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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From 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 bizopinion.com: “Demand for IT skills signals next advance in modern manufacturing” — By Jennifer Sereno — Wisconsin has been staking its claim as a center of skilled manufacturing since the 1860s. And Blackhawk Technical College intends to help the state build on that legacy for generations to come with a groundbreaking program to develop the new workforce skills Wisconsin manufacturers need to remain competitive in the global economy.

While some of the state’s earliest skilled manufacturing businesses emerged in Milwaukee — steam engine producer Allis Co. (later Allis Chalmers) was founded in 1861 — manufacturers in Rock County were not far behind.

Thanks to the arrival of rail lines in the 1850s as well as the proximity to Chicago, Rock County’s  starting with an iron works, a paper mill and agricultural equipment producers. Parker Pen Co. which ultimately became a global pen manufacturer, was founded in Janesville in 1888.

More recently, Rock County has weathered a number of manufacturing-related challenges, including closure of General Motors assembly plant. However, manufacturing remains the county’s third-largest source of employment, accounting for some 14 percent of jobs, according to the state Department of Workforce Development.

Blackhawk Technical College plays an important role in maintaining the region’s skilled manufacturing leadership. With locations in Janesville, Beloit and Monroe, the technical college offers more than 75 programs that can lead to associate degrees, technical diplomas, certificates and apprenticeships in fields such as business, manufacturing, health sciences, computers and more.

Those offerings will expand in an important way this fall when Blackhawk launches a two-year program that trains students as information technology specialists for advanced manufacturing jobs. The program will complement the technical college’s new Advanced Manufacturing Center, the first phase of which is scheduled to open in Milton this fall.

“The face of manufacturing is changing nationally, regionally and locally,” says Gary Kohn, Blackhawk’s marketing and communications manager. “Modernization is critical for survival. And what’s happening with respect to modernization is improved techniques in the plants – new quality management systems, robotics, other intelligent systems.”

In the modern manufacturing environment, skilled workers are needed for more than just operating the increasingly complex machines, Kohn says. They need to be able to integrate, program and fix the machines, as well.

Today’s manufacturing equipment is being linked together through sophisticated computer networks and operated from remote workstations. Kohn says the shift to this new, lean environment puts a premium on workers skilled in information technology with knowledge of both hardware and software.

College officials are quick to credit regional business and community leaders who serve on various advisory groups for identifying the need for such cutting-edge training. Among them is SSI Technologies of Janesville, a privately held company that designs and manufactures sensors, sensor-based monitoring systems, digital gauges and powdered-metal components for automotive and industrial applications.

“Our instructors are constantly getting feedback and seeking input” from industry, workers and community members, Kohn says. “We’ve heard about the need from our community advisory groups … This is going to be a program that should really gain a lot of traction because these jobs are applicable in so many areas.”

In developing new educational offerings that align with the emerging needs of the manufacturing sector, Blackhawk Technical College is bettering opportunities for its students while building workforce capacity for the future. If history shows anything, Kohn says, it’s that manufacturers and workers need to be adaptable.

“We use that word ‘adaptability’ with a lot of our programs,” he says. “We want our welders to be familiar with precision machining and we want our industrial mechanics to be able to weld. Our HVAC students don’t just fix air conditioning units; sometimes they have to build things requiring machining.”

If Wisconsin is to maintain its heritage as a global center of skilled manufacturing in the New Economy, advanced training such as the manufacturing information technology program offered by Blackhawk Technical College will be key.

From wisbusiness.com: “Blackhawk Technical College: To offer new Manufacturing Information Technology program” — Blackhawk Technical College is taking the next step into the future of advanced manufacturing with a new two-year program aimed at training students as information technology specialists in a manufacturing setting.

The program, which begins in September for the 2014-2015 school year, will provide hands-on training with the computer hardware and software that is increasingly needed to keep manufacturing systems operating at peak efficiency.

“The curriculum is being created to train students in the application of computer applications and networking of the intelligent systems now finding their way to the factory floor,’’ said Dr. Tom Eckert, president of Blackhawk Technical College. “Increasingly, machines will be networked, programmed and controlled from remote stations throughout the factory, and a specialist, familiar with the manufacturing environment, will be needed to connect, monitor and repair these computer networks.’’

The new course of study is a perfect fit for BTC’s new Advanced Manufacturing Center, which is scheduled to open next fall in Milton. The Manufacturing Information Technology Specialist program will begin next fall at BTC’s Central Campus and then move to the Advanced Manufacturing Center for the fall semester of the 2015-16 school year.

“The face of manufacturing at the national, regional and local level has changed from what existed only a few years ago,’’ Dr. Eckert noted in a paper on the Advanced Manufacturing Center.

“Manufacturers, in order to stay competitive, have modernized with process improvement techniques, quality management systems and increased automation (robotics and other “intelligent” systems). Manufacturers report that such modernization is critical in order to stay competitive at the global level—an environment that is increasingly lean, automated and technical.’’

Ed Scoville, an instructor in the Computer Service Technician program, is the lead instructor in the new program.

“We are looking to deliver an IT program for the manufacturing environment,’’ Scoville explained. “It will bridge the gap between industrial maintenance and information technology.’’

A diploma will be earned after completing 63 credits that includes nine credits in the general education curriculum. Scoville said there are openings for as many as 17 students this fall.

For more information, Scoville may be reached at escoville1@blackhawk.edu or (608) 757-7645.

Registration for fall classes will begin in May. Additional information also may be obtained through the BTC Admissions Department at (608) 743-4463 or the Advanced Manufacturing and Transportation Division at (608) 757-7628.

From beloitdailynews.com: “Walker signs plan at BTC” — By Shaun Zinck – Gov. Scott Walker signed a $35 million bill at Blackhawk Technical College on Monday morning to help fund technical college programs and train more workers in advanced manufacturing.

Walker said the bill would affect three areas in the state: bring down the waiting lists on high-demand areas of studies at technical colleges; offer more opportunities for college and high school partnerships for dual credits; and help people with disabilities find jobs in Wisconsin.

“We go out on campuses and we see what’s happening,” Walker said. “We see the relevance we talked about that are connecting not only students, but employers here in Janesville and in Rock County and all over the state of Wisconsin.”

Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, said technical colleges in Wisconsin focus on the opportunities for students to train in specialized skills, and it also helps employers have access to those workers to stay competitive in the marketplace.

“This new prosperity grant will provide another tool for technical colleges to provide help with that purpose and mission to make Wisconsin the greatest economic engine in the world,” she said.

The bill appropriates the funds to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, which will then grant the money to the technical colleges in the state. Walker said the grants are not just workforce development, but economic development, by helping technical colleges “buy down” waiting lists for popular manufacturing programs.

“You hear time and time again from employers that, ‘Not only do I need help filling that high-skilled welder, CNC operator, machinist … but I actually have the capacity to add more work if I can fill the positions I have,’” the governor said. “So it’s not just about workforce development, it’s about opening the door so our employers can create more jobs going forward.”

The partnerships between technical colleges and school districts are also very valuable, Walker said. He brought up his recent tour to the Beloit Memorial High School Technical Education Programming Space.

“It was a great example when you see the technology incorporated on campus right there at a high school,” Walker said. “One of the exciting things we were seeing is young people that are not only excited about what they are learning, but earning credits for high school graduation, and then have that apply to going on to pursuing the rest of what they need for their career at a technical college.”

Helping people with disabilities find employment is also important because no one can “be on the sidelines,” Walker said.

“With this bill we are setting money aside to expand programs like Project Search, which helps young people with disabilities start to explore what their abilities are, and plug them into those as they transition from high school to the workplace,” he said. “We want to help employers find the unique abilities of people who are otherwise identified as having disabilities. This is not a charity program. This is to find their unique abilities so you have an asset for the employer and the employee. It’s a win-win.”

All three parts will help the economy in Wisconsin grow, Walker said.

“By filling key positions, and helping companies know that when they choose to expand and grow here in the State of Wisconsin, they are going to have a steady, strong supply of well-trained, well-prepared, well-educated, hardworking employees that will make them prosperous for many years to come,” he said.

After the bill signing Walker spoke to the media, and when asked, he declined to answer detailed questions about whether he was aware a secret email system existed in the Milwaukee County executive’s office when he held the position, or whether he personally used that system.

“I’ve pointed out the district attorney spent multiple years looking at that and chose to end the report last March,” he said. “I don’t really need to go through and examine all the details. I’m not going to go through things of the past. The district attorney looked at it and chose not to act on anyone else and I think it speaks for itself.”

From lacrossetribune.com: “Walker promotes worker training; signs $35.4 million bill” — Gordon Murphy is still mastering his new trade, but on Monday he gave Wisconsin’s governor a quick lesson on operating a computer-controlled tool mill.

Murphy, a 29-year-old machinist and welder, is one of a dozen students enrolled in the machine tool operation program at Western Technical College, where Gov. Scott Walker stopped on a tour promoting new worker training bill.

The bill, which Walker signed into law Monday, will provide $35.4 million for worker training at places like WTC.

The Republican governor, seeking a second term this fall, touted the state’s falling unemployment rate — down to 6.1 percent in January, the lowest jobless rate since November 2008.

“More people are working, more employers are hiring and personal income is up,” he said. “We want that trend to continue. But one of the things we hear time and time and time and time again from employers is that one of the things they’re looking for to grow — not just to fill positions, but to grow — is even more well-trained, well-prepared, skilled employees.

Walker said spending on worker training will not only help fill job openings, but it also will attract more employers.

Western President Lee Rasch said the region’s greatest demand now is for welders, information technology specialists and behind the scenes workers in health care administration.

Electromechanical workers, who maintain the sophisticated machines used by workers like Murphy, are also in demand, Rasch said, though there aren’t necessarily waiting lists for any of those programs because of a lack of public awareness.

The new Wisconsin Fast Forward funds are designed to help technical colleges work through backlogs, give high school students access to vocational training and enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Rasch said WTC has submitted a $1.9 million proposal, which he said would be used to fund one-year certificate training rather than degree-based programs that would require ongoing funding.

That could mean training for 180 to 190 potential workers, he said.

Walker said the state should focus on advanced manufacturing in order to recapture some of the manufacturing jobs that were outsourced to China and Mexico in the 1990s.

“That’s why it’s so important for people, whether they’re coming right out of high school or coming back to support a new career, for them to have spots available in our technical colleges,” he said, “because they’re teaching them cutting-edge technology.”

Murphy said he landed a job at Chart a couple of years ago after starting the program at Western. He returned to school this year in hopes of landing a better job in the company’s tool room.

If successful, Murphy said he’ll be earning 15 to 20 percent more.

“It’ll pay for itself the first year on the job,” he said.

From leadertelegram.com: “Manufacturing panel meets at CVTC” — Baldwin-Woodville High School student McKenzie Kohls was looking for reassurance about the future of manufacturing in Wisconsin.

“My grandfather was a welder who came home looking like a coal miner every day,” Kohls told the state’s Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and a panel of manufacturing experts gathered at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire Tuesday. “How has manufacturing changed?”

Panel members spoke to Kohls’ question, hoping in the process to dispel the idea that manufacturing is a dirty job.

Mary Isbister, president of GenMet, a metal fabricator in Mequon, said welding and most other manufacturing jobs are no longer dirty professions.

“You can’t have smoke and dust and dirt in places that have advanced manufacturing equipment,” Isbister said. “The equipment that we use, and the processes that we use, have advanced light years. It doesn’t look like it used to.”

Panel members were attending a Women in Manufacturing event at CVTC in recognition of October’s designation as Manufacturing Month. The event, sponsored by Wisconsin Gold Collar Careers Manufacturing Works Group, included a tour of CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center and a public-private speed networking session.

Students from Eleva-Strum and Baldwin-Woodville schools attended the panel discussion in person while their counterparts in Bloomer, Cumberland, Gilmanton, Pepin, Shell Lake, Turtle Lake, and Webster schools followed the event via video conferencing.

Manufacturing professionals and educators have been working for years to change the image of the industrial sector.

“We still have people who view manufacturing as a dirty place with things lying all over,” said Craig Semingson, superintendent of the Eleva-Strum school district, which received praise at the event for having one of the best manufacturing education programs in the state. “But these are professional places where you’re not going to wear your Metallica T-shirt to work every day.”

Dawn Tabat, chief operating officer of Generac Power Systems, a Wisconsin home generator manufacturer with facilities in Whitewater, Waukesha and Eagle, acknowledged there was some truth to manufacturing’s poor image in years past.

“There were a lot of people making good money in manufacturing for what were pretty low-skilled jobs,” Tabat said. “But those unskilled jobs are gone. U.S. manufacturing got smart. These are jobs that are going to require a lot of special skills. There’s a whole new world in manufacturing.”

Kleefisch echoed that sentiment.

“These are ‘smart jobs,’ ” she said. “We need your brains. We need your bright ideas in manufacturing.”

Dan Conroy, vice president of human resources at Nexen, a manufacturer of power transmission and other products with a plant in Webster, said just 12 percent of jobs in his company require only a high school education while 70 percent require a technical college education and 18 percent a university degree.

“I always use the term ‘advanced manufacturing.’ We won’t hire you unless you go to school after high school,” Conroy said.

Students asked questions about job opportunities in manufacturing fields and which courses they should be take to prepare themselves for those jobs. Panelists said a wide range of manufacturing-related jobs are available.

“You can do almost anything within manufacturing, but you have to understand how manufacturing works. Today’s manufacturing operates very complex equipment,” Isbister said, noting students should not only focus on math but should have a broad-based education to be attractive to employers. “There probably aren’t too many classes that wouldn’t be advantageous to you,” she told students.

Panel members encouraged women to explore careers in what remains a heavily male-dominated field.

Tabat shared her story of a 42-year rise from production and secretarial work at Generac Power Systems to a human resources job and eventually to chief operating officer.

“I started out with a small company and the company grew bigger and bigger, and I grew with it,” Tabat said, noting just 6 percent of company leaders are women.

“There are no other places that have a greater opportunity for women to compete on a level playing field than manufacturing,” Tabat said.

“You can use a laser cutter to break the glass ceiling,” Kleefisch said.

 

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