From “Albrecht: Gateway a key player in area’s economic development” — This is the first part of a three-part series of in-depth interviews with the heads of Kenosha County’s three major institutions of higher education.

Bryan Albrecht has served as the president of Gateway Technical College since 2006. As the college’s chief executive, he oversees its academic programs, educational facilities, budget and college foundation.

Gateway represents Kenosha, Racine, and Walworth counties.

Albrecht recently was announced as a finalist for chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, which is expected to select a new leader later this month.

Q: Quite a few things happened in 2013. Quite a few new companies came into Kenosha County. What role has Gateway played in developing training programs for new employees?

A: I’m very encouraged by the changes in our local communities. New developments, especially in the Kenosha County area, not only foster great relationships with Gateway and existing businesses but also put us in the spotlight to help new businesses coming to our community to sustain and develop the workforce they need to be successful.

Gateway has positioned itself quite well not only in building a workforce for existing employers but also being a part of the economic catalyst of what it takes to succeed in developing new companies — working closely with Uline, Amazon and companies like that that have established a footprint in our community and we know will continue to grow.

So it’s our responsibility at Gateway to be involved in helping better understand what skill sets are necessary for those companies today and tomorrow as we develop new programs to support new technologies.

Business and education partnerships have been one of the cornerstones for success at the college. We have great anchor company partners like S.C. Johnson Corp., Snap-on, InSinkErator, Twin Disc, Ocean Spray. We’ve provided customized training to those companies for many years.

For the last five or six years, we’ve really elevated our relationship with those companies to help develop an infrastructure for sustaining their business models. One example in Kenosha would be Snap-on Inc., where we provided the diagnostic certification program for Snap-on nationally and even internationally. So we’ve been able to work with their development teams to look at what skills are necessary for the auto technician industry and elevate our program to be a national model, which really helps us build our brand and helps enure our graduates have the right skill sets to compete not only locally but also nationally and internationally.

I think it’s the fact that Gateway is really invested in understanding what is necessary for today’s worker. Our technology infrastructure, the classrooms and laboratories we’ve been able to put together with support of the community and the private sector are models around the country, and we’re looked at as one of the leading colleges in the country to help develop workforce training programs that are aligned with industry skill standards.

Q: Would you say that Gateway is an innovator?

A: Absolutely. We’ve been very fortunate. Gateway was listed on the Great Lakes (Manufacturing Council’s) Best Practices for Manufacturing. We’re an M school for the National Association for Manufacturing. This year we were identified as a lead school for sustainability in part of the Second Nature Initiative, nationally one of 13 colleges to be selected and the top two-year college in America for sustainability. Our business programs were accredited, the first time a two-year college was accredited. So we align now with UW-Parkside in our business school. Our freshwater technology program is aligned with the Water Council out of Milwaukee. We continue to look for ways to elevate our programs to ensure students are getting the skills necessary for the job market but also necessary for advanced education.

Q: It sounds as if Gateway should be a four-year college.

A: We have a lot of four-year options. We have a 30-credit general education transfer agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. We have many program agreements where you can transfer up to 70 credits to UW-Parkside. About 20 percent of our student population at Gateway already has a baccalaureate degree. We do offer some baccalaureate transfer programs with the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Parkside, Carthage and Whitewater. Whenever we can align our programs with four-year programs we try to do that. We think it makes for a seamless pathway for adult learners.

Q: There is a new funding formula in place that helps to reduce some of the tax burden on local taxpayers. Could you explain how that works?

A: Currently this year the governor made an investment of $400 million to help buy down the property tax that had supported the technical colleges. Which means there will be a drastic reduction in the homeowners’ property tax bills supporting technical colleges. That money is being made up by the state revenues. A third of the technical college’s revenue will be funded by the state, about a third by the local property tax and about a third will come from tuition, fees and some federal programs we are supported by.

Q: Is there some additional funding?

A: Along with that, the governor added another $35.4 million for advanced training to help reduce the wait list for those individuals who had been trying to get into a technical college but for some reasons the courses were full or the programs were full. So now we have an opportunity to expand some of those programs.

Q: How does the new performance-based funding affect Gateway?

A: Because of performance-based funding, Gateway will receive $450,000 more from the state than it did last year.

Q: What is Gateway’s standing in the community?

A: We have a strong relationship with our community highlighted by our business partnerships. We have a 90 percent job placement rate of our students and a 97 percent job satisfaction rate by employers who are hiring our students. So I think Gateway’s position in our community is highly valued.

From “Baldwin pushes bipartisanship at Kenosha chamber breakfast” — U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said rebuilding the nation’s economy takes a bipartisan commitment with federal and state Democrats and Republicans working together to find solutions that will promote business growth.

Speaking at a Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast Monday morning, Baldwin noted that the nation’s economy is progressing slower than expected. Applauding economic development efforts in Kenosha County, she noted how partnerships have been important in this region’s business growth.

The Wisconsin Democrat also noted how Gateway Technical College and other local entities are building the technology to address the employment issues of the future, and she praised the efforts of two Kenosha-based companies, Snap-on and Xten Industries.

“One thing that both parties should be able to agree upon is the need to create economic growth by investing in the workforce readiness that we need and advance manufacturing innovation making us more competitive in the state and in the nation,” Baldwin said during the event at the Kenosha Country Club.

“Our made-in-Wisconsin tradition, work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit deserve nothing else than our combined commitment,” Baldwin added. “Simply put, we need to find common ground and work across party lines. So wherever, I go throughout the state, people think we should have both parties working.”


From “CVTC leader: State aid boost keeps job training in high gear” — Any way you look at it, Gov. Scott Walker’s announcement during his State of the State address Wednesday that Wisconsin technical colleges will receive an additional $35 million is good news, Chippewa Valley Technical College President Bruce Barker said.

Barker was enthusiastic after hearing Walker’s remarks about increasing funding for the technical college he oversees and others.

“It’s certainly good news,” Barker said of the additional money, part of a program dubbed Wisconsin Fast Forward. “It’s definitely more money for training and education, and that’s a good thing.”

However, Barker said while that money can be used to hire more teachers, he doesn’t believe it can be spent to add laboratory space, already in high demand at CVTC.

“It’s additional dollars, but we have to see what the requirements will be,” Barker said. “The problem is the capacity of our labs. Our welding lab goes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and these are year-round programs.”

The main components of Wisconsin Fast Forward aim to eliminate waiting lists in high-demand job markets such as manufacturing, agriculture and information technology, and help high school students get credits through dual enrollment programs between high schools and technical colleges.

CVTC has longer waiting lists for nurse hygienists and nursing programs than in manufacturing or agriculture programs, Barker said.

“We’re certainly seeing a big demand in manufacturing and transportation, for truck drivers. Both of those programs, we’re at maximum capacity,” Barker said.

State Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, who introduced Wisconsin Fast Forward in the Assembly, said the initiative is a step in the right direction.

“Linking job seekers with employers that target critical and in-demand jobs while working with tech colleges and workforce development centers across the state puts a sharp focus on employment issues at a local level, where need and demand can be best addressed,” she said in a news release.

In addition to those programs, Walker proposed replacing $406 million in property taxes for technical colleges with state dollars. That would be accomplished by lowering the property tax levy that technical colleges can assess on homeowners.

“It’s a step in the right direction for local taxpayers,” Barker said. “But with the switch to state dollars, you fear losing local control. You also fear a cut in the state budget.”

Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy said in a statement Thursday that Walker’s plan brings better balance to the system’s funding structure. Foy said the system has “long sought greater equity between local and state investments.”

From “Scott Walker, GOP legislators to focus on job training in fall session” — Madison — Ahead of a major jobs report expected this week, Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature’s top two GOP leaders said Tuesday they will spend $8.5 million more in state money over the next year and a half to train the state’s workers for in-demand jobs such as manufacturing.

Walker, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) laid out worker training as one of their legislative priorities for the fall, saying they plan to pass eight Republican and Democratic bills aimed at that goal. Walker said the three leaders would have more announcements in the coming days on creating jobs and improving schools.

One of the bills highlighted Tuesday by the governor would put $1 million more over the next two years into the state’s Youth Apprenticeship program that works with on-the-job trainees as well as high school students. Overall, the new proposals would pull down an additional $14 million in federal matching dollars over the next year and a half.

“People are hungry to do more things to create the economic environment in the state where businesses can create jobs,” Walker said of state leaders.

So far, Republicans have outlined a modest agenda for the remaining legislative session ending this spring, including a bill to allow a mining company to close off its land to protesters, hunters and the public and another to hold private voucher schools receiving taxpayer money to standards similar to those of public schools. Other potential bills include an overhaul of election laws and a ban on taxpayer money covering abortions under public employee health plans.

Over the past 21/2 years, GOP lawmakers and Walker have passed so many elements of their conservative agenda that they’ve been moving slower since they returned to the Capitol this fall. The Assembly chose not to take to the floor in September, putting off votes until next month.

Democrats have criticized Walker and Republican legislators for cuts they made to technical colleges and their training programs two years ago. The current budget gives tech schools $5 million more in state money over two years, but that doesn’t make up for the 30% cut passed in 2011, which dropped state funding for technical schools from $119.3 million a year to $83.5 million.

“It’s inadequate to a state that is significantly lagging in job creation,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said of the proposals highlighted Tuesday. “This is far too little far too late to really have the kind of impact that’s necessary at this time.”

The state’s economy will play a key role in the re-election campaign next year for Walker, who in his initial 2010 campaign promised to create 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first four-year term.

With 16 months left in that term, the state has created 89,882 jobs, according to a PolitiFact Wisconsin analysis of the latest estimates. That’s a little more than a third of the way toward his goal.

Fitzgerald said he hoped to pass the jobs bills by the end of the year, saying they would improve on the state’s current efforts rather than make a radical departure.

“I think what you’re seeing is a fine-tuning of existing programs,” he said.

The bills would:

■ Pay for up to 25% of the cost of tuition for an apprenticeship program, with maximum payments of $1,000 per student.

■ Give incentive payments to school districts of up to $1,000 per student if they developed programs encouraging students to get certificates in high-need industries before they graduate from high school. The measure would initially provide $3 million in additional funding for schools.

■ Provide $4 million in state funds for vocational rehabilitation services for people with disabilities. The program is expected to lure $14 million in federal funding as well, helping to serve another 3,000 people over two years.

■ Create a scholarship program for top students who want to pursue a technical education.

■ Revive a program that allows people to get job training while they are unemployed and continue to receive unemployment benefits while they do so.

■ Allow students to take state licensing exams before they complete their training, with the license issued as soon as they finish their training. This would prevent graduates from having to wait weeks or months before taking a licensing test.

■ Create a new transitional jobs program outside of Milwaukee so low-income people could build their job skills. The program would supplement one for Milwaukee included in the state budget.

In other news Tuesday, Wisconsin ranked as one of the best states in the country in a monthly index of economic activity issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Last week’s report from the state Department of Workforce Development showed that Wisconsin added an estimated 7,300 private-sector jobs in August, though those preliminary numbers are subject to heavy revisions.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate also declined last month to 6.7% in August from 6.8% in July. The rate fell mainly because several thousand unemployed Wisconsinites quit looking for work, which removed them from the official tally of the unemployed.

Nationally, the proportion of Americans working or looking for work fell to its lowest level in 35 years.

The most comprehensive set of jobs numbers for Wisconsin — a more reliable but less timely report covering the first three months of 2013 — comes out Thursday.

Lawmakers won’t just be considering jobs bills this fall.

The Senate, for instance, has yet to decide what to do with two abortion bills passed by the Assembly this year. One would ban abortions that are chosen because of the fetus’ sex and the other would bar public workers from using their government health insurance to pay for the procedure.

In June, the Assembly also approved a bill allowing online voter registration and doubling the amount of money donors can give candidates for governor and the Legislature. Senate leaders have not determined what they will do with the measure.

An earlier version of the measure included changes to election laws, and Assembly leaders have said they would like to adopt at least some of them later this session. The earlier package would have made it harder to recall municipal and school officials, limited early voting and modified the state’s voter ID law, which has been blocked by a judge.


From “Innovation, not controversy, defines North Woods economy” — By Tom Still, Wisconsin Technology Council – ASHLAND — C.G. Bretting Manufacturing has been bending metal on the shores of Lake Superior since 1890, but its global footprint in the paper converting industry defines the company’s 21st century approach to innovation.

Entrepreneurs such as Bruce Bowers, Mirka Nelson and Mark Snow all represent new companies — or, in some cases, no company at all — but they’re guided by the same innovative spirit that drives the big boys.

Welcome to the new North Woods, where efforts to redefine the economy involve companies large and small, as well as a broader community that understands the need to secure the region’s long-term prosperity.

For some in Wisconsin, the North Woods have become a frozen banana republic, with eco-terrorists and paramilitary guards roaming the forests of the Gogebic Iron Range within a half hour’s drive of Ashland.

For those who live there, however, those headlines are a far cry from everyday life. Although residents are divided over the mine, they’re also determined that the controversy surrounding it not become the North Woods’ defining image.

That was evident during a recent visit to Ashland, where executives at family-owned firms such as Bretting, entrepreneurs who are just starting businesses, and leaders in the political and economic development communities seem aligned in their vision for the future.

“We are all very active and passionate about making our community a better place,” read a welcome letter from nine industry, education and local government leaders to the Wisconsin Technology Council board.

That was evident at Bretting, which makes custom machines — folders, rewinders and more — for paper companies that produce napkins, tissue paper and similar consumer products. The company’s high-tech, lean manufacturing setting has enabled it to capture significant shares of the paper converting market in North America as well as globally, with

60 large paper firms counted among its customers.

Bretting’s workforce of 450 or so people has virtually no turnover outside retirements, in part because the company’s leadership stresses innovation, teamwork and customer service as a matter of course. “This is our home,” said president and chief executive officer David Bretting. “We have faith in the community and the people who live here.”

At Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Ashland, a different brand of innovation was on display when a small group of entrepreneurs practiced their two-minute business plan “pitches” for a panel of judges. The Entrepreneurs’ Edge event, organized by the Wisconsin Innovation Network’s Lake Superior chapter, was a precursor for the larger Lake Superior Business and Technology Conference. That day-long event will be held Aug. 9, also at Indianhead Tech.

Presenters at the pitch practice reflected a range of ideas, mostly driven by hands-on experience.

Bowers is a musician who has built a lighting prototype for theater, music and studio settings where control and information surfaces must be well lit without spillover to performing or audience areas.

Nelson wants to build a recreational and observation tower — with a possible high-tech twist — to attract tourists as well as adventuresome athletes who may want to try climbing, rappelling or zip lines.

Snow is a Marine Corps veteran and radio professional who wants to syndicate regular programming for veterans and current military personnel.

Other ideas pitched at the event involved a more energy-efficient window for homes, bottled water from Ashland’s aquifer, environmentally friendly marketing materials, custom iron artwork and the world’s thinnest wood veneers, which can be used for everything from labels to box coverings.

Not all of those ideas are destined to be the next Google, but they’re examples of Main Street entrepreneurism that can add economic value.

The Lake Superior region’s economy will likely always rest on some traditional pillars — timber, transportation, tourism and taconite (iron ore) — but technology is becoming a fifth “T” in the lineup. It is embedded in manufacturing companies such as Bretting and the ideas of entrepreneurs.

Don’t be misled by the images of protesters and armed guards: The economy in Wisconsin’s North Woods is becoming more diverse as the community works to keep its best people and ideas close to home.



From “Job training program moving forward in Wisconsin” — The state is moving forward with a new job training program.

Leaders from the Department of Workforce Development, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Technical College System signed an agreement to team up for the “Wisconsin Fast Forward” initiative.

It’s a $15 million grant program designed to help workers with job training.

“The Wisconsin Fast Forward initiative is quickly moving forward to provide workers with the training they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Governor Walker said.  “These grants will be used help Wisconsin workers gain new skills, connect workers with jobs, and foster job creation and expansion by offering innovative training solutions that match employers’ current needs.”

Officials hope to get it off the ground by the end of the year.


From “Business and technology conference to be held in Ashland” — Are you interested in growing businesses and creating jobs in northwest Wisconsin? If so, join the other entrepreneurs, business and community leaders and economic developers who will be attending the upcoming 2013 Lake Superior Business & Technology Conference – Growing Superior Ideas in the North on Friday, August 9 at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Ashland. Onsite registration and networking starts at 8:30 a.m., the program begins at 9 a.m. and the conference concludes at 3:30 p.m. The registration fee for the conference is $30, which includes lunch. You can register online by going to

Keynote speaker Rob West, current Chief Executive Officer of GPM, Inc., an $18.8 million privately held heavy-duty pump manufacturing firm, and past President & CEO for the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX) headquartered in Duluth, Minn., will kick things off with a presentation on “How to Grow and Nurture Entrepreneurs.” Rob is a very dynamic speaker with a wealth of experience as an entrepreneur, business executive and economic developer. He’s been a company executive at marketing/advertising, home improvement product and manufacturing firms.

Rob has also taught at the University of St. Thomas and University of Minnesota-Duluth. He has an MBA from Western Michigan University and was an Officer in the United States Army.

Rob’s presentation will be followed by two back-to-back panels, the first featuring speakers who will describe how area producers are using technology to grow their agriculture business in northwest Wisconsin. The second panel will include presentations from representatives of three area firms, TACMoto, LLC, Soft Lines Inc. and Ancientwood, Ltd., who will describe how they’ve been able to make their business thrive using the Internet.

Following lunch, Molly Lahr, Director of the Wisconsin Innovation Network of the Wisconsin Technology Council, will moderate a Business Idea Contest, finalist’s presentations and critiques session. Conference attendees will have a chance to hear the top 11 Business Idea Contest finalists pitch their business ideas and compete for over $5,000 in prize money before a panel of expert judges who will rate and critique their business ideas. A range of innovative and creative business ideas will be presented. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three-rated business idea presenters, as well as to the presenter with the “greenest” business idea and also to the presenter who receives the most votes from the conference audience.

The conference is sponsored by: the Lake Superior Region Wisconsin Innovation Network, Wisconsin Technology Council, City of Ashland, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, C.G. Bretting Manufacturing Company, Inc., Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, Memorial Medical Center, Associated Bank, Superior Light & Power Company/Allette Energy, UW-Superior Small Business Development Center, Ashland Area Development Corporation, Bayfield County Economic Development Corporation, The Development Association, Twin Ports I & E Club, Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX), Alliance for Sustainability, Bayfield County, UW-Extension and Northland College.

From “Nicolet upgrades workforce training to boost economic development” — The economic recession of 2008 and 2009 caused a seismic shift in the American landscape. Perseverance, adaptation and resilience were all key to make it through the economic downturn.

“It was a time of dramatic change that happened relatively quickly,” said Nicolet College President Elizabeth Burmaster. “With everything that was happening in the economy, we knew at Nicolet that we were going to have to change how we approached workforce skills training as well.”

The recession deepened and enrollment at Nicolet surged to record levels as the unemployed sought job training for new careers. Employers realized existing employees needed higher skill sets for companies to be efficient and profitable.

“More was being expected of employees and we had to adapt to that in the type of workforce training we provided,” said Sandy Bishop, director of Workforce Development at Nicolet. “Technical skills have always been important and always will be. But along with solid technical skills, we were seeing more demand for employees with what some call soft skills. Knowing how to effectively work as a team, solving problems independently and quickly, communicating effectively, resolving conflict and adapting to change are all skills that many businesses require in their employees.”

Nicolet adapted by placing greater emphasis on these skills in classroom curricula, not only in credit classes, but also the whole complement of short-term, non-credit workforce development workshops that Bishop oversees.

“Employers have raised the bar on what they expect from their workforce,” Bishop explained. “In many ways, it’s like instilling the mindset that every employee is personally responsible for the success of the business. Everyone has to work together responsibly and effectively to be successful.”

Bishop stressed that teaching the latest technical skills is still at the core of what is taught in classes and workshops, and adding this extra level of soft skills was largely driven by what the college was hearing from area employers.

“Nicolet puts a strong emphasis on working in close partnership with area employers and this change is a great example of the effectiveness of these relationships and how the college can adapt to changing needs,” she said.

The numbers show that employers like the training Nicolet offers. Last year, 105 Northwoods employers contracted with the college to provide workforce development training, sending nearly 3,000 registrants to dozens of different workshops, classes and certification seminars.

Entrepreneurship and business development

Another recession-driven growth area for Nicolet has been in the areas of helping entrepreneurs launch businesses, and assisting existing new and small businesses in growing their operations.

“These two areas are key to lifting the Northwoods out of recession and growing the local economy,” said Michelle Madl-Soehren, Nicolet Business Development coordinator. “Many of the new jobs that are being created are coming from small business.”

To help fuel this growth, Madl-Soehren and others at Nicolet have developed a series of laddered workshops that offer increasing levels of instruction and advice for entrepreneurs looking to start a business and those looking to grow an existing business.

In the past year, Madl-Soehren has held 15 Explore Starting a Business workshops throughout the Northwoods to introduce students to the idea of business ownership.

“Starting and building a successful business is a step-by-step process and all the pieces have to be in place in order for any business to do well,” she explained. “In these workshops, we identify the critical components and then work with individuals to help them bring all the pieces together.”

The workshops–which are offered for free–have been held throughout the Northwoods in many different communities including Tomahawk, Minocqua, Eagle River, Crandon, Lac du Flambeau and Rhinelander. More than 50 people have attended these workshops.

As a follow-up for those wanting more detailed business development information, Nicolet recently launched the new 10-session E-Seed Innovative Entrepreneurship Training Program.

“Instruction covers practical, real-world management and planning tools that include all of the basics of starting a business,” Madl-Soehren said.

Specific topics include determining if business ownership is right for each individual, feasibility testing, business concept development, creating a business plan, bookkeeping and accounting systems, and legal issues facing business owners. Expert guest speakers also share their insights on running a successful business. Today, 10 students are enrolled in the E-Seed series currently offered by Nicolet at the Vilas County Business Incubator in Eagle River.

For more information about workforce and business development training opportunities at Nicolet, contact the college at (715) 365-4493, (800) 544-3039, ext. 4493; TDD (715) 365-4448. More information is also available online at Once there, click on the Continuing Education link in the upper right corner of the page.

From “Grant funds available for worker training” — Area businesses have the opportunity to upgrade the skills and productivity of their employees through training programs funded in part by the State of Wisconsin Workforce Advancement Training grants.

Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) is accepting requests through April 5 for consideration for such training programs, for training sessions to be held between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014.

The training, available to for-profit businesses operating in Wisconsin, can include any combination of academic, occupational and employability topics or courses.

Grants anticipated to be available through this program are awarded to promote increased investment in the development of incumbent workers, improve Wisconsin business productivity and competitiveness, and augment the state’s economic base by expanding technical college training services to business and industry. The program also has the broader objective of supporting regional workforce and economic development efforts.

Since 2008, CVTC has been awarded over $2 million in Workforce Advancement Training grants to provide training for over 6,400 workers in over 50 different companies around west central Wisconsin.

The Workforce Advancement Training Grant Request for Consideration form may be found online at For more information, call 1-800-547-CVTC (2882), ext. 4676.

From “Chippewa County Businesses Receive Economic Development Recognition” — Winners of the Wisconsin Economic Development Association (WEDA) 2013 Biennial Economic Development Awards have been selected—two of the award recipients were Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) nominees. CCEDC nominated the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) and Progressive Rail (PR) who will receive their awards during the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development.

The CVTC, recognized for the 2013 WEDA Biennial Organization Award was nominated by CCEDC for their outstanding employer-employee based programs, technical certificate programs serving employers, workforce development, associate degree programs and high school programs.  CCEDC believes the CVTC has strengthened the Chippewa Valley workforce and enhances the region for economic development. CVTC offers excellent academics, strong occupational training, small class sizes, and dedicated instructors providing Chippewa Valley students with high-quality education and training opportunities.

“Chippewa Valley Technical College takes its role in economic development very seriously, and we continue to work hard to help local companies by meeting their needs with highly trained workers in a variety of fields”, state Bruce Barker, CVTC President. “Economic development is best approached as a partnership, and we are proud to partner with business and industry and other agencies to forward the economic health of west central Wisconsin. We would like to thank WEDA for this recognition of our efforts.”

PR received the 2013 WEDA Biennial Company Award.  CCEDC nominated PR for this award because of their transportation infrastructure improvements, support of existing and new industrial development initiatives thus eliminating congestion and inefficiencies and improving safety on the PR lines in Western Wisconsin.  PR’s recently completed an addition of two-new passing tracks to its main line in Chippewa County signifies an over $5 million investment of private sector funds.  The addition of these passing lanes has increased capacity to the entire rail network giving railcars operational feasibility and could be considered an industrial development incubator attracting more business and talent to the area.

“Perhaps the greatest mark of achievement in Progressive Rail’s track record is seen by the existing and new businesses that have elected to invest on our line which brings with that their commitment, careers, commerce and community involvement to Chippewa County and State of Wisconsin. I see railroads as America’s best economic development incubator and Progressive Rail is proud to be part of this investment”, stated Progressive Rails Owner and President Dave Fellon.  “We are honored to be the recipient of the WEDA economic development award and are appreciative to the CCEDC and WEDA for recognizing our efforts.”

“It is always great when Chippewa County businesses such as CVTC and PR are recognized by a group that represents economic development for the entire State of Wisconsin” stated CCEDC President/CEO Charlie Walker. “The roles both CVTC and PR play are diverse and needed for successful economic development; I look forward to strengthening the partnership with these economic development team players as we work to expand the Wisconsin workforce and economic base.”

In 1985, WEDA established the Biennial Awards program with the purpose of recognizing exceptional contributions to the economic vitality of Wisconsin through the use of creativity, leadership, effort, investment or other attributes which further broad-based economic development goals and objectives within the State of Wisconsin.

From “Tyler: Taking the ‘boring’ out of economic development” — On its face, fostering economic development seems to be a pretty straightforward process. But sometimes telling stories, not spouting statistics, is actually a more effective way to attract a prospect to an area’s business community.

That was the message delivered to an attentive audience by Woodville-based OEM Fabricators CEO Mark Tyler during the Dunn County Economic Development Corporation’s annual meeting last month.

He pointed out that a variety of very good reasons are touted to entice a new business to move to the region or for an established business to go ahead with that expansion project — things like being close to markets, an area’s attractiveness and quality of life, along with reasonably priced real estate, great educational systems, good workforce, access to transportation corridors and supply, and solid demographics.

“You still need to provide buildable sites in industrial parks, still need to provide the data … to do all that stuff,” Tyler said. “But if we’re really going to differentiate ourselves from others … we really need to develop some new stories and work in different ways.”

Drivers, followers

Part of redefining the story comes in acknowledging that the world of business is divided into two parts: Economic drivers and economic followers.

Economic drivers  — manufacturing, agriculture, education and mining — create what Tyler calls an “echo in the economy” and should constitute the focus of economic development efforts.

“You take a product, put it through some process, make it worth more money,” he explained. “You send it somewhere else, you bring your money here.”

While recognizing their importance in every community, Tyler contends that economic followers — banking, health care, insurance, retail and services — should not be the focus of economic development.

“The reason we don’t focus on them is that if we’re going to increase haircuts, we either have to make crew cuts stylish in men and women — or we have to have more people,” he said. “It’s a follower industry, not a leader industry.”

It’s the growers that create the value and increase the opportunities for the population to grow.

Blessed be Dunn County

Tyler pointed out that in addition to a strong foundation in leader industries, Dunn County is also blessed with good geography, specifically its proximity to the Twin Cities market to the west.

Little comes from the north and not much more from the south, he noted. “But most of what comes through is from the east and drives right through Dunn County. So from a distribution and logistics perspective, this is the Holy Grail for distribution [west] into the Twin Cities.

When it comes to attracting companies  to the area, Tyler said, “One of the things that’s always frustrated me about relocation is you never know who the decision maker is. Oftentimes it’s the owner’s or the plant manager’s spouse. They may not decide where they’re going to look, but they’re going to decide where they’re not going to go.”

And then there’s the issue of how best to encouraging those thinking about starting up new businesses.

“We certainly want all that fundamental stuff in place where we have Extension classes that talk about how to start companies … marketing … putting together a business plan,” Tyler said. “But how do we tell the stories that … starting a company is OK? To get past the fear of putting the mortgage on their house on the line or taking out a second mortgage?”

Unless other entrepreneurs — especially fairly new ones — share their experiences in a way “so people understand that it’s possible, it doesn’t happen,” Tyler said.

The art of collaboration

Collaboration — as opposed to simple cooperation — is key, what Tyler calls participants “getting out of our silos.”

To explain the concept, he shared OEM’s recent success story involving a project the company recently undertook involving Chippewa Valley Technical College and Baldwin-Woodville High School.

“Th three of us got together and basically we made the agreement that people resources were going to be on the table, financial resources. … If there’s rules that get in the way … we would gather to fight the rules and together make progress.”

The triad created what they call a manufacturing pathway that starts with ninth grade students exploring the world of manufacturing.

“By the 10th grade, they declare that they’re going on this pathway,” Tyler explained. “By the time they’ve completed high school, they’re working part time, they’ve earned a half a year of credit tuition free toward their program, whether it’s welding or machine tool or industrial mechanics or whatever [at CVTC].”

The result is a faster path toward gainful — and meaningful — employment that benefits the student, the college and the company. OEM covers the student/employee’s tuition while he or she works 20 hours a week.

“We’ve looked at all the components and solved the problems — the financial problems, the teacher credential problems, the block time scheduling at the high school problems — all the things we worked on collectively to solve,” Tyler reflected, adding that while there are still some issues being worked out,  “If all of us hadn’t put all our resources together, we couldn’t have got it done.”

Tyler estimates that OEM has hired more than 300 people over the past three years and spent $1.2 million recruiting, drug testing and training employees. He figures the new collaborative effort — at a cost of $4,000 to $4,500 per student — will provide substantial savings over the recruitment and training process.

Labor makes up 40 to 50 percent of the cost of doing business, and most manufacturers report difficulty in finding qualified workers.

“That’s their hot button,” Tyler said. “You solve any problem associated with that and you’re going to make some progress.”

Other avenues

On the administrative side of the business equation, Tyler pointed out that UW-Stout’s goal to have 100 percent of its students to participate in either a co-op program or internship could benefit local manufacturers and other economic drivers.

Noting that half of OEM’s management team are UW-Stout graduates, he said, “For about 15 years, we’ve been bringing in interns,” he said. “We found that about half of them never go away.”

Tyler said it finally occurred to them that perhaps OEM should recruit interns with the intent of keeping them on as future management staff. With more people leaving the workforce in western Wisconsin than entering, that kind of retention could have a dramatic impact on the region’s economic viability.

“I would really like to see participation and collaboration with helping build the talent pipeline,” Tyler said. “Workforce development and economic development are really the same thing in today’s climate.”

And in the meantime, keep those stories coming. “Panel says skilled workers needed for economic expansion” — Growth and expansion in Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector is stalling because of a lack of skilled workers, a panel of experts reported to the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) Board this week.

“Manufacturers across Wisconsin consistently point to skill shortages as a ‘pacing’ issue,” said Jim Morgan, president of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Foundation and one of four panelists. “In other words, skills training drives their ability to grow and expand.”In a December survey of the Wisconsin manufacturing industry conducted by Schenck, an Appleton-based accounting and consulting firm, nearly 90 percent of respondents indicated a skilled labor shortage was affecting sales growth and expansion opportunities.

Other panelists speaking before the board included John Schwantes, a director with Johnsonville Sausage in Sheboygan Falls, Fox Valley Technical College president Susan May and Jim Mackey, WTCS education director for manufacturing programs.

“We’ve certainly been challenged with skills shortages,” said Schwantes, a member of the WTCS board. “But we’ve also been engaged in developing the kinds of flexible K-12 and technical college partnerships that help us address those challenges.”

The technical colleges offer more than 60 education and training programs in manufacturing, with about 9,000 students enrolled, as well as customized training and technical assistance. “Our members believe the technical colleges are the preferred providers of skills training,” Morgan told the board.

May highlighted long-standing partnerships her college has with regional manufacturers. She also pointed out that the technical colleges must aggressively manage their “program mix,” balancing the needs of employers and interest of students across sectors.

“At some point, the colleges bump into issues related to student pipeline and college capacity,” said WTCS board president Mark Tyler. “We work hard with our partners to generate interest in manufacturing programs and careers, but we face challenges there, and in ensuring the colleges have the physical and instructional capacity to deliver graduates.”

From “Stevens Point receives grant for MSTC site assessment” — The City of Stevens Point has been awarded a $34,500 Site Assessment Grant by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to assist in environmental investigation on a site located at 1201 Third Court.This grant is in addition to a future grant application the city will apply for through the Wisconsin DNR as announced at Monday night’s finance committee meeting.

The Community Development Authority of the City of Stevens Point acquired the 3.83 acre site property in October 2011 by condemnation. The grant will facilitate the redevelopment of the former CenterPoint Mall by Mid-State Technical College. Mid-State will be renovating a portion of the former mall as part of Mid-State’s new campus.
“We are extremely pleased to have been awarded this grant, and we are grateful for the continued support from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation of this project,” said Michael Ostrowski, Director of Community Development for the City of Stevens Point.

“This project will be an investment in the revitalization of the downtown Stevens Point area, and will ensure that Mid-State Technical College will have the resources to provide continued educational opportunities for community residents.”
The Brownfield Site Assessment Grant (SAG) Program is state program for WEDC to grant funds to local governments to perform environmental investigations, demolition of structures, removal of abandoned containers and underground tank systems.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), formed in 2011 as a public-private entity to foster economic development efforts for the state and business climate.

From “Grant plan aimed at helping businesses expand” —  A new grant program has been proposed for La Crosse County that would help local small businesses develop new product lines, markets and other ways to grow.

If approved by the county board Thursday, the program could begin awarding grants in early 2013, said Brian Fukuda, community development specialist for the county.

Businesses would work with a nonprofit partner to determine their research and development needs, and then be matched with consultants that can guide them toward reaching those goals, said Patti Balacek, Western Technical College’s director of Business and Industry Services and Lifelong Learning.

“I tell everyone that my greatest skill is I know how to find the people who are the experts,” Balacek said.

That assistance could allow companies to expand their customer base domestically and abroad, create new products and lines and find additional ways to market what they have to offer.

The result should be more jobs and economic development in the county, Balacek said. “Growing the businesses we have,” she said, “is a way we can do it without always having to pursue the next big thing.”

The program will be limited to companies with no more than 250 employees — those perhaps poised to grow but less likely to have the staff and resources for research and development.

The county would fund up to 50 percent of the total project costs, with grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000. The business and its nonprofit partner each must kick in 25 percent, though that match can be in-kind work rather than money, Fukuda said.

The initial grant funding would come from a $10,000 carryover from 2012 and an additional $20,000 in the proposed 2013 budget, Fukuda said. Participating companies would be encouraged to contribute some of the profits from their expanded business to boost the funding pool, he said.

The county’s Economic Development Fund Board would oversee the program, review applicants and award the grants.

Nonprofit partners expected to participate include, but are not limited to, Viterbo University, Western, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the La Crosse Area Development Corporation.

Balacek suggested the idea at an economic forum hosted by two area state legislators in fall 2011, noting the state’s similar Workforce Advancement Training Grant program with the Wisconsin Technical College System can’t be used for research.

State Rep. Steve Doyle introduced a bill to establish the program at the state level, but it was not acted on before the legislative session ended, though it received unanimous and bipartisan support in committee, he said.

While this pilot program would be restricted to La Crosse County for now, it could gain state backing if it proves successful locally, supporters said.

Doyle also hopes to re-introduce his bill in the next legislative session.

So far, the plan has drawn nothing but praise, he and Balacek said.

“This is just another tool,” Balacek said, “to try to help businesses that we know are primed and ready but just need a little help.”

From “MATC offers more free automation classes” — A $3.3 million federal grant that has allowed MATC to teach free automated manufacturing classes to local industrial workers for nearly three years has been extended for another year.

“We had money to spend, and we weren’t done with everything we wanted to do,” said Schauna Rasmussen, the EDA grant’s manager for MATC.

Two more classes will be offered this fall, and the college plans to turn its new array of courses into an associate’s degree program to begin in fall 2013.

The grant was part of a package announced nearly three years ago by the Economic Development Administration. Other money went to Portage and the Columbia County Economic Development Corp. to build the 32,000-square-foot Portage Enterprise Center on Kutzke Road, where robotics classes now are taught; to Reedsburg for industrial park expansion; and to Waterloo to renovate a training building.

Rasmussen said employees of 25 companies have participated in the manufacturing class program. The companies include Cardinal Glass, Alsum Farms & Produce Inc. and Appleton’s Encapsys unit in Portage. So far, the college has recorded 363 completions out of 397 registrations in eight advanced manufacturing courses and seven hybrid automotive courses. Many students signed up for more than one class, so the number of completions is higher than the number of individuals using the program.

Rasmussen said the college is collecting information to gauge the program’s success.

“We want to follow up with students and find out from them have they received jobs? Have they received promotions?” she said.

Even without EDA money, she said, MATC will take ownership of the classes and make them part of an associate’s degree in automotive manufacturing systems technology.

“The goal is not for these classes to go away once the grant is done,” she said.

Students can sign up for two free intermediate-level classes now:

• Robotics for Industrial Automation, level 2. The class covered intermediate tasks for setting up and programming robotic machinery. 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursdays from Oct. 25 to Dec. 20.

• PLC for Industrial Automation, level 2. The class uses Allen-Bradley/Rockwell Automation PLCs and other equipment. 1:30 to 5:45 p.m. Thursdays from Oct. 25 to Dec. 20.

The Portage Enterprise Center is located at 1800 Kutzke Road. Room 125 will be used for both classes.

To register, contact Claudette Zweifel at 243-4466 or For more information, contact John Lalor at 745-3133 or

From “State can be a model for creating skilled workers” —  By Tom Still —An expert in invention and entrepreneurship who has forgotten more about both than most people know recently used this line in a room of economic development professionals: “Increasingly, there is no room in America for the unskilled.”

Before the politically correct among us rise up in solidarity for the right to remain unskilled, let’s do something refreshingly honest and concede he’s right.

The current job market certainly suggests so, given the stubborn national unemployment rate three years after the official end of the recession. And so have credible studies on the future of the American workforce, such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast and state-specific reports from the Georgetown University Center on the Economy and the Workforce.

Between 2008 and 2018, Georgetown researchers predicted, the need for workers with some kind of postsecondary training or education will grow by 139,000 jobs in Wisconsin. Jobs for high-school graduates and dropouts will grow by 52,000 jobs. By 2018, 61% of all jobs in Wisconsin will require some postsecondary training.

Meeting the need for skilled workers – from people with the right training for today’s high-tech manufacturing to people with advanced college degrees – has been addressed by three recent reports in Wisconsin. That kind of consensus around the size of the problem should mean solutions are achievable, even in a divided political era.

Unveiled a month ago was “The Road Ahead: Restoring Wisconsin’s Workforce Development.” Otherwise known as the Sullivan report, it was a volunteer effort headed by Tim Sullivan, the former Bucyrus International executive who was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker in February to take a hard look at state workforce gaps.

The report stressed that demographics alone are threatening the state’s long-term economic health. The number of senior citizens living in the state will nearly double between 2010 and 2040 (from 777,000 to 1.54 million), the report said, and its working-age population will grow by a miserly 0.4% (from 3.57 million to 3.58 million).

“Baby boomers are also aging out of the workforce, leaving gaps that cannot be met by our current projected population, or the education system in which they develop working skills,” it read.

The Sullivan report’s conclusions ranged from finding ways to encourage immigration of high-skilled, hard-to-find workers to better coordination of state workforce programs to establishing academic and career plans for all students.

Another recent report stressed the importance of science, technology, engineering and math education. “Wisconsin STEM: Navigators to the future” was produced by a group led by Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical College. Gateway has a successful history of meeting employer needs for skilled labor.

That report noted that so-called STEM occupations are predicted to grow by 17% from 2008 to 2018 and that STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26% more than their non-STEM counterparts. Over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs in the United States was three times the rate of non-STEM jobs. Workers with STEM skills are also more likely to keep a job, contribute to a local economy and drive innovation, the report noted.

“STEM education is an imperative to secure our state’s viability in a competitive global economy,” said S. Mark Tyler, president of OEM Fabricators and a contributor to the report.

It established five markers to chart success: Eliminate barriers that prevent learners from exploring STEM careers; emphasize acquiring STEM knowledge and skills for all learners; increase public-private partnerships with a focus on STEM skills; establish a statewide awareness campaign for STEM careers; and invest in development for educators so they can better integrate STEM throughout the curriculum.

Also weighing in is the Department of Public Instruction, which recently issued its Agenda 2017 report. Among its recommendations are increasing Wisconsin’s graduation rate, doubling college and career readiness rates, and increasing the percentage of students scoring proficient in third-grade reading and eighth-grade mathematics.

One specific DPI recommendation: Expand high-school programs for “dual enrollment.” Those are programs that allow high school students to earn college credits and specific career skills through industry certifications and youth apprenticeships.

Indeed, there is precious little room in America for the unskilled. With the help of those who are committed to understanding the problem, perhaps Wisconsin can become a model for giving the unskilled hope and pathways to more rewarding, productive lives.

From “State allocates tax credits for Kestrel development” — Gov. Scott Walker announced Tuesday that Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and Wisconsin Community Development Legacy Fund have completed a $30 million allocation of federal New Markets Tax Credits to the Kestrel Aircraft Co.

Established in 2010, Kestrel moved its design operations from Duluth to Superior; plans include constructing two facilities in Superior to manufacture its single-engine turboprop aircraft for production. A composites plant will be constructed in the Winter Street Industrial Park, and the assembly plant is slated for construction next year on the northeastern corner of the fairgrounds on Tower Avenue, near the Bong Airport.

“Attracting this visionary entrepreneur to relocate with the potential to create 600 new jobs is incredible news for the city of Superior and the entire state of Wisconsin,” Walker said in a prepared statement. “In putting together an aggressive package, Wisconsin has decisively demonstrated its commitment to job creation and boosting our state economy.”

WHEDA’s New Markets Tax Credit program promotes economic development in low-income communities. WHEDA is a part of the nonprofit WCDLF that is responsible for allocating federal New Market Tax Credits in Wisconsin. Kestrel qualifies for the credits as an eligible business seeking to make an investment in a federally designated qualified low-income area.

“I am thrilled that WHEDA is able to utilize its economic development and job creation tools to help Kestrel revolutionize aviation right here in Wisconsin,” said WHEDA Executive Director Wyman Winston. “Kestrel recognizes Wisconsin’s know-how and talent and WHEDA is committed to helping Kestrel develop the next generation of commercial aircraft in our great state.”

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has created an Enterprise Zone in Superior to provide $18 million in tax credits, and has provided a $2 million loan to the company.

“This is a significant step and valuable economic development tool in supporting Kestrel Aircraft’s move to establish its manufacturing and headquarters in Superior,” said Paul Jadin, chief executive officer of Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

The city of Superior has provided a $2.4 million loan in addition to providing two parcels of land for development, and $1.125 million in tax incremental financing (TIF).

“The decision of Kestrel Aircraft to locate in Superior is a high level addition to our corporate base, which will benefit the entire region and the State of Wisconsin,” said Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen. “We thank all of the private/public partnerships that reached out on all levels and depth to solidify and welcome Kestrel as our newest corporate citizen. The economic ripple effect will be very promising in growing the community, along with the introduction of complementary businesses and industries. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Kestrel President Alan Klapmeier and the Kestrel team.”

Douglas County has provided $800,000 in loans.

“Douglas County is pleased that one of the final steps in the financing of Kestrel Aircraft has been approved,” said Douglas County Board Chairman Douglas Finn. “This has been an exciting project for all of the residents of the area with the potential for several hundred jobs along with spin-off opportunities. We would not be at this point without a great partnership between Kestrel Aircraft, the state of Wisconsin, the city of Superior, Douglas County and all the other agencies involved along with the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.

“These are exciting times for our community and this is just one of many great opportunities if we continue to work together.”

From — “CVTC receives training grants” –– EAU CLAIRE — More than a quarter-million dollars in grants will help area businesses invest in their employees.

Chippewa Valley Technical College was recently awarded more than $270,000 in state grants.  The money will be used to train and develop current employees’ skills in the area of manufacturing.  The grants will help off-set regular training costs by 65 percent.

“If we can provide a workforce that is better than other locations in the country or internationally, that’s a reason to stay here. And so that’s one of the reasons that you want to invest in your workforce so you can sustain the businesses that you have,” says Tim Shepardson, Chippewa Falls CVTC campus manager.

The grants can be used in a number of area’s including industrial maintenance and welding.

From “Community leaders meet to discusswork force development initiatives” — Can the Fond du Lac region successfully meet the challenges of future workforce development?

More than 50 community, business and education leaders examined this question at a special workforce development breakfast briefing held at the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac on July 12.

The briefing was co-hosted by Moraine Park Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac in collaboration with Competitive Wisconsin, Inc. (CWI). Participants learned about a statewide research study that is underway and heard from community leaders about preparing the Fond du Lac region, according to an event press release. Similar briefing sessions will be held around the state.

Programs already in motion to address future workforce needs include initiatives like the Fond du Lac School District’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) charter school, Moraine Park’s School to Work program and UW-Fond du Lac’s collaboration with UW-Oshkosh, UW-Green Bay and Moraine Park, which will deliver a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology.

Steve Jenkins, president of Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp., said that communities and regions that develop a globally competitive workforce, especially as manufacturing rebounds and re-establishes its presence, will be the economic winners.

“Talented people of all ages with globally competitive skills will be the cornerstone of prosperity moving forward,” he said.

He added that manufacturing in Fond du Lac County and in the region is critical to the economic base.

Several presenters concurred and said the definition of manufacturing needs to change and the awareness of opportunities needs to increase. A manufacturing workforce can include a wide range of career choices including positions requiring specialized training or technical skills, positions requiring an engineering degree or positions requiring a Ph.D. in fields like metallurgy, chemistry or mathematics.

The old methods of developing the workforce in both the public and the private sector must evolve quickly including the breaking down of silos, said Jenkins.

“It’s important to understand that it is everyone’s responsibility,” he said.

The good news for the Fond du Lac area in terms of the future is that educators, business leaders and government leaders “get it,” said Joe Reitemeier, president of the Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce. “They understand the environment we are in and are more than willing to roll up their sleeves and start to develop new initiatives, new ideas and collaborative efforts that will get us to a very strong, meaningful economy once again.”

The Lumina Foundation said that between now and 2018 Wisconsin will have about 925,000 vacancies due to retirements, job creation and other factors. Of these, 558,000 will require post-secondary education. In Fond du Lac, educators on the panel said they meet regularly to talk about issues where they can work together to improve the ability of students to make choices.

“As partners in post-secondary education, we must be sure that students have choices, that they understand what different paths they can take and that they understand there is no one way to the future,” said John Short, UW-Fond du Lac dean and chief executive officer. “In the future as I see it, we will have students taking classes here, going over to Moraine Park Technical College, taking a course at Marian University and they will be involved in the community through service learning.”

Short added that students will change jobs many times in their lifetime.

“They need skills, they need a future orientation, they need a sense of problem solving, they need a sense of communication,” he said.

At the K-12 level, Jim Sebert, superintendent of the Fond du Lac School District, pointed to ongoing work with the Association of Commerce in the School to Work program and creation of a manufacturing task force as part of its efforts to produce the types of students needed for careers and jobs in the community.

“We are the keepers of the workforce of the future,” said Sebert. “We take that very seriously and we’re continuously trying to evolve and improve ourselves.”

Presenters said short-term, long-term and continuous education and training will be needed to keep pace with work place demands.

In addition to long-term goals for workforce development, Jim Eden, vice president of academic affairs at Moraine Park, said he hears from businesses with short-term needs.

“The businesses have orders to fill and need employees to run the machines to fill those orders to either stay in business or grow their business,” Eden said.

Moraine Park works with employers to advance skills or provide basic skill training to a current workforce, or to provide a different skill set needed by a current employee.

According to Jim Wood, president of Wood Communications Group and strategic counsel for Competitive Wisconsin, educators need to stop thinking about students in terms of two or four years at the higher education level.

“We’re talking now about a 30 to 40 to 50 year ‘customer’ who is going to come in and out of that system, primarily from their work place, because the skill set demands are changing. How we supply and meet these needs is going to be a very, very different process,” Wood said.

At the state level, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson said officials are looking at short term and tactical initiatives with a sense of urgency.

“This is probably the number one challenge, the number one issue that we are going to be confronting as a state, as well as nationally,” said Newson. “How do we get our work force trained and developed?”

To address current and future needs, an online job center through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development was created where job seekers can post resumes and employers can post openings. Newson says there are approximately 40,000 openings listed on the site.

As a follow up to these briefing sessions, economic summits on job and workforce development will be planned for various locations around the state beginning in September.

From “Economic development study group to provide update Thursday” — Business, labor, community and academic leaders will get a briefing Thursday in Madison about a study in progress that will look at how well prepared Wisconsin is to meet the needs of businesses for skilled employees in coming years.

“The study is concentrating very heavily on the question of supply and demand, looking at major industry clusters, like agriculture and food production, manufacturing, etc., but is also looking very hard at the concept of skill clusters. Not just what kinds of skills are needed, but what capacity do we have to make sure those skill sets are transferable from one sector to another?” said Jim Wood, president of Wood Communications Group, Madison, and strategic counsel to Competitive Wisconsin.

Wood said the study is expected to be presented by about Labor Day. It will be the subject of three summits to be held this fall.

He said the effort stems from the 2010 “Be Bold Wisconsin” study that examined the state’s competitive position and urged a new economic development strategy.

“Workforce development is no longer a spectator sport. Everybody from parents to kids to teachers needs to be paying very close attention to this,” Wood said.

The briefing will be hosted by Madison Area Technical College, UW-Madison, UW Colleges, UW-Extension and Competitive Wisconsin. It will start at 9 a.m. at the Madison College West Campus, 302 S. Gammon Road. It’s one of about a dozen such meetings being held around the state.

The $300,000 study is being funded by grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the Bradley Foundation, and corporate donations.

From BizTimes:  “Tech College grads are landing jobs” — Students graduating from high school this month are making critical career path decisions that will determine their life’s arc at a time when such decisions have never been more complex or uncertain.

Many are questioning the value of a four-year college degree that will saddle them with tens of thousands of dollars of debt before they even earn their first paycheck.

Meanwhile, ManpowerGroup’s seventh-annual Talent Shortage Survey indicated that 49 percent of U.S. employers are experiencing difficulty filling mission-critical positions within their organizations.

Something’s got to give.

For many students, a one- or two-year technical college degree is a safer bet for gainful employment.

Despite Wisconsin’s current economic challenges, a new survey of 2011 Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) graduates revealed 88 percent of graduates were employed within six months of graduation and most of them (71 percent) were employed directly in their field of study.

According to the system’s annual Graduate Follow-up Report, 86 percent of respondents indicate they are working in Wisconsin. The WTCS includes 16 technical college districts throughout Wisconsin, including the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC).

“This is a bright spot in Wisconsin’s economy,” said Dan Clancy, president of the WTCS. “Our graduates are employed within Wisconsin’s borders and are contributing to the economic recovery in our state. The results show that the curriculum aligns with industry skill needs and that employers value our graduates’ abilities.”

The technical colleges attribute their success in large part to advisory committees established in each program area. The committees are comprised of local business and industry representatives in their respective fields. They advise the colleges on various matters based on first-hand knowledge of supply and demand in addition to skills desired for today’s job market.
The median salary for all new tech graduates is $31,822, with those earning associate degrees receiving a median salary of $36,033.

The fields with the highest median starting salaries are utilities engineering technology, technical studies-journey worker, fire science, biomedical electronics, automated manufacturing systems technician and applied instrumentation and process control automation. Several program areas have median starting salaries of $60,000 or higher.

Nancy Merrill, policy advisor and federal relations officer for the WTCS, noted some of the hottest degree programs, as documented in the new report:

* 85 percent of IT-programmer/analyst graduates who responded were employed, with a median salary of $40,000.
* 100 percent of the logistics graduates who responded were employed, with a median salary of $49,000.
* 93 percent of dental hygienist graduates who responded were employed, with a median salary of $50,488.
* 96 percent of associate degree nursing graduates who responded were employed and reported a median salary of $47,836.

Among less-than-one-year and one-year technical program graduates, 89 percent of practical nursing graduates who responded indicated they were employed, with a median annual salary of $33,745 while 76 percent of air conditioning, refrigeration and heating graduates were employed with a median salary of $32,238.

“In total, as noted in the graduate follow-up report, 45 programs had graduates who reported median annual salaries of $40,000 or more approximately six months after graduation,” Merrill said. “In short, the graduate follow-up study proves that the WTCS works for both Wisconsin businesses and Wisconsin students.”

From Opinion: “NTC enrollment boost a good sign for central Wisconsin” — College enrollment is up nationwide, but the increase at Wausau’s Northcentral Technical College is especially striking. The number of students enrolled in one-year or two-year programs at NTC nearly doubled between 2008 and 2011, going from 3,149 students to 6,070.

That’s a stunning number. And it likely speaks to the long-term economic health of our region.

Many factors are driving enrollment increases. Without a doubt one of these is the tough economy over the past several years, which has led displaced workers to seek more schooling and has discouraged others from trying to strike out into the job market.

But there’s more to it than that. People recognize that the economy is changing and that increasingly it’s necessary not only to extend your education beyond the high-school level but also to be prepared for lifelong learning and training.

At the same time, it’s our observation that respect for technical education programs seems to be on the rise. It’s nothing against traditional liberal education, which remains extremely valuable, to say that for many people, education in a trade or technical school program is a better fit and one that offers them strong, lifelong employment opportunities. That’s true of nursing programs, various manufacturing programs and many more.

This is a positive development, and we’re glad people see technical school as a legitimate higher-education opportunity.

Still, these trends alone would not explain the absolutely dramatic growth at the Wausau-based technical college if it weren’t for one other major factor: dynamic leadership from NTC President Lori Weyers.

The school has actively gone to employers to find out what skills they need from workers and what programs would make students a good fit for the jobs they have available. It has actively made room for alternative schedules and has set up programs across the sprawling area of its coverage.

Students benefit from that type of flexibility. They also benefit from program offerings tailored to real-world skills they’ll need in the workplace.

There is no realistic way for the economy to grow in the long term without a strong base of education. In this light, the increase in enrollment in local higher-ed programs is a very good thing.

From”Black hawk Tech sees role in expanding economy” — The local economy will rebound, expand and prosper.

To make that happen, it will need a place where workers can improve their skills for 21st century needs.

That’s the feeling at the top echelons of Blackhawk Technical College, which has a new master plan that calls for greatly expanding the school.

“We have faith in the economic growth of this region,” BTC President Tom Eckert said in a recent interview.

Blackhawk Technical College’s last expansion ended seven years ago with the completion of $17.5 million in referendum projects at the main campus in central Rock County and in Monroe.

Since then, BTC has added its Beloit Center at the Eclipse Center, recently increasing its classroom space there.

But needs have grown and are expected to continue to do so, Eckert said.

“We envision getting bigger and serving more people,” he said.

The referendum project left room for about 3,000 full- and part-time students, Eckert said. But that was before General Motors and related employers closed their doors and the national economy took a nosedive.

Enrollment increased 54 percent as workers tried to reinvent themselves, Eckert said, and even though the economy seems to be strengthening, enrollments have dropped only slightly.

Computers, health sciences, even the culinary department are crowded, Eckert said. The Monroe campus is at capacity. Prospective students are being told there’s no more room.

“When you have no place to put anybody, you have to address it,” Eckert said.

BTC officials and Strang Inc. of Madison have been working on the master plan for about two years.

Strang’s research included an assessment of buildings and grounds, collection of data on how and when rooms are used, interviews with staff and students and alignment of the plan to the college’s strategic goals, said Renea Ranguette, BTC’s vice president for finance and operations.

Strang, which was paid was paid $123,410 for the work, also wrote a five-year maintenance plan that covers projects such as replacement of roofs, parking lots, windows and various parts of the heating/cooling system.

One of the recurring themes Strang heard from staff in all divisions was a lack of general-purpose classrooms, Ranguette said.

Classroom space is at a premium, even though classes are scheduled in the evenings and on weekends.

Other areas for expansion the study identified by talking to staff and students:

— More large, tiered lecture halls, especially for general-education classes.

— More spaces for staff and students to collaborate. The ability to work in teams is said to be a key skill employers want.

— More conference/meeting rooms for the college’s frequent guests.

— More dual-purpose rooms—for example, a room with traditional seating along with computer stations.

— More lab space for health services classes with an increasing emphasis on simulating what goes on in hospitals and clinics. Health professions continue to be one of the highest-demand areas at BTC.

— More interactive training spaces for police and firefighter training.

— The library is small but used intensively. More wireless Internet access and small rooms for study groups are needed, Ranguette said.

— More space for the information technology division.

— Students are more active at BTC than at a typical commuter, two-year campus, so more student-activities space is desired.

— Student services wants a tutoring/testing center.

The five-phase plan is a big-picture look at future needs. It does not include details such as floor plans or costs, Eckert said. Rather, it sets a tone and direction.

Here’s breakdown of the plan:


Description: Build an advanced manufacturing center by remodeling 130,000 square feet in the Beloit Ironworks building, now owned by Hendricks Commercial Properties, in downtown Beloit. Move classes there from the main campus, freeing up 30,000 square feet to remodel at the central-campus building. Demolish two pole buildings—18,000 square feet—attached to the rear of the central-campus building.

Timeframe: Advanced manufacturing center work could begin before the end of this year or sometime in 2013, officials said. Students would begin taking classes there in late 2013 or sometime in 2014.



Description: Build a 56,000-square-foot health sciences building facing what is now the main entrance on the central campus. The multi-story building also would house a library. The building would simulate a hospital to make learning as realistic as possible. Once the building is complete, classes would move in, freeing up 36,000 square feet in the main building for remodeling.

Timeframe: About five years from now, although projections are uncertain this far into the future. This phase likely would require borrowing through a referendum-authorized bond issue.



Description: A 32,000-square-foot addition on the west side of the central-campus main building and a 4,000-square-foot addition to the administrative center. At about the same time, the Monroe campus would be expanded, with the oldest part of the building to be demolished, leaving 15,000 square feet built in 2005, and 54,000 square feet would be added.

Monroe would have new space for health sciences and advanced manufacturing.

Timeframe: About 10 years out.



Description: Two 70,000-square-foot buildings, built to the west and downhill from the current main campus, with no purpose specified at this time. An outdoor amphitheater between the two buildings would be dedicated to student activities. These and the buildings in Phase 5 would ensure capacity for expansion. Parking would be added along with the buildings.

Timeframe: About 20 years.



Description: Two 70,000-square-foot buildings built farther to the west.

Timeline: 50 to 70 years.

The plan assumes no more expansions at BTC’s Center for Transportation Studies on Janesville’s north side, the BTC Center at Beloit’s Eclipse Center, which recently was doubled in size, or at the aviation center at the airport.

The aviation mechanics program recently was suspended as a cost-saving measure.

The plan also assumes that a new advanced manufacturing center would be built in Beloit and that the noncredit training and customized courses that BTC sets up for local businesses would move from the central campus to a building close to some of its customers, perhaps in an industrial park.

Manufacturing center would be based in Beloit

Blackhawk Technical College plans to build one of the country’s best training facilities for manufacturing workers.

The advanced manufacturing center, as it is being called, would be in the old Beloit Corp. building now known as the Ironworks along the Rock River in downtown Beloit. Construction could start as early as later this year.

The plan is based on the belief that manufacturing will continue to be a big part of this area’s economy but that workers will need to be more highly skilled.

The ability to deliver a skilled workforce to local companies will be crucial, BTC President Tom Eckert said.

Renovations to make the 130,000-square-foot Beloit facility a reality could cost upwards of $10 million, Eckert guessed, but don’t expect Blackhawk to ask taxpayers to finance the work through a referendum.

Eckert has been discussing a public-private partnership to get the job done, which means large, private donations and grants.

Eckert said he is working with the Ironworks owner, Hendricks Development, to get an affordable lease.

Eckert said he planned to meet with Hendricks officials at the end of this month to work on fundraising.

The advanced manufacturing center would be state of the art and feature large windows into the hands-on classrooms to combat the perception that manufacturing is a mindless, dirty job, Eckert said.

The center would allow BTC to double the capacity of its welding program, Eckert said. Welders are expected to be in high demand for some time. Fabrication welding courses would be added to the curriculum.

The center also would house programs in precision machining; heating, air conditioning and ventilation; electro-mechanical/robotics; and industrial maintenance.

The facility would be built like a wheel, with various skill areas being taught in the spokes. The hub would contain a laboratory where students from the various disciplines would join to build manufacturing processes from the ground up.

The lab also could be used to develop small-scale manufacturing prototypes for local companies looking to produce new products.

From “Uptick in starting salary of tech college grads” — A new report shows new technical college graduates are making more money than their counterparts the prior year. The Wisconsin Technical College System’s annual follow up survey shows median salary for all graduates starting their careers is $31,822 ($31,198 the year prior) with those earning associate degrees receiving a median salary of $36,033 ($35,616 for 2010 grads).

System President Dan Clancy says their research also shows 88 percent are working within six months of graduation. Most of them–71 percent–work directly in their field of study. Clancy says these figures are about the same as last year, a positive sign given a down economy.

Clancy credits advisory committees, made up from people in the industry, that help guide students while in their programs.

From “Gateway president serves on 50 boards” — Gateway Technical College President Bryan Albrecht has joined his 50th board.

“I’m supposed to start saying no now,” Albrecht said, laughing.

Gateway announced last week that Albrecht had been appointed chair of the American Association of Community Colleges’ Sustainability Education and Economic Development Task Force. The position, to advance sustainability and environmental curriculum, brings the number of regional, state and national boards Albrecht serves on to 50.

He acknowledged it’s a lot but said they’re all related to Gateway, which means the college isn’t hurt by his attention getting pulled in so many different directions.

“Gateway Technical College does not suffer. I would hope people would see just the opposite,” Albrecht said, explaining he’s always connected to Gateway in person, by iPhone or via iPad. “My role is to be that liaison between our college and our community.”

Because of the myriad boards that boast Albrecht as a member, Gateway has state and national ties, and the college has increased opportunities for grants. Plus Albrecht can bring good ideas back to Gateway and can tailor Gateway’s offerings to meet community needs, he said.

“Everything has a correlation along the way, whether it’s working with early, elementary, middle, high school or adult learners,” he said.

The Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha Board allows Albrecht to support youth who are future Gateway students or whose parents may attend the college. The National Manufacturing Skill Standards Council Board helps Albrecht connect Gateway to new industry advances. Workforce development boards let Albrecht and Gateway help dislocated workers.

And that’s just to name a few.

With all these boards, Albrecht said he doesn’t just lend his name; he actually participates.

“He’s one of my most active board members,” said Wally Graffen, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha. “He brings a lot of enthusiasm. He is not afraid to think outside the box.”

For example, Graffen said, Albrecht helped bring culinary arts, GED classes and dental screenings to a newer Boys & Girls Club location at 1330 52nd St. in Kenosha.

When Albrecht can’t attend a meeting in person — which is bound to happen when you serve on 50 boards — he’ll conference call in or send a Gateway representative in his place. He’ll also read the minutes and offer some comments, he said.

Between his board and college duties, Albrecht said he works 15 to 17 hours a day. When asked how much sleep he gets, Albrecht laughed before replying, “Not enough.”

“There could be an event I would go to every night of the week,” he said, adding he usually has three to five board meetings a week.

His schedule last week showed he had 13 board-related events Monday to Saturday, from meetings to forums and recognitions.

But it’s all by choice and all of the boards are volunteer, Albrecht said.

“I don’t want the article to feel like I’m feeling sorry for myself,” he said. “I choose to lead our college by community engagement.”

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