementations could be up and running as soon as March 2014, Jansen said.
A key aspect of Wisconsin Fast Forward, Jansen said, is the program’s requirement to hire the employees being trained.
“We don’t just want to throw public money at additional training,” Jansen said. “We want (businesses) to be able to make the hire at the end of the program.”
Jansen said businesses applying for these grants must prove a commitment to hire.
Newson said that with this program using “demand-driven” requirements, it is focusing on “underemployed, unemployed and incumbent workers.”
The $12 million that remains after the first round will be allocated each quarter, as the DWD will announce a new round every three to four months until June 2015, Newson said.
The Office of Skills Development is currently analyzing which occupations and sectors to focus on for the program’s second round, which will be announced in late January, Jansen said.
Wisconsin Fast Forward is built to be an inclusive, collaborative process, Jansen said, with input and expertise from strategic partners, including the Wisconsin Fast Forward Grant Evaluation Committee, which includes panel members from the DWD, the Wisconsin Technical College System, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, as well as the employers applying for the grants.
“This whole process allows us to be nimble and flexible to be able to meet employers’ needs and incentivize and develop talent in high demand areas of the state,” Newson said. “It also does something impactful that goes along with what the governor wants to do, which is aligning education, workforce development and economic development to create an economic development outcome.”
Newson said the Wisconsin Fast Forward grant programs will be “employer-driven,” “demand-driven” and “customized based on their specific needs.”
In the grant applications themselves, Jansen said, “employers need to identify what the curriculum is, and they’re the ones writing the curriculum.”
“Wisconsin Fast Forward is based on models from other states – Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, Minnesota – creating a demand-driven program that employers can access…to do customized worker training to be able to meet the skills gap,” Newson said.
Pat O’Brien, president of the Milwaukee Development Corporation and the Milwaukee 7, said there’s been a lot of discussion on the issue of the skills gap, noting that many companies complain that they can’t find employees while at the same time the unemployment rate is 7 to 8 percent, and higher for people of color. It is a challenge to the region, he said, with companies getting pickier to compete in a world economy and lower-skills jobs going to Mexico and overseas.
Albrecht said the issue of a “skills gap” is more of a moving target because of rapid changes in new technology.
“There is a skills gap, but there is probably a larger skills mismatch, where (current) skills may not align with new skills that are necessary,” he said, giving automated manufacturing and other computer-related skills as examples. “That second-tier skills training is where we see the gap. The effort now is to close a higher-level skills gap.”
“We need to make sure people are wired into the jobs of the future,” O’Brien said.
The Office of Skills Development was created as a part of this initiative to oversee the grants and programs and to be a collaborative, convening force to align the efforts of the state’s education, workforce development and economic development, Newson said.
“It’s been a very good resource because it provides a communication network,” Albrecht said. “The Office of Skills Development pulled several offices together so it can have a greater impact on the dollars that are invested.”
O’Brien said Jansen, who’s most recent job before becoming the director of the Office of Skills Development was with the Greater Milwaukee Committee, is the right person to be leading this initiative, citing previous workforce development initiatives with the GMC.
“I have a lot of faith in Scott Jansen,” O’Brien said. “He’s been a cornerstone of this project. I really respect Reggie (Newson) for putting this together.”
Jansen said the office currently has four employees, and completes tasks like writing administration rules, designing the grant process, building the website (Wisconsinfastforward.com), marketing the initiative, managing the grant application process and auditing the training program.
It was through the new office’s efforts that DWD was able to identify construction, manufacturing and customer service as the fields for the first round of grants.
“We saw from our strategic partners, from technical colleges and from our employer inquiry that those three are in high demand right now,” Jansen said.
“This is all strategic,” Newson said. “At the Job Center of Wisconsin website, there is somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 available jobs listed at any given time. At any one point in time, there’s between 100,000 and 150,000 jobs going unfilled in the state of Wisconsin. These programs will help us fill those jobs.”
Jansen said that 1,200 to 1,400 customer service jobs are available on the Job Center’s website on a weekly basis.
“Customer service is the number one requested job position in the state,” Newson said.
Any specific connections from this program to the Milwaukee area remain to be seen, but Jansen said there have been many applicants within the Milwaukee area for Fast Forward grants, and that there will be a regional focus.
“You’ll see in grant program announcements that employers will validate request with places like the M7,” said Jansen. “(They) need to validate that those are legitimate skill needs.”
Jansen said one area in Milwaukee where a need for skills development has been identified is in automated manufacturing.
“Population-wise, we’re 36 percent of the state in the M7 region, and we’re 38 to 40 percent of the state’s gross product,” O’Brien said. “On any measure, we’re 35-40 percent of the state’s economy. Any program the state does that’s statewide has a big impact on us. On average, (the Milwaukee 7 region) should get 35 to 40 percent of those dollars.”
Albrecht said his greatest hope for the program is for it to put people back to work.
“In southeastern Wisconsin, with new job areas coming to be available – like the 2,100 new jobs in Kenosha County – we’re going to have to find a way to invest in training to meet that demand,” he said.
January 6, 2014
From woodworkingnetwork.com: “CNC Wood Manufacturing Training at Fox Valley Technical College” – With each lesson in the Wood Manufacturing Technology Program at Fox Valley Technical College, students routinely pull out calipers to check their work.
The goal: “To develop their sense of precision,” says instructor Mark Lorge. By the end of the full-time, year-long program, “The students are not finished products,” Lorge says, but they are “conversant in the language of the industry.” They finish the program with a .003″ sense of precision. While they are not expert cabinetmakers, Lorge adds, “If given a task, they should be able to do it.”
This sense of precision, paired with the students’ broad understanding of secondary wood processing, creates a well-rounded knowledge base, which Lorge believes is essential for a career in the industry. An alumnus of the program himself, Lorge graduated in 1983 and went on to work with production and millwork companies such as Morgan Products Ltd., Elipticon Wood Products, and Valley Planing Mill. In 2013, Lorge celebrated his 20th year of instruction at Fox Valley Technical College.
Associate instructor Glenn Koerner leads the program with Lorge. Also a grad of the course, Koerner returned to Fox Valley Technical College after more than 14,000 hours of working wood industry experience. He has been teaching with Lorge for seven years.
Lorge and Koerner work with approximately 20 students each year, guiding them through five nine-week units of instruction.
“Some students come in with no prior understanding,” Lorge says. During the first nine weeks, they are introduced to the groundwork of every project—planning. They learn to read blueprints before preparing a parts list and production estimate. They also get acquainted with basic machining and wood identification.
The second block further develops students’ understanding of material, terminology, hand tools, portable and stationary power tools, and processes in the woodworking industry through a variety of curriculum methods. Through these methods, they develop the habits required to safely and efficiently perform machining tasks. They are introduced to an advanced level of setup and operation on machines, and they demonstrate their psychomotor and cognitive competency of the process through a series of operation exercises.
During the third nine-week block, students become familiar with the process of cabinetry. Though the instruction does not include formal certification (such as Woodwork Career Alliance, the Carpenters Union apprenticeships, or Cabinet Makers Association certification), it does help students develop the knowledge needed to design and build face-frame cabinetry. They design doors and drawers, they build jigs and fixtures, and they process materials to create laminate countertops. Cabinets completed in the course have been donated to Habitat for Humanity for use in homes built by the organization and its partner families.
After approximately 36 weeks, students learn the principles of veneering, advanced machine joinery, and CNC routing.
Through a partnership with Komo Machinery, the Wood Manufacturing Technology Program at Fox Valley Technical College has been provided with a VR510 Mach 1 S router, software for 21 seats and upgrades of RouterCIM and two seats of AutoNEST applications to operate the machinery. Fox Valley Technical College maintains and insures the CNC equipment while using it to instruct students about current machining technology.
“Most students embrace the CNC technology with enthusiasm,” Lorge says. The program language can be intimidating to students with little experience in computerized equipment, he adds, but they generally do well once they become familiar with the software. By writing G-code, programming the router, setting tools, developing multiple tool programs, and creating a gasketed fixture, students gain an understanding of the machine and its capabilities.
According to Lorge, Komo leads the industry in CNC technology and the partnership is not only beneficial for Fox Valley Technical College and its students, but also for Komo and for local manufacturing companies as well. After graduating from the program, students go on to work in these facilities, where they recommend Komo routers.
The most recent hiring rate for students is “100%,” Lorge says, with the program consistently seeing more than 90% of its graduates landing careers throughout the years. Some graduates even go on to start their own businesses, whereupon they hire more graduates from the Wood Manufacturing Technology Program.
“Fox Valley Technical College is successful because of the feedback it gets from the industry,” says Len Riebau, owner of wood finishing firm WDL of Wisconsin, and a member of the advisory board for Fox Valley Tech. “A company needs employees who possess technical ability and a good work ethic, and good training is one of the keys to success.”
Lorge, who has seen the program develop since he began his first planning lesson in 1983, continuously looks ahead for ways in which it can continue to grow. He and Koerner have been revising the curriculum for web-based delivery and they are currently working to require tablet access for each student by August of 2014.
January 2, 2014
From thecountrytoday.com: “Broadening opportunities: New CVTC instructors bring industry insider knowledge” – EAU CLAIRE — With a few fresh faces on its agricultural staff, Chippewa Valley Technical College is looking forward to a bright future in 2014. In the past year, the college hired three new agriculture instructors. CVTC horticulture instructor Susan Frame said the new additions bring industry knowledge that will help students excel in their fields.
“One of the advantages Chippewa Valley Technical College students have is that the instructors have been in the industry,” Frame said.
Among the new arrivals are animal science instructor Adam Zwiefelhofer, agronomy instructor Jon Wantoch and farm business instructor Maria Bendixen. All three are UW-River Falls alumnus.
Zwiefelhofer, who majored in agricultural education, hails from the Eleva-Strum area.
The former Genex breeding specialist said teaching was a natural transition, noting, “I always knew I wanted to teach.”
Wantoch, a Mondovi native, majored in agricultural studies with minors in dairy science and biology and was previously employed by Lakeland Cooperative.
The switch to teaching was an easy one, he said, adding, “Helping others fits who I am.”
Bendixen taught high school agriculture in Colby and spent a year serving as UW-Extension agriculture agent for Taylor and Marathon counties before signing on as Clark County’s agent, a position she held for seven years.
Though she worked directly with producers as an ag agent, Bendixen said she was interested in being able to work with them on a more continual basis.
“I’m excited to be able to work with farmers for an extended period of time and to be able to follow up,” she said.
Bendixen joins veteran farm business instructor Mark Denk in aiding farmers in continuing education throughout western Wisconsin.
Zwiefelhofer said many people don’t realize the extent of continuing education CVTC offers.
The ag programs have 80 students on campus. Another 160, mainly farmers, are enrolled in the Farm Business and Production Management program, which offers resources to improve management skills. The program features part-time instruction with topics rotating over six years, versus the typical time-intensive 32-week school year.
Students range from high schoolers (enrolled in the youth option) to farmers in their 70s, Denk said, noting the broad variety of ages and backgrounds creates a unique peer setting not found at larger educational institutions.
“There’s a lot of knowledge transfer that comes into play there,” Bendixen said. “It leads to some lively discussions — which is fortunate, because in agriculture, there’s no one right way to do things.”
Zwiefelhofer said the school has adjusted its curriculum for the ever-diversifying niches of Wisconsin agriculture.
“I think we’ve flexed with the times,” he said. “If there aren’t jobs for our students, we’re not going to be around in the future.”
Though their three main program areas are agriscience technician; landscape, plant and turf management; and farm business and production management, Denk said the instructors have helped students branch out into other topics.
“We’ve had students interested in hops, for example,” he said. “In that case we end up working with them on a more individualized basis or connect them with an industry partner, but the backbone of what they need to learn remains the same.”
That backbone is rooted in ag-focused marketing, sales, equipment and facility courses. From there, students can branch out into the varying tracks.
Industry partners, such as Case IH and John Deere, have been instrumental in CVTC’s ag programs, Denk said.
“I personally feel like we touch on community more than the larger universities,” Zwiefelhofer said. “The labs we do are mostly on farms or businesses in our local community.”
The college has an active biofuels program in which students grow the crops used to generate biofuels. Students can also become certified in skills such as commercial pesticide application, skid-steer operation and performing animal ultrasounds.
Two greenhouses on campus allow students to grow produce, which this year was sold in an on-campus farmers market.
“We also do hydroponics and work closely with cooperating farms and the local farming population,” Frame said.
Students also benefit from a strong internship program, Zwiefelhofer said.
“The internships they take between their first and second year are really what separate us from the larger schools,” he said. “A lot of times it leads into employment.”
Those interested in learning more about the ag programs are welcome to shadow classes.
CVTC also has a transfer agreement that allows students to carry credits into the UW system.
Denk is eager to see how the ag programs develop with the influence of the new instructors.
“We’ve got a great staff here,” he said. “We’re committed to working together for the students’ success.”
December 23, 2013
From host.madison.com: “Northeast Wisconsin Technical College plays key role for Marinette Marine” – MARINETTE – Northeast Wisconsin Technical College is playing a key role in preparing workers for the Marinette Marine shipyard.
The school operates the North Coast Marine Manufacturing Training Center, where workers are taught a variety of skills including welding and electrical work, as well as leadership, communications and conflict resolution skills. In the last two years, more than 1,800 students have gone through the training center.
The facility is within walking distance of the shipyard and includes computer labs, classrooms and shops, one filled with welding booths, another with electrical components like those used on the littoral combat ship (LCS). There are also programs for pipe fitters and metal fabricators.
“We were written right into the LCS contract because they needed to show that they had the ability to train thousands of people,” said Brian Lancour, coordinator of the training center. “We’ve become experts on the shipyard.”
Aaron Short, 26, a native of Escanaba, Mich., had been working as a welder at Miller Tractor Supply in Green Bay and in June applied to work at the shipyard. He started in October and began welding training at NWTC. He makes $16.50 an hour compared to the $11.50 he was making at Miller. But he’s also in a more physically demanding job, performing welding tasks while on his knees, crouched down or in some cases using mirrors to weld in tight spots.
“It’s nothing like I’ve ever done before,” said Short, who will soon be married. “It’s definitely testing my skills and getting me better at a lot of things.”
Wade Smoot, 41, of Madison, is a Lancaster High School graduate who most recently was an iron worker for a Stoughton company that did work on Camp Randall and at Epic Systems in Verona. He was attracted to the shipyard by the pay, benefits and community.
“I just wanted something different and this is really neat to build ships,” said Smoot, who was learning how to weld aluminum.
December 13, 2013
From wsau.com: “Wausau officials, schools promote computer sciences” – We’re nearing the end of Computer Science Education Week, which has included a number of events to promote technology and the opportunities for careers in computer sciences.
Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple issued a proclamation at City Council earlier this week, recognizing Computer Science Education Week. He says locally, they’ve worked together with Northcentral Technical College, UW Stevens Point, the Wausau and DC Everest School Districts, and Wausau based Collaborative Consulting, which specializes in computer and software fields. “What we’re doing is coming together, working out some solutions on how we can engage younger people to attract them into the profession, get the schools engaged to offer the classes that are needed, so it’s just kind of a coming-together thing, and everybody realizes the importance. I know we’re doing a good job now, but we can always do better.”
Computer technology is tied into more and more types of business and industry, and Tipple says anything he can do to help attract young people to consider careers in technology will be good for the local economy. “We’re creating some awareness. It’s important to us, and it’s certainly important to the region.”
For the people that do get more education after high school in the computer sciences, their outlook for career placement is very good. “The Tech has a December graduating class, and all of the kids in the class have already received job offers and all have accepted them. Some of them are going to Skyward.” Skyward is the Stevens Point based educational software developer that creates programs for school districts.
The pay isn’t bad either. Northcentral Technical College figures show recent graduates in their program are starting out at close to $55,000 a year.
December 11, 2013
From wsau.com: “Salvation Army, NTC recognize successful students” – A celebration was held Tuesday for a group of students that have been working hard to improve their futures. The Salvation Army works with Northcentral Technical College to help people they serve have a more positive future.
Stan Steckbauer heads the program, and says they help teach skills needed in today’s world. “Things like getting a G-E-D, improving their computer literacy activities, being able to apply for jobs online, and teaching them how to fill out resumes, and also doing things like college preparation.”
The educational program also helps people get regular and commercial drivers licenses, so people can get to and from their future jobs.
Steckbauer says their program helps the recipients decide what their future should be, and helps them achieve it. “We try to assess their situation and then determine what they might be best suited for, and how to eliminate any barriers so that they can accomplish their academic or vocational goal.”
The program recognized 40 students for reaching their educational goals in a ceremony at the Salvation Army in Wausau Tuesday evening.