From “There’s more than one college plan” — By Dave Saucerman – When I started college, I was repeatedly lied to. Advisers said it was OK not to have a major, asserting that all their programs were created equal and would provide the same opportunities. There was nothing malicious about what they told me — just a friendly reassurance to an anxious freshman.

The truth is that many college degrees don’t carry the weight they used to for employers, a fact that’s too often ignored.

High school graduates continue to flock to four-year universities with the notion that it’s a formula for automatic success, a belief that the University of Wisconsin System is happy to perpetuate. However, since the revelation that UW raised tuition for years despite a huge surplus, it’s become clear that it doesn’t always have the best interest of students in mind.

It’s a growing trend that college programs are set up with the philosophy that students will need to obtain an advanced degree to have any shot at being marketable. This “come for the bachelor’s, stay for the master’s” approach to education only makes sense from the perspective of a university balance sheet. The reality is you end up with a 24-year-old with no real-world experience and crippling student loan debt.

When I finished high school and followed the masses off to college, my former classmate and Appleton resident Ryan Randerson continued working his job at Tom’s Drive-in. It was a questionable decision by traditional standards, but Ryan worked his way into management and, at 20, was able to buy his first home. He’s now enrolled in classes part-time, pursuing a business management degree at Fox Valley Technical College. His employer offers tuition reimbursement based on his academic performance, so Ryan will likely get his college education on the company’s dime.

I’m not suggesting high school grads in general are better off forgoing college for jobs in the food-service industry. College has always and will always have the intangible benefit of introducing students to new ideas, people and experiences. More than anything, college is a place for young adults to discover what it is they’re passionate about. But if your passion is to get a job that will allow you to buy a house and start a family, there are easier ways to do it than dropping $80,000 over four years.



From “BTC Alumni Association seeking new council members” —  At Blackhawk Technical College (BTC), it doesn’t matter if you graduated from the school 25 years ago or two years ago because to us you will always be considered part of the BTC family. BTC alumni are interwoven throughout Rock and Green Counties and starting this month the Alumni Association is seeking volunteers to be part of the Alumni Council.

The overarching goal for the Council is to work with the director of alumni relations to help create a lifelong connection with BTC alumni. Council members are expected to:
* attend at least three of the four meetings per year
* invite guests to Blackhawk Technical College events
* nominate alumni award candidates
* act as an ambassador for Blackhawk Technical College, advocating for our programs and sharing our messages
* participate as an active member in committees and special events

“Blackhawk is well-known for producing graduates that are intelligent, innovative, and effective in their fields,” said Kelli Cameron, Director of the BTC Foundation. “Our goal for recruiting council members is to reconnect and provide an opportunity for alumni to serve as BTC ambassadors.”

Becoming a member of the BTC Alumni Association is easy. Membership is FREE and open to any alumnus who graduated with an associate’s degree, diploma or certificate. Interested participants can learn more by contacting Kelli Cameron at 608-757-7704 or by email at<>. To sign up as a member online and learn more about the association, go to

“Joining the BTC Alumni Council is a great opportunity for both recent graduates and more experienced professionals,” added Cameron. “Networking, participating in fantastic events and helping celebrate the accomplishments of BTC are all great ways for alumni to contribute to the future of the college.”


From “Paul Freiberg: We need all sorts of workers” — Several years ago, after my car skidded into a ditch during a snowstorm, I called the auto club for roadside assistance. After a short wait, a mechanic drove out in a wrecker. He knew his trade and he pulled my car from the side of the road.

I reminded myself never to take people for granted. I also reminded myself that not everyone needs to go to college. A four-year college degree wouldn’t necessarily provide the skills to that young man who pulled my car from the ditch.

We often read about the importance of a college degree. We read about the skills gap — the relative scarcity of experienced workers despite a relatively high unemployment rate. There’s little doubt that we need employees with the requisite skills and education for the competitive arena.

However, we should think about what are appropriate goals for people. We live in a diverse economy and need workers with the appropriate experience to service their respective clients. Some of those skills are best learned in college; some skills are taught elsewhere.

For instance, we need workers who have the ability to solve problems with their customers, the demanding consumer. For others, a two-year technical degree would be beneficial and indeed preferable to accommodate the requirements of local businesses and trades. For some people, working one’s way up the organization makes sense. We should never forget that everyone who works contributes to the economy.

The trick is to match the skills with the job. We need baristas who can multitask during the morning rush. We need wait staff, probably one of the more demanding jobs, to serve our food in a pleasant manner. These are the valued workers who serve me coffee and food as I travel throughout the Fox Valley.

We need retail workers who understand the merchandise and help us make good decisions. We appreciate those who can tell us what style tie goes with what color shirt. We need advice from the home improvement workers and recommendations from the associates at the book store. In the same manner, we rely on those who provide other advice, such as where the fish are biting and what bait to use. Some of us may need help on what type of wine goes with a Wisconsin brat.

Moreover, we need employees who understand how to repair the computers that operate modern equipment. We need auto mechanics who can troubleshoot and diagnose our automobiles and keep our families safe. We need truck drivers who can handle 40,000-pound loads on our crowded highways.

Again, we need the varied skills necessary for our diverse economy. As such, some workers will build their respective skills working their way up through the organization. Some people will be better off taking routes such as trade schools or two-year technical colleges. Not everyone needs to go to college and, let’s face the facts — we don’t have the capacity to accommodate everyone anyway.

Let’s also agree that the experience gained in these service jobs has provided many people with the foundation for other roles in their lives. The communication and interpersonal skills we learn while serving customers are invaluable as we progress through our respective organizations.

We depend on all of these employees such as restaurant staff, store associates, shuttle drivers and so on. Despite the occasional poor service, I see many of these employees work with urgency and pride.

In short, we’re dealing with paradox. We need employees with college educations, we need skilled workers with technical expertise and we need employees with the wherewithal to provide the necessary services, such as those individuals who serve burgers, wash cars and stock shelves.

These employees are important. Let’s not take anyone for granted.

MATC to celebrate 100th year

September 25, 2012

From “On Campus: MATC to celebrate 100th year” — Madison Area Technical College hits the century mark this year and has a party planned to celebrate — and raise a pile of cash. The North Side college will host an event Oct. 26 at Alliant Energy Center to spotlight its array of programs that serve about 40,000 people annually through a curriculum of technical, liberal arts and sciences and adult basic education.

There will be food and dessert, not surprising for a school well-known for turning out top chefs.

The event, “A New Century of Promise,” runs from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and costs $125 to attend. It will include presentations on the college’s programs and an auction to benefit the school.

The college had humble beginnings. In 1912, 63 students crammed in a single room above a fire station on South Webster Street to take the area’s first vocational classes from what was then called Madison Industrial School. Popular courses were hat making, typesetting and stenography.

The college is now embarking on its biggest building boom since the 1970s thanks to a $133.7 million building referendum voters approved in 2010.

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