From “Green Bay hiring reflects statewide needs” — GREEN BAY — Job openings in Green Bay reflect those statewide, with truck drivers, customer service and sales representatives, and registered nurses in greatest demand.

“The top positions are almost identical,” said Jeffrey Sachse, economist with the state Department of Workforce Development. “The only thing that pops up is more welder openings than CNC openings, because of the nature of the work.”

Welders have been in demand in the region for several years. Green Bay, Marinette and Sturgeon Bay have a lot of fabrication and shipbuilding companies that require welders.

Sachse said that more than anytime during the last three years, hiring is up across the board. All industries are looking for new workers. Much of that is driven by the increasing flood of baby boomer retirements. Many boomers put off retiring during the 2007-09 recession and its aftermath when retirement funds took a hit, but now are making the move.

Construction jobs have grown the most in the region, driven by the U.S. 41, Schreiber Foods and Lambeau Field projects.

“The greatest concentration is on the Highway 41 corridor,” Sachse said.

Construction jobs increased by 7 percent in 2013.

“That’s twice the industry average,” Sachse said. “Those are per-recessionary growth numbers, and it’s more than twice the growth of any industry over that same period.”

The demand for health care workers is growing as baby boomers age and health care systems add facilities and bring older ones up to date.

In addition to nurses, the Green Bay area has openings for nursing assistants, medical and health services managers and personal care aides.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay has waiting lists for its health care programs, though not as long as they once were, and it ramped up its manufacturing programs to add weekend and evening classes.

“Some of our graduates six months out are making $36,000 a year as welders. Electromechanical technology graduates are making $50,000,” said Jennifer Pigeon, manager of career services at NWTC.

From “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 “State program to boost worker training: $15 million in grants available to businesses” — The need to improve worker training in Wisconsin is so significant that even Democrats and Republicans are in agreement. It’s a rare occurrence lately for the Wisconsin State Senate to pass a bill unanimously with bipartisan support. But the Wisconsin Fast Forward bill became that rare occurrence last March when all 33 Wisconsin senators and 94 of 98 state Assembly representatives voted to approve the workforce initiative.

Gov. Scott Walker and Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development Reggie Newson at a recent press event for Wisconsin Fast Forward at Northcentral Technical College.

The legislation was the first to pass in Gov. Walker’s $100 million workforce agenda over the 2013-15 biennial budget period, passing even before the budget did.

“(Wisconsin Fast Forward) is the cornerstone of the state’s workforce investment strategy,” said Reggie Newson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

“It’s the most proactive and most aggressive investment in worker training that I can remember,” said Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical College.

Wisconsin Fast Forward is a $15 million worker training grant program and it’s kicking into gear in 2014.

“The ultimate goal is to develop talent to fill existing jobs and create new ones,” Newson said.

Applications for the first round of worker training grants were due in mid-December, and DWD – and its new Office of Skills Development that was also created as a part of the Fast Forward initiative – is currently in the process of evaluating those grants, which are set to be announced in January.

The first round of grants amounts to $2.7 million, and focuses on worker training in three areas – manufacturing, construction and customer service.

Scott Jansen, director of the Office of Skills Development, said $400,000 of the grant money will go to customer service, $300,000 to small manufacturers (with less than 50 full-time employees), $1 million to manufacturers of any size and the remainder will go toward construction. The grants are set to be announced in late January, and the earliest training grant implementations could be up and running as soon as March 2014, Jansen said.

A key aspect of Wisconsin Fast Forward, Jansen said, is the program’s requirement to hire the employees being trained.

“We don’t just want to throw public money at additional training,” Jansen said. “We want (businesses) to be able to make the hire at the end of the program.”

Jansen said businesses applying for these grants must prove a commitment to hire.

Newson said that with this program using “demand-driven” requirements, it is focusing on “underemployed, unemployed and incumbent workers.”

The $12 million that remains after the first round will be allocated each quarter, as the DWD will announce a new round every three to four months until June 2015, Newson said.

The Office of Skills Development is currently analyzing which occupations and sectors to focus on for the program’s second round, which will be announced in late January, Jansen said.

Wisconsin Fast Forward is built to be an inclusive, collaborative process, Jansen said, with input and expertise from strategic partners, including the Wisconsin Fast Forward Grant Evaluation Committee, which includes panel members from the DWD, the Wisconsin Technical College System, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, as well as the employers applying for the grants.

“This whole process allows us to be nimble and flexible to be able to meet employers’ needs and incentivize and develop talent in high demand areas of the state,” Newson said. “It also does something impactful that goes along with what the governor wants to do, which is aligning education, workforce development and economic development to create an economic development outcome.”

Newson said the Wisconsin Fast Forward grant programs will be “employer-driven,” “demand-driven” and “customized based on their specific needs.”

In the grant applications themselves, Jansen said, “employers need to identify what the curriculum is, and they’re the ones writing the curriculum.”

“Wisconsin Fast Forward is based on models from other states – Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, Minnesota – creating a demand-driven program that employers can access…to do customized worker training to be able to meet the skills gap,” Newson said.

Pat O’Brien, president of the Milwaukee Development Corporation and the Milwaukee 7, said there’s been a lot of discussion on the issue of the skills gap, noting that many companies complain that they can’t find employees while at the same time the unemployment rate is 7 to 8 percent, and higher for people of color. It is a challenge to the region, he said, with companies getting pickier to compete in a world economy and lower-skills jobs going to Mexico and overseas.

Albrecht said the issue of a “skills gap” is more of a moving target because of rapid changes in new technology.

“There is a skills gap, but there is probably a larger skills mismatch, where (current) skills may not align with new skills that are necessary,” he said, giving automated manufacturing and other computer-related skills as examples. “That second-tier skills training is where we see the gap. The effort now is to close a higher-level skills gap.”

“We need to make sure people are wired into the jobs of the future,” O’Brien said.

The Office of Skills Development was created as a part of this initiative to oversee the grants and programs and to be a collaborative, convening force to align the efforts of the state’s education, workforce development and economic development, Newson said.

“It’s been a very good resource because it provides a communication network,” Albrecht said. “The Office of Skills Development pulled several offices together so it can have a greater impact on the dollars that are invested.”

O’Brien said Jansen, who’s most recent job before becoming the director of the Office of Skills Development was with the Greater Milwaukee Committee, is the right person to be leading this initiative, citing previous workforce development initiatives with the GMC.

“I have a lot of faith in Scott Jansen,” O’Brien said. “He’s been a cornerstone of this project. I really respect Reggie (Newson) for putting this together.”

Jansen said the office currently has four employees, and completes tasks like writing administration rules, designing the grant process, building the website (, marketing the initiative, managing the grant application process and auditing the training program.

It was through the new office’s efforts that DWD was able to identify construction, manufacturing and customer service as the fields for the first round of grants.

“We saw from our strategic partners, from technical colleges and from our employer inquiry that those three are in high demand right now,” Jansen said.

“This is all strategic,” Newson said. “At the Job Center of Wisconsin website, there is somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 available jobs listed at any given time. At any one point in time, there’s between 100,000 and 150,000 jobs going unfilled in the state of Wisconsin. These programs will help us fill those jobs.”

Jansen said that 1,200 to 1,400 customer service jobs are available on the Job Center’s website on a weekly basis.

“Customer service is the number one requested job position in the state,” Newson said.

Any specific connections from this program to the Milwaukee area remain to be seen, but Jansen said there have been many applicants within the Milwaukee area for Fast Forward grants, and that there will be a regional focus.

“You’ll see in grant program announcements that employers will validate request with places like the M7,” said Jansen. “(They) need to validate that those are legitimate skill needs.”

Jansen said one area in Milwaukee where a need for skills development has been identified is in automated manufacturing.

“Population-wise, we’re 36 percent of the state in the M7 region, and we’re 38 to 40 percent of the state’s gross product,” O’Brien said. “On any measure, we’re 35-40 percent of the state’s economy. Any program the state does that’s statewide has a big impact on us. On average, (the Milwaukee 7 region) should get 35 to 40 percent of those dollars.”

Albrecht said his greatest hope for the program is for it to put people back to work.

“In southeastern Wisconsin, with new job areas coming to be available – like the 2,100 new jobs in Kenosha County – we’re going to have to find a way to invest in training to meet that demand,” he said.

From “Students, construction industry partner to build for the future” — Green Bay – A Green Bay non-profit group tasked with renovating and rehabbing run-down homes and neighborhoods is setting to work on a new mission, partnering with a crew you’d least expect.

At first glance, it looks like just another construction project — a garage being built behind a century-old home.

Look closer, and you’ll see the crew is far younger than most, consisting solely of juniors and seniors at Green Bay West and Southwest High Schools.

“We’ve learned how to put up the walls, rafters and headers and kind of just how it starts out,” says Southwest High School senior Xavier Massey.

It’s the result of a new partnership among the Green Bay Public School District, the Brown County Homebuilders Association, NeighborWorks Green Bay and NWTC to not only rehab a blighted property but help students focus on their futures.

“What we’re trying to achieve is give the students a clear path to the construction industry,” says Tim Denissen, NeighborWorks Green Bay project manager.

“Brown County Homebuilders was a big part of that, because there was a need for skilled laborers in the construction trades, and they really wanted to start a program like this at Green Bay Southwest and West,” says Kyle Wagner, residential construction program teacher at Green Bay West High School.

Under supervision from an experienced instructor and local contractors, the nine students are doing nearly all the work, building a new garage and renovating the foreclosure in the 300 block of Oakland Avenue back into the gem it was when built in the late 1800s.

“This home was in serious, serious trouble, but when we’re done with this, it’ll be another housing option for people in the neighborhood,” says Denissen.

And the students like knowing they’re work is making a difference.

“This is my first time actually noticing this house, but it’ll be cool when it’s all done. We can drive past and know the people that actually live here,” says West High School junior Katie Clark.

“It’ll be nice to know that I actually helped and made my community better,” adds Massey.

The students will finish the project in January.

NeighborWorks will then take over and rent out the two-family home.

From “Construction of seventh student-built home begins” — High school students from Luxemburg-Casco, Sturgeon Bay and Kewaunee participated in the seventh annual groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 16 as part of the home construction project. The Door-Kewaunee Business Education Partnership (DKBEP), the Door County Builders Association and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College support this program which gives the students hands-on construction education and a home for a new family.

The new home, at E2337 Sunset Road in Luxemburg, has its foundation laid, and building began on Sept. 17. Students will be working with licensed local contractors to do all the aspects of the construction work including electrical, carpentry, plumbing and more.

The 2,300-square-foot, five-bedroom home is expected to be completed in June, when the school year comes to an end. The students will work on the house or in the trailer that acts as a classroom from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. every day for the duration of the school year. At the end of it, each will have earned 16 transcribed credits from NWTC’s wood technology program.

The owners of the home, Brian and Cindy Peot, heard about the project though the Door County Builders Association and got on board.

“It’s really exciting, I really am glad to give these kids this opportunity,” Brian Peot said. “I wish I had this chance when I was in high school.”

Tara LeClair of the DKBEP is happy with how the program is teaching so many students.

“They learn in the classroom and they can apply their knowledge right away by working in the field,” LeClair said.

This is the third home to be built in Kewaunee County and the second in Luxemburg. More than 80 students have passed through the program and around 80 percent have moved onto something related to the trades including NWTC, four-year colleges, military or construction-related employment. No females have entered the program.

“I really would like to see the dynamic of a female student on site. None have applied, but we are encouraging it,” LeClair said. “Girls are said to be more detail-oriented, and it would be neat to see if that holds true.”

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., was also in the audience of the groundbreaking.

During the presentation, LeClair informed the group that this program allows the students to learn life skills including critical thinking, problem solving, productivity, communication and accountability.

Jeff Schlag was hired to be the instructor on site to work with the boys. He announced to the group that he was inspired to apply for the job after working with students who participate in Habitat for Humanity in Green Bay.

“I love working with these guys, and I know they want to be out here,” Schlag said. “They are not going to lose what they learn here. Hopefully they are the start of rebuilding the quality skilled labor force.”

Kewaunee High School student builder Calen Delleman made a statement to represent all of the student workers and said they are looking forward to getting going with the project.

“We appreciate the subcontractors and schools for giving us the opportunity,” Delleman said. “Being on this site is a great experience for us and it is going to stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

From “As construction booms in Madison, skilled workers are in short supply” — Wisconsin may be lagging the rest of the country in job creation and Madison is falling behind peer cities in economic growth, but the economy here is great for union electricians.

Dave Boetcher, business agent for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 159, says the 900 members of his Madison-based local are at “150 percent employment.” No joke.

“All of our local members are working and we’ve had to bring in members from other locals and other states to man the work,” he says.

There is so much work, he says, that the local has been calling up members from other union locals elsewhere – as far away as Chicago – to offer them jobs on projects around Madison.

By far the biggest construction project is the expansion at Epic Systems in Verona. On that campus alone, 450 electricians are earning a paycheck, says Boetcher.

The effects of Epic’s rapid expansion are evident far outside of its sprawling suburban campus. The company’s constant hiring is driving a mini real estate boom throughout Madison, as developers scramble to build apartments to house the young, middle-class workers moving here in droves.

“There’s like 1,600 apartment units coming downtown in July and August,” says Harry Sulzer, an inspection supervisor for the city of Madison. “Some of that is driven by our friends in Verona. A lot of those professionals are moving to downtown Madison.”

The housing boom reflects a welcome reality after the long recession: There are nearly no vacant apartments in downtown Madison. And of the existing units, many are old and run-down; they’re barely suitable for penniless UW students, let alone young professionals with disposable income.

More houses are going up too. Andrew Disch, a spokesman for the Madison Area Builders Association, says 403 permits for new single-family homes have been issued in the first five months of 2013, compared to 307 during the same period last year.

For many people who are thinking of setting up permanently in Madison, there’s never been a better time to stop renting and start buying. While landlords continue to raise rents in response to the saturated market, home prices remain fairly low and interest rates are quite favorable.

“I think we’ve finally reached a point in the consumer’s mind – (while) they may not have a real high level of confidence in the economy, they’ve come back to their strong belief and confidence in housing,” says Kevin King, president of the Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin.

This is all great news for workers in the construction trades – the sector that was devastated by the housing bust in 2008. Or, it’s great news for those who remain.

“We’ve had a number of calls from our contractors looking for employees,” says Stephen Stone, director of business development for the Associated Builders & Contractors of Wisconsin, a group of non-union contractors. “They’ve called back their employees they’d laid off and now they’re looking to expand.”

The problem is, many workers became so discouraged during the recession – or so desperate for money – that they stopped looking for construction work.

“They’re doing something else now,” Stone says. “And I don’t think those people are going to come back to our industry – they’re not going to leave that other employment until we as an industry can prove that the market is back.”

That’s why John Stephany, who teaches construction and remodeling at Madison College, says the trades are a great opportunity for young people looking to make a good living. Almost all of the 24 students who recently graduated from his program found jobs immediately after finishing school. And unlike many college graduates, they can expect pay raises in the next year.

“I think the average wage for graduates has increased $2 in the past year,” says Stephany. “The average starting wage has gone from $10 to $12 an hour to $14 to $17 an hour.”

Keep in mind, that’s just the starting wage. Experienced trades workers make far more than that. A union electrician in Madison who has completed a five-year apprenticeship earns a base wage of $33.45 an hour (roughly $70,000 a year if working full time) plus benefits.

And yet, as the economy slowly recovers, large swaths of young workers who are struggling to find good jobs aren’t considering the trades. The message across the country, from guidance counselors to the White House, has emphasized the importance of college in the 21st century.

Indeed, as manufacturing jobs that once offered middle-class wages have been shipped overseas or made obsolete by mechanization, many parents likely see college as the only responsible path for their kids to take.

But unlike manufacturing, the trades aren’t going away anytime soon.

“These are jobs that can’t be outsourced,” says Stephany.

And unlike traditional college, where the typical student accrues thousands of dollars of debt, a trades apprentice makes money while attending school to learn the trade. To become a union electrician, for instance, one undergoes five years of on-site and classroom training — all the while getting paid.

Women, who increasingly dominate college campuses and are surpassing men in many white-collar professions, remain greatly underrepresented in the trades. At Madison College, in fact, there is a program, Tools for Tomorrow: Women in Trades and Technology, designed specifically to offer women a glimpse into a potentially profitable field.

The head of the program, Nancy Nikkoul, says the percentage of women in the trades has hardly budged in the past two decades. Currently, she says, only 2.3 percent of construction apprentices in Wisconsin are women.

Two decades ago, Sandy Thistle, who now is an instructor in the program, was one of the few women who went into construction. After dropping out of UW, where she had been studying to enter the female-dominated field of nursing, she decided to give carpentry a shot.

“I was good at math, I was kind of athletic, I wanted to work outside and do something physical,” she recalls.

There were also practical considerations: “I wanted to be able to have a decent living and union carpentry paid very well.”

Specifically, being in a union — where pay for all workers is negotiated in a contract — ensured that she would be paid as well as her male peers. “We all know that if (employers) could pay me less because I’m a woman they would,” she adds.

So how much longer is this building boom going to last?

Much of it is being driven by several major projects – notably Epic – and some of it likely represents homeowners and businesses making up for the break they took from building during the recession.

“Four more years,” predicts Awad Hanna, a UW professor of civil engineering who studies the construction labor market. “I can see at least four more years of this tight (construction) labor market and then construction will be tied to the economy.”

From a construction worker’s perspective, another four years of steady employment is welcome, but those who endured the Great Recession – when the national unemployment rate in construction was at one point as high as 27 percent – may wonder if it’s only a matter of time before the next downturn occurs.

Mayor Paul Soglin, however, believes that the building frenzy represents a long-term shift toward economic development in Madison.

“The volume of construction here in Madison that’s under way or will be under way shortly is a significant increase which outperforms what you would expect to see in this recovery,” he says.

He attributes the building bonanza in part to a message he believes his administration has sent to developers that their projects are welcome.

Zach Brandon, president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, says Soglin deserves credit for his development efforts, but argues that the move toward a development-friendly city hall began with Soglin’s predecessor, former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.

“I think it’s certainly true that over the last few years there’s been an epiphany that development isn’t going to happen on its own,” he says.

While the jobs provided by Epic and building projects on the UW campus are great, Brandon says the most encouraging signs are the cranes on smaller, private-sector sites.

“It’s not just Epic, it’s not a single point in time,” he says. “It’s becoming a trend line.” 


From “Learning by Doing” — Each year, students in Madison Area Technical College’s Construction and Remodeling program complete a building that’s sold to the public. This spring, they took on a new style, creating a structure bigger and better than ever before. I caught up with John Stephany, program instructor, to find out more about the project.

How many projects has the program done since its founding? The program has been around for over 30 years, working on a variety of different projects. We have been building the small modular homes here for seven years.

What is the role of students in the construction?
We had about 22 students this year, and they all worked on the house. They did almost everything: framed it up, installed the roofing, siding, flooring, drywall, cabinetry, windows and doors, trim, etc.

What is different about this year’s building?
We’ve changed the design to be more contemporary. This helped in many ways. Primarily, it simplified the design and construction, making the details the students needed to accomplish simpler, and at a more basic level. Our previous design was more traditional looking with a steep roof and a loft, but because of all the angles involved, it made for many trickier details that were not really beginning level.

How much say do the owners have in the construction?
Quite a bit. We prefer the clients be involved at the planning stages, and get quite a bit of input in the layout and design. We have some restrictions that primarily revolve around being able to transport it when we’re done—so size and shape—and we also try to keep the details simple, so no complicated crown details or things like that. Otherwise, we’re only limited by design imagination. We have worked with a couple of architects who are on board with what we are doing, and are able to produce drawings for us to work from.

How does the program work to incorporate “green” options? What about this house is efficient?

Last year’s house had a solar Photovoltaic system that the electrical apprentices here installed, and we are close to getting a Net Zero Home, which means, with the right balance of insulation, energy efficiency and solar PV, your house can produce as much energy as it uses.

We are really trying to look down the road at what our students will need to know and then we tailor our building details to reflect the coming trends. There are many college construction programs that are out building cookie cutter vinyl clad boxes without any innovation, and we see that as a huge opportunity lost on many levels.

We are trying to push the envelope on affordable, sustainable building. For instance, we use advanced framing details which create simplified load paths and create more insulation space. We build walls that have an insulation level of R30+ and we use Structural Insulating Panels (SIPs) for the roof, which are a core of solid foam insulation with plywood skins, which themselves have an insulation level of R40+. We use reclaimed wood flooring and the trim on this latest one all came from the ReStore.

I know the outside of the home has some special siding. Could you explain it more?
We install something called Smart Siding, which is a composite wood siding over a rain screen. Smart Side looks like wood siding at half of the cost and maintenance. For the rain screen, we use spacers behind the siding that create an airspace. This doubles the life of your siding and makes the paint job last twice as long as well, since the siding can dry out from all sides. It’s a direction the industry is moving toward. In old houses, the wall cavities were fairly leaky air wise, and siding could dry to the inside as well as out. With homes being built much tighter now—which is a very good thing—it was found that siding finishes weren’t lasting as long because it could no longer dry from the backside.

Tell me more about how the home is suited for “aging in place.” What does that mean for the owner?
Wider hallways, single level and wider doors into rooms allow for wheelchair and walker use. Keeping most everything on one level is also huge. If we were installing this home to be consistent with that idea, the exterior walkways would gently slope right to the door threshold—no stairs.

What design choices were made to help maximize space in the smaller layout?
The clients are going to use Ikea cabinets for storage in the bigger bedroom to separate it into two spaces for their kids, which saves space. The bathroom is just big enough to be accessible by a wheelchair, and we used a shower instead of a tub. We also combined the kitchen and dining areas.

What part of the home was the most challenging for students? What is their favorite part of it?
The students liked framing it and setting the beams and SIP panels. Drywall install is always challenging for some students, and proper window and door setting can be complicated as well. Some loved installing the flooring; some hated it. Some loved installing the siding; some hated it. The students who are more particular seemed to enjoy this finish details more, and the students who are less particular seemed to enjoy the framing and siding more.

How can someone purchase a project constructed by the program?
Contact me:

Is there anything else the public should know?
We are one of the best kept secrets of Madison College. Our program not only teaches all the basics of becoming a good beginning craftsperson, we are also out on the cutting edge of construction, and hope to start appealing to a wider audience due to the innovative things we are doing.

The innovation began about eight years ago, when Allie Berenyi was hired to be the new program director and teacher, and she started the program moving more in this direction. It really is incumbent on us to be in front, and training for the future, and also to be partnered with our industry and using us as their sounding board for new ideas. The public can come by and see how SIP panels work and decide to start using them, for instance.

From “Skilled trades workers needed for new construction projects” — Sun Prairie — Everywhere you look new construction is popping up all over the place in Wisconsin.

While the boom in business is good for the economy, it’s turning into a problem for contractors like Dan Duren.

“Right now, we have people to draw from but we are fighting over those people we have,” said Duren.

He’s the owner of Duren Custom Builders, and has homes to build but not enough skilled tradesmen to work on them.

“There’s concrete work, foundation work, flat work, roofers, siders, insulators, electricians, plumbers, HVAC guys, there’s a whole list,” said Duren.

He’s not the only one on the hunt. Wednesday on Craiglist there were dozens of similar postings. Meantime, at Madison Area Technical College, remodeling instructor John Stephany’s phone is ringing off the hook.

“I already had over a third of our students hired and was fielding calls daily,” said Stephany.

He says the uptick is due to low interest rates, and people deciding to move forward with homes. However, many skilled workers turned in their tool belts during the recession, and now people like Duren are feeling the impact.

“It’s the young guys coming in, the young blood coming into the workforce we’re lacking on,” said Duren.

According to MATC this trend is also happening in other parts of the country like Texas, and Florida, something they believe will only grow in the coming months.


From “CVTC students learn house construction on the job” — CHIPPEWA FALLS — A group of Chippewa Valley Technical College students is getting hands-on experience building job skills for their futures while helping prospective home buyers at the same time.

For the past three years CVTC has partnered with the Chippewa County Housing Authority to provide homes for low- to moderate-income residents. CVTC students help build the homes, which are sold to people who may not otherwise be able to afford them.

The homes will be listed for sale at $165,000 apiece, said Ruth Rosenow, Chippewa County Housing Authority director. Purchasers of the homes built by CVTC students must earn at least $22,600 annually but cannot make more than $36,600, she said.

“This program helps CVTC students and, at the same time, the people buying these homes,” Rosenow said.

On Tuesday Matt Burke, a 20-year-old CVTC student from Chippewa Falls, worked on a deck of one of two homes he and 13 college students have built in Chippewa Falls along Stump Lake Road on the city’s east side.

Burke had never worked in construction before signing up for the class. He’s pleased with the finished product and the skills he has learned.

“It’s nice to see what you can accomplish,” Burke said. “I just like working outside. You’re in different places, and you are always doing something different.”

Joe Dahmer, 19, a CVTC student from Menomonie who has helped construct the homes, said he has worked construction jobs with his father since he was 13. He has even traveled to Mexico to build homes as part of church mission trips.

“I really enjoy construction,” Dahmer said. “I decided to go into the program because it’s hands-on, and you can’t do that anywhere else.”

Brian Barth has taught the CVTC residential construction program for the past nine years. He said his students are quick learners who enjoy their work.

“They get the sense of accomplishment at the end of the day,” he said of students building homes.

Students are putting their hands-on construction experience to good use. Of his 14 current students, 11 have construction jobs lined up for after they graduate, Barth said.

“The construction industry, there is going to be an extreme shortage of workers in the next few years,” he said, noting the sector is recovering after several slow years.

Rosenow said her organization purchased eight lots in a neighborhood on the east side of Chippewa Falls to be used as sites for homes built by CVTC students. The two 1,300-square-foot homes built this year have identical floor plans.

The housing authority financed the $235,000 project, with home sale proceeds to go toward the housing authority’s revolving loan fund. Neither of the two homes has been purchased yet, but they would be ready for someone to purchase by Friday, Rosenow said.


From “Home sweet (tiny) home: Fond du Lac family downsizes” — When Peter and Abby Simon decided they wanted to downsize, they weren’t kidding. The young Fond du Lac couple is in the process of building a tiny house and they can’t wait to move in.

Given the state of the current economy, they are among a growing number of Americans with ordinary lives who choose to scale down — way down.

The Simons say the downsizing — from a three bedroom, two-story home to a 300-square foot house — will bring them a sense of contentment. Many others across the country are doing the same.

“It’s about doing more with less. It’s about enjoying people and not things. It is some people’s response to the wasteful ‘McMansion’ trend,” Peter said.

Peter, who is employed as an instruction technology specialist at Moraine Park Technical College, enlisted the help of instructor Don Enders and his building trades construction students. The class is building the tiny house as part of their semester project. A couple of welding students are also assisting.

Enders said he first heard about the movement a few years ago, and is excited to be working on the project. He said the biggest challenge was working without blueprints.

“We sort of did it as we went along. It’s just like building a regular house, the size of the walls are the same, the materials are the same. It’s nice to be able to build a whole house in a few weeks,” he said.

The tiny house trend isn’t new. Sarah Susanka’s 1997 book “The Not so Big House” is credited for first getting people to think smaller when it comes to living accommodations. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, Marianne Cusato developed the Katrina Cottages that start at 308 square feet, as an alternative to FEMA trailers.

In fact, the Simon’s project started with a utility trailer.

“We had to level the trailer first so we jacked up the ends and front to make sure we started out on an even surface,” Peter said. “Then we put six and a half inch carriage bolts through the joists and the bed of the trailer.”

The mobility of the house frees the family from being tied down in one spot.

“We can build this and know that we have shelter wherever we move it. This will open up our property search options. We don’t have to find land with a house already on it,” Peter said.

With a 14-month old son, Elliot, Abby likes the idea of setting an example.

“I don’t like putting an importance on material possessions. Instead, we want to focus on each other and the things we do together,” Abby said.

Because of less storage space, the couple will keep only what they need.

Sometimes owners of tiny houses face zoning issues, Peter said. It all depends on city and state codes.

“As of right now, most tiny houses are treated like RVs, and are hooked up (to utilities) in a similar way,” he said.

The Simons first looked at RVs and campers as an alternative to their large home but Peter said the materials are often flimsy, and cheaply made.

Costs to complete the Simon’s tiny house should run about $14,000.

Whether a family of three can get along in such a small space — time will tell. Peter and Abby view it as a social experiment.

“It is entirely possible that this experiment will fail but we are going to give it our best and I’m fairly confident we can make it work,” he said.

From “Lambeau expansion to create jobs” — GREEN BAY – The Packers say the new expansion at Lambeau Field will create about 1,600 jobs during the next two years. Several hundred will be construction-related.

Many say 1,600 jobs is good news, but the construction business still has a long way to go to truly improve.

“It’s good,” said Jim Golembeski, Bay Area Workforce Development Board. “One of the sectors that was hit most cruelly by the great recession is the construction sector. We’re not building new houses, a lot of foreclosures, a lot of houses on the market. So to bring some business and get the workers moving in the construction industry sector, that’s a good thing.”

The new Lambeau construction means new jobs during the next two years, jobs that are needed.

“Since the crash in 2008 we’ve certainly seen a decline in interest in construction programs across the board, which makes sense,” said Mark Weber, Dean of Trades and Engineering Technologies at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. “Certainly people aren’t building the homes and commercial buildings that they were.”

Weber says in the last few years he’s seen about 20% fewer students training to be carpenters, masons, and electricians. However, other programs like manufacturing are growing.

“I think things like the fact that our manufacturing sector is so strong and growing, that that then will drive more jobs in the construction industry. So I think it’s good. I think it’s a good sign. I think we’re on the right track,” Weber said.

“I think we’re talking about a year to two years at least,” said Golembeski. He says a turnaround for construction is going to take time and 1,600 new jobs in the Green Bay area certainly can’t hurt.


From Fond du Lac Reporter: “Moraine Park building trades students finish house” — Students in the Building Trades Construction Worker program at Moraine Park Technical College are ready to hit the ground running.

They earned a one-year technical diploma after spending the past year building a 1,500-square-foot, one-story home on Country Circle in Fond du Lac with help from Roberts Homes and Real Estate.

The class included Christopher Bengsch of Reeseville; Alfred Bonnell, Sebastian Doern, Daniel Gandy, Joshua Hanna and Kenneth Krahn of Fond du Lac; Cody Brace of Hartford; Spencer Hupfer of West Bend; Michael Neuman of Beaver Dam; Kyle Pucker of Rosendale; and Ryan Yonke of Berlin.

Don Enders, BTCW program instructor, said this was the first time the college has teamed up with Roberts Homes to work on a construction project.

Students provided the carpentry-related labor for the home, and Roberts supplied everything else.

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From WFXS, Fox55: “Green architecture program in Rhinelander” — Experts say the building industry produces about 40% of the waste in the US. A new program helps future architects at Nicolet College combat that statistic.

“The pace of change in the building business is very, very rapid, as it is in other areas of technology,” said builder Duanne Swift. “But we’re getting better and better at building homes.”

The green technology trend has been growing throughout the construction industry. Next fall, Nicolet College students will be able to learn more about integrating earth-friendly techniques into their work.

“If we can reduce waste in the construction portion of it, we’re really hitting three main concepts that align with the overall big picture,” said Nicolet College Building Trades instructor Jeff Labs.

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