From “From referendum to reality” — These are heady times at Fox Valley Technical College, as finishing touches are being put on two major projects authorized in a 2012 referendum.

By a 2-1 margin, voters approved a $66.5 million referendum that called for the construction of three new facilities and the expansion of two existing buildings.

The college will host a media event Wednesday at its Appleton campus to unveil the $11.9 million Health Simulation and Technology Center.

The focus this week was a naming rights agreement with Service Motor Co. of Dale for the agriculture center, which received a $3.5 million expansion from the referendum. The facility is almost completed. An open house for both facilities is set for Oct. 1.

Nearly 2,800 square feet of classrooms and computer labs were added for agribusiness courses. Existing spaces were renovated into labs for hands-on learning.

Dustin Korth, a 20-year-old agribusiness and science technology student from Waldo, likes the flexibility of the new spaces.

“This is beautiful … the new classrooms are 10 times better than they were before,” Korth said. “It’s nice to have more room to accommodate more students. Like last year, packing 28 students into some rooms with four rows of tables was not comfortable at all.”

The agriculture industry is not just alive and well in Wisconsin, but flourishing, said Jim Sommer, president of Service Motor Co. The increased demand for agriculture programs — which has grown at FVTC by 87 percent since 2008 — is why the company continues its 30-plus year relationship with the college.

The equipment dealer solidified its ties to FVTC even further by donating $1.1 million for naming rights to the newly expanded agriculture center, now known as the Service Motor Co. Agriculture Center at Fox Valley Technical College.

The gift is a combination of student scholarships, equipment donations and financial support, Sommer said.

The need for skilled workers in precision agriculture, agricultural power and agribusiness will increase as technology advances, Sommer said.

“We know there’s going to be a growing need. Over the next 10 to 20 years, we’ll need employees,” Sommer said. “By providing financial support, we’re hoping to ensure quality graduates.”

The new Health Simulation and Technology Center will be a hub for the college’s medical-related programs. The three-story building features a virtual hospital, classrooms, a computer lab and physical therapy suites.

The facility will provide students with experience in real-world situations.

Bob Sternhagen, human patient simulation coordinator, said every major institution that trains medical professionals has a simulation lab.

“That’s the beauty of simulation: students can mess up, they can make mistakes and nobody gets harmed,” Sternhagen said.

Students also will learn how to work with professionals in other areas, including police officers, firefighters, paramedics, medical assistants, nurses and occupational therapy assistants.

“This is patient care as a cooperative type of event because whatever a police officer does on the scene of an auto crash will impact what a paramedic or EMT does, which will impact what an ER doctor does … it may mean the difference between a patient not surviving or surviving with a poor outcome,” Sternhagen said.

Officials invited members of the Fox Valley Healthcare Alliance to tour the facility earlier this week. Education consultant Jen Meyer represented ThedaCare, and she was impressed.

“It’s unreal,” Meyer said. “This is such a valuable asset for our community. Not only will it provide an amazing opportunity for area students, but for our existing health care workforce as well.”


From “Need for nurses grows as population ages” —There’s a reason why local college nursing programs are so popular.

Fond du Lac educators say nurses are in high demand, and the need for nurses will only grow as the population ages.

Nursing is the largest program enrollment-wise at Moraine Park Technical College. Dean of Health Sciences Kathy Van Eerden said 900 students have indicated that nursing is their choice of study.

It’s also a major field at Marian University, said Julie Luetschwager, dean of the school of nursing.

“(Enrollment) has been pretty stable, which is a good thing,” she said.

It’s not just high school graduates choosing nursing. Luetschwager said many nurses are also returning to school for advanced degrees.

Opportunities for highly skilled nurses are available in community and public health. And with doctor shortages anticipated in the future, nurse practitioners will be needed to fulfill some of their responsibilities.

Van Eerden said more and more students pursuing nursing already have a degree in another field, but are going back to school because they’re underemployed. Others who were laid off during the recession are hoping to land a diploma — and a career — in a stronger, more lucrative industry.

It helps that opportunities abound for nurses, and since credits transfer, it’s easy for them to advance their education if they so choose, she added.

“The beauty of nursing is that it has a clear career ladder for people,” she said.

The health care industry wasn’t immune to the recession; some medical providers froze hiring as a result of the economy, Luetschwager said. But sooner, rather than later, they’re going to have to hire again in response to the rapidly aging population.

Nurses too will retire, creating additional gaps that will need to be filled. Unless it’s addressed, there’s going to be a nursing shortage in the near future, Van Eerden said.

“We are clearly seeing continued high demand locally and nationally,” she said.

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