From “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 “SEED scholar reflects on time in U.S.” — It is with a great excitement I am sharing my interesting journey in the U.S.

My name is Jacky Meremable, and I am from Gros-morne, Haiti. I am studying Business Management at Northcentral Technical College.

When I graduated from high school, I was very concerned about continuing my education. Going to university in my country is not that easy, but somehow I got the chance to apply for a SEED (Scholarship for Education and Economic Development) scholarship, a program financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and led by Georgetown University in Washington D.C.

To get the scholarship was not easy. There were about 390 applicants for only 26 scholarships. I passed through four different steps before I got selected. Scholars come to U.S. for two years to study in college, and after graduation go back home to make difference in their communities.

This experience is the most interesting chapter in my life so far. I have had a lot of opportunities to participate in important events, to learn new things and to take leadership roles on campus.

When I got here, I did not speak English, and I struggled with that for a while. Now I can understand when someone is talking to me, and I can make myself understood.

I have visited a lot of places in the United States and have attended some leadership conferences, including Urbana 12 and the Clinton Global Initiative Conference, both in Saint Louis. It was an awesome opportunity to meet many young leaders who want to make a difference in the world.

To top it all, I got this wonderful opportunity to intern with Youth Apprenticeship. I love it so much because it has given me so much experience talking to employers in the Wausau area.

These experiences will be very helpful because when I get back to my country, I am going to help children to go to school through my Community Action Plan Act-For-the-Future. I will open a sewing machine class so they will learn how to sew so they can be self-sustainable to pay for their own tuition.

To finish, all these amazing experiences would never have happened without the wonderful people living in Wausau. I have to thank my host family, Mike and Deb Roberts; the staff in the international office at NTC, Chris Knight, Michelle Lindell, Ellen Anderson, Julie Murphy, Kathleen Vautour; and my English teachers, Kathy Stamos and Nancy Gallagher. I also have to thank all the people who inspired me: Georgina Tegart, Donna Schulz, Dave Hartman.

On behalf of my classmates, I have to thank all the host families and friends who have supported us a lot, and all the organizations that gave us community service opportunities. Without those people, our stay in the States would never be that great.

From “BTC grad wins Tools for Tomorrow Competition” — It seems like another lifetime ago when Cory Bloomer was sitting on the couch of his Milton home watching television with little incentive to move when he heard the words of the then little known junior senator from Illinois.

“I’m sitting there just feeling sorry for myself,” Bloomer said recently.

He recalled how he had lost a good job of 10 years as a carpenter helping restore historical buildings and was facing eviction in the economic slump that hit the United States late in President George Bush’s second term.

“I’m watching the news and this guy named Senator Obama comes on and says one way to turn it around is to go back to school and get an education. So I said, ‘OK, Senator Obama, I’ll try it.’ ‘’

Six years later, that little known senator is Barack Obama, the second term president of the United States.

Six years later, that former carpenter from Milton holds an associate’s degree in Individual Technical Studies from Blackhawk Technical College and works as a BTC computer lab advisor helping students weave their way through the school’s computer system.

And that’s just the start of one BTC success story. If Bloomer has his way, the last chapter has yet to be written.

“It was great that I came here instead of going to a bigger school,’’ Bloomer said of his BTC experience. “It empowers you. If a student wants to invest the time here, all the extras you can get here are incredible.’’

Bloomer is an expert on those extras. He was a winner of the Tools for Tomorrow competition at BTC, a $2,000 award that led to his being rewarded with the Industry Innovators Award, one of five students from around the country to nab that $2,000 honor.

Both awards are sponsored by W.W. Grainger, Inc., the distributor of maintenance, repair and operations supplies with its corporate base in Lake Forest, Ill., and with offices in Janesville and Rockford.  The company was founded in 1927.

“Jobs in the skilled trades are vital to the economic health of local communities,’’  Jim Ryan, the chairman, president and chief executive officer, said about the company’s outreach education programs. “These jobs and the people who do them are the lifeblood of American industry.’’

Bloomer’s educational journey serves as a roadmap for those looking to reinvest themselves in the educational opportunities offered at Blackhawk. After receiving his GED at Madison College’s Fort Atkinson campus, he enrolled at BTC and dived into business management, engineering and HVAC courses with the goal of getting into facilities management. He earned academic honors and was president of the Phi Theta Kappa branch at BTC.

“The one thing you learn is how to adapt to change,’’ Bloomer said. “People can be so afraid of change. But people have to learn how to change.’’

Bloomer, 35, is just beginning to experience his taste of the American dream. It is not just for his benefit, either. Bloomer is the father of a 10-year-old daughter and is engaged to Robin Aldrich, who has two children.

“I just decided to go for the scholarship,’’ Bloomer said of the Grainger awards, “and I approached the Grainger rep one day when he was here for a presentation.’’

As part of the Tools for Tomorrow award, Bloomer also will receive a new tool kit from Grainger valued at $2,000. He knows exactly where he will put it.

“I can’t wait to get that tool kit,’’ he said. “I just bought a 2013 Jeep, my first new car ever. The tools are going to ride in the back.’’

The Industry Innovators honor earned Bloomer an all-expenses paid trip to Grainger’s national trade show in Orlando, Fla., in March, when he met Grainger customers and represented the Innovator’s program at a tradeshow booth.

Tools for Tomorrow winners are eligible to compete for the Innovators scholarship. Contestants write an essay and submit a photo, which are reviewed by five Grainger representatives. The selected applications from around the nation then are put to a Facebook vote.

Bloomer thought he had a “leg up” in the Facebook competition because of his computer lab connection at Blackhawk. But then he learned he’d get just one vote a day in the voting system.

“That’s what makes this so neat,’’ Bloomer said. “America had to vote.’’

Bloomer is not finished. In addition to his work in the BTC computer lab, he works 20 hours a week at Patty’s Plants in Milton.

He is continuing his education through an online program from the University of Wisconsin – Superior in a self-designed major he calls Natural Science Survey. He is working toward his undergraduate degree, carrying 12 credits this semester in a program that includes a minor in communication arts. His long-range goal is to find a position as an agronomist in the coffee industry.

“When you see the door open,’’ Bloomer said, “you have to be willing to jump through it.’’

And get off the couch, too.


From “CVTC speed networking session builds confidence” — In spring 2008, Chippewa Valley Technical College student Casey Ricci was comfortable with what he had learned in the Business Management program, but he also knew what made him uncomfortable.

“He told us the students learned a lot in the Planning Your Business Management Career class, and it was a great class, but they didn’t know much about how to talk to people they didn’t know,” business management instructor Grace Rich recalls.

With graduation looming for these students, it was a skill they’d have to learn fast in whatever employment setting they found.

This year’s members of that class are looking forward to next month’s graduation a little better prepared, thanks to Ricci’s observation.

Rich, with fellow instructor and now Associate Dean of Business Jeff Pepper, responded by starting a networking segment to the class. It begins with a speed networking exercise with volunteers from area businesses and organizations. That session took place April 2.

“Our intent is to teach the students social business networking skills in a safe setting,” Rich says. “Then we take them to the (Eau Claire Area) Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours to practice in a real setting.”

That second session took place Monday.

For the practice session, the instructors invite business people matching the number of students in the class. The students are told to dress for a business setting but are not allowed to bring a resume. Although skills developed may help in job interviews, it is not an interview practice session, but something more informal.

Students sit down with the volunteers and talk for five minutes, then switch tables and talk with a new volunteer, meeting as many of the business volunteers as they can in the allotted time.

Rich says when she first tells the students about the exercise, they are less than enthused.

“Their reaction is like, ‘OK, how can I get out of this?’ They don’t want to talk with people they don’t know,” Rich says. “But after the first round, it’s hard to get them to move on.”

Finding out they can present themselves well in such conversations builds confidence. Heading into the exercise, students had varying ideas of what they might get out of the experience.

“I hope I get insights into communication, and how to get a job, mostly. I’m going to be looking for a job when I get out of school. This is my last semester,” said Tim Baier of Eau Galle.

Michael Anderl of Chippewa Falls wanted to hear what the business representatives had to say.

“I want to learn how some people fell into the careers they have, how they got their start,” he said. “I’ve never done anything like this.”

Others had less of a sense of urgency about learning how to find a job. Anne Wold of Menomonie and Lance Genrich of Bloomer are each heading to UW-Stout to further their education next fall.

“I hope to meet some people and help decide what I want to do after graduating,” Wold said.

The event succeeded in changing some attitudes. Mike Stearns went into it thinking it had little to offer him.

“I would say my opinion changed. I feel this event was the best event of the semester so far,” he said. “I only wish it could have been longer so I would have met with everyone and not just a few.

Event participant Matt Soppeland agreed.

“At first I was really nervous about meeting a bunch of random people, but by the time I was done meeting with the first person, I found I was talking more than the time allowed,” he said.

Wold said the networking event taught that networking isn’t a one-time experience.

“They offered very valuable networking advice and taught us how to always be networking no matter where we are or what position we are working in,” Wold said.

From “CVTC launches College for Working Adults” — EAU CLAIRE — Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) has launched the College for Working Adults, a convenient program that offers associate degrees and certifications on a flexible format for adults looking to advance their skills.

Classes begin in August, with informational sessions Thursday, Aug. 9, at CVTC’s Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and River Falls campuses.

CVTC will be offering associate degrees in Business Management, Human Resource Management, Liberal Arts and Marketing Management. Certification programs include Leadership/Supervision and Professional Selling.

Most classes are eight weeks long and held from 6 to 8:55 p.m. at CVTC campuses in Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and River Falls.

“We know that the majority of new jobs will require some postsecondary education, and in looking at our population base, only one-third have an associate degree or higher,” said Margaret Dickens, director of Planning, Research & Grants for CVTC. “This initiative will provide courses the working adult can take in the evening without quitting their job,” she added. “The value will be more employment opportunities and a highly trained workforce for our regional employers.”

The information sessions to be held on Aug. 9 begin at 6 p.m. at the Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and River Falls campuses. Attendees will learn more about the College, meet with academic advisors, learn about financial aid and may apply for a program and register for classes.

Reports indicate Wisconsin is facing a “workforce paradox,” in which there is a 7 percent unemployment rate, yet there are many job openings available for those who qualify.

In the 11-county CVTC district, about 200,000 adults have not obtained an associate or higher degree. Of that number, about 100,000 have a high school diploma with no college; 61,676 have some college experience; and 30,000 do not have a high school diploma.

The goal is also to provide occupational training programs to those looking to enhance and enrich occupational skills that may or may not be related to their current occupations.

For more information, visit Registration for the information sessions may be made by calling 715-738-3841 for the Chippewa Falls campus; 715-233-5341 for the Menomonie campus; and 715-426-8241 for the River Falls campus.

From “BTC expands off-hours offerings” — More night classes this fall at Blackhawk Technical College will boost local workers’ opportunities, officials said.

BTC has offered night classes for a long time, but the increase will allow students to complete associate degrees entirely during the evening, officials said.

Programs affected are accounting, business management, early childhood education and human resources.


From “It’s never too late to take a little walk on the path to education” —  Last week I participated in WITC’s graduation ceremony. It was a short walk that took 33 years to complete while I first raised children and at least pointed them in the right direction.

Over those years, I amassed a good deal of education in bits and pieces, completing courses that applied to my work situations or otherwise interested me. Those pieces didn’t fit together for any completed degree program.

My latest venture into education was no different. I started out taking courses in graphic design to catch up on the rapidly changing technology in the field. I figured it couldn’t hurt to add in some marketing to fit my job at the time. I threw in business management for good measure and the next thing I knew, I was looking at a degree.

To say that I was concerned about being the oldest student at a college offering two-year degrees is an understatement. More accurately, I had nightmares of sticking out like a slow-learning, old grandmother among the much younger — and quicker — student body. As it turned out I found myself in an age-diverse population and not exactly the freak-show attraction I’d imagined I would be.


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