From “CVTC plugs Energy Education Center into budget” — By Andrew Dowd Leader-Telegram staff — After several years of fundraising and planning, Chippewa Valley Technical College plans to start building a $10.3 million Energy Education Center in August.

With funding included in the 2014-15 budget the CVTC Board approved at its Thursday meeting, the college plans an addition and renovation of a current building to create the new center at its West Campus in Eau Claire.

“This is the year — after four years of planning and raising money — we’ll get to build the Energy Education Center,” CVTC President Bruce Barker said.

The new center still needs approval from the Wisconsin Technical College System Board in July and a second CVTC Board vote following that. A groundbreaking ceremony has tentatively been scheduled for Aug. 19, and CVTC intends for the center to open in fall 2015.

“The project’s become much more tangible,” Tom Huffcutt, CVTC’s vice president of operations, said.

The Energy Education Center will be created through renovation of three areas in the current Transportation Education Center, plus a 21,300-square-foot addition and a top-of-the-line, energy-efficient overhaul of the building’s air conditioning, heating and ventilation system.

Most of those costs will come from borrowing, but about $3 million will be paid by the CVTC Foundation.

About $2 million in private donations have already been made specifically to the center, Barker said, and about $520,000 in foundation reserves would be used too.

Any remaining portion of the foundation’s share could be paid through borrowing, said Kirk Moist, director of finance and borrowing.

The energy center will serve several programs, including electrical power distribution, electric line worker apprentices, landscape, plant and turf management, agriscience and farm business production management. The center will help the students study emerging sustainable energy sources, clean energy generation and distribution, and efficient energy utilization.

“The continued economic recovery in west-central Wisconsin is tied to energy security and independence,” stated a CVTC letter to the state technical college board.

CVTC’s capital projects — money spent on buildings and equipment — is increasing by about 29 percent in the budget, which was approved in a 7-0 vote of CVTC Board members at Thursday’s meeting.

The college had budgeted about $11.9 million for that in the past year, but is expecting to spend $15.3 million in 2014-15.

Though overall spending at the college is rising, local property taxes for CVTC are dropping dramatically.

The CVTC portion of a property tax bill on a $150,000 home will drop from $260 this year to $137 in 2015, according to the budget.

CVTC’s property taxes dive by $16.5 million in the proposed budget, but state aid is rising by about $18.2 million.

The property tax relief comes from Republican legislators who directed $406 million in state funds to technical colleges from a projected $1 billion state budget surplus.

CVTC accounts for a relatively small portion of local property tax bills when compared to municipal, county and school taxes. In Eau Claire, CVTC accounted for 7 percent of this year’s property tax bill.


From “Photo tour: Fox Valley Technical College Health Simulation and Technology Center” — The new $12 million Health Simulation and Technology Center at Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) in Appleton, Wis., provides career training to new and existing healthcare professionals in nursing, medical assistance, health information technology, occupational therapy, and personal care. The center’s design integrates sophisticated technology, such as human simulators, to help students better prepare for real-world situations.

The dual-functioning facility was created through a collaborative process between the healthcare and education design teams at Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA). When considering the spectrum of simulation buildings, from fidelity (realism) to flexibility (allowing multiple functions), the college wanted maximum flexibility to help meet evolving healthcare training needs. This was a key driver to the final design, and the EUA team developed a solution that blended the two elements: Glass doors and supply servers provide realism, while adaptable rooms and movable partitions allow for a variety of teaching scenarios.

The new-build, three-story, 60,500-square-foot building features substantive glass and serves as a prominent entrance to the campus. Each floor of the building supports different teaching functions, as follows:

  • First floor, simulation center: Designed as a virtual hospital toreplicate real-world clinical experiences.
    • Eight ED/hospital rooms, with realistic equipment and raised control/observation rooms with patient simulators
    • Debriefing rooms that feature instant video replay of medical scenarios performed in the hospital rooms, allowing instructors to give students real-time feedback
    • A mock ambulance bay for EMT training
  • Second floor, clinic and laboratory: Student gathering spaces, plus other simulation areas.
    • A replicated six-room outpatient clinic
    • Mock doctor’s office with reception area
    • Functioning phlebotomy lab
    • Two computer labs
  • Third floor, rehabilitative therapy and home healthcare: Designed to help students learn adaptive home care strategies.
    • Simulated home settings such as kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedroom
    • Size-adjustable classrooms with physical and occupational therapy equipment.

The primary challenge with this project was that health simulation is an evolving curriculum. The FVTC administrative team, teaching staff, and EUA design team drew on successful simulation center best practices, and applied knowledge of healthcare and learning trends to provide flexibility for the future needs of the program.

From “College graduation week features NTC, UWSP Saturday” — Several colleges are having their graduation ceremonies Saturday.

One of them is Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, where Sean Sullivan says the students have been doing more than classroom work to get ready for the job market.  “A lot of our graduates have really been active in taking advantage of the services that we offer to prepare to go out into the workforce, so it’s not only about the classes, but it’s about the extra things that we can offer them like leadership development, job skills training, those soft skills that employers are looking for.”

The NTC graduation is held at Wausau West High School starting at 10:00 a.m. Sullivan says just over half of the graduates will take part in the ceremony.  “NTC is going to be graduating almost 800 students this semester, and of those, I’d say about 475 will be at the graduation ceremony.”

Some of the NTC grads are the first virtual college Associate Degree graduates for the school, having taken most of their classes online.

The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point also has commencement Saturday, with both a morning session and an afternoon session to send 1,427 graduates on to their next step.

Mid-State Technical College had their graduation Thursday evening, but they have something else to celebrate. Their new Stevens Point facility is ready, and they’ve begun moving in. The college acquired the former Penney’s wing of the Centerpoint Marketplace mall, and they expect to be done moving in early next week.

UW Marathon County had their graduation Wednesday.


From “Mid-State Technical College Stevens Point Relocation” — Mid-State Technical College. Stevens Point campus, has relocated to developing downtown area. The school took over what once used to be the JCPenney wing of the mall that no longer exists.

In the past few years the downtown area of Stevens Point has struggled to renovate, but the relocation of Mid-State Tech brand new facility, it is already adding a draw to the area.

Dean Steve Smith told us all about the relocation and how the new site for Mid State Technical College caters to students and the community. With the new building comes a common area for students to hang out and study, a room that will be filled with computers for students to access and a community engagement room that can be utilized by not only students, but local organizations.

We received a tour of the campus that is set to open on Monday, May 19th.

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From “A glimpse at their future?” — By Brandon Felvor – Blackhawk Technical College’s (BTC) Advanced Manufacturing Training Center is planned to open in August, but more than 200 high school students got a sneak peak of the facilities on April 23.

Students from Edgerton High School and Milton High School spent last Wednesday touring Blackhawk’s Central Campus in Janesville and the new 105,000-square-foot Milton location.

At the Janesville campus, students had the chance to learn about the eight different programs that will be offered at the new campus first-hand. According to Marketing and Communications Manager Gary Kohn, the Milton site will open in two phases. The industrial maintenance, welding and computer numeric control (CNC) programs will be ready for the fall semester of the 2014-2015 school year and the second phase of the campus will completed in the summer of 2015.

MHS Principal Jeremy Bilhorn said he had been talking with representatives from BTC for the last few months about opportunities for the students. He said it’s important for the kids to see what is happening just a few blocks from their school.

“One of the things we want to see our students do is start a program after high school and finish it,” Bilhorn said. “Our vision is to make sure kids are college and career ready. Part of our mission to this community is to take their kids and make sure they are ready for the next phase of life.”

To that end, the MHS staff has been working with BTC to design some dual-enrollment classes. Amy Kenyon, MHS’ school-to-work/youth apprenticeship coordinator, said they already work with BTC through its nursing program and hopes a similar arrangement can be made for tech ed classes.

Ideally, students in those courses would earn both MHS and BTC credits. Bilhorn said he hopes students and teachers alike will benefit from their proximity to the campus. He said there is a shortage of tech-ed teachers and students heard something similar from BTC instructors. They said in certain fields, there are more jobs available than there are people who are qualified to fill them.

“It’s hard to find tech-ed teachers. People are not going into that field to teach,” Bilhorn said. “(BTC can) keep our staff abreast with the latest technology, and help us in retaining staff.”

New MHS tech-ed teacher Will Stamper had the chance to tour BTC with the students. He has been at the school for about a month, and he said he was also excited about the prospect of having dual-enrollment classes.

“(Going to BTC would be) an excellent experience for me as a teacher because I can go out and get training and bring that back to the school,” Stamper said. “(Hopefully,) having a tech school in our backyard will save parents money and will promote our programs.”

While the graduating senior class will not have the chance to benefit from those programs, students can still enroll at BTC when it opens for the fall semester. 2013 MHS grad Jacob Rennhack is about nine months into his one-year technical diploma for welding and is satisfied with his experience so far.

He was at the Central Campus on the day of the tour and said after two months BTC helped him find work. He currently works at Kuhn North America Inc., an agricultural machinery manufacturer in Brodhead, while finishing his final semester. Rennhack spent all of his time at the Janesville facility, but said future Milton students are lucky to have a campus in their own backyard.

“It’s a really good, hands-on course,” Rennhack said in regards to the welding program. “It’s about the best one in southern Wisconsin and a lot of the businesses in the area recognize that it’s a good program as well.”

From “New advanced manufacturing training center in Milton” — Milton — “This is going to be a state of the art facility,” said Gary Kohn with Blackhawk Technical College.

Right now, it’s hard to see with all of the construction. But you can call it a sneak peek for nearly 230 high school students in Rock County.

Kohn is Wednesday’s tour guide. He’s showing off the college’s new Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in Milton.

“We want them to understand the programs a little bit better, so they see what kind of possibilities there are for their education,” said Kohn.

Cory Thomson, is a senior in high school, and among the 230 students, checking out the new construction.

“I can just imagine all the machines around there and all of the cool equipment that’s going to be there for kids to use and learn on,” said Thomson.

In six weeks, Thomson is graduating, and will pursue a career in manufacturing.

“You could make upwards of $75,000 to $100,000 a year,” said Kohn.

A booming business, and one in-demand. That’s the message Kohn is trying to hammer home to the future job seekers.

“All of the manufacturing programs would tell you they are fast growing, and there are many many jobs in need,” said Kohn.

Phase I of the building will be done, and open, by August. Making next school year the first that anyone can sign up.

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From “FVTC President Dr. Susan May: It’s time to put ‘body farm’ to rest” — You may have seen the flurry of media recently regarding a forensic training field at our Public Safety Training Center. The concept of an outdoor forensic training field may make for a tempting headline, but it is far from being anything final.

I’m sure you may be wondering about this development, so I’ll attempt to provide some clarification about this proposed aspect of the overall facility.

First, the concept of an all-season forensic training field has been included from the very beginning through all planning and referendum communication phases of this center. The very first rough drawings of this facility included this potential outdoor lab, as did early conversations with community leaders in 2009. As the project progressed, we often addressed questions about it, but this part of the center wasn’t highlighted because it’s by no means the primary focus of this new facility. From the beginning, it was considered a longer-range project for possible development in the future.

Right now, the forensic training field is only a concept, an idea, a possibility for further consideration. We are nowhere near actual implementation. Before any action is taken, we would need to address regulatory requirements, reporting standards and operational processes, let alone the research and development our staff would need to undertake. We have many more critical priorities than this, both in getting the PSTC up and running and across the college overall. Ultimately, we may determine that it simply isn’t worth pursuing if the regulations are prohibitive and/or costly.

Looking back, it’s important to remember that public hearings were held to provide information and answer any questions on all of our referendum projects, which were widely supported by the public in 2012. FVTC delivered more than 125 community presentations, our web site included detailed information on the projects, and communications were sent to municipalities, planning commissions, the state Department of Natural Resources, and many other agencies. We sent letters to the adjacent property owners to inform them about the PSTC and invited them to contact us with any questions or concerns.

We were also required to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment for the PSTC development. In that report, the forensic training field was specifically referenced in terms of secured access, visual appearance and odors. This was made available for public review and feedback, and a public hearing was held specifically on this report. The final document has been posted on our website since it was published in September 2012.

Our local media sources have really gotten ahead of themselves on this one; perhaps some of our own exuberant and well-meaning staff has as well. I find it very interesting that all of this media attention has generated a number of inquiries from people about donating their bodies for this type of research, as well as contacts from several universities worldwide interested in working with us at this facility. They, too, are perhaps getting ahead of themselves.

Is there merit to the idea of creating the nation’s first all-season forensic training field to support forensics education, training and research? Absolutely. But, as I’ve tried to convey, there’s a lot more homework to be done. And if this moves forward at some point, it will need to be done with respect for process, laws and regulations, neighbors and communications that are appropriate and timely.

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