From journaltimes.com: “State money expands popular Gateway programs” — By Mark Schaaf – STURTEVANT — Some of Gateway Technical College’s most in-demand programs will be expanded after the state allocated nearly $1.9 million in worker-training money to the college.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch on Wednesday visited the SC Johnson iMet Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd., to announce the grant, which officials said will trim waiting lists and allow Gateway to serve an additional 756 students over the next two years.

Beginning in the fall semester, Gateway will expand 14 popular programs, such as its CNC bootcamps, welding and business management offerings.

Gateway also will offer additional law enforcement summer classes and expand its summer nursing classes to meet demand.

Gateway has waiting lists for several courses because it can’t create enough sections or hire enough teachers to meet the demand, Gateway President Bryan Albrecht said. The grant “allows people to have greater access to education and get them back into the workforce,” he said.

The money originated from a $911 million state surplus. Gov. Scott Walker and the state Legislature geared most of the surplus toward tax cuts, but about $35 million went into a worker-training program called Wisconsin Fast Forward.

Kleefisch said the state has added more than 100,000 jobs over the past four years, but many people are still looking for work at the same time employers face challenges finding skilled workers.

“We need to bridge that skills gap so the folks who are seeking jobs have the skills to take the (jobs) that are already open,” Kleefisch said.

State Sen. John Lehman, who along with other local legislators attended Wednesday’s announcement, said Democrats also favored money for worker training. The grants are a “move in the right direction” in terms of Walker’s job policies, he said.

“This kind of grant actually translates into helping individuals, translates into helping the Racine-Kenosha-Walworth county” region that Gateway serves, said Lehman, D-Racine, who is running for lieutenant governor.

Kleefisch has held similar events at technical colleges around the state this week after Walker announced $28 million in worker-training grants. The Department of Workforce Development, which will administer the grants, will add capacity to 100 programs at all 16 Wisconsin technical colleges and accommodate up to 4,908 additional students, according to a news release.

From wdio.com: “WITC-Superior receives $900K State Grant” — Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Superior is getting state dollars to fund their high-demand welding programs.

The Department of Workforce Development awarded the campus with a $884,362 grant under the Wisconsin Fast Forward Blueprint for Prosperity initiative.

The grant will fund two new sections of WITC’s high-demand welding program at both the New Richmond and Rice Lake campuses.

DWD’s Assistant Deputy Secretary David Anderson said the job market is looking up in Wisconsin, but not all workers have the right skills.

“One of the things we hear from employers though is that there is a little bit of a skills gap that is holding them back in finding skilled workers for a lot of the jobs that are available,” said Anderson.

Last week, Governor Scott Walker announced all 16 technical schools in Wisconsin will get more than $28 million in state dollars to fund programs in high demand.

From wkow.com: “Waiting lists at tech colleges to shrink thanks to $35 million grant” — Waiting lists at technical colleges across Wisconsin are shrinking thanks to a $35 dollar boost.

Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch stopped by Madison College on Tuesday to announce the school be will receiving $5 million as part of the Wisconsin Fast Forward: Blueprint for Prosperity Initiative.

The money will be used to get more students into programs and courses in high-demand fields.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch says, “In Wisconsin today there are about 67,000 open jobs, yet we still have folks that are unemployed, there’s a skills mismatch. We need to make sure the folks that are seeking employment have the skills that job creators who are offering that employment will require in order to hire someone.”

Madison College says the $5 million grant will allow them to train an additional 934 students.

From lacrossetribune.com: “Western nabs $1.6 million workforce grant” — by Patrick Anderson – Western Technical College will receive $1,564,229 in workforce development funding to bolster its welding and medical assistant programs, according to an announcement today from Wisconsin officials.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and the state’s top jobs official toured Western’s new South Side welding facility to mark the occasion, part of a two-week tour of Wisconsin by lawmakers as they publicize more than $28 million in tech college grants.

The Weaver Building at 2860 S. 21st Place was still under construction as Kleefisch toured the former Trane facility with Western President Lee Rasch and Reggie Newson, secretary of the state’s Department of Workforce Development. Weaver will temporarily house Western’s welding classes when it opens this fall, while workers begin construction on a $32.6 million addition to the campus technology building.

Funding from the Wisconsin Fast Forward Grant program should allow Western to take 192 students off wait lists and teach them skills they need to find jobs with state and regional employers, Kleefisch said.

”Technical colleges help us triage the skills gap issue we have in Wisconsin,” Kleefisch said. “Our skills gap issue is very, very pressing.”

From mtlcraft.com: “Moraine Park Technical College is again offering CNC & Welding Boot Camps” — Moraine Park Technical College is combating the skilled worker shortage by launching manufacturing skills academies in a series of 15-week boot camps.

The next information/testing sessions are scheduled in August 2014 for Fall CNC Boot Camp at the Fond du Lac Campus and Welding Boot Camp at the Jackson Campus. Registration is required. Each session will include: Information, Tours, TABE Testing, and Mechanical Aptitude Testing.

From jsonline.com: “State technical colleges to share $28 million in grants to train workers for high-demand jobs” — The state’s 16 technical colleges will share $28 million in grants to train more than 4,900 workers for jobs in high-demand fields, Gov. Scott Walker announced Thursday.

The Wisconsin Fast Forward grants, which were created by law in March with bipartisan support in the Legislature, will be administered by the Department of Workforce Development.

The grants are intended to add capacity to 100 programs at all 16 technical colleges and accommodate up to 4,908 additional students in training programs in key industry sectors such as manufacturing, health care, transportation, construction and architecture, and education.

Grant funds can be used for expenses such as course development, instructor wages, and purchase of consumable materials. They cannot be used for financial aid, tuition, or capital improvements.

Individual grant awards will be announced at each technical college over the next two weeks.

Technical colleges submitted initial lists of programs for grant consideration earlier this year.

The Department of Workforce Development developed objective, data-driven measurement tools and processes to validate wait lists for grant eligibility purposes, evaluate each technical college’s funding request, make award decisions, and monitor taxpayers’ investment, according to the governor’s office.

“This substantial investment in the Wisconsin Technical College System will help our top-notch technical colleges build the capacity to train thousands of workers across the state with skills we know are in high demand by employers,” Walker said in a prepared statement.

Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy said the technical college system is energized “not only by the investment in our strong partnership with DWD, but also by the confidence in our technical colleges to deliver on these grants.”

The legislation Walker signed into law in March as part of his Blueprint for Prosperity initiative calls for allocating a total of $35.4 million to the Wisconsin Forward worker training program with a focus on three areas:

· Reduction of waits lists at Wisconsin technical colleges for high-demand fields;

· Collaborative projects between high schools, technical colleges, businesses, and other partners to increase opportunities for high school pupils to earn industry-recognized credentials; and

· Enhancing the employment opportunities of workers with disabilities.

The Department of Workforce Development already has awarded more than $2.1 million in grants to train high school students in school-to-work programs, and is currently seeking grant applications with up to $1 million available to train workers with disabilities.

From wausaudailyherald.com: “The future workforce is here, working” — By Donna Schulz-Youth Apprenticeship Coordinator for Northcentral Technical College – If you follow the news, you’ve heard about a shrinking workforce facing employers. As more baby boomers retire each year, employers need to find and develop individuals who will be able to support the growth of their businesses in the years ahead.

These news stories remind me of a public service announcement from television in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s; the question “Do you know where your children are?” was asked during the 10 p.m. news as a reminder to parents that it was important for them to know where their children were and what they were doing. It seems the question employers dealing with an aging workforce are trying to answer is, “Do you know where your future employees are?”

I can tell you part of the answer is that they’re right here in the community, going to high school (taking classes that might surprise you), and trying to find the answer to their own question, “Do you know where your future is?”

This past year, 309 juniors and seniors from 21 high schools within the Northcentral Technical College district were literally working to find the answer to that question for themselves by participating in Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship program.

YA is a rigorous one- or two-year program that combines mentored, paid, on-the-job learning with academic and technical instruction related to a specific program area. That means students working at a local bank through a finance apprenticeship are studying business, math and financial management; students completing an apprenticeship in manufacturing are perhaps taking welding, machining and manufacturing classes; students working at a healthcare facility may have taken a nursing assistant course at NTC along with medical terminology, biology, anatomy and physiology at their high school.

These students are seeing a real-world connection between their classrooms and the workplace. An exit survey taken by high school seniors who finished their apprenticeships this year provides some thought-provoking data. Of 173 graduating seniors, 151 have plans to attend some type of post-secondary school. While 26 of these students hope to focus only on school, the rest have plans to work while in school. And here’s where it gets really interesting: 85 percent of those 125 students are continuing to work for their YA employer, and 71 percent will be majoring in a field related to their apprenticeship.

Based on these numbers, you can see that some employees of the future are here now, developing relationships with employers who are helping them find their futures. If you would like to learn more about opportunities to hire a youth apprentice, contact the youth apprenticeship coordinator at your local high school or Donna Schulz at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau at schulz@ntc.edu.

From jsonline.com: “New president wants community to see MATC’s evolution” — Vicki Martin had a front-row seat as Milwaukee Area Technical College evolved from preparing young people for the trades to taking on the additional role of helping working adults reinvent themselves in a tumultuous economy.

But she’s not sure the community fully realizes the scope of that change.

The Milwaukee native and longtime administrator, whose first day as president was Wednesday, said one of her main goals is to change that.

“We hear a lot about how we’re the best-kept secret,” said Martin, who was MATC’s provost — chief academic officer — before being promoted to president eight days ago. “This institution is so important for so many people, and just about everyone in the community has been touched by an MATC graduate.”

MATC has 200 academic programs, nearly 400 transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees, and a Pre-College Education division that helps adults complete high school, prepare for college or enter the workforce. The college has a full-time equivalent enrollment of about 13,000 students at its four campuses. It serves a total of 43,000 students including community education, workforce training, and customized business training and workshops.

Managing enrollment will be key.

Community colleges saw a 5.9% dip in enrollment of students over the age of 24, more than double their overall decline, between spring 2012 and 2013, according to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse. MATC has seen its own declines; enrollment booms — like the 10% increase MATC saw at the peak of the recession — typically taper off as the economy rebounds.

But managing the way the community perceives the school also will be critical.

From biztimes.com: “Fill the skills gap” — by Cary Silverstein – A question constantly asked by business people and the unemployed is: “What are we doing to close the skillset gap in Wisconsin?”

The answer lies in businesses and the community getting together to solve this “gap.” According to Competitive Wisconsin Inc.’s Be Bold 2 study by ManpowerGroup, the unmet demand for metal workers, including welders, is expected to reach 7,101 by 2016. Should these positions remain unfilled, it is estimated that state and local government lost revenues could amount to $265,410,915 over a 10-year job lifecycle.

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Wisconsin, a non-profit 501(c)(3) established more than 40 years ago, has developed a new generation training solution that addresses the growing skilled worker shortage in the greater Milwaukee, Wausau, Fox Valley and Green Bay regions. It is called the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

The HCCW has developed this partnership with Miller Electric Mfg. Co., Monarch Corp., Joy Global, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, technical colleges, government agencies and private foundations with the intent of solving the critical shortage of skilled welders in Wisconsin. Together, they have created a unique employer-approved education and training program, which addresses this shortage in a manner that benefits the underserved low to moderate income (LMI) workers who are often unemployed/underemployed and who are often constituents of the HCCW. This program is not exclusive to any ethnicity, and is open to any state resident.

This HCCW Training Initiative is an anti-poverty solution that connects unemployed and under employed workers with accredited welding skills development and training at no cost to trainees. This program offers a pathway to a higher paying career in welding at an accelerated pace. The median starting pay for skilled welding positions is $35,450 a year. This is a paid training program that takes up to 16 weeks to complete. The participants are immediately job eligible upon completion of the program. This is followed by ongoing on-the-job training to enhance their newly acquired skills.

This initiative differentiates itself by including essential life skills training for participants, including time management and punctuality, critical thinking and problem solving, financial education and communication skills. This program is designed to supply workforce-ready candidates who are able to step into entry-level welding positions. Participants will complete essential life skills training in a mentorship-based support group setting before advancing to the employer-approved welder training course provided by the tech colleges.

What makes this program different?

Solving the skilled welder shortage isn’t just providing technical training. A true solution involves addressing those issues (substance abuse and a lack of essential life skills) which ultimately disqualify someone from employment. This unique program has three primary components: a support system program with trainee mentorship, essential life skills training and technical skills training via technical college partners.

The HCCW provides employer-approved essential life skills training to each candidate including:

  • Time management and punctuality
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • First impressions/building relationships
  • Computer literacy
  • Maintaining a household budget
  • Communication skills (may include English language instruction)

Technical training is provided by area technical colleges via an employer-approved training curriculum. The 14 to 16 week curriculum includes basic welding, blueprint reading and weld symbols, math, and manufacturing techniques.

Projected results of the initiative

This initiative produces an individual that is responsible, punctual, accountable and reliable, with a strong work ethic and a drive to succeed. These candidates are ready to enter the job market with all the skills necessary for entry level welding positions. The technical college credentials earned in this program are transferable and can be used to attain further, more complex welding credentials. This initiative simplifies and eases the rigors of the traditional hiring process, which permits the employers to review a candidate’s metrics and a trainee’s video profile. Also, they can hire an employee with a proven track record, worthy of further training investment.

The HCCW Training Initiative is a real solution to the shortage of skilled welders. By providing essential life skills and technical training, candidates are able to obtain well-paying jobs. This initiative facilitates upward economic mobility for the LMI constituents served by the program. Once employed in an entry level position, these new employees have the opportunity for further employer training and tuition reimbursement programs. The result is they strengthen themselves and their employers through the adoption of life-long earning skills. The dual nature of this program will help the unemployed/underemployed while providing sorely needed skilled workers, keeping Wisconsin’s manufacturers strong. This training initiative recently received national recognition and substantial funding by the American Welding Society after their review of the program. The HCCW Training Initiative is now considered to be the top AWS skills development program in the nation.

The next step

If this pilot project proves successful, we as business communities should duplicate it across the board in our state. Closing the skillset gap in this and other vocational areas will strengthen our economy and bring new jobs to our communities, while reducing unemployment in areas where few opportunities exist. The resources, both educational and technical, exist in our community. We need to leverage these resources and provide the unemployed with new skills so they can rejoin the workforce and provide a better standard of living for themselves and their families.

The HCCW says its partners report that in the Racine-Kenosha manufacturing sector there are more than 1,000 skilled worker vacancies. Filling the local manufacturing sector’s jobs would contribute to the state and local economy year after year.

Companies interested in joining this program should contact the Hispanic Chamber at skillstraining@HCCW.org.

 

From wisopinion.com: “A vision for 21st century tech colleges” — By Rebecca Kleefisch – We should celebrate our sons and daughters who become nursing assistants and machinists just as much as those who become lawyers and doctors. That was my message this weekend at Waukesha County Technical College’s commencement ceremony, when hundreds of students walked across the stage and stepped into new careers and new opportunities.

Governor Walker said the same thing this past January in his State of the State address. He and I know that the twin drivers of our state’s economy are manufacturing and agriculture. Both of those industries rely heavily on technical colleges for expertise and employees. A strong Wisconsin economy needs strong tech colleges in every part of the state, staffed by top-notch teachers and filled with cutting-edge technology. Our tech colleges are a good investment for students, a good partner for employers, and a good value for taxpayers.

The students graduating from WCTC are entering into careers offering the promise of prosperity. An associate’s degree graduate in Aircraft Electronics can get jobs with a starting salary of $47,000. A one-year technical diploma in brick-laying and masonry leads to jobs with a median starting salary of almost $43,000. A dental hygiene grad starts with a salary just shy of $50,000. In fact, for the past 15 years, the tech colleges have placed at least 86 percent of their graduates into jobs within six months of graduation. In other words, tech colleges are equipping our workers with the skills they need to get the high-paying jobs they want and the economy offers.

One reason these jobs pay so well is because our Wisconsin employers are actively searching for employees with the skills and experience to fill jobs across our economy, especially in our agriculture, health care, and manufacturing sectors. It’s vitally important that technical colleges gear their services to the jobs available in their communities today and in the future. That’s why I was so impressed by the Fab Lab at Gateway Tech, for instance, which offers itself as a resource to students, faculty, and local manufacturers to try new ideas and products.

Tech colleges need to stay connected to both the community and to the state as a whole. The Governor’s Blueprint for Prosperity, which invested the state’s $911 million surplus, included $406 million in property tax relief through the tech colleges. At Madison Area Technical College, for instance, state funding jumped from 10 percent to nearly half of MATC’s budget. With the property tax caps in place, that will drop MATC’s local tax levy by almost half, saving the owner of an average Madison home about $200.

We need to continue investing in our technical colleges because of the crucial role they play in our communities and our economy. For instance, given all the technical advances discovered by our tech college staff and students, I’d like to see new programs that help commercialize these innovations as new products and processes for use in business.

My address at WCTC on Saturday was my 37th stop at a technical college since taking office. All those visits reflect the high priority that Governor Walker and I place on our tech colleges. Commencement provides each of us, as friends, family, and neighbors of the graduates, an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments and to appreciate their new careers building a stronger Wisconsin.

From nwtc.edu: “Seven NWTC students win gold at SkillsUSA State Conference” — Seven Northeast Wisconsin Technical College trades students will compete against
the nation’s best after taking gold in the SkillsUSA Wisconsin State Leadership & Skills Conference April 29-30 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

NWTC students Trevor Lustilla, Brandon Janssen, Chris Lacenski, Jacob Schultz and a team of Brent Champan, Jeff Lidbury, and Nathan Mertens each captured first place in their categories and will move on the national SkillsUSA Conference in Kansas City June 23-27. Lustilla took gold in Automotive Refinishing Technology, Janssen in CNC Milling, Lacenski in Welding, Schultz in Welding Sculpture, and Champan, Lidbury and Mertens won for Welding Fabrication. Instructor Doug Tennant was also named State Advisor of the Year.

In the SkillsUSA competition, students work against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in areas like electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting, culinary arts and more.

Other NWTC students placing in the state competition include the team of Matt Baenen, Dylan Pulley, Cory Wotachek, who took silver in Automated Manufacturing Technology, Sam Buhk, Fred Culvahouse, and Amy Koenig, who captured bronze in the same category, Alan Stefanic, who won bronze in Automotive Refinishing Technology, Eric Burch with a silver in Diesel Equipment Technology, Cole Dollar who won silver in Welding, and James Maryniak, who won silver in Welding Sculpture.

From htrnews.com: “District, college awarded grants” — MISHICOT – The Mishicot School District and Lakeshore Technical College were awarded grants from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to develop or expand creative programs that prepare high school students for the workforce or post-secondary education through training in high-demand fields.

The investment is part of Governor Scott Walker’s Blueprint for Prosperity, a comprehensive agenda to provide tax relief and invest in worker training to move Wisconsin along a path to prosperity.

The Mishicot School District was awarded $87,384 to launch an initiative to further opportunities for students in the areas of manufacturing and welding.

LTC was awarded $32,064 for its CNA program, $19,444 for its hospitality program, and $13,629 for its safety program.

DWD’s Office of Skills Development is administering the grant program. The school-to-work programs will kick off during the 2014-15 academic year.

From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “Three MSTC students place in statewide skills contest” — Three Mid-State Technical College, or MSTC, students placed in the top three in the respective events at the 41st annual State SkillsUSA Secondary Leadership & Skills Conference, a showcase of career and technical education students. Competitions were held April 29 and 30 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

SkillsUSA, a national nonprofit organization, describes itself as “a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.” A total of eight students from MSTC’s SkillsUSA chapter participated in four events: Hunter Johnson and Aaron Kaczmarek competed in Automotive Service; Mark Cannon, Colin Reffner, and Troy Sobish participated in Precision Machining; Michael Demski and Quinton Kluck competed in CNC Milling; and Tyler Weinfurter participated in Welding.

Kaczmarek finished in first place in Automotive Service, and has qualified to travel to Kansas City, Missouri, to compete in the National Leadership & Skills Conference in June. Reffner and Kluck each placed third in the respective competitions.

MSTC, one of 16 colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System, offers more than 100 associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates. Student-focused and community-based, MSTC serves a resident population of approximately 165,000 in central Wisconsin with campuses in Marshfield, Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids, and a learning center in Adams.

From kenoshanews.com: “Albrecht: Gateway a key player in area’s economic development” — This is the first part of a three-part series of in-depth interviews with the heads of Kenosha County’s three major institutions of higher education.

Bryan Albrecht has served as the president of Gateway Technical College since 2006. As the college’s chief executive, he oversees its academic programs, educational facilities, budget and college foundation.

Gateway represents Kenosha, Racine, and Walworth counties.

Albrecht recently was announced as a finalist for chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, which is expected to select a new leader later this month.

Q: Quite a few things happened in 2013. Quite a few new companies came into Kenosha County. What role has Gateway played in developing training programs for new employees?

A: I’m very encouraged by the changes in our local communities. New developments, especially in the Kenosha County area, not only foster great relationships with Gateway and existing businesses but also put us in the spotlight to help new businesses coming to our community to sustain and develop the workforce they need to be successful.

Gateway has positioned itself quite well not only in building a workforce for existing employers but also being a part of the economic catalyst of what it takes to succeed in developing new companies — working closely with Uline, Amazon and companies like that that have established a footprint in our community and we know will continue to grow.

So it’s our responsibility at Gateway to be involved in helping better understand what skill sets are necessary for those companies today and tomorrow as we develop new programs to support new technologies.

Business and education partnerships have been one of the cornerstones for success at the college. We have great anchor company partners like S.C. Johnson Corp., Snap-on, InSinkErator, Twin Disc, Ocean Spray. We’ve provided customized training to those companies for many years.

For the last five or six years, we’ve really elevated our relationship with those companies to help develop an infrastructure for sustaining their business models. One example in Kenosha would be Snap-on Inc., where we provided the diagnostic certification program for Snap-on nationally and even internationally. So we’ve been able to work with their development teams to look at what skills are necessary for the auto technician industry and elevate our program to be a national model, which really helps us build our brand and helps enure our graduates have the right skill sets to compete not only locally but also nationally and internationally.

I think it’s the fact that Gateway is really invested in understanding what is necessary for today’s worker. Our technology infrastructure, the classrooms and laboratories we’ve been able to put together with support of the community and the private sector are models around the country, and we’re looked at as one of the leading colleges in the country to help develop workforce training programs that are aligned with industry skill standards.

Q: Would you say that Gateway is an innovator?

A: Absolutely. We’ve been very fortunate. Gateway was listed on the Great Lakes (Manufacturing Council’s) Best Practices for Manufacturing. We’re an M school for the National Association for Manufacturing. This year we were identified as a lead school for sustainability in part of the Second Nature Initiative, nationally one of 13 colleges to be selected and the top two-year college in America for sustainability. Our business programs were accredited, the first time a two-year college was accredited. So we align now with UW-Parkside in our business school. Our freshwater technology program is aligned with the Water Council out of Milwaukee. We continue to look for ways to elevate our programs to ensure students are getting the skills necessary for the job market but also necessary for advanced education.

Q: It sounds as if Gateway should be a four-year college.

A: We have a lot of four-year options. We have a 30-credit general education transfer agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. We have many program agreements where you can transfer up to 70 credits to UW-Parkside. About 20 percent of our student population at Gateway already has a baccalaureate degree. We do offer some baccalaureate transfer programs with the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Parkside, Carthage and Whitewater. Whenever we can align our programs with four-year programs we try to do that. We think it makes for a seamless pathway for adult learners.

Q: There is a new funding formula in place that helps to reduce some of the tax burden on local taxpayers. Could you explain how that works?

A: Currently this year the governor made an investment of $400 million to help buy down the property tax that had supported the technical colleges. Which means there will be a drastic reduction in the homeowners’ property tax bills supporting technical colleges. That money is being made up by the state revenues. A third of the technical college’s revenue will be funded by the state, about a third by the local property tax and about a third will come from tuition, fees and some federal programs we are supported by.

Q: Is there some additional funding?

A: Along with that, the governor added another $35.4 million for advanced training to help reduce the wait list for those individuals who had been trying to get into a technical college but for some reasons the courses were full or the programs were full. So now we have an opportunity to expand some of those programs.

Q: How does the new performance-based funding affect Gateway?

A: Because of performance-based funding, Gateway will receive $450,000 more from the state than it did last year.

Q: What is Gateway’s standing in the community?

A: We have a strong relationship with our community highlighted by our business partnerships. We have a 90 percent job placement rate of our students and a 97 percent job satisfaction rate by employers who are hiring our students. So I think Gateway’s position in our community is highly valued.

From wisn.com: “Employers claim they can’t find workers who are job-ready” — Manufacturing jobs that pay well, but there’s no one to fill them. Employers call it the skills gap.

WISN 12 News Kent Wainscott investigates the millions of dollars taxpayers are pouring into technical colleges to close the gap.

“The skills gap, does it still exist in Milwaukee?” WISN 12 News reporter Kent Wainscott asked.

“In a word, yes,” said Chris Layden of Manpower Group.

Layden said that’s what Milwaukee-based Manpower Group, a world leader in employment issues, is seeing across the Milwaukee area.

More than one-third of employers, he said, claim they can’t find enough workers who are job-ready.

“Do they really have the right skills to perform the jobs that employers are needing? And what we are consistently hearing from clients in the Milwaukee area is, no,” Layden said.

“For the last four to five years, we’ve kind of beat that horse to death about the skills gap, and now everybody said, ‘OK, how do we fix it?'” said Dorothy Walker, interim dean of MATC’s School of Technical and Applies Sciences.

Milwaukee Area Technical College is Wisconsin’s largest tech school.

Much of the more than $140 million taxpayer dollars it gets each year is spent trying to address the skills gap.

“What (we) needed to do as a tech college, as MATC, was to sit with the employers and say, ‘What skill sets to you need?’ Now that took some changing around of curriculum and some traditional stuff we were doing,” Walker said.

“And that wasn’t happening before?” Wainscott asked.

“That wasn’t happening before to that extent,” Walker said.

One way MATC has tried to address the skills gap is to expand and renovate and build new facilities, but that means an investment of taxpayer dollars.

“It costs money to build a place like this,” Wainscott said.

“It does,” Walker said.

“Is it money well spent?” Wainscott asked.

“I think the money is well spent, not only the money from the college, but again, we partner with industry,” Walker said.

The result? Enrollment is up. More courses are offered. In fact, MATC will offer 71 welding or machining courses next school year.

Still, WISN 12 News found nearly 1,000 open welder or machinist job postings on Milwaukeejobs.com.

What’s the explanation?

WISN 12 News asked the head of UW-Milwaukee’s Center for Economic Development and got a surprising answer.

“Everybody says it exists, but nobody can really find it in the data,” Marc Levine said.

Levine said if there was a shortage of skilled workers, demand for them would increase and so would wages.

“When we look at the basic economic indicators, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence about a skills gap,” Levine said.

Instead, he believes employers may find it hard to fill jobs because they’re paying low wages or expecting too much pre-job training.

Or a lack of transportation may keep workers from connecting with the jobs that aren’t nearby.

“There’s a disconnect between MATC creating these programs, MATC basically creating our supply of skilled workers, and the fact that manufacturers in Milwaukee are not hiring more workers than they have in the past,” Levine said.

Whatever the reason, Manpower’s Layden, said things have to improve.

“Is this skills gap going to close over the next few years?” Wainscott asked.

“I think it needs to. I think for Milwaukee it needs to. For our employers it needs to. It’s keeping people up at night,” Layden said.

Manufacturing is changing to a more computerized, IT-based workforce. So schools like MATC are adjusting to that. But critics said schools and manufacturers have to do a better job of spreading that message.

STEM programs are on the rise, and those are laying a foundation for the type of skills required for the next generation of manufacturing jobs.

View video from wisn.com

From journaltimes.com: “Labor shortage looming” — We’ve advocated in this space for greater support from the Legislature for Wisconsin’s technical college system. Technical colleges are uniquely positioned to address the persistently high unemployment in the state’s urban areas, including Racine; they can address the shortage of qualified workers for manufacturing jobs, aka the skills gap. They also provide opportunity for people who want a job, or a better job, and know that a four-year college isn’t the right choice for them.

A May 5 report by the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team underlines this point: There is a looming labor shortage in the Badger State, meaning we need to get moving on increasing the number of young, skilled workers.

One of the biggest reasons is the retirement of the baby boomers, those born between 1945 and the mid-1960s. State demographers say the number of residents age 65 or older will more than double by 2040, rising from 14 percent of the state population to 24 percent.

In that time, the state’s population will increase 14 percent to about 6.5 million, but the working-age population (ages 20-64) will be essentially unchanged, dropping a quarter of a percent. This means that for every retiring worker, there is less than one young person entering the labor force. In other words, a labor shortage.

Job numbers have historically mirrored changes in the working-age population, so a stagnant pool of workers means Wisconsin is expected to see virtually no job growth through 2040, according to a report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

“Employers really haven’t experienced labor shortages to the degree that we’re expecting,” said Jeff Sachse, an economist with the state Department of Workforce Development. “The labor force is essentially going to be flat, and basically what we’re going to see is an employer base that’s going to struggle to find a sufficient amount of workers to remain in operation, much less to expand.”

This is unlike the Great Recession and its aftermath, during which employers weren’t hiring at all, or saw far more applicants than job openings. What Sachse is describing is lengthy periods of Help Wanted signs in windows because employers have openings but not qualified applicants.

The jobs are going to be out there. But they’re also going to require people willing to help themselves to a better life, people like Tykia Norris.

As detailed in an April 27 Journal Times report, Norris, 33, wanted to do better for herself than the $9.50 an hour she was making as a certified nursing assistant.

“They say money brings problems, but not having any brings more,” said Norris, who has a 14-year-old son.

She entered a construction training program through Racine’s Human Capital Development Corp., which runs First Choice Pre-Apprenticeship. The nonprofit trains people for construction jobs such as preparing them to work on the Interstate 94 project.

About 122 of the program’s 475 graduates have reported getting jobs in construction. Norris is one of them, and she’s now making more than $25 an hour.

Tykia Norris learned that it takes a desire to do better, to help yourself — individual initiative, in other words — to address your personal skills gap. But the combination of the skills gap and Wisconsin’s looming labor shortage is about to become everybody’s problem. Let’s get to work on that.

From biztimes.com: “DWD awards grants for school-to-work programs” — The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has awarded a total of $2.1 million to 30 school-to-work programs across the state.

The grants are for development or expansion of innovative programs that prepare high school students for the workforce or post-secondary education by offering them training in high-demand fields. About 950 students will benefit from the grants, and up to 153 companies could employ them.

The DWD and the state Department of Public Instruction worked together to develop criteria for the grants.

“Thanks to Governor Walker’s vision, high school pupils will have an opportunity to learn new skills that are in demand by employers, and earn a semester or more of technical college credit while still in high school,” said DWD Secretary Reggie Newson. “The experience translates directly to future success in the classroom or on the shop floor. These are the kinds of innovative collaborations that effectively address Wisconsin’s skills gap and move our state forward.”

Among the local programs receiving grants are Gateway Technical College in Racine and Kenosha counties, which was awarded $149,512; Trace-A-Matic Corp. in Waukesha County, $130,000; Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board in Milwaukee County, $129,800; Bruno Independent Living Aids, Inc. in Waukesha and Ozaukee counties, $128,344; WRTP/Big Step in Milwaukee County, $122,751; CL&D Graphics in Waukesha County, $120,100; Mishicot School District in Sheboygan County, $87,384; GPS Education Partners in Waukesha County, $85,027; CESA 6 in Racine, Walworth and Waukesha counties, $57,150; Lakeshore Technical College in Sheboygan County, $32,064; School District of New Berlin in Waukesha County, $27,990; Lakeshore Technical College (Hospitality) in Sheboygan, $19,444; and Lakeshore Technical College in Sheboygan (Safety), $13,629.

“Transforming education is a core part of my administration’s focus,” said Gov. Scott Walker. “The Blueprint for Prosperity will increase opportunities for hundreds of high school students across Wisconsin to pursue training in high-demand fields like manufacturing, information technology and construction. We will continue to prioritize efforts that prepare students for family-supporting jobs here in Wisconsin.”

From wausaudailyherald.com: “Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin seeks Wausau-area participants for training” — By Jorge Franco — The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin Advanced Manufacturing Partnership is emerging this spring with a new-generation training solution to address the growing skilled worker shortage in the Wausau region.

The HCCW Partnership is a collaboration including the Central Wisconsin Metal Manufacturing Alliance, chaired by John Peterson of Schuette Metals and co-chaired by Kathy Drengal of Greenheck Fan Corp. The alliance also includes Northcentral Technical College, the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board and the outstanding leadership of Miller Electric Manufacturing Company. The HCCW training initiative is made possible under Gov. Scott Walker’s Fast Forward skills development program and the ITW Foundation. We’ve received national recognition and substantial funding from the American Welding Society.

This initiative is an employer-driven and mentor-based anti-poverty solution that connects Wausau’s unemployed and under-employed workers with accredited welding skills development and training at no cost to trainees. It is designed to fill existing higher paying job vacancies to the benefit of everyone including the state and local economies.

According to Competitive Wisconsin Inc.’s “Be Bold 2” study by ManpowerGroup, the unmet demand for metal workers, including welders, is expected to reach 7,101 by 2016. To the extent these positions are to remain unfilled, the HCCW estimates that state and local government lost revenues could amount to more than $265 million in lost income, sales and property tax revenues over a 10-year job lifecycle.

This program offers a pathway to a higher-paying career in welding at an accelerated pace. The median starting pay for skilled welding positions is $35,450 a year. The program is a paid training that takes 14 to 16 weeks to complete. Participants are immediately job-eligible upon completion with lifelong learning and earning skills. This program is followed by ongoing HCCW support programming and on-the-job training to continue workplace advancement.

In the Wausau region alone, more than 200 welder graduates of this program are in high demand based on a recent five-day sign-up period offered to manufacturers by the HCCW.

The initiative distinguishes itself from traditional skills training by including essential life skills training for participants, including time management and punctuality, critical thinking and problem solving, financial access to lifeline financial services along with financial education and communication skills development among other topics. It is designed to supply workforce-ready candidates who are able to step into entry-level welding positions. Participants will complete essential life skills training in a support group setting before they advance to the employer-approved customized welder training course provided by Northcentral Technical College.

This initiative facilitates upward economic mobility for trainees and at the same time provides skilled workers in order to help keep manufacturers strong in the Wausau region. People of any ethnicity can participate; the program is open to any resident in the Wausau region. The HCCW is now recruiting training initiative participants and is excited to be a part of the Wausau community.

If you’re interested in participating as a training candidate or a manufacturer, call 1-844-890-5096 or email skillstraining@hccw.org for more information.

From chippewa.com: “Workers in demand” — EAU CLAIRE — As a student in Chippewa Valley Technical College’s (CVTC) Machine Tooling Technics program, Eric Weining of Menomonie has a valuable set of skills for potential employers. Unfortunately, it was probably too late for the employers at the CVTC Spring Career Fair Wednesday, April 9, to entice him.

Weining will not graduate from the program until December, but that didn’t stop him from getting a job at Phillips Plastics in Menomonie. He started about four weeks ago.

“I work in the tool room as a mold machine technician,” Weining said. He heard about a job opening there and had some contacts in the company, but his plans to finish his degree at CVTC was key. “That was motivation for them. They had been looking to hire a student from CVTC for their program.”

Starting early

In a sign of improving economic times, participation in the CVTC Spring Career Fair was up once again, and the message to employers was clear: Start your recruitment efforts early, as skilled workers are in high demand.

Overall, 81 private and public employers set up tables at three CVTC facilities at this year’s Spring Career Fair, up from 69 last spring and from 58 in spring 2012. The 37 employers at the Manufacturing Education Center represented an increase from 30 at the Spring 2013 Career Fair. In spring 2011, only 22 manufacturing businesses participated.

Kuss Filtration in Bloomer had never participated in the Spring Career Fair before, but it was time for the company that was spun off from Cummins Filtration to get proactive.

“Now that we’re spun off, there’s no outside support for troubleshooting equipment,” said Ben Rubenzer, manufacturing engineering manager for the company. He’s looking to expand a maintenance team of 14 at the plant that employs up to 170 workers.

“We’re looking at exploding our capabilities and our skill set internally,” Rubenzer said. “We’re looking at Electromechanical (Technology) students.”

Kuss Filtration was not the only company looking for people with the training to design, program and maintain the often automated equipment found in today’s manufacturing plants, nor was Kuss the first new employer to take part in the fair. Universal Services, a power line installation company out of Hastings, Minn.; Crown Trucks, a lift truck manufacturer from St. Paul; and Koch Pipeline were among several new Career Fair participants looking for people with such skills.

Some employers are anxious to find applicants.

Increased demand

Brad Moran at the TTM Technologies table said he has 31 maintenance workers at the Chippewa Falls plant, but he could use 40. “We’re constantly adding equipment. We’ve been on the increase the past two and half years,” Moran said.

A crowd of Machine Tooling Technics students gathered around the Riverside Machine and Engineering table, examining some of the small metal parts the company manufactures. The plant, which will be moving from Chippewa Falls into part of the Hutchinson Technology building on Eau Claire’s north side, has needs for machinists, inspectors on all shifts and calibration technicians. A sign at the table requested applicants for those jobs.

“About 90 percent of our crew is CVTC graduates. We recruit very heavily here,” said Elisia Gonsowski of the Riverside team.

Giles Nielsen of Five Star Plastics in Eau Claire was looking for Electromechanical Technology students, but also had his eyes open for people with other skills as well. On his table were two plastic prototype parts made through use of two different kinds of three-dimensional printers. CVTC recently added one of those types of printers.

“We have a rapid prototyping department,” said Nielsen. “If they know about this process and how to run these machines, it’s all the better.”

Plenty of openings

Companies tended to be quite familiar with CVTC graduates.

“We hired a CVTC student last year who is a multi-craft technician. He does a little bit of electrical and instrumentation and mechanical. He’s doing a great job for us. We’re looking to see who else is available,” said Natalie Caldarera of Koch Pipeline.

Denise Nelson of Universal Services had openings for as many as eight Electromechanical Technology technicians, four aerial linemen and a diesel mechanic – all skills taught in specific CVTC programs.

Students in the sought-after programs found a lot of interest from potential employers, but, as in Weining’s case, it was often too late – for the employers.

Electromechanical Technology student Charlie Yohnk of Bloomer has been working at Catalytic Combustion in Bloomer since September. “I plan to stay there, but I’m going around seeing what everyone else is up to,” he said.

It’s not too late for companies to spark an interest with Sam Reider, who can bring a diversity of skills. The 2007 Chippewa Falls High School graduate attended CVTC in the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology program, then served his country in Afghanistan as a diesel mechanic in the service. He’s now a CVTC Industrial Mechanics program student.

“I like fixing stuff. I want to see what’s out there after I graduate,” Reider said. He drew some early interest from Five Star Plastics, even though he’s not graduating until May 2015.

For Career Fair employers, recruitment is a long-term project.

From htrnews.com: “Tech Education one key to future workforce” — Hundreds of job seekers attended a recent job fair hosted by Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland. Just as telling, about 50 employers were registered.

Companies are recruiting for a mix of permanent and seasonal jobs, including full- and part-time. Many of the major employers in Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties were represented. Opportunities are there for the taking for those with the right skills.

Jobs are certain to be a key issue in this year’s gubernatorial election. The presumed Democratic nominee, Mary Burke, has criticized Gov. Scott Walker’s jobs plan as ineffective and scant on details. The state GOP, in turn, has criticized Burke’s record as state commerce secretary, and says her jobs plan lacks substance.

Democrats often point to Walker’s inability to meet a campaign goal of creating 250,000 new private sector jobs as evidence that his plan is not working.

Those seeking and creating jobs are more concerned about results than political rhetoric, however. Job seekers want good, well paying jobs, and employers want workers with skills to do the job. Key to meeting the needs of both job seekers and employers is identifying and developing those skills.

On today’s front page, our series on how technology is dramatically changing education continues with a focus on instruction after high school. Higher education is key to many competitive jobs in our high-tech world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a four-year degree.

A 2012 report on Wisconsin workforce development quoted research by Georgetown University, which determined that up to 925,000 jobs would become available in Wisconsin in the decade ending in 2018, due to retirements and growth. An estimated 70 percent of those jobs will require less than a four-year degree, according to the study.

That makes schools like Lakeshore Technical College, which offers a variety of one- and two-year degree options, a major player in the jobs training scenario. In fact, many local manufacturers have open positions requiring the very skills that schools like LTC can teach in a one- or two-year period. There is a shortage of workers to fill these positions, that according to one LTC official can pay up to $60,000 annually.

Such training is beginning sooner with high schools in Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties having the opportunity to offer introductory manufacturing classes beginning next school year thanks to an Advanced Manufacturing Mobile Lab unveiled at Lakeshore Technical College recently.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch called the facility “opportunity on wheels” during a dedication ceremony.

The lab is one of many ways the school is seeking to prepare the workforce of the future. Experts predict future workers will be more tech savvy, highly trained in specific skills and better able to adapt to employer needs.

All of that requires the proper education, be it at the university or technical school level, but our education system faces other challenges.

Wisconsin is among the leaders in the country with its 90 percent high school graduation rates but that still leaves roughly 14,000 dropouts each year.

The problem does not end there, however. The state’s graduation rate at four-year higher education institutions is just 36 percent, and only 29 percent of those seeking associate degrees at two-year schools do so within three years. Many factors play into these numbers, but the bottom line is that a majority of post-secondary students don’t complete the course of study they embark upon.

That trend needs to reverse if employers are going to find the skilled help they need and if job seekers are available to fill those jobs.

Many students, before going the route of a four-year university education, would benefit from at least exploring two-year institutions like LTC, UW-Manitowoc or UW-Sheboygan. Cost (and resulting student debt) is a major factor in such decisions. Two-year schools are proven to be less expensive, particularly if housing costs are not a factor.

Education is key to a developed workforce and technology is key to education. Take the time to learn more about each, and use that knowledge to choose wisely the path most productive — for you and society as a whole.

From marshfieldnewsherald.com: Fond du Lac job searchers enjoy diverse options” — FOND DU LAC — Job seekers are enjoying an uptick in employment opportunities in the Fond du Lac area.

Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce president and CEO Joe Reitemeier says the area is seeing a definite shift in momentum since the first quarter of the year.

“Coming out of the recession we were a little bit behind in gaining any traction in opportunities for employment,” Reitemeier said. “In recent months we’ve literally seen dozens of companies aggressively seeking new employees.”

While large manufacturers in the area — Mercury Marine and Alliance Laundry Systems — have undergone expansions and added to their employee base, Reitemeier says job opportunities are available across a wide spectrum including manufacturing, food service, agriculture production, financial services, insurance and health care.

“Virtually every kind of job is being marketed right now,” he said. “However, one piece consistent within all the job openings is the requirement for advanced skill sets. Those people who are available for work are going to have to come with a skill set that is desired by the employer.”

Top employers in the Fond du Lac area include Brunswick, Agnesian, Alliance Laundry Systems and the Fond du Lac School District.

Success story

Kondex Corp. in Lomira, which produces engineered cutting and high-wear components for the agriculture industry and beyond, has enjoyed job growth over the past year.

Since Kondex moved to its new plant in 2007, the company has grown its employee base by 50 percent — to 280 employees, said Mike Frydryk, vice president of human resources and organizational development.

The 2012 drought hampered plans for hiring last year.

“The drought had a lag effect on our business in 2013,” Frydryk explained. “However, as we plan ahead we do expect 2014 to bring continued growth from what we are expecting from our customer base.”

While Kondex offers entry-level positions in packaging and assembly starting at $10 and $11 an hour, the manufacturer also recruits for positions requiring specific capabilities, education and experience including machine operators, welders and engineers.

Wages

Reitemeier said most of the jobs available in the Fond du Lac area fall in the $11 to $13 an hour starting range.

“We’re not really talking about minimum wage positions but positions starting at a considerably higher level. But again, those jobs require skills,” he said.

Many companies offer on-the-job training programs while others provide tuition reimbursement for employees willing to seek additional training, Reitemeier said.

“Moraine Park Technical College offers a wealth of opportunities for developing specific skills in much of the employment arenas that we’re seeing. Oftentimes those programs are available to employees where the employer will actually pay for the instruction,” Reitemeier. “Advanced degrees at institutions like MPTC or a four-year college and experience are needed for the advanced positions being offered out there.”

Late last year, Fond du Lac’s unemployment rate was 5.4 percent, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics released in December 2013.

“Even with a 5 percent unemployment rate we’re virtually experiencing full employment right now,” Reitemeier said. “We’re going to have to figure out creative ways to find the qualified applicants for the positions out there.”

From marshfieldnewsherald.com: “Skilled trades, health care jobs among hottest in Oshkosh area” — OSHKOSH — Manufacturing technology, skilled trades and health care positions are among the hottest job prospects in the Oshkosh area, local workforce development leaders say.

In a time when jobs still are hard to come by — especially for those without specialized training — there is hope for applicants who are seeking employment in some of the high-demand sectors and know where to find the necessary training for those positions.

“We’re definitely seeing manufacturing jobs still hiring,” said Brian Covey, communications director for Forward Service Corp., which runs the Winnebago County W-2 program and serves low-income families in the region. “Through W-2, what we’re seeing is a lot of care-giving (jobs).”

For example, certified nursing assistants or in-home caregivers are among the most in-demand positions, as well as construction jobs, especially with the upcoming reconstruction of a bridge along U.S. 41, Covey said.

According to state Department of Workforce Development statistics for the third quarter of 2013, the top industries by employment in Winnebago County were food services and drinking places, transportation equipment manufacturing, papermaking, administrative and support services, and educational services.

The county experienced a non-adjusted unemployment rate of 5.1 percent in December, compared to 5.8 percent statewide and 6.5 percent nationally, according to the most recent DWD estimates.

“In the manufacturing environment, a lot has changed since the baby boomers first entered the job market,” said Paul Stelter, CEO of the Neenah-based Fox Valley Workforce Development Board. “Those jobs require a lot more technical skills. As a result, the people who are looking to enter into the manufacturing industry today need at least at technical college education.

“Manufacturing isn’t that dark, dirty place that you associate with manufacturing plants of 50 years ago.”

According to data compiled from the 2012 and 2013 Fox Valley Technical College graduate employment research reports, the top job markets in the region include criminal justice and law enforcement as well as agri-business and science technology.

Also among the top industry sectors are nursing assistant, marketing, administrative professionals, electromechanical technology and welders, all of which are offered at FVTC locations in Oshkosh, said Chris Jossart, media relations manager for Fox Valley Technical College. He said welding, wood manufacturing, aviation, marketing and medical technology also are in high demand.

The system has campuses in Grand Chute and Oshkosh; regional centers in Chilton, Clintonville, Waupaca and Wautoma; and training centers in Appleton, Oshkosh and Neenah. In addition to job-specific training — much of which is offered through FVTC — many local employers are looking for workers with soft skills, such as time management, teamwork, flexibility and the ability to learn on the job.

“Employers are looking for the best fit, and the best fit includes not only the technical part but also the person’s ability to show up on time, to work well with others, to be a contributing member of the team, and all those are contributors to hiring a person,” Stelterhe said.

Nearly 16,000 people in the Oshkosh-Neenah area work in production occupations, followed by about 13,000 in office and administrative support and about 7,000 in sales and related occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Transportation and material moving, food preparation and serving, and health care practitioners and technical occupations round out the rest of the industries that employ more than 5,000 people each.

From ricelakeonline.com: “Work ethic, character issues are problems for employers” — There isn’t a lack of jobs in Barron County. There’s a lack of employable people.

That was the theme of the Barron County Workforce Skills Conference, which gathered business, education and community leaders together to discuss local workforce issues Monday, March 17 at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.
The problem, often called a skills gap, is only expected to worsen as baby boomers retire.

In Northwest Wisconsin there are now more people who are 65 than who are 18. That ratio is expected to broaden for the next decade or more.

The results of a survey of 46 Barron County employers were presented at the conference. Many reported a lack of qualified applicants for jobs.

“Businesses are looking to add or recruit people they can’t find,” said Beth Mathison of Manpower Eau Claire.

The skills most needed according to respondents were in customer service, general maintenance, office skills, computer/technical skills, skilled trades, banking/accounting, sales, welding and machining.

In predicting future needs, employees with general office, robotics and masonry skills were mentioned the most.

But it was a lack of basic or “soft” skills that got people talking.

Survey respondents made such comments as “don’t seem to have a strong work ethic,” “nobody wants to talk anymore; they want to email/text everything” and “lack of interpersonal skills is appalling.”

Conference attendee Dane Deutsch, owner of a gymnastics center and IT company, said, “I’ve never fired one person for a tech skill. It has always been a character issue.”

Another attendee said, “If you gave me a choice, I’ll take the person with the critical skills. I can teach the tech skills.”

The survey showed the biggest soft skill deficiencies, in order, were ability to organize and use information, integrity/honesty, speaking, creativity, customer service, reading, writing and problem solving.

In regard to improving the workforce, soft skills was rated ‘most important’ by more than 50% of respondents, followed by occupational skills, specific competencies and educational skills.

Respondents said the most important soft skills, in order by percentage, were attendance/punctuality, initiative/motivation, integrity/honesty, productivity, teamwork and customer service.

Education
Barron School District Superintendant Craig Broeren said soft skills are emphasized in the school system, but home environment is also key to what kind of adult a student becomes.

Some survey respondents suggested the next generation of workers doesn’t have the right attitude toward work and finding work and aren’t being prepared accordingly in schools.

But Chetek-Weyerhaeuser High School principal Larry Zeman said the average adult would not fare well in the advanced placement calculus or chemistry classes students are taking now.

“What kids know now far surpasses anything I knew when I graduated in 1981,” he said.

But even that may not be enough to guarantee career success.

“The last time we hired someone with just a high school diploma was 10 years ago,” said Dan Conroy, an executive at Nexen Group, an advanced manufacturer with a site in Webster.

Conroy said 70% of Nexen employees have a 2-year degree and can get a starting wage of nearly $20 an hour and work up to $35 an hour.

“We’re successful because we’ve gone high-tech, have well-educated employees and pay well,” he said.

Zeman agreed a 2-year degree is a good option for many students.

“We’ve made a concerted effort in out school district to not fool kids into 4 years or nothing else,” he said.

Zeman also said his district is investing $250,000 to upgrade technical education equipment and offer more welding and machine tool classes in a partnership with local technical colleges.

The school district is also trying to build connections with local businesses to create more learning opportunities.

Jim Woods, representing Wisconsin Voices from the Classroom, presented the results of a survey of 1,973 state teachers, 80% of which said there should be more interaction between schools and business.

The survey also showed 67% of responding teachers believe the educational system is on the “wrong track.” Many also said schools do not have enough money to educate students well, and many feel unappreciated as teachers.
“It is a population who thinks they’re not getting enough support from the general public,” said Woods.

But he also said the survey also showed many teachers, particularly younger ones, are willing to change to better student education.
“The only way we’re going to get there is having more discussions like this,” said Woods.

Skill Survey
The survey was conducted by the Barron County Economic Development Corporation in partnership with the Rice Lake Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

The survey was distributed through other chamber of commerce groups, the BCEDC website, meetings, individual requests and business newsletters.
Most respondents, in order by percentage, were in the manufacturing, construction, health and community services, hotel/restaurant/entertainment or retail and sales industries.

Nearly 75% of respondents had been in business more than 20 years. About 80% had experienced increased or unchanged sales from 2012-2013. About one-third planned to add employees in 2013.

 

From journaltimes.com: “Walker promotes Wisconsin Fast Forward program at SC Johnson iMet Center” — STURTEVANT — A $35 million increase in worker training will help schools such as Gateway Technical College get more people into in-demand programs, Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday.

Walker appeared at the SC Johnson iMET Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd., to promote the increase becoming law Monday. Much of the money, which will go into a training program called Wisconsin Fast Forward, is geared toward grants for technical colleges.

The grants will allow colleges to “buy down” long waiting lists for its programs, Walker said.

“We can make sure there’s no excuse for employers who need folks,” Walker said. “If there’s any waiting list in any of those areas, we’re going to put the money through the Wisconsin Fast Forward program to help each of our individual campuses.”

The move ensures the state does not take a “one-size-fits-all” approach — one area of the state may need high-skilled welders, while another may need mechanics, Walker said. Officials want to work with each campus to address its specific needs, he said.

The $35 million also will go toward expanding programs for employers to hire more people with disabilities, as well as collaborative projects between school districts, tech colleges and businesses.

The measure passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support. Gateway President Bryan Albrecht praised the increase, calling it “an investment in our students.”

“It’s going to make a big difference in our communities so that we can provide the workforce that they need,” Albrecht said.

The state’s focus is not only on filling existing jobs, but on future jobs created through new economic development, Walker said. Wisconsin will see many retirements in the coming years and needs to prepare other workers to fill those roles, he said.

Walker predicted the state will eventually turn its attention from creating jobs to filling jobs.

“We’re going to need more bodies,” he said. “It’s my firm belief that we can’t afford to have anyone who is able and willing to work sitting on the wayside.”

In comments to reporters after the speech, Walker touted recent company expansions into Racine and Kenosha counties, including Meijer’s plans to open a distribution center in Pleasant Prairie and a future Amazon.com facility in Kenosha.

Those are “good signs for southeastern Wisconsin” and will help address unemployment in the region, he said.

He also said the state’s tax climate and focus on growing companies organically helps sway out-of-state companies into expanding into Wisconsin.

“That should show companies, whether they’re coming from Illinois or Minnesota or anywhere else, that we’re not just the short-term romance,” Walker said. “We’re a long-term commitment with businesses that want to grow and create jobs here.”

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Walker touts $35 million plan to bolster technical education” — Legislation signed earlier this week by Gov. Scott Walker allocates $35.4 million to help fund the education of the next generation of workers in Wisconsin.

Walker was at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay on Tuesday discussing the funding designed to bolster technical education at the college and primary education level.

“It’s all about training more the skills needed to fill the jobs today and the ones that will be coming up in the next couple of years, and this is the place to make that happen,” he said.

Walker said Northeast Wisconsin Technical College beefed up its training on computer numeric control machines after the Northeastern Manufacturing Alliance reported a need for CNC operators.

“We want to help campuses like this, and across the state, do more of that in the future,” Walker said. “We’ll also use a portion of this money to help school districts across the state get additional resources to partner for dual enrollment so young people get credit in both the high schools and technical colleges.”

This was Walker’s second stop in the Green Bay area in as many days, and he’s been a frequent visitor to the area in the past month stopping at a number of area businesses to talk about the importance of manufacturing to the state and the need to train skilled workers for immediate and future needs.

A portion of the money will also be used to help employers identify the skill sets disabled residents in the state bring to the workplace.

“The baby boom generation is at, or near, retirement and when that happens there is going to be this huge amount of openings and we’re going to need more skilled workers .. and more people working, period,” he said. “We can’t afford to have anyone who wants to work not be able to work.”

The money is appropriated through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Wisconsin Fast Forward program.

“We put $15 million in the budget there to do customized worker training, this additional money will be on top of that,” Walker said. “They’ll work directly with technical college campuses… to say, ‘What do you need? Where are your shortages?”

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