From “CVTC plugs Energy Education Center into budget” — By Andrew Dowd Leader-Telegram staff — After several years of fundraising and planning, Chippewa Valley Technical College plans to start building a $10.3 million Energy Education Center in August.

With funding included in the 2014-15 budget the CVTC Board approved at its Thursday meeting, the college plans an addition and renovation of a current building to create the new center at its West Campus in Eau Claire.

“This is the year — after four years of planning and raising money — we’ll get to build the Energy Education Center,” CVTC President Bruce Barker said.

The new center still needs approval from the Wisconsin Technical College System Board in July and a second CVTC Board vote following that. A groundbreaking ceremony has tentatively been scheduled for Aug. 19, and CVTC intends for the center to open in fall 2015.

“The project’s become much more tangible,” Tom Huffcutt, CVTC’s vice president of operations, said.

The Energy Education Center will be created through renovation of three areas in the current Transportation Education Center, plus a 21,300-square-foot addition and a top-of-the-line, energy-efficient overhaul of the building’s air conditioning, heating and ventilation system.

Most of those costs will come from borrowing, but about $3 million will be paid by the CVTC Foundation.

About $2 million in private donations have already been made specifically to the center, Barker said, and about $520,000 in foundation reserves would be used too.

Any remaining portion of the foundation’s share could be paid through borrowing, said Kirk Moist, director of finance and borrowing.

The energy center will serve several programs, including electrical power distribution, electric line worker apprentices, landscape, plant and turf management, agriscience and farm business production management. The center will help the students study emerging sustainable energy sources, clean energy generation and distribution, and efficient energy utilization.

“The continued economic recovery in west-central Wisconsin is tied to energy security and independence,” stated a CVTC letter to the state technical college board.

CVTC’s capital projects — money spent on buildings and equipment — is increasing by about 29 percent in the budget, which was approved in a 7-0 vote of CVTC Board members at Thursday’s meeting.

The college had budgeted about $11.9 million for that in the past year, but is expecting to spend $15.3 million in 2014-15.

Though overall spending at the college is rising, local property taxes for CVTC are dropping dramatically.

The CVTC portion of a property tax bill on a $150,000 home will drop from $260 this year to $137 in 2015, according to the budget.

CVTC’s property taxes dive by $16.5 million in the proposed budget, but state aid is rising by about $18.2 million.

The property tax relief comes from Republican legislators who directed $406 million in state funds to technical colleges from a projected $1 billion state budget surplus.

CVTC accounts for a relatively small portion of local property tax bills when compared to municipal, county and school taxes. In Eau Claire, CVTC accounted for 7 percent of this year’s property tax bill.


From “CVTC working with line workers on safety” —Bandi Henke understands the difficulty in convincing electric power distribution line workers to use fall prevention equipment. He had plenty of training and experience in the field before becoming an instructor at Chippewa Valley Technical College and knows how fast and seemingly easy it is to for workers to “free climb” a wooden power pole.

But falls and injuries are still too common in a trade in which there is an increasing emphasis on use of safety equipment. That’s why Henke had excellent attendance at sessions called Fall-Arrest Fundamentals during CVTC’s Line worker U Feb. 4-5 at the Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Eau Claire.

More than 80 line workers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan attended the event, which featured 18 break-out sessions on topics ranging from updates on the latest in industry equipment to a review of code changes.

“It’s to update your skills and learn new things you don’t see every day,” said Beau Blade, a line worker with Eau Claire Energy Cooperative for the past 14 years. “The technology is new because everything’s computerized.”

While sessions on new technology and equipment were well-attended, sessions dealing directly with the health and safety of line workers were particularly popular among the workers from electric power cooperatives, municipal utilities and power companies.

Henke said line workers not currently using fall prevention equipment will do so soon.

“The power line industry is not letting people free climb as much as they used to. They are going to some form of fall protection,” Henke said.

In the session, Henke held up an early device commonly called a “Buck Squeeze” and found a few line workers are still using them. “It’s not user-friendly,” Henke remarked. “But it’s better than dying.”

He then showed the updated version of the device, calling it “180 percent better.” He also showed a number of similar devices from various manufacturers and demonstrated their use on an eight-foot wooden practice pole.

Attendees then donned their own climbing gear and tried out the devices for themselves.

“I’ve never used one before, but they say it’s going to be coming to the industry,” said Scott Devoe of Barron Electric Cooperative. “They will take a lot of getting used to. There are so many different adjustments.”

CVTC Electrician apprenticeship instructor Randy Larson, who led the team organizing Line worker U, said another popular session was conducted by Dr. Kevin Schultz of Hallie Chiropractic on reducing risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

“Fifteen years ago, he never would’ve had anyone attend his session,” Larson said. “But people are much more concerned about their health than before. The guys are interested in how to stay healthy and live longer.

“Dr. Schultz must have had 30 guys in there. When he got done, people didn’t want to leave. He was in there for two hours answering questions,” Larson continued.

It’s not just their own health and safety that concern line workers.

“We did an emergency response training on what to do on the job if someone is injured and what procedures to use,” said Steve White, a line worker with Rock Energy headquartered in Janesville. “Sometimes we’re out in the middle of nowhere and it could take a while to get response.”

Larson said Line worker U had been a dream of his for 15 years, and now that it’s off the ground, he’s considering how to make it better and expand the offerings.

From “Griesmer named MPTC Student of the Year” — Tom Griesmer, of Rubicon, was recently named the Moraine Park Technical College Student of the Year.

Griesmer, who will receive his electrical power distribution technical diploma this May, was named student of the year following an intensive interview and presentation process.

Each year, one student is chosen to receive the Student of the Year award, according to Lisa Manuell, Moraine Park’s student involvement specialist.

“That student has excelled in and outside the classroom, made the most of his or her college experience, and modeled Moraine Park’s core abilities, or life skills,” she said. These skills include the ability to communicate clearly, act responsibly, work cooperatively and productively, adapt to change, demonstrate integrity, and think critically and creatively.

“I was caught off guard receiving the award,” said Griesmer, who enrolled at Moraine Park at the urging of his employer. “I believe that Moraine Park’s core abilities represent how people should carry themselves in everyday life. I didn’t think I was doing things that were out of the ordinary.”

Griesmer, who was among five other finalists – May Montezon of North Fond du Lac, Tanya Schloemer of Hartford, Austin Barten of Mayville, Becca Jahns of Beaver Dam, and Bonnie Weiss of Kewaskum – best fit award qualifications, according to a selection committee comprised of Moraine Park faculty, staff and a student representative.

It was his story that set him apart, according to Scott Lieburn, dean of students. As an older student with a family and full-time job, Griesmer enrolled in Moraine Park’s Electrical Power Distribution technical diploma program to further his knowledge and skills.

“I was sent to Moraine Park for cross training by the utility division of the City of Hartford,” he said. “I was really excited for the opportunity, but nervous because the program is mostly filled with younger students.”

Griesmer, who brought hands-on skills and knowledge to class, served as a mentor to his younger fellow classmates. He involved himself in the Electrical Power Distribution club on campus – working to gain as much skill and knowledge as possible.

“I had 23 years of working experience with a utility company, while most of my classmates came in from high school,” said Griesmer. “I was able to share my experiences with my classmates. They are a good group of guys who strive to do their best and are encouraging to each other. That helped me a lot, as well.”

Griesmer maintains his greatest challenge involved gearing up for the requirements of a college program.

“I had to get back into the classroom itself and switch my lifestyle from work back to homework,” said Griesmer. “I had to adjust to studying out of books again. The whole experience was wonderful. I got through it, did well with grades and made great friendships along the way.”

“More employers should send their employees back to school for training,” he said. “It’s been a mutual investment and commitment that I hope makes me a more valuable employee.”

From “MPTC teams compete in College Linemen Rodeo” — 

Moraine Park Technical College Electrical Power Distribution students reached great heights at the recent College Lineman Rodeo, held in Norfolk, Neb..

A total of 25 teams from throughout the Midwest competed, with four teams participating from Moraine Park. Students competing included Gordon Gossink of Beaver Dam, Tom Schultz of Plymouth, Jon Conger of Neshkoro, Jordon Born of Waupun, Eric Becker of Reeseville, Ryan Yonke of Berlin, Joe Peachy of Eldorado, Jordon Robertson of Dane, Toby Ravnum of Ettrick, Josh Roberts of Osseo, Kyle Schenkenberger of Pine River, and Jake Bergman of Watertown.

During the competition, students were able to demonstrate their unique and specialized skills in four areas: cross arm change out, obstacle climb, framing a C-1 structure and lineman knowledge test. The Moraine Park team of Born, Peachy and Roberts placed third in the cross arm change out.

From “Eilertson, Inc. works with Moraine Park” — Moraine Park Technical College’s Electrical Power Distribution (EPD) program is preparing its Beaver Dam campus training site for the next phase of substation construction. The program’s new Electrical Substation Certificate allows students to enhance their skills by learning how to inspect and maintain electrical substations. Thanks to a donation of labor, material and large equipment from Fond du Lac-based company Eilertson, Inc., students receiving the certificate will be able to get the hands-on experience they need for success in the field.
Eilertson, Inc. specializes in the installation of below-grade materials in electrical substations, from low-clearance drilling to finish graveling. At Moraine Park’s Beaver Dam campus, Eilertson, Inc. drilled large holes for the pier foundations with a 80,000-pound, high-pressure digging machine capable of boring through rock and all soil types.
“This was a real-life opportunity for the substation students to learn and participate in the below-grade construction of a substation,” said Mark Theyerl, Moraine Park EPD instructor. “The students learned how to tie reinforcement bar, lay out the form for the pier, pour the concrete pier and set anchor bolts. We are very grateful for the generosity of Eilertson, Inc. to the College.”
For more information on Moraine Park’s EPD program and new Substation Certificate, visit

From NWTC honored for community service” — Northeast Wisconsin Technical College has again been honored as one of the nation’s leading colleges committed to bettering their communities through community service and service-learning.

NWTC has been admitted to the 2012 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for engaging its students, faculty and staff in meaningful service that achieves measurable results in the community. This is the third time NWTC has received the recognition. The College was also named to the Honor Roll in 2010 and 2008.

“National recognition is vital to our college, students, and, most importantly, to our community partners who help us make authentic service-learning possible,” said Suzanne Morrin Ritter, NWTC Service-Learning coordinator. “This acknowledgement helps raise local awareness of how our college gives back.”

For years, NWTC has been reaching out to district residents with service-learning, an initiative that enables students to gain career-related experiences and academic credit while serving the community. During the 2010-2011 academic year alone, nearly 4,000 NWTC students participated in over 300 service-learning projects that met the needs of 174 non-profit agencies in Northeast Wisconsin.

Examples of past NWTC service-learning projects include Auto Collision students refinishing the Bay Beach Amusement Park trains, Dental Hygienist students conducting fluoride varnish clinics for children in need, and an Accounting alumna organizing a school supply drive that benefitted 300 children in the Crivitz and Wausaukee school districts.

In another project conducted last year, students from the Electrical Power Distribution program traveled to Niagara to assist with the installation of poles needed to upgrade services in rural areas of northern Wisconsin.  Eight students set poles, assembled hardware, and strung cable during the first measureable snow in the northern region.  One student said of the project, “I would strongly suggest having more of these [experiences] in the future. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to get out of the yard and into the public to learn. This was a great experience for me.”

The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll has been administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) since 2006.  A total of 642 colleges and universities were admitted to the 2012 Honor Roll for their impact on issues from literacy and neighborhood revitalization to supporting at-risk youth. Of that total, 513 – including NWTC – were named to the Honor Roll, 110 received the recognition of Honor Roll with distinction, 14 were identified as finalists, and 5 received the Presidential Award.

“Through service, these institutions are creating the next generation of leaders by challenging students to tackle tough issues and create positive impacts in the community,” said Robert Velasco, acting CEO of CNCS. “We applaud the Honor Roll schools, their faculty and students for their commitment to make service a priority in and out of the classroom. Together, service and learning increase civic engagement while fostering social innovation among students, empowering them to solve challenges within their communities.”

CNCS oversees the Honor Roll in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development, Campus Compact, and the American Council on Education. Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors, including the scope and innovation of service projects, the extent to which service-learning is embedded in the curriculum, the school’s commitment to long-term campus-community partnerships, and measurable community outcomes as a result of the service. For a full list of recipients and descriptions of their service, visit

From “Students today, lineworkers tomorrow” — If there’s one thing that electric cooperatives, municipal utilities and investor-owned utilities have in common, it’s this: a lineworker shortage looms. But as one generation packs it in for retirement, an all-out effort is under way to ensure that a new generation is prepared to take its place.

According to the Center for Energy Workforce Development, about 42 percent of all skilled lineworkers could retire by 2015. Nearly 31,000 entry-level apprentices will be needed by all utilities.NRECA is among the center’s members working to make more training available on a local or regional basis.


“We have helped establish five programs at community colleges in Mississippi. The first one was developed about 12 years ago,” said Micheal Weltzheimer, vice president of safety and loss control for the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi.

“The programs enable us to hire green employees that have most of the certifications they’d otherwise need two years to acquire,” said Weltzheimer. “Those include forklift operations, pole climbing, commercial drivers’ licensing, first aid and CPR training.”

Co-op staffers, serving on advisory panels or as guest instructors, help make Rural Utilities Service standards, employed by co-ops, central to the coursework offered by many programs.

“RUS standards provide consistent training focused on the needs of distribution co-ops and the generation and transmission co-op,” said Mary Lund, vice president of human resources at Dairyland Power Cooperative.

The La Crosse, Wis.-based G&T has supported lineworker apprentice training at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire for more than a decade.

“We were involved in designing the training field, and we also provided some of the equipment,” said Lund.

In Indiana, co-ops have incorporated community college training into their apprenticeship programs, so that all entry-level lineworkers receive the same instruction.

“If we have storm-related problems, we know that when we send guys from one end of the state to the other, the training is exactly the same,” said Gayvin Strantz, manager of job training, safety and loss control at the Indiana Statewide Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives.

“Over the past 20 years, the majority of the lineworkers in Indiana have been through our program or an identical program run by Hoosier Energy, our Bloomington-based G&T,” said Strantz.


Students at Ivy Technical Community College in Indiana attend one of the required apprentice lineworker classes. (Photo By: Indiana Statewide Assoc. of Rural Electric Cooperatives.)

Craig Moeller was a member of the first lineworker class at Missouri’s Linn State Technical College. Co-ops have been working with the school for nearly two decades.

After graduating with an associate’s degree in December 1998, Moeller began a lineworker apprenticeship with Boone Electric Cooperative in Columbia, Mo. Today he is the manager of field training for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

“The Linn State experience gave me work skills and knowledge to work in the field and further my career by going back to school and getting my bachelor’s degree,” said Moeller.

The specialized training  pays off.   “Once you get your journeyman’s certification you can earn $28 to $48 an hour, plus benefits,” said Dan Hopkins, professor of electric power technology at Dodge City Community College in Kansas. “This can be a very good living.”

Average annual lineworker salaries top $63,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.


Trident Technical College in Charleston, S.C., provides a 14-week lineworker training course that offers students graduating high school in the spring the potential of being hired by a co-op come autumn.

“This has opened up some doors for some high schoolers who have wanted to get into this field,” said Kevin Mizzell, technical training coordinator at Berkeley Electric Cooperative, Moncks Corner, S.C.

Each training program is tailored to meet evolving needs.

For instance, Western Texas College runs its program from a district office of Roby-based Big Country Electric Cooperative. It recently switched from a three-month program to a nine-month program.

“We spend a lot of time on climbing and basic troubleshooting,” said Dave Stephens, an electric lineworker instructor. “When a student has been through our program, they know what to expect on a jobsite.”

Another example: Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Wadena. It has “a number of co-ops that make recommendations to us on how to improve our program,” said Stephen Johnson, an electrical lineworker instructor.

The school, which offers a 12-month diploma program and a two-year associate’s degree, “added more emphasis to underground construction as a result of input from co-ops and other utilities,” Johnson said.


An increasing number of co-ops and statewide associations point toward the advantages of longer associate’s degree programs. Those include more concentration on math and science, and refining the skills needed to read staking maps, and use global information systems and other technology.

Dave Stephens of Western Texas College works with lineworker training students. (Photo By: Western Texas College)

Dave Stephens of Western Texas College works with lineworker training students. (Photo By: Western Texas College)

Completion of a two-year program qualifies students for employment with advanced apprenticeship ratings, said Kevin Wheeler, assistant manager of member services and safety director at Lancaster, Mo.-based Tri-County Electric Cooperative Association.

In 1997, Wheeler left an investor-owned utility to help organize the program at Linn State, the school that helped Craig Moeller launch his co-op career.

“When people leave the schools they understand the basic fundamentals of line work,” said Wheeler. “The students coming out of the classes have a lot more information than someone you hire off the streets.”

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