From gmtoday.com: “$1.7 million grant slashes wait lists for popular WCTC programs” — PEWAUKEE – Waukesha County Technical College will now be able to slash wait lists and offer more class sections, thanks to a grant from the Wisconsin Fast Forward program.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch was on hand at WCTC’s Industrial building Wednesday to present the technical college with a $1.7 million award, which will be used to help train students for high-demand positions.
“There is a skills gap in Wisconsin and WCTC seeks every day to build a bridge over that skills gap – today you have some construction money,” Kleefisch said. “It is through investments like these that Wisconsin will address the skills gap today and in the years to come.”
The Fast Forward program is part of the Blueprint for Prosperity initiative which Gov. Scott Walker signed into law last year. In total, $35.4 million will be allocated by Fast Forward into worker training programs focusing on reducing wait lists, collaborative projects between high schools and colleges, and enhancing employment opportunities for disabled workers.
“These grant dollars will significantly impact the journey of our students pursuing high-demand programs … and in turn benefit our local economy,” WCTC Interim President Kaylen Betzig said. “We are pleased and honored that the governor recognizes WCTC’s work as an important and valuable investment.”
The grant will be administered by the Department of Workforce Development and will go toward training as many as 168 students in the fields of welding, computer numerical control (CNC), transportation and early childhood education.
Betzig said that the funds will not only permit more students to enter these high-demand programs, but will also go toward hiring more professors and purchasing more supplies and equipment for student use.
“It is huge,” she said. “We have lots of programs – yes we can shift money – but other programs have needs too. It takes resources in order to do this and it takes resources in order to expand and offer more sections so we can get more people into the funnel.”
July 24, 2014
From postcrescent.com: “FVTC receives $3.6M state jobs grant to expand classes” — GRAND CHUTE – Fox Valley Technical College will use a $3.6 million grant from the Wisconsin Fast Forward program to train workers for high-demand fields including transportation, health care, manufacturing and logistics.
FVTC president Susan May said the money will allow the college to train up to 856 workers with the technical skills needed in today’s regional economy. FVTC will train additional truck drivers, personal care workers, production welders, automation technology workers, operations specialists and phlebotomists.
“Fox Valley Technical College and the Wisconsin Technical College System are incredibly passionate about building skills for careers that are in demand, both locally and around the state,” May said in a statement. “Economic development needs partnerships that are innovative and strategically aligned with the intricacies of a new economy. ”
Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who was at FVTC’s Grand Chute campus Wednesday to award the grant, said the money will help address the skills gap in Wisconsin.
“The investments we are making in Fox Valley Technical College under Gov. Walker’s leadership will enhance opportunities for working families in the Fox Valley region and help employers find the workers they need,” Kleefisch said in a statement.
The money comes from Walker’s Blueprint for Prosperity initiative, which provided more than $35 million to expand the Department of Workforce Development-operated Wisconsin Fast Forward program. The initiative focuses on reducing the waiting lists at state technical colleges for high-demand fields, increasing opportunities for high school students to earn industry-recognized credentials and enhancing job opportunities for workers with disabilities.
Technical colleges submitted lists of programs for grant consideration earlier this year.
July 22, 2014
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 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 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.
April 28, 2014
From thenorthwestern.com: “Life after Oshkosh Corp” — Evaristo Mondragon Jr. got used to the lines.
He had lined up for interviews and skill tests at job fairs across the Fox Valley, welding gear usually in tow, since February. An assembler at Oshkosh Corp. for four years, until he was laid off last July, Mondragon’s unemployment benefits had run out and graduation from Fox Valley Technical College’s welding program in May approached fast.
The cold-calls to companies throughout the valley, like the job fairs, produced only glimmers of hope. Mondragon, 30, was told he wasn’t quite qualified yet, even for the part-time jobs, so often he can still recite the standard response from memory.
“‘We like everything about you, but we really need someone with three to five years of welding experience,’” he said.
So earlier this month, when officials at Ariens Co. directed him to another line, after the lines for his interview and another for the skills test, he wasn’t sure what this line was for.
“Eventually one guy walking by told us ‘They’re offering you a job,’” Mondragon said. “A couple of days later, I got offered a job on second shift. They either liked something in my skills test or they liked everything.”
This summer more than 700 Oshkosh Corp. employees will face those same lines as they look for new work in the wake of another layoff driven by declining orders for the company’s military transport trucks.
But examples like those of Mondragon and others who were let go in previous layoffs offer hope, for both the former employees and for the broader economy, that there is life after Oshkosh Corp. for the company’s former employees.
Life after layoffs
Mass layoffs are never easy affairs.
They can depress a regional economy, push longtime employees into a crowded job market, strain families and require government assistance to support and retrain people in the name of recovery.
And then there’s Oshkosh Corp.’s 2013 layoffs.
As defense revenues declined by more than 30 percent, the size of the company’s workforce had to shrink. After 8,700 Mine-Resistant All-Terrain Vehicles and 26,000 Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles trucks and trailers rolled off the line, layoffs had to come once the orders were filled.
But an odd thing happened: The region’s economy absorbed a significant portion of the 1,150 production and office employees Oshkosh Corp. laid off last year.
After the layoffs in April and July of 2013, local unemployment rates in Winnebago, Outagamie and Fond du Lac counties continued to decline for the rest of the year. At a job fair Oshkosh Corp. held last year to help more than 500 laid off workers find new jobs, it boasted that participating companies had more jobs to fill than there were employees being laid off.
And that hasn’t changed. Even today, 19 companies have 121 welding and metal fabrication jobs available in the region according to Wisconsin TechConnect, a job service offered through Wisconsin’s technical colleges.
“It shows the brilliance of the economy up there,” said Reed Hall , CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. They’ve been through these issues before,” Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. CEO Reed Hall said. “The good news is there are not a lot of mass layoffs going on. Mass layoffs at a 10-year low which is a good sign for our economy.”
When Oshkosh Corp. completes the layoff this summer of another 700 production and 60 office employees itwill have laid off more people than the combined workforces of both hospitals in Oshkosh.
Affected employees aren’t the only ones taking notice, though, as local, state and federal agencies continue to look for ways to help soften the blow.
Just last week, the WEDC unveiled a special loan program to help manufacturers, fabrication shops, machine shops, parts suppliers and other parts of the supply chain months ahead of time specifically to help Oshkosh Corp. suppliers.
Hall, WEDC’s CEO, said the agency would provide a loan or loan guarantee of $50,000 to $250,000, provided the company matches 50 percent of the loan amount, to help businesses fund equipment purchases, add staff and take other steps to pursue other business opportunities.
“We certainly understand the impact the Defense Department cuts have and how that ripples through our economy,” Hall said. “We’re doing what we can to retain these jobs here in Wisconsin. And Oshkosh Corp. will make it through. We have a lot of confidence in Oshkosh Corp., that they will … grow again.”
The WEDC program is just the most recent of a series of federal, state and local efforts to mitigate the impact of the layoffs.
The Department of Defense took notice last fall and awarded the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission an $837,000 grant to find ways to soften the blow of defense cutbacks on the company’s supply chain. The grant includes funds to explore diversifying the economy and specifically allocated funds for a marketing and cluster study for the aviation business park under development at the southeast corner of Wittman Regional Airport.
Chamco CEO Elizabeth Hartman said the study will identify a focus, or market, for the aviation business park that would identify 20 to 30 companies economic development officials could target to fill the park.
“When they reach out to contacts, they really try to identify potential folks that would want to be a part of a cluster centered around a business issue or cluster,” Hartman told the Council in March. “You already have built-in prospects as a result. There’s also a marketing aspect to it, but there might be some additional work we want to do locally.”
Some former Oshkosh Corp. employees, like Mondragon, went back to school for new training. He said the state offered him $1,000-per-semester to help with tuition and that FVTC staff “was a pleasure to work with” and helped make sure he started school in the fall.
Fox Valley Technical College Welding Instructor Ben Cebery said the college’s Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center welcomes 64 new students to its one-year welding certificate training program each school year. In addition, students are able to take individual courses to upgrade their skills.
“All of our classes have filled up to the max for a long time now,” Cebery said. “There’s definitely a mix between laid off workers and young people here for their first series of training. The night classes are definitely a big mix.”
Others found new jobs, like machinist Pat Wallace, who said he was offered three jobs within a month after he was laid off last summer.
“It was a good time to be laid off,” Wallace said.
Wallace opted to take a job as an inspector at Eagle Supply and Plastics over ones at F. Ziegler Enterprises and Mercury Marine because it paid better and he could work first shift. An added bonus: He’d be working with his friend and former Oshkosh Corp. coworker John Schmitz.
Wallace, 55, was prepared for the worst, though, because he had already been there five years ago. He had worked at Marvel Manufacturing for 22 years when the recession struck. Sales plummeted and so did the hours.
In 2009, Wallace landed at Oshkosh Corp. at a time when production was ramping up so fast then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited the company on Nov. 12, 2009. Gates called what he saw the most impressive military vehicle production run since World War II.
Workers hired at that time largely knew going in that they were being hired for the duration of the order, and that peacetime would bring reduced orders and a scaled back work force.
Wallace said his job search experiences, in good times and bad, have taught him that staffing companies can be useful, but workers should avoid signing contracts with them; that age isn’t the issue older workers may think it is, and that building up savings is key.
“It worked out that my training and experience were right for Eagle,” Wallace said. “The only thing I was worried about was health insurance. I’m older. But I had money in savings to hold me over.”