From “Northcentral Technical College highlights student work” — When you were a kid, your parents probably put your best school work up on the fridge for everyone to see.

Adult students don’t get many chances to show off their best work – especially when that work is welding, mechanical design, or air conditioning service.

But Tuesday night, Northcentral Technical college hosted a student showcase so their technical and trades students could show the community what they do.

Associate dean Greg Cisewski said the showcase brings in prospective students and employers. “Right now, our industry in our greater Wausau area and the whole state is really pacing the nation in manufacturing,” he said. “All our industry partners are telling us they need more [employees], so we’re trying to work and educate new employees to go out and help meet the demands that they have.”

Two welding students were hired on the spot at last year’s showcase.

Ken Gillespie is a machine tools techniques student graduating in May.

He said this event and the school’s reputation will help in the job search.

“It’s a good way to get employers in to see what kind of work you’re capable of and see how you work and how you interact with other people,” Gillespie said. “There are jobs all over the country and all over the world as well. So I’m not worried about getting a job at all.”

NTC reports that last year, 92 percent of machine tools students had a job within six months of graduating.


From “Editorial: Tech schools fill big need” — It’s a crown jewel in Wisconsin’s educational system, but doesn’t always get the attention, or the appreciation, it deserves.

The state’s 16 vocational-technical colleges collectively serve tens of thousands of residents, from teenagers to the elderly. Students come to learn scores of skills that help them obtain good jobs, from carpentry to high-tech positions.

One of the smaller — but more sophisticated of those 16 schools that serve Wisconsin is Blackhawk Technical College. Its main campus is on Prairie Road between Beloit and Janesville. Branch campuses are in Monroe and in the Eclipse Center in Beloit. There’s a smaller training center at Janesville, and an aviation unit at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.

WE DRAW READERS’ attention to Blackhawk Tech because the college is observing its centennial next week. There’s a campus open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a celebratory dinner and scholarship fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 13. And there’s much to celebrate.

BTC currently has some 5,700 students. Enrollment tends to fluctuate from perhaps half that number to over 6,000. Since the General Motors plant in Janesville shut down in 2008, former GM employees have joined younger and older students to retrain for new careers.

Blackhawk Tech’s president, Thomas Eckert, proudly asserts that the school has dedicated itself to meeting current shortages of skilled workers, be it in construction, manufacturing, the medical profession or other fields. Meanwhile, there are assorted courses for those who simply want to find fulfillment in art, literature and so forth.

STUDENTS’ AGES VARY from the mid-teens to 90 and sometimes beyond. If there’s enough demand for classes in basket-weaving or parachute jumping, the technical colleges probably can provide the teaching required.

Blackhawk Tech’s student body currently consists of about 3,000 at the central campus, whose facilities constantly are being improved; to the Beloit campus’s enrollment of about 1,400 and a similar number at Monroe.

Eckert is proud to point to BTC’s record of having most who graduate with technical, associate or other forms of certification, find the right employment soon after they complete their one- or two-year stints at the college. Eighty-seven percent of grads find jobs within six months.

ALL OF WHICH suggests that the technical college system helps Wisconsin keep its manufacturing, construction, medical and service industries supplied with the workers needed. It’s been doing that since the state directed public school systems back in the Fall of 1912 to create “vocational schools” for young people wanting to find paying jobs instead of finishing high school, or older folks who were either under-employed or had no job-training.

Older Beloiters will remember the Vocational-Adult school on Fourth Street, which served until the 1960s. Other cities, including Janesville, had similar schools. The popularity — and productivity — of the local schools prompted the state to create 16 districts, each to be served by a central campus and branches as needed. The Blackhawk Tech district, serving primarily Rock and Green counties, is the fifth smallest of the state’s 16 tech colleges.

It turns out that the colleges have been a good investment. Blackhawk Tech’s current budget is about $50 million. That may seem like a lot, but consider that in a year’s time, as many as 4,000 get the training they need to enter the workforce. That’s a good investment. Tuition, often supplemented by financial aid, accounts for about half of the budget. Local property taxes and state aid make up the difference.

AGAIN, THOSE FIGURES may seem hefty, but Eckert says that the community, in one way or another, realizes benefits of $140 for every $100 spent.

Wisconsin’s public school system is, of course, vital as well as costly. And the University of Wisconsin system, with its two- and four-year campuses (including UW-Rock County) ranks with some of the best among the state. So do our private colleges, including Beloit College. We’re fortunate, indeed, that the Badger State’s technical college system bridges what would otherwise be a wide gap between the public schools and the colleges that not everyone wants, or can afford, to attend.

ANNIVERSARY CONGRATULATIONS go out to the technical college that serves our area so well, and to the foresighted leaders of earlier years, who saw the need, and filled it.

From “Campaign introduces high school students to manufacturing” — Wisconsin has joined a national campaign called Dream It. Do It. that aims to get high school students interested in manufacturing.

Waukesha County Business Alliance is providing the initial project executive oversight for the program, which was made possible by a grant awarded to Waukesha County Technical College by the Wisconsin Technical College System.

Dream It. Do It. includes partnership development with local manufacturers, who are encouraged to share more information about their companies through an interactive website, The website provides information to job seekers who want to learn more about manufacturing career paths.

“As important as manufacturing is to our economy, we need a collaborative effort–including manufacturers, educational institutions and civic groups–to help students and their parents see the great career opportunities available and ensure we have the talent to support a thriving sector,” said Suzanne Kelley, president of WCBA.

Manufacturing ambassador companies like Weldall Manufacturing, Waukesha Metal Products and Dueco Inc. will offer plant tours, job shadowing, internships and externships to interested students, Kelley said.

“It’s happening obviously because of the critical shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing and the projections that this shortage is only going to get worse unless we do something,” she said.“The ultimate goal is to connect manufacturers to employees in the workplace.”

Wisconsin is the 20th state to join Dream It. Do It. The Wisconsin website launches today.

From “Technical college, UW-Fox make case for two-year degrees” — Because of the current bleak job market for four-year graduates, school officials at Fox Valley Technical College and University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley are hoping more Wisconsinites see the power of two-year or technical college degrees.

Employees at both schools think that by increasing their visibility at the high school level and changing attitudes about post-secondary education will increase the number of students who explore their programming — something that could gain them well-paying jobs more quickly, said Patti Jorgensen, vice president of students and community development at FVTC.

Fox Valley Technical College will open its doors to Fox Cities residents Tuesday for its annual open house — an event the school relies on to draw in potential students, said FVTC spokesman Chris Jossart.

The school could see as many as 2,000 people during the open house, Jossart said.

A recent Georgetown University study discovered that 29 million U.S. jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree — most required a two-year associate’s degree or post-secondary certificate.

Forty percent of those jobs paid more than $50,000 a year, according to the report by the university’s Center on Education and the Workforce and Civic Enterprises departments.

Parents and teachers often point students in the direction of four-year college and forget other options simply because that was their only post-secondary experience, Jorgenson said.

“I think kids hear about college, and associate it with the four-year schools,” said Joe Lamers, counselor at Appleton East High School. “As they get older, we try to give them all options … I know that I tell kids all the time that it’s their decision. No one should be telling them what to do — technical or two-year colleges can be a great option. They’re cheaper, quicker, have high placement rates — we always mention the positives.”

FVTC hosts large meetings with teachers from local districts to show off the school’s educational pathways, and often sends representatives to public schools so students can hear about what job options become available after studying at the technical college.

Gina Fisher of Waupaca is a parent who’s tried both four-year and technical colleges.

After attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for two years and working to support herself, Fisher said she felt incredibly “burnt-out.” She decided to get an associate’s degree in accounting instead and graduated from FVTC.

That’s how she knew that, after discussing career interests with her sons, FVTC would be the best option. Both of her sons are homeschooled, and Fisher said taking a class or two at FVTC was an easy way to transition into college.

“My older son wanted to go into physical therapy, and the tech is a lot more hands-on,” Fisher said. “I really like the tech school for that reason … It’s a cheaper option, and he can go on to (University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh) later to finish up his bachelor’s degree.”

Fisher said she thought more parents and students would choose the technical college option if they knew the financial benefits.

“I just don’t think people are well informed about their options for college,” she said. “I know I wasn’t, and I really don’t remember getting much advice when I was in high school.”

George Wojcik’s daughter Valarie enrolled in FVTC after working on a motorcycle in a Hortonville High School class. She graduated from the school’s welding program, and later enrolled in the welding engineering program at Ferris University in Michigan and graduated with a bachelor’s degree. After some convincing, the school accepted all of her credits from FVTC, Wojcik said.

“She was far ahead of the game,” Wojcik said. “She had a lot of hands-on experience, and her teachers were very impressed.”

Both Wojcik and Fisher are part of a parent panel that will speak Tuesday night during FVTC’s open house.

UW-Fox tries to work with students and parents to understand the application and enrollment process, which often can be muddled and confusing, said Martin Rudd, dean of UW-Fox. The school holds parent nights and open houses throughout the academic year.

UW-Fox also reaches out to teachers in local districts to discuss what skills students need when applying to the school or other colleges in the state.

“Not only do we have a lot of programs with high schools, but we’re constantly developing new relationships with schools,” Rudd said.

Unlike many technical colleges, UW-Fox often thinks of itself as a “step toward a baccalaureate degree,” Rudd said. The school’s associate’s degrees transfer easily to other colleges in the state, and the school has set up programs like “Madison Connections” UW-Madison and their Guaranteed Transfer program that can ease the transition and get more general classes out of the way, Rudd said.

Like FVTC, UW-Fox offers some dual enrollment programming for high school students, and the UW system plans to greatly expand the program in the future, Rudd said. The school also is trying to connect with students in local charter schools, who may not have as much familiarity with UW-Fox.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all method for recruiting students,” Rudd said.

UW-Fox will hold its next open house at 6 p.m. Oct. 23.

Jorgenson said she hopes the increased attention from public schools will help students discover interesting career paths earlier.

“We’re talking with our K-12 partners, saying ‘Hey, we need our students to have more information about technical colleges,’” Jorgenson said. “A large percentage of students may say they’re headed to four-year colleges, but in our experience they aren’t. There’s still a large percentage of students who aren’t doing much after high school.”

In the Fox Cities region, 23 percent of FVTC students begin classes directly after high school. Forty-six percent arrive roughly two years after graduating, Jorgenson said.

“They’re doing something for two years that’s probably not particularly productive, and then they’re circling back to us,” Jorgenson said.


From “New manufacturing lab at Wausau’s NTC” —  The new Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering Center of Excellence is in business at the North Central Technical College. School, community and business leaders joined together on campus for a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Developers say it is designed to be a collaborative effort between the school and area businesses. Mark Borowicz, NTC Dean of Business & Industry Solutions says, “This is really an opportunity for our students to learn the latest technology and for workers at area businesses to get the training they need, too.”

Wisconsin manufacturers have repeatedly voiced concerns that there aren’t enough highly skilled workers to fill the job openings they have in their businesses.

For more information on the project or any of the programs at NTC you can check out there online information at

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From “WMMB supports outstanding award winners at WAAE Conference” —  For the second straight year, the dairy farm families of Wisconsin helped underscore the important contributions that agricultural educators make to secondary and post-secondary education throughout the state. At the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators (WAAE) 2012 Annual Professional Development Conference held in Green Bay earlier this summer, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Wisconsin dairy farmers’ promotion and education organization, sponsored four recognition awards.

“Agriculture and dairy are not only an important part of our past here in Wisconsin, the industry contributes more than $51 billion each year to our state’s economy and offers our next generation more than 300 different career paths,” said Laura Wilford of WMMB and who heads up the Wisconsin Dairy Council. “As we enter another school year, it’s not only important to share information with our children about the healthful advantages of dairy products and daily exercise, it’s also critical that we recognize and support the ag education efforts of our dedicated teachers and instructors.”

The four WAAE award recipients included:

Outstanding Agricultural Educator – Adam Wehling, Mondovi High School. Wehling started teaching at Mondovi High School in 2007 and has continued to challenge his students to gain valuable career skills. Besides teaching agriculture, he also serves as the high school coordinator for the district’s work release program and has taught numerous adult education classes. He has partnered with 35 area businesses to start a career fair with four schools that brings together over 300 students.

Outstanding Young Member – Candice Olson, Badger High School, Lake Geneva. Olson teaches agricultural education at Badger High School in Lake Geneva. In addition to serving as an advisor for the FFA and environmental club, she also developed a chapter exchange program with an FFA advisor in Oklahoma. She has been an active member and presenter at the WAAE and National Association of Agricultural Educators conventions and has served as a National Agri-Science Teacher Ambassador.

Outstanding Post-Secondary/Adult Ag Education Program – Blackhawk Technical College, Monroe Campus. The Agribusiness Specialist program at Blackhawk Technical College started in 2008 with Dustin Williams as the instructor. The rigorous program is a unique one-year technical diploma program designed to coordinate with area high schools and feed into a two- or four- year program either at Southwest Technical College or UW-Platteville. The program boasts a 30-member advisory committee that works with the instructor to ensure curriculum is relevant to industry. There is a high student success rate in attaining internships and full-time employment upon their graduation from the program.

Ideas Unlimited Program – Jim Melby, Winneconne High School. Melby was recognized for his contribution to the Ideas Unlimited contest, a national competition which is designed to give members an opportunity to exchange classroom, supervised agriculture experience (SAE), leadership, and other teaching ideas.

From “‘Transcripted credit’ gives students jump start” — With the start of another school year, students are back to class and hitting the books, but some of those books are actually doing double duty.

Did you know that high school juniors and seniors can earn both high school and college credit without ever leaving their high school classroom? Northcentral Technical College, along with Wisconsin’s other 15 technical colleges, has offered dual enrollment opportunities, free of charge, for high school students for more than 30 years. Upon successful completion of the college coursework, students earn technical college credit and receive an NTC transcript.

One dual enrollment opportunity, transcripted credit, is a method through which technical colleges and high schools partner to deliver seamless instruction to high school students, providing them with the opportunity to enroll in and complete associate degree and technical diploma course work while fulfilling high school graduation requirements. These courses are taught at local high schools by certified high school instructors who follow NTC’s curriculum and competencies in their classroom, and have no tuition cost for the student or the school district.

Through NTC’s transcripted credit program, more than 8,000 students have enrolled in a technical college course since 2006, saving students and their families more than $650,000 in tuition costs. Students are able to apply the credit they earned to one of NTC’s 150-plus program options, or transfer their credit to another college or university where NTC has an existing articulation agreement.

Many of the high schools in NTC’s district participate in the transcripted credit program, including D.C. Everest and Wausau school districts. Nick Polak and Theran Peterson, technology and engineering instructors for the Wausau School District, teach several transcripted credit courses at Wausau East and West high schools, and both see the value of transcripted credit for their students.

“Students are saving time and money by eliminating the need to take the course at the post-secondary level. The student is receiving high-quality instruction from industry-approved and aligned curriculum,” said Peterson. “Ultimately, the role of education is preparing students to succeed in their chosen career. Providing them with curriculum that has been approved by industry will ensure the transition from student to employee is as seamless and successful as possible.”

Northcentral Technical College faculty collaborate yearly with certified high school teachers to ensure that the transcripted credit curriculum being taught is relevant, rigorous and up to industry standards.

Transcripted credit is a wonderful opportunity for high school students to experience college level coursework at their high school. These courses offer a cost-effective way for students to get a jump-start on earning a college credential, and provide them with skills and knowledge that will lead to employment.

NTC continues to look for opportunities to expand and partner with area school districts to ensure that local students have the ability to excel no matter what their future may hold.

For more information about transcripted credit opportunities, contact your local high school counselor or Leslie Fischer, Career Prep Coordinator at NTC, at

Leslie Fischer is the career prep coordinator and a career coach at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau.

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