From wisopinion.com: “A vision for 21st century tech colleges” — By Rebecca Kleefisch – We should celebrate our sons and daughters who become nursing assistants and machinists just as much as those who become lawyers and doctors. That was my message this weekend at Waukesha County Technical College’s commencement ceremony, when hundreds of students walked across the stage and stepped into new careers and new opportunities.

Governor Walker said the same thing this past January in his State of the State address. He and I know that the twin drivers of our state’s economy are manufacturing and agriculture. Both of those industries rely heavily on technical colleges for expertise and employees. A strong Wisconsin economy needs strong tech colleges in every part of the state, staffed by top-notch teachers and filled with cutting-edge technology. Our tech colleges are a good investment for students, a good partner for employers, and a good value for taxpayers.

The students graduating from WCTC are entering into careers offering the promise of prosperity. An associate’s degree graduate in Aircraft Electronics can get jobs with a starting salary of $47,000. A one-year technical diploma in brick-laying and masonry leads to jobs with a median starting salary of almost $43,000. A dental hygiene grad starts with a salary just shy of $50,000. In fact, for the past 15 years, the tech colleges have placed at least 86 percent of their graduates into jobs within six months of graduation. In other words, tech colleges are equipping our workers with the skills they need to get the high-paying jobs they want and the economy offers.

One reason these jobs pay so well is because our Wisconsin employers are actively searching for employees with the skills and experience to fill jobs across our economy, especially in our agriculture, health care, and manufacturing sectors. It’s vitally important that technical colleges gear their services to the jobs available in their communities today and in the future. That’s why I was so impressed by the Fab Lab at Gateway Tech, for instance, which offers itself as a resource to students, faculty, and local manufacturers to try new ideas and products.

Tech colleges need to stay connected to both the community and to the state as a whole. The Governor’s Blueprint for Prosperity, which invested the state’s $911 million surplus, included $406 million in property tax relief through the tech colleges. At Madison Area Technical College, for instance, state funding jumped from 10 percent to nearly half of MATC’s budget. With the property tax caps in place, that will drop MATC’s local tax levy by almost half, saving the owner of an average Madison home about $200.

We need to continue investing in our technical colleges because of the crucial role they play in our communities and our economy. For instance, given all the technical advances discovered by our tech college staff and students, I’d like to see new programs that help commercialize these innovations as new products and processes for use in business.

My address at WCTC on Saturday was my 37th stop at a technical college since taking office. All those visits reflect the high priority that Governor Walker and I place on our tech colleges. Commencement provides each of us, as friends, family, and neighbors of the graduates, an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments and to appreciate their new careers building a stronger Wisconsin.

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From greenbaypressgazette.com: “NWTC budget up slightly, but tax levy plummets” — Gov. Scott Walker’s property tax cuts mean a big change in the way Northeast Wisconsin Technical College balances its books.

The community college’s general fund budget for next school is expected to increase by about 1.8 percent from $77.2 million this year to $78.7 million for 2014-15.

But NWTC’s local tax levy will drop by about half, from $59.3 million to $27.6 million, under the Republican governor’s plan to use the state’s projected $977 million surplus to cover property and income tax cuts. The measure, approved by the state Legislature and signed by Walker last month, sends $406 million to technical colleges to reduce property tax levies.

That means the owner of a home valued at $150,000 in NWTC’s district would pay about $115 for that portion of their tax bill, compared with $240 last year.

A public hearing on the budget proposal is set for next month.

“It didn’t give us more money,” NWTC President Jeff Rafn said of the changes. “It just swapped state money for local money.”

NWTC will receive about 42 percent of its funding from the state, compared with 9 percent currently, he said.

“In my view it is good and properly re-balances things,” Rafn said. “The down side would be if they would eliminate property taxes altogether. Then we would become a state institution and would lose local control.”

Some people have expressed concerns that technical schools can raise taxes yet are governed by appointed bodies rather than elected officials, Rafn said. He noted the state’s 2013-15 budget limits property tax increases to value added by new construction in municipalities within the school’s district in the past year, which is anticipated to be less than 1 percent for NWTC.

“Property taxes aren’t going to go up,” he said. “But taking away local control would hamper our ability to make quick local decisions.”

Rafn cited expansion of nursing programs to meet higher demands at NWTC as an example.

The state Legislature has formed a Special Committee on the Review of Wisconsin Technical College System Funding and Governance — co-chaired by Republican Rep. John Nygren of Marinette — to review the process.

As part of next year’s budget, NWTC is looking to increase some offerings, including programs in fire-medic, therapeutic massage and software development.

The school also will expand some programming, such as its health and wellness program and joint programs with area high schools.

It will use grant money to fund a variety of learning coaches and tutors.

The school plans to eliminate a financial institution management program which is losing enrollment, but Rafn said students enrolled in the program still could finish.

From journaltimes.com: “Walker promotes Wisconsin Fast Forward program at SC Johnson iMet Center” — STURTEVANT — A $35 million increase in worker training will help schools such as Gateway Technical College get more people into in-demand programs, Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday.

Walker appeared at the SC Johnson iMET Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd., to promote the increase becoming law Monday. Much of the money, which will go into a training program called Wisconsin Fast Forward, is geared toward grants for technical colleges.

The grants will allow colleges to “buy down” long waiting lists for its programs, Walker said.

“We can make sure there’s no excuse for employers who need folks,” Walker said. “If there’s any waiting list in any of those areas, we’re going to put the money through the Wisconsin Fast Forward program to help each of our individual campuses.”

The move ensures the state does not take a “one-size-fits-all” approach — one area of the state may need high-skilled welders, while another may need mechanics, Walker said. Officials want to work with each campus to address its specific needs, he said.

The $35 million also will go toward expanding programs for employers to hire more people with disabilities, as well as collaborative projects between school districts, tech colleges and businesses.

The measure passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support. Gateway President Bryan Albrecht praised the increase, calling it “an investment in our students.”

“It’s going to make a big difference in our communities so that we can provide the workforce that they need,” Albrecht said.

The state’s focus is not only on filling existing jobs, but on future jobs created through new economic development, Walker said. Wisconsin will see many retirements in the coming years and needs to prepare other workers to fill those roles, he said.

Walker predicted the state will eventually turn its attention from creating jobs to filling jobs.

“We’re going to need more bodies,” he said. “It’s my firm belief that we can’t afford to have anyone who is able and willing to work sitting on the wayside.”

In comments to reporters after the speech, Walker touted recent company expansions into Racine and Kenosha counties, including Meijer’s plans to open a distribution center in Pleasant Prairie and a future Amazon.com facility in Kenosha.

Those are “good signs for southeastern Wisconsin” and will help address unemployment in the region, he said.

He also said the state’s tax climate and focus on growing companies organically helps sway out-of-state companies into expanding into Wisconsin.

“That should show companies, whether they’re coming from Illinois or Minnesota or anywhere else, that we’re not just the short-term romance,” Walker said. “We’re a long-term commitment with businesses that want to grow and create jobs here.”

From beloitdailynews.com: “Walker signs plan at BTC” — By Shaun Zinck – Gov. Scott Walker signed a $35 million bill at Blackhawk Technical College on Monday morning to help fund technical college programs and train more workers in advanced manufacturing.

Walker said the bill would affect three areas in the state: bring down the waiting lists on high-demand areas of studies at technical colleges; offer more opportunities for college and high school partnerships for dual credits; and help people with disabilities find jobs in Wisconsin.

“We go out on campuses and we see what’s happening,” Walker said. “We see the relevance we talked about that are connecting not only students, but employers here in Janesville and in Rock County and all over the state of Wisconsin.”

Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, said technical colleges in Wisconsin focus on the opportunities for students to train in specialized skills, and it also helps employers have access to those workers to stay competitive in the marketplace.

“This new prosperity grant will provide another tool for technical colleges to provide help with that purpose and mission to make Wisconsin the greatest economic engine in the world,” she said.

The bill appropriates the funds to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, which will then grant the money to the technical colleges in the state. Walker said the grants are not just workforce development, but economic development, by helping technical colleges “buy down” waiting lists for popular manufacturing programs.

“You hear time and time again from employers that, ‘Not only do I need help filling that high-skilled welder, CNC operator, machinist … but I actually have the capacity to add more work if I can fill the positions I have,’” the governor said. “So it’s not just about workforce development, it’s about opening the door so our employers can create more jobs going forward.”

The partnerships between technical colleges and school districts are also very valuable, Walker said. He brought up his recent tour to the Beloit Memorial High School Technical Education Programming Space.

“It was a great example when you see the technology incorporated on campus right there at a high school,” Walker said. “One of the exciting things we were seeing is young people that are not only excited about what they are learning, but earning credits for high school graduation, and then have that apply to going on to pursuing the rest of what they need for their career at a technical college.”

Helping people with disabilities find employment is also important because no one can “be on the sidelines,” Walker said.

“With this bill we are setting money aside to expand programs like Project Search, which helps young people with disabilities start to explore what their abilities are, and plug them into those as they transition from high school to the workplace,” he said. “We want to help employers find the unique abilities of people who are otherwise identified as having disabilities. This is not a charity program. This is to find their unique abilities so you have an asset for the employer and the employee. It’s a win-win.”

All three parts will help the economy in Wisconsin grow, Walker said.

“By filling key positions, and helping companies know that when they choose to expand and grow here in the State of Wisconsin, they are going to have a steady, strong supply of well-trained, well-prepared, well-educated, hardworking employees that will make them prosperous for many years to come,” he said.

After the bill signing Walker spoke to the media, and when asked, he declined to answer detailed questions about whether he was aware a secret email system existed in the Milwaukee County executive’s office when he held the position, or whether he personally used that system.

“I’ve pointed out the district attorney spent multiple years looking at that and chose to end the report last March,” he said. “I don’t really need to go through and examine all the details. I’m not going to go through things of the past. The district attorney looked at it and chose not to act on anyone else and I think it speaks for itself.”

From weau.com: “Walker attends Manufacturing Show at Chippewa Valley Technical College” — How technology is used in manufacturing was the major focus of a show at CVTC Thursday.

The manufacturing show featured more than 20 companies and a number of programs at the college. It also included a junkyard battle competition where area high school students showcased their talents.

Governor Scott Walker was at the event to see all the college had to offer. He said it’s great to have the connection between the technical college and area high schools to show younger students the opportunities available after graduation.

“It’s amazing to see the things they make, really incredible work, and its great to see all the high schoolers coming by to see the oppourtunities in manufacturing,” said Governor Scott Walker.

More than 40 regional manufacturing businesses were also at the event to talk to guests about career opportunities.

View video from weau.com

From channel3000.com: “Walker plan for worker training gets support” — Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to spend $35 million to help technical colleges train people for high demand jobs is finding support at a legislative hearing.

Backers of Walker’s proposal testified Tuesday before the Assembly’s Committee on Workforce Development. The full Assembly was expected to vote on the plan next week.

Walker wants to spend $35 million to eliminate waiting lists for high demand fields at technical colleges, help high school students get trained for high-demand jobs through dual enrollment programs and support programs that help people with disabilities find work.

Wisconsin technical college system president Morna Foy says she is “stoked” about the possibility of the funding being approved. She says it would definitely result in more people getting trained for jobs in high-demand areas.

From chippewa.com: “Walker’s plan would overhaul tech school funding” — Western Wisconsin property taxpayers would save about $15 million under tax cuts proposed by Gov. Scott Walker.

Money from the state’s expected surplus would offset taxes levied by Western Technical College, benefiting homes and businesses in Western’s 11-county district.

But Walker’s proposal is more than a money dump. It would also transform funding methods for Wisconsin’s technical colleges.

Western’s top official lauded the plan but wondered about the future.

“Essentially, it’s shifting the balance,” Western president Lee Rasch said. “If this plan is going to help reduce the impact on property tax, it’s really a wonderful thing.”

The governor’s plan would inject state funding into Wisconsin’s network of tech colleges in 2015 to ease the burden on local taxpayers. The average homeowner would save $89 per $100,000 of property value in Western’s district, which includes La Crosse County.

It’s a savings from this year’s rate, but it’s also lower than taxes were before voters passed an $80 million bonding referendum in 2012, Rasch said. Western’s total levy this year, not including debt, was just more than $25 million. Walker’s plan would cut that to $10.3 million.

“That’s a pretty significant drop,” Rasch said.

Western’s ability to tax property owners would be reduced from $1.50 to 61 cents per $1,000 of property value.

Western and other technical colleges would switch to a K-12-style of financing, Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance President Todd Berry said. The governor’s proposal would link technical college levies to state aid and impose a cap on all revenue.

Like public schools, low property taxes would depend on continued support from the state. Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the 2015 aid increase “will repeat in future years.”

“This is not one-time money,” Evenson said.

However, if state aid does dip, property taxes increase.

“That puts a new pressure on the state budget that hadn’t existed before,” Berry said.

Last year, Republican lawmakers recommended removing Wisconsin’s technical colleges from property tax bills.

At the time, Rasch criticized the proposal as a threat to local control. Walker’s proposal is “a good plan,” as long as local campuses still have the flexibility to develop courses and react to regional employment trends, Rasch said.

Walker also wants $35 million extra for training skilled workers. The program that would benefit is managed by the Department of Workforce Development, but some of the new funding would be channeled to technical colleges.

Money would go to eliminating wait-lists for high-demand courses and dual-credit programs, so tech schools could offer more college-level classes at nearby high schools.

Western officials are already considering ways to take advantage of the proposed funding, Rasch said. The college has wait-lists for welding, information technology and health care classes.

“We’re watching it closely,” Rasch said.

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