From “Wausau’s Northcentral Technical College hiring more teachers” — A central Wisconsin college is adding jobs to help students prepare for the working world.

Northcentral Technical College is looking to fill about 30 positions.

Darren Ackley, the dean of the Technical and Trades Division, said there are more jobs out there than NTC graduates can fill.

He says adding more instructors means they’ll be able to teach more students skills that are in demand.

“Our business community has been telling us that we need more welders, we need diesel technicians, we need [certified nursing assistants], we need nurses,” said Jeannie Worden, the vice president of college advancement. “We know in our IT area that we do not have enough graduates for the IT jobs that are there. Welding, we know, is the same issue.”

The leaders of NTC want to fill that need.

“We go out to our employers to find out what their hiring needs are,” Worden said.

“We definitely try to take notes from them on what we need to do and try to accommodate however we can,” said Ackley.

Part of their solution is to add about 30 new positions, including around 10 teachers.

“We’re really focusing on increasing the number of students we can accommodate here and with that, we need more instructors, so we’re definitely having an exciting time here where we’re hiring lots of people,” Ackley said.

Ackley says they’re looking for “somebody that has some occupational experience that has been out in the industry, working, that knows what they’re doing out there.”

It’s a quality students say is helpful in the classroom.

“They have worked for huge companies or they have been managers in other states here,” said Adelio Ortiz, a student from El Salvador. “They not only bring the theory of the class, they bring real experience.”

It prepares students for life after college because Ackley says they can tailor the curriculum to what the industry needs are.

To help pay for these new positions, the school received a $6 million grant from the federal government.

From “Leading state business lobby looks to create 20-year strategic plan for Wisconsin” — By Karen Rivedal – The state’s biggest business group — Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce — is partnering with higher education leaders and the state’s job creation agency on a 20-year strategic business plan for Wisconsin.

Tentatively titled the Future Wisconsin Project, the effort will focus in its first year mostly on the oft-reported lack of skilled workers in manufacturing and many other challenged industries and sectors of the workforce, such as information technology.

But it’s also about taking a longer look at economic development issues facing the state and creating a workable and enduring system for addressing those issues, with timely input from business, government and academia, WMC president Kurt Bauer said.

“I think we’re all a little guilty of operating from month to month, year to year, election cycle to election cycle,” Bauer said. “This is supposed to be broader than that. This (will) look out and see what Wisconsin is going to be, and (ask ourselves), ‘Do we like it?’ and if we don’t, ‘How do we change it?’ ”

The goal of developing a lasting “infrastructure of communication” among the key parties is the main thing that differentiates the WMC project from other broad economic studies and initiatives such as Be Bold Wisconsin, said Morna Foy, Wisconsin Technical College System president. The tech system is one of the effort’s four partners, along with the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the quasi-public job creation agency recommended by the Be Bold Wisconsin study.

By contrast, Foy said, “(WMC leaders) are trying to build a road map that people can follow this year and the year after that and the year after that.

“Some of the topics they’re interested in examining are big. They go beyond the interests or borders of any individual company. It’s really refreshing for us to see them take that longer view.”

UW System spokesman Dave Giroux credited WMC for involving higher education leaders early in the process and said he liked what he described as WMC’s focus on “human capital, the competitiveness of our business and industry, and the overall quality of life.”

“We see ourselves (in the UW System) touching on these areas in many different ways,” Giroux said.

The effort is motivated by troubling demographic projections that threaten a crisis for Wisconsin’s aging workforce in the decades to come, WMC leaders said.

The Wisconsin Applied Population lab projects 14.2 percent overall population growth in the state by 2040, with about 800,000 more people but most of them over age 65, according to Jim Morgan, president of the WMC Foundation, the group’s research arm.

WMC also cites a Georgetown University Study that predicted 317,130 additional jobs between 2010 and 2020 in Wisconsin but only 15,150 new workers.

Incoming WMC chairman Dan Ariens, president of Brillion-based Ariens Co., an outdoor power equipment manufacturer, said WMC and its partners needed to create a “consensus dialogue” over these issues to effectively address the problem before it gets worse.

“There’s a workforce shortage now,” said Ariens, who also is vice chairman of the WEDC board of directors. “It’ll be a crisis later.”

Beyond workforce development — or “talent attraction,” as the Future Wisconsin project terms it — the issue of business competitiveness also is slated to be studied closely in year one of the initiative. Future years could focus on other identified issues, likely including global engagement, government effectiveness, life quality and entrepreneurial spirit.

Discussions and ideas also will center around what the parties see as the state’s various strengths and barriers to growth. WMC’s own agenda, mainly representing the viewpoint of business owners and industry, must be balanced by input from the other partners for the initiative to be successful, Foy noted.

“If the script is already written and all the ideas have been thought of, and (WMC leaders are) just doing a yearlong road show (of their conclusions), other parties won’t want to engage,” Foy said. “That’s not my sense at all about what they’re looking for in this. They are really trying to stretch beyond their own view to make sure they get the best and smartest ideas.”

WMC will share plans for the project more widely in the coming weeks and months, starting with its own members Feb. 6 at the group’s annual Business Day, a key membership and lobbying event in Madison.

Jim Morgan, president of the WMC Foundation, a research arm of the group, then will present the project at each of the technical system’s 16 colleges in February and March, with public listening sessions and regular meetings of the partners and other stakeholder groups throughout the year, leading up to a December forum where notes on problems will be compared and action plans could be issued.

Bauer and Ariens said possible end results could include new legislative proposals that WMC could lobby for, and/or more grassroots steps or decisions that any of the partners could take on their own.

“It’s not just going to be another white paper,” Bauer promised. “It’s a process. More than anything, what we want to do is spark the debate and make people aware of what is coming down the road.”

Giroux agreed the project could be unique.

“We haven’t seen before the state’s lead business organization and the two higher education systems working directly together on something of this magnitude,” Giroux said. “We may have seen this model on a small scale, but not like this.”

From “Apprenticeship program numbers increase in Wisconsin” — MADISON – As companies and workers realize the value of apprenticeship program, the involvement in them is increasing, reports Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson.

“Wisconsin’s economy is improving, employers are hiring and increasingly taking advantage of our Wisconsin Apprenticeship program so that workers have the right skills,” Newson said in a statement. “The unemployed and underemployed also see this proven on-the-job training program as one way to get a good job. The numbers last year show it. We saw growth in all three major trade sectors, construction, manufacturing and services, the best we’ve growth we’ve seen in three years.”

According to the DWD, new apprentice contracts in 2013 increased by 31 percent compared to 2012 and by 56 percent compared to three years ago. The increases by trade sectors were:

•Construction – new apprentices, 1,570, the biggest increase, 51 percent compared to 2012 new contracts and 73 percent compared to new contracts three years ago.
•Industrial/manufacturing – new apprentices, 581, a 9 percent increase compared to the 2012 new contracts and 75 percent compared to new contracts in 2010.
•Service – new apprentices, 1,199, a 22 percent increase compared to the 2012 new contracts and a 29 percent increase compared to 2010 figure.

The 26th Biennial Apprenticeship Conference, The Apprenticeship Solution: Meeting the Workforce Challenge will be held Jan. 26 to Jan. 28 in Wisconsin Dells and will include a special Apprentice Expo for high school students. The conference program includes nationally recognized speakers Anirban Basu, president and CEO of SAGE Policy Group and Mark Breslin, founder and CEO of Breslin Strategies. Dan Ariens, president and CEO of the Ariens Company will also speak at the conference, co-sponsored by DWD and the Wisconsin Apprenticeship Advisory Council.

From “Walker focuses on jobs during Stratford stop” — STRATFORD — Personal income growth in Wisconsin in 2013 shows more people across the state are working, but job statistics could improve with worker training and encouraging more young people to enter the manufacturing workforce, Gov. Scott Walker said during a visit to A&B Process Systems on Wednesday.

“I hear so many businesses say not only do we have positions open, but we’ve got business waiting … if only we could fill the positions we have,” Walker said.

He said the roughly 50,000 jobs currently posted on the Job Center of Wisconsin website indicate a skills gap in the state.

Walker said he put $100 million of the current state budget toward workforce training, including short-term training and investments in technical colleges, to prepare workers for manufacturing, information technology and health care careers.

“Each of those key industries has the ability to hire more people if we have enough people with the skills to fill the positions,” he said.

Walker said parents and guidance counselors who encourage young people to consider careers in manufacturing will play a role in filling open positions.

“Guidance counselors still have the mindset you have to have a four-year college degree to have a good career, and that’s just not true,” Walker said. He said manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin pay an average of about $52,000 a year, are more likely to offer benefits and have higher retention rates than many other jobs.

Companies such as A&B Process Systems often work with the same customers, but manufacturing different equipment for those customers keeps the job interesting, he said.

Walker said state investment of $6.4 billion in infrastructure and tax incentives for businesses such as A&B Process Systems to invest in capital also will encourage job growth.

A&B Process Systems, which designs, fabricates and installs equipment and accessories for processing liquids, celebrated 40 years in business in 2013. The company employs 425 people, and annual sales exceed $100 million.

Paul Kinate, CEO of A&B Process Systems, credited the company’s success to dedicated employees, the leadership of founder Ajay Hilgemann and a commitment to customer service.

“Our employees are dedicated, innovative, embrace technology and automation and strive to improve every day,” he said.

Kinate called Walker a friend to business who has made a difference in Wisconsin’s economic growth.

Walker will deliver his annual State of the State address Jan. 22. He said he will address jobs, as well as property tax cuts and changes to the state income withholding tax, which will put more money in employers’ and workers’ hands.

From “Madison College works to close job training gap” — A survey of 341 Wisconsin CEOs reveals a growing concern about finding enough skilled employees to fill job vacancies and facilitate growth.

View video from

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 “Walker stops in Green Bay for Jobs Tour” — Governor Scott Walker talks manufacturing and jobs Monday at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

He was part of a round-table discussion at NWTC. The Governor says his main goal Is to make it easier to create jobs In our state. “Manufacturing is still our bread and butter,” Walker explained. “It’s about 20 percent of the state’s GDP. It’s a little bit higher here in the northeast, and so today is important.. working with the chamber here and our regional partners to talk about manufacturing.”

The Governor says he plans to take part in similar discussions all throughout Wisconsin.

Video from


From “Walker names Council on Workforce Investment” — Gov. Scott Walker has named the new membership of the Council on Workforce Investment, a federally mandated panel that will advise Walker and the Department of Workforce Development on the allocation of federal workforce development funds.

The council will be responsible for approving the Workforce Investment Act plan each state is required to create each year. It coordinates the efforts of Wisconsin’s 12 regional workforce investment boards.

“As we look to target substantial investments to develop the workforce and help Wisconsinites successfully pursue family-supporting careers and find true independence, the Council on Workforce Investment will provide valuable input with representatives from business, education, legislative and other key groups,” Walker said.  “My administration’s continued focus on creating jobs will guide the work of the Council as we look to address the skills gap and fill employers’ current and future labor market needs.”

Mary Isbister, president of General Metalworks Corporation in Mequon, will serve as chair of the council. She has experience service on the boards of several organizations, including the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and was formerly the vice chair of the Council on Workforce Investment.

Mike Laszkiewicz, vice president and general manager of Power Controls at Rockwell Automation, will be vice chair. He is currently the chair of the national Manufacturing Council, which advises the secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce on manufacturing issues.

Reggie Newson, secretary of the DWD, will serve as executive director.

The other members are:

  • David Brukardt, associate vice president for economic development, University of Wisconsin System, Madison
  • Alan Petelinsek, president and CEO, Power Test Inc., Sussex
  • County Executive Allen Buechel, Fond du Lac County
  • Rep. Warren Petryk, Wisconsin State Assembly, 93rd District
  • Jeffrey Clark, president and CEO, Waukesha Metal Products, Sussex
  • Dawn Pratt, human resources and EEO officer, Payne & Dolan, Fitchburg
  • Morna Foy, president, Wisconsin Technical College System, Madison
  • Mark Reihl, executive director, Wisconsin State Council of Carpenters, Madison
  • Sarit Singhal, president and CEO, Superior Support Resources Inc., Milwaukee
  • Grailing Jones, director of owner/operator small business development, Schneider Finance Inc., Green Bay
  • Howard Teeter, president and managing partner, Anteco Pharma LLC, Lodi
  • Theresa Jones, vice president of diversity and inclusion strategies, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Brookfield
  • Sen. Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin State Senate, 12th District
  • Sen. Julie Lassa, Wisconsin State Senate, 24th District
  • Rep. Robin Vos, Wisconsin State Assembly, 63rd District
  • County Executive Daniel Vrakas, Waukesha County
  • Terrance McGowan, president, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139, Milwaukee
  • Brian White, president, General Electric-Waukesha Gas Engines, Waukesha
  • Dan Mella, principal, Plymouth High School, Plymouth
  • Wyman Winston, executive director, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, Madison
  • David Mitchell, president/COO, Monarch Corp., Milwaukee
  • Rep. Josh Zepnick, Wisconsin State Assembly, 9th District
  • Alan “Kent” Olson, president, Olson Tire and Auto Services Inc., Wausau


From “Dual-credit program benefits students” — Tuesday was a dual-credit day at technical colleges across the state as they promote the kind of program four-year universities have long used.

Schools like Fox Valley Technical College in Grand Chute highlighted programs to help high school students earn college credits.

The initiative is meant to foster better partnerships between tech schools and high schools.

“I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how I’m only 19 years old but yet things are really starting to come together,” said Fox Valley Technical College student Ryan Geiger.

Geiger graduated from Brillion High School and was hired as a machinist by the Ariens Company. He says thanks to dual-credit courses, he’s working on two different degrees.

“I was really surprised how you can be a machinist and have the mindset you do and love what you do and being paid what you are. It’s just awesome.”

FVTC officials say Geiger is just one example of what educators hope becomes a trend of successful students taking dual-credit courses and filling in-demand jobs.

“It’s going to give them an opportunity to get an understanding of whether or not they would like to pursue this as their main field,” said Fox Valley Technical College Dean of Technologies Steve Straub.

The dual-credit classes are also free to high school students, meaning they are getting more specialized training and paying less for it.

“I really feel like we needed to be more aggressive in helping our students get one foot into post-secondary education,” said Appleton West High School Principal Greg Hartjes.

To do that, Appleton West hopes to start a machine technology charter school in the fall of 2014. Students could earn 24 credits toward a degree at Fox Valley Tech.

“These are high need areas that the community has said we don’t have enough employees, we don’t have enough people going into these areas and that is what we are trying to fill,” said Hartjes.

“I just love doing technology stuff, I just knew that’s what I always wanted to be,” said Geiger.

Providing students an open door to a bright future.

The number of high school students throughout the state taking college credits in high school has doubled in the last five years.

Fox Valley Tech says 21,000 Wisconsin students have an average of at least six college credits before graduating high school.

View video from

From “Technical college graduates find jobs by filling skills gap” — Tabetha Moore was a year away from earning her associate’s degree in human resources when a local manufacturing company gave her a full-time job in her field and agreed to pay for her last two semesters of school.

The 21-year-old hasn’t yet negotiated the salary she’ll earn after obtaining her diploma from Fox Valley Technical College in May, but that fact she secured a job so quickly reflects a new era of opportunity for graduates of two-year college programs.

“What surprised me most was that they would hire a 20-year-old without a degree to work in their human resources department,” Moore said.

She’s one of a new generation of graduates defying a stereotype that technical colleges offer a “second-to-best” option for those who don’t attend a university. Demand for technically-trained, skilled workers has driven up wages and employment opportunities for associate degree holders with highly-sought skill sets.

Analysts and educators refer to the situation as a skills gap. A wave of new jobs in a changing, high-tech economy is rolling in just as a mass of baby boomers retires. The end result is a glut of vacant positions with too few workers with desired skills.

“I think the simple economic theory about supply and demand is going to drive, locally and regionally, what’s driving up those associate’s degree wages. Employers are obviously very conscious about how some individuals joining their organization can add value to their customers and operations,” said Chris Matheny, vice president of instruction services for FVTC.

The competition for skilled workers is blurring the line between two- and four-year degree holders’ career opportunities. Nationwide, nearly 30 percent of Americans with associate’s degrees now make more than those with bachelor’s degrees, according to a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

About 89 percent of 2012 graduates from FVTC were employed within six months of earning their degree, according to a survey of graduates. Three-out-of-four grads found work related to their field of study and earned an average starting salary of $33,000.

Many saw much higher wages. Graduates from the web site development program reported earning as much as $104,000; human resources grads reported earning up to $90,000; business management grads saw up to $80,000; and electrical engineers found jobs paying as high as $59,900, according to the graduate survey.

Not all these salaries are for entry level work. A growing number of adults are returning to college to learn additional skills to either find new work or stay relevant in their current field. More employers are also paying for their employees’ continuing education.

“Once you get in house, we often have to put students through $10,000-$20,000 of aircraft-specific training. Each individual we consider a huge investment for the company,” said Greg Laabs, vice president and general manager of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation in Appleton.

Laabs spoke during a recent forum about the skills gap hosted by FVTC, where a number of employers said they’ve become more competitive with wages, hired younger people into higher-level positions and paid for schooling.

Nearly 55 percent of Wisconsin manufacturing companies reported offering collaborative training programs through local technical colleges and 46 percent reported increasing wages for difficult to fill positions, according a December 2012 survey by Schnenck SC, an Appleton-based accounting and business consulting firm.

“We offer competitive wages… The insurance packages offered are a huge bonus as well as the camaraderie and family values that go into a small to mid-sized business,” said Tony Robinson, vice president of manufacturing for Jay Manufacturing Oshkosh Inc. “Every employee at Jay Manufacturing is offered formal or on-the-job training experiences.”

Some employers are also beginning to hire people with associate’s degrees into management positions that previously required a four-year degree.

Paul Werth, 36, was among the first three people to graduate from FVTC’s new construction management program in 2011. Within nine months he was hired by Neenah-based Miron Construction Co. as a project manager, and he is now overseeing some of the construction related to FVTC’s expansion in Appleton.

“We’ve broke into this very traditional market where pretty much all the time it required a bachelor’s degree. Now, talking with students here (at FVTC), I know some have had job offers a month ago already,” Werth said.

The Georgetown center estimates 29 million jobs paying middle class wages today require no more than an associate’s degree. Similarly, the center estimates associate’s degree holders earn, on average, about $500,000 more over their careers than people with only high school diplomas, but $500,000 less than people with bachelor’s degrees. Those figures vary widely by profession.

A survey of graduates from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh indicates that most local bachelor’s degree holders still find a better starting wage than associate’s degree recipients. A UWO survey of 2011 graduates, which is the most recent available, shows 85 percent found jobs related to their majors within nine months of graduation. They earned starting salaries averaging $45,300.

The UWO survey had a 53 percent response rate, and the FVTC survey had a 78 percent response rate.

UWO Chancellor Richard Wells said a four-year education remains relevant and valuable to employers.

“A general education and the ability of a person to think critically, analytically and communicate effectively” — skills traditionally associated with a baccalaureate education — “is more important than a particular major. In the end, that’s what employers are looking for because you hopefully have someone who is passionate about life long learning,” Wells said.

From “Secretary of Workforce Development calls for more state businesses to partner with schools” — WAUSAU – Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson traveled to Wausau’s North Central Technical College. Newson called on more state businesses to get involved in apprenticeship programs to bridge a skills gap and meet employers needs.

Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to have an apprenticeship program. It dates back to 1911. As  the business climate has changed, Newson says business and schools must partner to meet changing workforce needs.

He says technical schools provide the training programs business leaders need and employers can provide high paying jobs that can move workers into the middle class.

Video from


From “Health care, accounting, tech are hottest fields for area graduates” — Shainah Hughes knows she’ll find a job and support her family when she graduates.

Job security is one of the big reasons the 29-year-old student at Western Technical College is pursuing a degree in electronics and computer engineering.

“When I graduate, there’s going to be a need for that,” Hughes said.

Health care, accounting and technology are big draws for grads who want to live locally, but college officials agree there’s no hard and fast trend.

Job security is “huge” for today’s graduates, said Beth Dolder-Zieke, director of career services at Viterbo University.

Many started college on the eve of the recession.

“They heard you go to college, you do really well, get a job,” Dolder-Zieke said. “And then they go to college, and for those of them who were aware of what was going on, it was very discouraging.”

College grads have high expectations from their first job. Nationally, they expect a salary approaching $50,000 and “want opportunities for future growth,” Dolder-Zieke said.

For that, many are looking to health care.

More than 160 students graduated from Viterbo’s un-dergraduate nursing and nursing-completion programs last year. Western, UW-L, Winona State University and Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical in Winona all offer degrees in health care, too.

Radiography, certified nursing assistant and physical therapy programs have a consistent following because of local hospitals, said Jackie Newman, career services specialist for Western.

“The regional area makes health care a popular pick,” Newman said.

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners are also in demand by local hospitals “because that’s a way that they can serve underserved populations,” said Tim Tritch, UW-L’s associate director of career services.

Health care-related work makes up nearly 20 percent of La Crosse jobs, and about 24 percent of Winona County jobs, according to state employment data.

Issac Tillman went back to college with plans to open a restaurant but wound up working in financial aid.

Tillman started in Western’s business management program, hoping to pad years of experience and a past degree in food service. He soon realized he wanted something more stable.

Tillman graduates this year and has already found work in Western’s financial aid office.

“It clicked,” Tillman said.

Accounting and technology are both strong choices for students like Tillman, who stay in the region, college officials say. Employers want skilled workers in both fields.

“Even when the economy goes bad, they still need accountants,” said Gale Lanning, director of admissions for Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical. “They have always been our consistent program that still will survive no matter what.”

Career choices vary as much as certificates and degrees available at the region’s colleges — especially when an aspiring college grad is willing to move for work, Tritch said. Proximity of two major job markets, the Twin Cities and Madison, creates myriad possibilities for students.

From “Eastern Iowa manufacturing jobs ripe for the taking” — Eastern Iowa’s manufacturing industry has so many open positions, companies can’t fill them quickly enough.

That has prompted Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) in Peosta to team up with Southwestern Wisconsin Technical College. The two created the Tri-State Advanced Manufacturing Center for Excellence. It will help train and pair skilled workers with the abundance of manufacturing jobs available locally.

This week, NICC announced the appointment of the center’s director, Randy Schofield, who is currently an advanced manufacturing instructor at NICC’s Peosta campus.

He said there are hundreds of jobs available in the Dubuque area right now, and they pay well.

“We have 21-, 22-year-old people out there in the workforce that went through a one-year program that are making $50,000 or $60,000 a year,” Schofield said.

It was the job availability that drew student Titus Fair to NICC’s advanced manufacturing program. After an injury in Iraq sent the former Marine back to Iowa, Fair first enrolled in NICC’s heating and air conditioning program.

“I looked for a job for six months, and I was unsuccessful in finding a job,” Fair said, “so I decided to come back and go to the CNC program.”

Fair returned to NICC’s Peosta campus to gain advanced manufacturing skills and train as a computer numerical control (CNC) machinist technician.

“The manufacturing and CNC jobs are booming in this area right now,” Fair said.

Schofield said the advanced manufacturing jobs available right now include “welders and machinists and engineers and all throughout manufacturing, really.”

He said the high job availability has to do with an aging existing workforce.

“A lot of the machinists and the welders and the manufacturing people are getting older, and there is work coming back from countries,” he said. “When I first started out, we worked for companies that sent work over to other countries, and now some of that work is coming back.”

Fair and Schofield both said these are good jobs with benefits.

In exploring different opportunities, Schofield said he found jobs that offered, “anywhere from $38,000 to $60,000 that first year on the job, so it’s pretty good.”

For Fair, it’s now a matter of swimming in opportunities.

“Right now, it’s such a high demand for CNC. I recommend this to anybody looking for a job,” he said.

Fair said he’s now deciding between two job offers.

From “Forestry program provides graduates for a growing industry” — Antigo – The first graduating class from a Northwoods forestry program will receive their diplomas this May, and most of them have job offers.

It’s a program that’s taking the forest industry to another level.

But it’s not just about the trees.

It’s about jobs. “We’re just trying to develop the best possible people for this industry that we can,” said Brown.

Northcentral Technical College’s Wood Tech program is teaching future forest industry employees, right in Antigo.

“The equipment that we have here on the floor, the curriculum that we teach here at NTC is very unique, and it is cutting edge. It’s what employers are looking for when they’re hiring new employees,” said instructor Travis Allen.

The forestry industry job market looks good too.

With almost 60 thousand jobs in Wisconsin in 2011, compared to 52 thousand in 2010, according to the DNR.

Oradei sees it as a sustainable job market too.

“It’s a very desirable industry to be involved with; you’re always working with a renewable resource,” said Oradei.

Brown is happy to see business growing.

“Business has picked up in the united states and worldwide, so it’s getting a lot more fun,” said Brown.

Sixteen students in Travis Allen’s class are hearing from employers too.

“A week ago I had three different employers contact us for skilled employees, and the nice thing is our curriculum is covering exactly what they want to hire on,” said Allen.

From “8 Wis. Technical Colleges awarded funds for laser equipment” — Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson says eight Wisconsin Technical College System schools will be awarded nearly $105,000 to to purchase precision laser alignment tools to help train apprentices in manufacturing and address the skills gap.

“The funding is another example of our continuing efforts to equip workers with the latest skills, empowering them for employment in family supporting jobs,” Secretary Newson said. “With the grants, our workforce partners in the technical colleges can purchase high tech, laser equipment to train apprentices for good jobs in the skilled trades.”

Grants of $13,100 each are being awarded to Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids, North Central Technical College in Wausau, Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, Waukesha Technical College, and Milwaukee Area Technical College.

The U.S. Department of Labor funds will go to purchase precision laser alignment tools for rotating machinery. Precision laser alignment is a common testing procedure in maintaining manufacturing equipment and ensuring production efficiency. The colleges will use the equipment to train apprentices in training for occupations as machine repairer, maintenance mechanic, millwright and pipefitter.

From “University, college funding would be tied to job-readiness efforts” — Madison – To respond to global competition and an aging workforce, Gov. Scott Walker wants to invest nearly $100 million to build a faster system to track jobs data, tie technical school and university funding to filling high-demand professions and require nearly 76,000 people to train for work to collect food stamps.

The sweeping proposals – some of the biggest in worker training in more than a decade – would expand the Medical College of Wisconsin to Green Bay and Wausau and draw in millions of dollars in added federal money toward the goal of equipping the workforce for needed jobs as welders, nurses, accountants, machine operators and rural doctors.

The measures encompass big parts of the Republican governor’s 2013-’15 budget being introduced on Feb. 20, as well as separate legislation to be introduced on Monday.

Many of the proposals will likely find bipartisan support in the Legislature, while others will likely be greeted with dissatisfaction from Democrats pushing for bigger investments from the governor to backfill the cuts he has made in the current budget to the state’s technical colleges and universities.

One potentially contentious plank – and one with big implications for Milwaukee – is Walker’s proposal to require able-bodied adults without dependent children to train or search for work to receive benefits under the state FoodShare program. Providing the training will cost the state $17 million a year and won’t save money directly on the federally funded food benefits.

But in an interview, Walker said he believes the recipients will gain confidence and move into the workforce and off other costly state benefits.

“I want to provide a hand up, not a permanent handout, and I think the idea here is it’s not enough to just say, ‘You should go find a job.’ We’re willing to put our money where our mouth is and say we’ll train you,” Walker said.

The scope of the proposed changes is ambitious, reaching from 4-year-old kindergarten through university study and into training in the workplace. The measure draws on reports by Competitive Wisconsin, former Bucyrus International executive Tim Sullivan and Walker’s Read to Lead Task Force.

More investments in education will likely come in the budget, but likely not be enough to placate Democrats. They’ve stewed about Walker’s higher-education cuts in the current budget, which included some $300 million over two years to the University of Wisconsin System alone.

“Governor Walker made the biggest cuts to education and worker training in our state’s history,” said budget committee member Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse). “It has widened our skills gap and resulted in waiting lists (at technical colleges) of up to three years in some high-demand professions.”

Walker made the UW cuts – as well as ones to local governments and school districts – just after approving a measure that all but eliminated collective bargaining for public workers and required them to pay more for their pensions and health care.

He argued Friday that those savings and the added flexibility offset the cuts, and that to him his proposed spending in the next budget amounts to new money.


The FoodShare proposal would not affect the elderly, disabled or those with minor children. It would limit able-bodied recipients’ benefits to three months over any three-year period unless they are working or doing at least 20 hours per week of job training or searches.

The state will attract federal matching funds for the training costs for a total of $33 million over two years.

The proposal will face skepticism from advocates such as Sherrie Tussler, executive director of Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee. Tussler remembers previous state requirements as creating more jobs for social workers than it did for FoodShare recipients, who she said were taught just basic skills.

“There’s this huge bureaucracy to get people to do the work and make sure they’ve done it. It ends up costing more to mandate the work than the good you get. . . . You’re trying to take away people’s food to get them to get a job,” she said.

Currently, the training element to the program is voluntary, and Tussler said she has struggled to get state funding for a proposal to pay FoodShare participants $10 an hour to work at a farm growing vegetables for the needy. That’s because of tight federal restrictions, she said.

Technical Colleges

The governor is also proposing linking current state funding to technical schools with their performance at placing their more than 78,000 students in the right jobs.

Starting in 2014, Walker wants 10% of the general state aid to technical colleges to be awarded based on job placement and how well the schools do at catering to fields that are in high demand.

That percentage would ramp up in future years, until all state funds would be allocated on a performance basis, starting in 2020.

The technical colleges would see a $5 million boost in general state aid, bringing it to $88.5 million a year. That’s a 5.9% boost in its current funding, but does not come close to replacing all the money Walker cut from technical colleges in 2011.

That year, funding for technical schools dropped by 30%, from $119.3 million to $83.5 million.

The $88.5 million Walker will propose for technical colleges accounts for just a sliver of overall funding for those schools, which also receive property taxes, tuition and federal aid.

UW System

For state universities, Walker is proposing awarding $20 million for programs that help the economy, develop a skilled workforce and make higher education more affordable.

He also plans to give $2 million to the UW System to start up its flexible degree program – about two-thirds of the $3 million the system had requested.

The program is meant to allow people already in the workforce to get degrees in programs such as nursing, information systems or medical imaging more quickly by getting credits for knowledge they already have, whether they learned it on a job site or through online courses.

Walker’s budget would also require the university and technical college systems to establish a core set of 30 college credits that can be transferred between all public institutions in the state.

Private colleges would have a chance to opt into that system.

In a provision that could rankle GOP lawmakers, Walker wants to allow the UW-Madison chancellor to determine the pay plan for employees without going through the Legislature.

Similarly, the UW Board of Regents would be able to set pay for other campuses without getting sign-off from lawmakers – flexibility that UW System President Kevin Reilly said was essential to closing a pay gap with salaries at other institutions.

“Over time, if we can’t give our people hope we’ll be able to close that 18 percentage point gap, people who are mobile and attractive to other universities will leave,” Reilly said. “The biggest threat to students of the future is that they will not be taught by the best and brightest.”

Health care

Walker’s budget would also seek to increase the number of doctors and dentists in Wisconsin, particularly in rural areas.

It would:

  • Provide $7.4 million in bonding so the Medical College of Wisconsin could establish campuses in the Green Bay and Wausau areas. In addition, the college would receive $1.75 million over two years to add 12 more family medicine residents.
  • Give $3 million over two years to the UW School of Medicine so it can expand training for doctors who will serve rural areas and inner cities.
  • Provide $4 million for rural hospitals so they can receive national accreditation and take on medical residents, along with $1 million in grants to hospitals so they can take more doctors in training.
  • Give $520,000 to the Marquette Dental School so it can expand.
  • Provide $5 million to the Wisconsin Health Information Organization, which is meant to make health care costs more transparent and make people wiser health care consumers.

Education, other items

Walker’s budget would also expand testing in schools so by the 11th grade teachers can identify and better prepare students who are ready for college or a career when they graduate.

The testing would cost $11.5 million over two years and would be covered by the state. The proposal would also screen the reading readiness of students in 4-year-old kindergarten and first grade in the fall of 2013. The following year, screening would also be used for second-graders. The plan would cost $2.8 million over two years.

Starting in sixth grade, students could develop an academic and career plan, under Walker’s budget. The plan would be updated throughout a student’s school career so he or she can graduate from high school with a job plan. Schools would receive about $1.1 million starting in the fall of 2014.

The second set of Walker’s proposed workforce changes will be stand-alone legislation that will be introduced on Monday, said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). He said he hoped to pass the measure by the end of March.

That bill would cost $20 million over two years and would:

  • Spend $15 million over two years in grants to organizations that train workers.
  • The competitive grants would go to technical colleges, local workforce boards and regional economic development organizations working in partnership with state businesses, which could provide matching funds.
  • Create a four-person state Office of Skills Development to coordinate the scattered worker-training systems of the state and adapt them to the needs of employers.
  • Spend roughly $5 million to develop a system to better track the state’s labor market by some time in 2014.

If successful, it would more quickly deliver to students, guidance counselors and businesses data from the state’s unemployment system that currently takes six months to become public.

The system would link jobless workers to openings they are qualified to fill and provide students and guidance counselors with better information about career opportunities. If successful in getting the unemployed back to work even a week sooner, the system could save the state tens of millions of dollars.

Walker, who has struggled to meet his pledge to create 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first term, said the system wasn’t an attempt to gloss over the current figures, just deliver the same data more quickly.

From “Democrats say Gov. Walker is interested in their jobs ideas” — MADISON — Senate and Assembly Democrats are trying to get ahead of the game on job creation in an attempt to make themselves more relevant this legislative session.

“Representative Barca and I have had two meetings already with the Governor, and we’ve talked about some of our initiatives and some of the things that we want to see,” said Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), the Senate Minority Leader.

One of those initiatives is a competitive grant training program.

That allows businesses or economic development agencies to partner with local technical colleges to develop projects that focus on increasing skills in high employment areas.

The best ideas get the grants.

“These are jobs that are advertised, if only they had the training. So we believe we need to focus on workforce training,” said Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), the Assembly Minority Leader.

Another proposal would allow out-of-state investors to receive refundable tax credits for supporting high-tech start-ups and entrepreneurs.  Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) said expanding those credits beyond Wisconsin’s borders will only boost the economic growth they’ve already created.

“For $11 million in tax credits, those funds leveraged in Wisconsin a total financing of $152 million for our entrepreneurs and small businesses in our state,” said Sen. Lassa.

But Rep. Fred Clark (D-Sauk City) says existing small businesses also need financial help.  That’s why he is proposing an up-front tax credit which would help a business owner secure a loan for expansion or equipment.

He said many current small business tax credits for things like that go unused.

“I worked with a business owner who actually could have benefited from a provision that we passed in 2009, giving a tax credit for purchase of harvesting equipment in forestry.  What the owner said to me was, ‘what good is it if nobody will borrow me the money to operate the thing,'” said Rep. Clark.

The Governor’s office confirmed that they are looking at the Democratic proposals, and say they will discuss them further after the full budget is released on February 20th.

Video from

From “Second Chance Partners launch advanced manufacturing pilot program” — Second Chance Partners for Education on Tuesday launched a new advanced manufacturing certificate pilot program in partnership with the Kettle Moraine School District, Waukesha County Technical College, General Electric Co.’s Waukesha gas engines business and Generac Power Systems Inc.

The program is designed to provide high school students who have an interest in technical careers with the ability to earn hands-on work experience and credits at post-secondary schools.

“This pilot exposes students to career pathways inherent in manufacturing, including interests such as welding, fabrication and manufacturing processes to advanced degree fields such as mechanical and electrical engineering,” said Pat Deklotz, Kettle Moraine School District superintendent.

The pilot program will initially serve seven juniors and five seniors from the Kettle Moraine School District. It will be housed at Generac’s facility in Eagle and GE’s Waukesha gas engines facility.

Classroom work will focus on communications, math, applied sciences, social sciences and technical coursework.

Students will also participate in the Youth Apprenticeship Program, where they work four hours a day for the partner companies. They will earn an hourly wage and have the opportunity for raises that can be banked for use as a future college scholarship.

At the end of the program, students will have a portfolio of applied learning experiences and transcripted credits issued by Waukesha County Technical College that count toward an associate’s degree and are stackable and transferable to other Wisconsin technical colleges.

Second Chance Partners for Education, founded in 2000, has primarily focused on serving academically disengaged students with mechanical aptitude and an interest in manufacturing. This pilot program is open to any student with an interest in a technical career related to manufacturing, said Christopher Kent, marketing communications coordinator.

Other differences with the pilot include a more traditional semester model, rather than the 21 consecutive months in current Second Chance programs, Kent said.

Kent said the pilot is an extension of what the organization currently does.

“This pilot allows us to explore ways that we can leverage our model to help more students and be a greater asset for the industry and regions we serve,” said Second Chance Partners for Education president Stephanie Borowski.


From “Nicolet Technical College adds manufacturing associate degree” — Nicolet Technical College in Rhinelander announced this week that they will be offering a manufacturing associate degree starting in January.

Earlier this fall, Nicolet added a six credit manufacturing certificate to their repertoire with the goal of continually adding higher level training. Now, starting on January 23rd, students will be able to enroll in a 65 credit associate degree program thanks to nearly $1.2 million in state and federal grants.

The college used some of that money to upgrade their labs, adding 6 new state-of-the-art stations where students can learn to operate and trouble shoot a wide variety of manufacturing equipment.

Another part of that $1.2 million grant will also be used for financial aid.

So far over 100 students have taken manufacturing classes under the new certificate program and spaces for the new associate degree are filling up fast.

For students already enrolled in the manufacturing certificate program, like Mike Huber, they have the option to extend their schooling a receive that two year degree.

“Originally I was signed up for the certificate class. At that point the degree was not offered, now it is. So I’m enrolled for the degree and planning on following through,” Huber said.

Manufacturing instructor Richard Johnson says this new 65 credit program will send students like Huber into the workforce more prepared than ever before.

“What it’s intended for is to provide instruction to new students just coming in to learn about the systems and components and equipment that would be used in a typical manufacturing facility in the region,” Johnson explained, pointing out that these skills are very valuable right now because of the shortage of skilled workers in the manufacturing industry.

It’s this hands-on training that has Huber confident he will be able to do the job. After graduation he’s hoping to get a job working at a paper mill or cardboard production plant.

“I was self taught in my own profession and that died out and here I am, at my age, going back to school to start a new career and looking forward to it,” Huber said.

From “MATC investing millions to address skills gap” — Milwaukee Area Technical College is investing millions into its programs to address the region’s talent shortage and has added dozens of new programs since 2011, president Michael Burke said.

The school also recently received a more than $1 million federal grant to provide advanced manufacturing support for the community, Burke said.

Southeastern Wisconsin employers, particularly manufacturers, say they’re struggling to find candidates for open positions with the right skill sets, despite high unemployment.

As part of its response to that need, MATC has added eight degrees, 15 technical diplomas and 24 certificates since 2011, Burke said.

From “Area job picture picking up” — For all the talk of a down economy, Riverside Machine & Engineering in Chippewa Falls has had pretty steady growth. Human Resources Director Rita Bernard estimates it at about 12 to 20 percent each of the past few years.

“We are adding to our workforce. We want to add two full-time and two part-time people,” she said.

A manufacturer of metal parts primarily in the medical and aerospace industries, Riverside has need of people in the machine tool trade. To find them, Riverside came out to the Career Fair at Chippewa Valley Technical College Tuesday, where 27 manufacturers had registered for tables.

The employers were not necessarily in the driver’s seat at the Career Fair. Many were in recruiting mode, looking to convince students who will graduate soon to consider their companies.

Brandon Halmstad felt that. The second-year student originally from Ladysmith in the electromechanical program found quite a bit of interest — in him.

“It’s hard to keep track of where (which tables) I’ve been,” he said. “I looked into ConAgra, and I looked into Presto a lot. I’ve heard from a few different people that they’re a nice company to work for.”

Yes, there are positive signs in the local economy, even with an unemployment rate hovering in the 6.8-percent range in the Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls area. CVTC’s Career Fair was a bit of a good sign itself, with 72 companies registering for 76 tables at three locations. Last year, there were just 51 registrants.

Of course, whether there is a surplus or shortage of workers for job openings depends on the field, but having companies in growth mode tends to help an economy across the board.

“We just about doubled our workforce in a year’s time,” said Gary Fenner from Pro-Cise, a contract manufacturer on Eau Claire’s north side. Pro-Cise is part of the Plank Enterprises family of companies, where Fenner is corporate vice president.

Fenner said Pro-Cise, which has seen growth in orders from the oil industry, currently employs 26.

“We’re looking for machinists and welders, just like every other manufacturer here,” he said.

That includes Thomas & Betts Corporation, whose plant in Hager City has a huge demand for welders to make those huge metal power line poles.

“We have a high demand right now. We just added a third shift not too long ago,” said company representative Rod Peterson.

Other opportunities are available outside the manufacturing area. Service Manager Frank Paulich of E.O. Johnson Office Technologies was primarily recruiting people from the Information Technology programs at CVTC, but one who also has some mechanical aptitude.

“Our real need right now is someone in the middle — someone who carries a screwdriver in one hand and a laptop in the other,” he said.

For job seekers, it’s often all about training for the jobs that are available. First-semester CVTC student Alex Henry of Eau Claire was looking for internships in the Information Technology field.

“Long term, I would like to program mobile applications or games, but I just need to get some experience in the industry,” said Henry, who also has an English degree from UW-Eau Claire.

He set up a couple of interviews at the Career Fair and has a generally positive outlook on his prospects once he finishes the two-year program.

From “Enrollment up at CNC boot camps” — Some area technical colleges that host CNC boot camps have seen increased demand from both employers and students, so they have added additional courses.

CNC boot camps are accelerated courses that help students earn CNC operator skills sooner than the traditional coursework.Waukesha County Technical College and the Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington Workforce Development Board have teamed up to offer some of the boot camps at the college. In order to enroll in a boot camp at WCTC, students’ math and reading levels need to be at a 9.2 grade level.

“This is basically condensed and it is a very intensive six to eight hours a day,” said Francisco Sanchez, CEO of the WOW Workforce Development Board. “There is no general education courses required.”

WOW and WCTC have increased the number of boot camps they offer to meet the demand in the manufacturing industry, Sanchez said.

“We try to minimize the amount of time they spend in the technical college,” he said. “The manufacturers want to get people in, because there is a huge need right now.”

WOW also hosts a CNC boot camp at Moraine Park Technical College in West Bend, which currently has 16 students enrolled.

Often, WOW is able to bring employers in during the boot camp to talk to students about employment opportunities once they finish the courses.

“We started offering it because an employer came to us and needed about 15 CNC operators,” said Mike Shiels, dean of the School of Applied Technologies at WCTC.

In addition to WOW, WCTC works with the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership to match employers with students, he said.

WCTC previously offered three boot camps per year, but has doubled the offering this year. Last year, between 30 and 45 people graduated from the CNC boot camp, while close to 90 have completed the program this year.

“We have also increased the amount of sections that we’re offering in our one-year program as well,” Shiels said.

The one-year program provides training for CNC machinists, while the boot camp teaches basic manufacturing skills like blueprint reading and the basic operation of CNC machines.

The college has hired an additional full-time instructor to help teach some of the courses, he said.

At Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, there is a one-year course and a boot camp to learn CNC skills. The boot camp participants are generally dislocated workers who are upgrading their skills, said Debbie Davidson, vice president in the workforce and economic development division at Gateway.

“We have found that within the last year, companies are looking to hire again and are looking for maybe different skill sets that what people who worked in machining before had,” Davidson said.

Gateway aims to simulate a work environment at the boot camps, which are 15-week courses with 20 students each. The college recently upped its boot camp offering to three times per year.
Both CNC skills and soft skills like attendance are emphasized, Davidson said.

“Employers have said to us, you need to teach them (soft skills),” she said. “We’ve had great success. We’ve had over a 90 percent placement rate on individuals who come out of the program.”

From “Grant aims to fill manufacturing jobs”  — GRAND CHUTE – Fox Valley Technical College recently received nearly three million dollars to train nearly 400 workers.

To state workforce officials, Travis Rewalt is the perfect example of someone helping fill the manufacturing skills gap.

“I felt like I was learning the basics I needed and I kind of wanted to learn more to keep me on top of the game so that I could be marketable in the future,” said Rewalt of Menasha.

State officials say if more people like Rewalt stepped forward, empty jobs in manufacturing could start being filled.

“The skills gap issue is on the training side and people not having the skills to fill the role because there is a perception that manufacturing is dumb, dirty and dangerous and it’s not,” said Georgia Maxwell, the executive assistant for Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development.

The state’s Department of Workforce Development is teaming with Fox Valley Technical College to address the issue. $2.9 million will help train people interested in jobs in welding, machine tool operations, printing and electronics/automation.

“These are the primary areas that we have more demand for jobs and for skilled labor than we have supplies at the moment,” said Steve Straub the dean of Fox Valley Technical College’s Manufacturing and Agriculture Technologies Division.

State and school officials say above any other field, manufacturing currently has the most opportunity. They say the problem is there aren’t enough people like Rewalt who want to learn the necessary skills.

“I guess it comes down to motivation of the individuals. The people that seem to want to do it, don’t have the tools available to them, particularly on the financial end,” said Rewalt.

Manufacturing leaders hope the new grant money will help provide that motivation.

The grant money is funded through the federal Trade Adjustment Act.

From — “New flight simulator at FVTC” — OSHKOSH – Thinking about a career as a pilot?

Experts at Fox Valley Technical College says there are a shortage of pilots across the country.  To address the demands for pilots, the Oshkosh campus has added some new technology to its pilot program, including a flight simulator.

The public can learn more about how the flight simulators work during an open house on Monday, Oct. 22 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Click on the video links to your left to watch the segments that aired on Wednesday’s Good Day Wisconsin.  Angela Kelly got to see the new flight simulators and learn about the school’s construction management program.

From “Wisconsin companies’ new task: Manufacturing skilled workers” — High school teacher Scott Bruening encourages his students to pursue blue-collar jobs in manufacturing, something that’s much less common now than it was 30 years ago.

One reason is that, nationwide, more than 600,000 skilled-trades jobs remain open because of a shortage of qualified applicants, according to Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd., which provides audit, tax, consulting and financial services to companies in more than 150 countries.

It’s one of the top-five issues for manufacturers, according to Deloitte, especially as 10,000 Americans a day turn 65 and companies haven’t attracted enough young talent to replace their retirees.

Bruening teaches auto mechanics and other shop classes at Waukesha North High School.

Those programs are making a comeback, he said, as more students realize they can lead to a good career.

“It’s a daily conversation we have,” Bruening said.

Worldwide, more than 10 million manufacturing jobs cannot be filled because of the growing skills gap and because the jobs have become technically more demanding, Deloitte said in a recent report.

In the race to future prosperity, nothing will matter more than talent, said Tim Hanley, the Milwaukee-based U.S. process and industrial products leader for Deloitte.

Last week, about 20 Wisconsin manufacturers opened their doors to high school students to show them the work they do and the jobs that are available.

Some companies had dozens of students sign up for a tour, while others had only a handful.

Having seen layoffs and job losses that decimated entire communities, some people have reason to be skeptical of careers in manufacturing.

“I have lived with some of that myself,” said Nick Kroll, president and CEO of Aries Industries Inc., a Waukesha-based manufacturer of video equipment used to inspect underground facilities. The equipment was used in the rescue of miners in Chile in the summer of 2010.

“We make some cool stuff here, and most people don’t know about it,” Kroll said.

Aries has brought high school students into its plant, where they are mentored and work side-by-side with regular employees. The company also offers college tuition reimbursement for employees.

“I would argue that there are wonderful opportunities in manufacturing,” said Kroll, who entered the field in 1992 as a customer service representative and held sales and business development positions at several companies before he was hired as Aries president and CEO in 2010.

Kroll has seen the downside to manufacturing, including layoffs in the machine-shop industry where, as a teenager, he worked in his father’s business. But he believes the long-term trend favors job openings, including work created as companies bring production back to the United States from other countries.

“The reality is the U.S. has the most productive workforce on the planet,” Kroll said, adding that a combination of technologies and skills allows companies here to manufacture high-quality products at a reasonable cost.

In-house training

Companies such as Super Steel LLC have grown their own talent through skilled-trades classes.

“If somebody has a good work ethic, we can teach them how to weld,” said Mark Rutkowski, Super Steel’s marketing and sales director.

Even with waves of retirements, there’s some hope the skills gap has narrowed with increased enrollment in technical colleges and with high schools placing more emphasis on manufacturing careers.

“For a long time, there was a real block in education that just cut off manufacturing as a ‘nothing’ career with no future,” said Paul Rauscher, president of EMT International, a Green Bay company that builds equipment for the paper, packaging and other industries.

There are still too many high school students graduating with no career goals, said Jim Golembeski, executive director of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board in Green Bay.

“There is either complete ignorance about manufacturing careers in many school systems or an outright hostile attitude,” he said.

Those in the industry say hard work and perseverance can pay off.

In 1979, David Westgate landed a job as a machine operator in a factory that made engine drive shafts.

He was only two weeks out of high school in Allegan, Mich., worked nights and continued his education during the day. He also went through manager training programs and worked in various departments including materials and human resources.

“I didn’t like all of it, and some of it I couldn’t stand, but later on it really paid off,” said Westgate, chairman and chief executive of Jason Inc., a Milwaukee company that generates more than $700 million in annual sales and employs 3,600 people worldwide.

“You kind of pay your dues,” he said.

‘Logical career choice’

Besides working many jobs, Westgate earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Still, he respects those who have remained in the skilled trades.

“To be a tool-and-die maker is a great thing,” Westgate said. “We have to talk about it with our kids, be open and honest with them, and show them that manufacturing is a very logical career choice.”

That conversation couldn’t come quickly enough for many companies hard-pressed to fill jobs that include engineering and product development.

It resonated with Robert Wells, a senior at Waukesha North High School who is pursuing a career in welding and metal fabrication while working part-time at Hydro-Thermal Corp. in Waukesha.

After he graduates, Wells plans to pursue various certifications at Waukesha County Technical College.

He doesn’t feel the need to pursue a four-year college degree.

“I am a very technical person, and I get into creating stuff,” Wells said. “My parents are glad I am going into a field like this. They would rather see me do hard work and feel accomplished. I take pride in what I do.”

%d bloggers like this: