From “Skilled worker shortage drives partnerships between business, education” — By Laurie Ritger – A local business leader is stressing the need for communication and collaboration between industry and educators — especially as a shortage of skilled workers looms.

“This is a heavy manufacturing area. We may be one of the heaviest in the state and maybe the nation. Let’s support that,” said Jim Wessing, president and co-founder of Kondex Corp. in Lomira. “There are great jobs and a great future in manufacturing.”

Wessing warned, however, of a looming shortage of skilled employees during an appearance Tuesday at Business, Industry and Education Day 2014 at Marian University’s Stayer Center. Approximately 150 educators and business people turned out for the event, a program of the Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce.

Projections show that there will be 17,000 to 19,000 unfilled jobs in the greater Fond du Lac area by 2025, according to Joe Reitemeier, president and CEO of the Association of Commerce.

Perception vs. reality

Wessing was part of a panel that included Lomira School District technology education teacher Jon Marx and Lomira High School Principal Deb Janke. They discussed a business and education partnership success story that began several years ago with a Project Grill competition that pairs businesses with a school.

Marx explained how the tech-ed program has grown in the past several years and how Kondex has helped with equipment and financial support. Marx, who once taught part-time and had 55 students, now is full-time and instructs more than 100 students at the middle and high school levels.

Some of his former students are working toward degrees at technical colleges and engineering schools.

Wessing said manufacturing has a reputation as a “dark and dirty and dangerous” profession. The reality, he said, is that it is very clean and high-tech with the advent of robotics, high-speed cameras and computers.

Wages can be very high. Wessing said educators and business leaders need to connect with parents of students who are considering their career paths to explain options and show them realities of the work world.


Reitemeier said nearly all parents of incoming high school sophomores expect their children to attend college, but a year later only half of the students will take a college entrance exam. That leaves half of a graduating class to make plans for technical college or immediate entry into the workforce.

Janke said a Career Fair was held at Kondex that exposed students to careers in many fields, including manufacturing, human resources and sales. She said the school also is trying to work with other key employers in the community, including Michels Corp. and Quad/Graphics. Staff are visiting employers so educators and counselors are aware of available businesses and career opportunities.

“We’re interested, at the school level, how can we (prepare) better employees for you?” Janke said about the partnership between business and schools. She said students need to be exposed to careers and the tools and equipment they may be using. Girls that have an interest in math and science need to enter engineering and manufacturing fields.

Wessing said 85 percent of his employees are from within a 35-mile radius of Fond du Lac. Kondex is a product design and manufacturing partner for agriculture, lawn and turf, and other areas, producing custom-designed metal components.

National speakers for BIE Day included Kimberly Green of Rockville, Md., who has worked the past 18 years on federal policy impacting career and technical education; and Patrick McGaughey, an international speaker from Idaho with a background in broadcasting and business association management who led a two-part workshop: “Business + Education = Education, Development: How Education Closes the Deal.”

The connections established between business representatives and educators during BIE Day are intended to help the partners develop solutions to economic and community issues — including the expected skilled labor shortage facing Fond du Lac.


From “MPTC offers business workshops” — Moraine Park Technical College will offer several free entrepreneurship workshops and webinars this fall, open to anyone interested in learning more about business basics.

The workshops will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, at the Fond du Lac campus, and 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, Aug. 29, at the Beaver Dam campus.

During the workshop, participants will learn what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, the anatomy of a business plan, the nuts and bolts of starting a business, types of business entities, regulations and requirements and available resources.

In addition to the entrepreneur workshop, Moraine Park offers classes for aspiring entrepreneurs and existing small business owners including exploring business ideas, conducting research for business, pre-business planning, opportunity analysis, writing a business plan, website design, money management, marketing and human resources.

More information is available at

From “Recycle your electronics at Moraine Park” — Moraine Park Technical College’s IT Club will be holding its E-cycle event from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 20 at Moraine Park’s Fond du Lac campus.

Items can be dropped off at the campus courtyard, closest to the intersection of Johnson Street and University Drive. Accepted items include: Monitors, laptops, servers, TV’s, printers/fax/scanners, computers, video game consoles, mice/keyboards, cell phones, MP3 players/iPods, phones, DVD players, VCRs, cable boxes, satellite dishes, vacuum cleaners (without bag), coffee makers, bread makers, irons, hair dryers, radios, clocks and much more.

All batteries must be removed from all items including cordless/rechargeable products.

Items not accepted include curling irons, refrigerators, dish washers, stoves and household batteries.

A full list of items can be viewed by emailing Lisa Pollard at

From “MPTC boot camp graduate honored by Gov. Walker” — When Diane Stepp was laid off last August, she probably didn’t think that six months later she would be recognized by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

In Walker’s Jan. 16 State of the State address, the Fond du Lac woman was among those honored for completing a vigorous 15-week Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machinist Boot Camp through Moraine Park Technical College. Stepp was one of 12 graduates who completed the first boot camp funded through the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation Inc.

The only female in her CNC class, Stepp was not intimidated by her fellow students after growing up with five brothers.

“All of my classmates were very good people and very smart,” Stepp said. “It seemed like everyone really enjoyed themselves and supported each other. We were all there to succeed and that was a good feeling. It was never a competition.”

Each student was required to complete an internship at one of the partnering companies. Stepp was placed at Ameriquip in Kiel for her internship and was asked if she wanted to continue working there in a full-time role as a CNC operator.

Six months ago the Governor awarded a $705,647 Wisconsin Workforce Partnership grant that allowed MPTC to quickly train students in CNC and welding, two job platforms in need of skilled workers.

In October, 12 students who were unemployed or working in a position unrelated to CNC entered the boot camp. On Friday, Jan. 11, they received completion certificates at Moraine Park’s West Bend campus.

Cmpleting the boot camp in addition to Stepp were Jeremy Blonigen of Eldorado; Jason Sippel of St. Cloud, Alex Anderson of Hartford; Paul Dadian of Jackson, Patrick Enright, Bob Lepak, Steven Maitz, and Jay Reisdorf of West Bend; Matthew Metrusias of Slinger, Michael Rath of Hubertus and Frank Vroman of Cedarburg.

The second set of 15-week boot camps begins in February. In all, MPTC expects to offer nine boot camps with the partnering companies and fill 108 new positions over the three-year grant period.

• For more information about the boot camps, visit camps.


From “Moraine Park celebrates the holidays by giving back” — At Moraine Park Technical College, students have been busy finishing up final projects, cramming for end-of-semester exams and registering for spring classes.

Despite their active schedules, many student clubs and organizations are finding time to make spirits a little brighter for families in need this holiday season.

■At the Fond du Lac campus, the Straight and Gay Alliance club helped Broken Bread with more than 900 families who registered to receive food for Thanksgiving. They assisted with registration, handed out turkeys and helped carry food to people’s cars.

■The Student Veteran’s Association is running a Christmas in a Shoebox campaign by packaging and mailing donated items to deployed troops.

■Moraine Park’s Cosmetology, Corrections, Radiography and Clinical Lab Technician clubs are all adopting families through the Salvation Army or collecting nonperishable food items for donation to a local food pantry.

■Staff and units of the college are donating items to support Elijah’s Mantle/Ebony Vision. This local organization supports at-risk minority youth ages 6-18 in the Fond du Lac area that are in need of clothing and shoes this holiday season.

■On all three Moraine Park campuses, the IT club is holding a hat and mitten drive and Phi Theta Kappa honor society is sponsoring a family on each campus by holding a food and gift drive.

Those interested in donating items or learning more about the holiday service projects should visit

From “Little dogs spread big happiness” — Moraine Park Technical College business students gained some hands-on experience by helping a local nonprofit assist others.

When William Krause of Fond du Lac was hospitalized in 2004, it was a couple of furry friends who helped speed up his recovery. Because of his positive experience, he knows that dogs can bring joy to those in need and he decided to share that joy with individuals who might benefit the most.

In 2009, Sassu Enterprises was born. The organization provides pet therapy as a self-supporting service and includes visiting individuals in hospitals, nursing homes, retirement communities, hospice care, treatment facilities and group homes.

Moraine Park instructor Julie Dilling recently connected students in her business practice firm class with Krause and his 10 shih tzu dogs to help raise funds and awareness for Sassu Enterprises.

The service learning opportunity allowed students to apply skills and concepts learned throughout their program, Dilling said. She was Krause’s accounting instructor in 2003, and was contacted by him last year when he found himself in need of accounting assistance for his organization.

That was when she recognized the opportunity to integrate his need with the service learning requirement in her course.

“The projects in this capstone class are challenging, utilize critical thinking and require commitment, but in the end (they) positively impact all of those involved,” Dilling said.

Students created posters and displays around Moraine Park’s Fond du Lac campus, including a Christmas tree adorned with photos of the shih tzus as ornaments. Raffle tickets were sold during November with a culminating event on Nov. 29. A winning cash raffle ticket was drawn, a basket raffle was held, and guests could meet some of Krause’s canine helpers.

“When the Moraine Park business practice firm students presented their ideas for promoting Sassu Enterprises to me, I was in tears,” Krause said. “They have gone above and beyond what I dreamed of them doing to help raise funds and awareness for the organization.”

Krause covers most of the grooming, medical, food and transportation expenses on his own.

“Sassu Enterprises provides comfort and joy to a great many people in varied circumstances through pet therapy,” said Kathe Gilbert, a Moraine Park business student. “It has been a highly rewarding experience to get to know William and his canine friends.”

During the fundraiser students, staff and members of the Fond du Lac community were able to interact with several of the therapy dogs.

“It was an opportunity to experience firsthand what Krause is so passionate about and learn more about this nonprofit organization that is helping to spread joy throughout the community,” Dilling said.


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