From “YouthBuild program helps young people develop skills” — In honor of National YouthBuild Day, which is being observed today, those at Community Action Inc.’s Beloit Fresh Start program have been celebrating its impact in the community and opening its doors to the community.

On Wednesday, those at Community Action were providing tours of housing projects FreshStart students are working in the Merrill neighborhood. And to celebrate Janeville’s 12 administrative personnel from Community Action moving to the Beloit facility at the Eclipse Center there was a ribbon cutting ceremony at 4:30 p.m. followed by an Business After Hours event at 5 p.m.

Since the program launched in 2006, there have been 88 graduates and an 80 percent success rate, according to Gary Wagner, program manager.

In the program, students age 18 to 21 who have dropped out of high school can get re-enrolled to attend classes at the Community Action Pathways Center to obtain their diploma and obtain job skills. Students have three career path certifications they can choose from — certified nursing assistant, business and customer service or construction, said FreshStart Academic Supervisor Linda Fair.

Fair said students can obtain their high school diplomas with the chance to walk across the stage in the graduation ceremony by taking online classes.

Next year the business and customer service certification will be replaced by a welding certificate. Efforts are also under way for the welding program to be held at Beloit Memorial High School’s newly remodeled career and technical education area.

In light of the successful programming, Candelaria Diaz and Ike Lee are visiting Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. today to speak about the need for funding for YouthBuild USA. The Fresh Start program of Community Action is funded partially by YouthBuild USA and is up to renew its grant nationally. Diaz and Lee graduated from the program and are now program assistants working through AmeriCorps.

In Beloit one of the most popular career paths for the Fresh Start program has been in construction. A few years ago Community Action purchased more than 17 properties in the Merrill neighborhood. Students in the FreshStart construction program worked on rehabbing the homes as they gained work skills. The homes are then resold to qualified low income families through the Merrill Housing Initiative.

FreshStart Construction instructor Deitra Green said students graduate from her classes with a pre-apprenticeship certificate from the nationally-recognized Home Building Institute. Green, an electrician with more than 20 years of experience in construction, said students completing her classes know how to use tools as well as the basics of building and fixing homes. On Wednesday, she was helping her students work on a home at 1346 Yates Ave. Many of them were learning the fine art of dry wall installation.

The students in Fresh Start’s construction program work on rehabbing a home to sell each spring.

Tailor Laidig, 18, is one of the students who will graduate with a certified nursing assistant certification. Laidig, who had her son in tenth grade, said she couldn’t continue her education because of childcare. At the time she only had 6.25 credits and needed 24 credits to graduate.

However, now her son is enrolled nearby in Head Start and she is able to attend classes at FreshStart. The program has also helped her get assistance with an apartment and transportation. Once Laidig graduates, she hopes to continue on to college to become a pediatric nurse while using her CNA certification to get a job as she gets through school. Laidig is currently attending some of her classes nearby at the Blackhawk Technical College site in the Eclipse Center and doing clinical work in Brodhead before she will take her state board exam.

Wagner said there were more than 70 applications for the program which can only accept 21 students. He noted that applicants must pass a thorough interview process and a 2-week “mental toughness” component to demonstrate if they are ready to fully commit themselves to the program.

Community Action is an 100 percent local, not-for-profit organization, offering a broad spectrum of community programs aimed at preventing and reducing poverty in Rock and Walworth counties. It operates the Fresh Start program, offers child care, at-risk youth programming, teen parent support, women’s health care, senior benefits counseling, home ownership programs, affordable housing units, home weatherization and rehab, assistance in dealing with a housing crisis, food for area pantries and shelter for the homeless.


From “Green Bay hiring reflects statewide needs” — GREEN BAY — Job openings in Green Bay reflect those statewide, with truck drivers, customer service and sales representatives, and registered nurses in greatest demand.

“The top positions are almost identical,” said Jeffrey Sachse, economist with the state Department of Workforce Development. “The only thing that pops up is more welder openings than CNC openings, because of the nature of the work.”

Welders have been in demand in the region for several years. Green Bay, Marinette and Sturgeon Bay have a lot of fabrication and shipbuilding companies that require welders.

Sachse said that more than anytime during the last three years, hiring is up across the board. All industries are looking for new workers. Much of that is driven by the increasing flood of baby boomer retirements. Many boomers put off retiring during the 2007-09 recession and its aftermath when retirement funds took a hit, but now are making the move.

Construction jobs have grown the most in the region, driven by the U.S. 41, Schreiber Foods and Lambeau Field projects.

“The greatest concentration is on the Highway 41 corridor,” Sachse said.

Construction jobs increased by 7 percent in 2013.

“That’s twice the industry average,” Sachse said. “Those are per-recessionary growth numbers, and it’s more than twice the growth of any industry over that same period.”

The demand for health care workers is growing as baby boomers age and health care systems add facilities and bring older ones up to date.

In addition to nurses, the Green Bay area has openings for nursing assistants, medical and health services managers and personal care aides.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay has waiting lists for its health care programs, though not as long as they once were, and it ramped up its manufacturing programs to add weekend and evening classes.

“Some of our graduates six months out are making $36,000 a year as welders. Electromechanical technology graduates are making $50,000,” said Jennifer Pigeon, manager of career services at NWTC.

From “Information technology, nursing head list of local jobs” — WAUSAU — Information technology is on the A-list of in-demand jobs in Marathon County right now.

Laurie Borowicz, vice president of student services at Northcentral Technical College, says the college is doing its best to keep up with demand for positions in the IT field.

“We could take 50 more students in IT tomorrow if we could find them,” Borowicz said. “That’s probably our issue right now, is finding people, getting people into these high-demand programs.”

The technical college is trying to make it easier for students to take the IT track by offering more courses in the evenings and online, she said.

Jim Warsaw, economic development director for Marathon County Development Corp., said there’s a growing concentration of IT and technology-related businesses in the Wausau area and those employers currently can’t openings.

“NTC doubled their graduating class in IT and it still isn’t enough to keep up with demand,” Warsaw said.

In addition to IT, Warsaw said, other popular positions in the area include welding, skilled trades, manufacturing, health care, sales and nursing.

Most job activity, he said, is with companies that were prepared to come out of the recession when things turned around, most of which are larger employers.

“Small businesses are still trying to cope with the recession’s impact on their cash flows and equity positions,” Warsaw said.

The job of certified nursing assistant, or CNA, is big right now, according to Marathon County Job Center W2 job developer David Cruz.

One reason for that growth is that it’s easier to get started in a certified nursing course than in a registered nursing program, Cruz said.

Overall, the unemployment picture has improved in Marathon County over the past year.

The most recent figures from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development show the December 2013 unemployment rate for Marathon County at 5.7 percent. That’s nearly a full percentage point better than the 6.6 percent registered in December 2012.

From “New CVTC simulation lab boosts medical realism” — When nursing students at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s (CVTC’s) River Falls campus are working on a training scenario with one of the college’s high-tech simulation mannequins, they can rely only on their own knowledge and instincts. There’s no glancing over at an instructor in search of a nod of approval for a chosen course of action.

The instructor is watching from a separate room, behind glass that students cannot see through. She listens, observes and controls the simulator to react accordingly to what the students do — good or bad.

“This is more realistic than it was before,” said student Anna Hinde, originally from Barron. “We are able to have some hands-on, real-life experiences.”

“We have a lot more space, there are more mannequins, and we’ve got a new teaching lab,” added Colin McConville of Hudson.

Use of computerized simulation mannequins — which breathe, react, and have vital signs like real patients — has been part of the CVTC Nursing program at River Falls for years. However, the new simulation lab that opened in January is a vast improvement over the previous facility.

“Our environment here is more representative of an actual hospital room,” said Simulation Technician Cynthia Anderson, R.N. “The old lab was about half the size of one room in the new lab and had a noisy air compressor in the room to run the mannequins. Our air compressor is now in another room.”

The mannequins were previously placed on something like old hospital gurneys. Now there are real hospital beds for the mannequins and sometimes live people playing patients.

“We’re not tripping on cords anymore,” said Bethany Geske, a Nursing student who lives in Menomonie, in reference to the power cords to the equipment that used to be taped down and are now under the floor.

The lighting is far better and includes a large window to provide natural light, but set high enough to prevent outside distractions and watchers.

Even small details, like the addition of an in-lab telephone, are important. Students sometimes have to call a doctor or pharmacist (played by an instructor) from the simulator bedside. “They get the experience of calling the physician, and learning how to speak with the physician,” said Anderson, an RN since 1990 with years of experience at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn.

An adjacent Learning Resource Center (LRC) for the Nursing program is also an important addition. The center is equipped with smaller artificial body parts like arms, hands and heads. Students practice skills such as making injections and inserting intravenous needles. For CVTC Nursing students, doing homework involves more reading a textbook.

“I’ve used it on occasion to practice skills like suctions and inserting catheters,” McConville said.

Mother and child

Another major addition to the program this term is “Noel,” a birth mother simulator. The mannequin actually simulates the birth of a little rubber baby newborn, with realistic vital signs and potential problems for the mother.

“The baby can be born breach, with a stuck shoulder, or with respiratory difficulty,” Anderson said, mentioning just some of the complications.

A newborn infant simulator, separate from the rubber birth baby, is also new. It shows vital signs and reacts like the adult models. A newborn baby can have a bluish hue, which is normal and soon fades. The simulator is sophisticated enough for instructors to prolong the bluish tint and observe when students notice it as a matter of concern.

“We didn’t have the baby mannequin before this year,” said Natalie Miranda, a student from Lakeland, Minn. “We would have to drive to Eau Claire to do that.”

Sometimes a birth mother and baby were brought from Eau Claire, but transportation and set-up are cumbersome, Anderson said.

Nursing students go out into the field to do “clinical” studies at hospitals, clinics and nursing homes, but the simulation lab work is an essential part of the training.

“It allows them to experience things differently,” said Jennifer Buekema, a CVTC Nursing instructor. “In a clinical situation, we of course don’t let students harm patients. Here, we can let the students make mistakes in the lab.”

“They set up scenarios that we may not see in the real-life clinical settings, but can see later in our professional lives,” said Miranda.

The instructor from the observation room can demonstrate with the mannequin the consequences, through a sudden change in vital signs, evidence of pain, and even a “code blue” cardiac arrest.

“A couple of weeks ago, we were in a code blue, when we had to do CPR,” Geske said.

The students say this kind of hands-on experience is one of the reasons they chose to attend CVTC. It allows them to be ready to enter the workforce right away, even if their plans include further education.

Geske, McConville and Hinde plan on getting nursing jobs after their May graduation, but going back to school to seek four-year or advanced degrees gaining experience as they complete their education.

CVCT grad is also EMT trainer

December 20, 2013

From “Double Duty: CVTC grad is EMT trainer” — Jessica Brickner was not out of her element at all as the student speaker at the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) River Falls campus graduation Dec. 16 at Meyer Middle School.

Brickner has had a dual role in the healthcare field for the past few years. While she has been a student in the CVTC Nursing Associate Degree program, she’s also been active as a health educator.

She is a member of the Ellsworth Area Ambulance Service as a volunteer EMT and was elected as the service’s training coordinator. In that capacity, she speaks to groups frequently, teaching refresher courses to fellow EMTs.

“I’ve been at it four years last August,” she said of her work as an EMT. “I did a ride-a-long and loved it!”

Of the 39 graduates receiving degrees at the CVTC River Falls campus at the end of the fall term, 32 were nursing students, with the others completing Administrative Professional, Accounting, Business Management and Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement programs. In addition, four students received certificates of General Education Development (GED).

At the Eau Claire campus, 373 graduated in 33 different programs, with 70 nursing graduates being the largest program.

Brickner had long focused on a healthcare career. She started at a university with some required courses, but with difficulty getting into a highly competitive nursing program, switched majors and earned a degree in health promotion with an emphasis on community health. But she didn’t give up the dream of becoming a nurse. She entered the CVTC Nursing program and her background in health education made her a natural to become a peer tutor for her fellow students.

“I have numerous memories of working with students as they overcame struggles with a subject matter,” Brickner said. “Seeing the ‘light bulb come on’ and hearing students say, ‘I finally get it!’ are true reminders of why I like tutoring and being an educator/mentor.”

Brickner also works as an EMS instructor at the Oakdale (Minn.) office of Regions Hospital. She sees a future for herself in nursing education after she passes her boards to become an RN.

“My experience tutoring and helping other students has definitely given me encouragement and a sense of reassurance that a future as a nursing educator would likely be a good fit,” Brickner said. She hopes to work soon in a hospital setting, but adds, “long term, I would like to get my master’s degree in nursing and become an instructor of future nursing students.”

Brickner urged her fellow graduates to go beyond their professions.

“Demonstrate your strengths and strive to be the outstanding individual you have become,” she said. “When you are satisfied, challenge yourself a little more. Become a member of the community in which you live. Use what you have learned at CVTC to better the world around you.”

One of the current nursing instructors, Jennifer Buekema, was the faculty speaker at the ceremony.

“Many of you want to continue your education in your chosen field, and for that I say, ‘good for you.’ If I had given up whenever something was hard, well then I would not be standing here, and I know many of you graduates can say the same thing,” Buekema said.

The guest speaker was Deb Callow, the director of nursing services at Spring Valley Senior Living and Health Care Campus, who told a story to encourage graduates to listen to the stories of others. She told how her first patient as a nurse was an elderly lady, for whom she was to perform a head-to-toe assessment.

“I noticed numbers tattooed on her inner wrists,” Callow said. “I questioned her about them and she told me her story, a story of a young Jewish girl in Nazi Germany. Her parents took her to France and then sent her with nuns to relatives she never met in New York City. She never saw her parents again.

“I learned that day to cherish the life experiences of others and learn from them. I can never imagine what she went through and I will never experience in my life what she did. But what I really learned that day was to listen to the story others have to share, and learn from them,” Callow said.

From “Real-world scenarios challenge health care students” — An alarm sounded and the blue light flashed. Paramedics, nurses and a respiratory therapist sprang into action. Each member of the team had a role to play, and they worked together, communicating constantly through each step of the life-saving procedures.

The scene last week in one of the labs at the Health Education Center at Chippewa Valley Technical College was only a simulation, and the students had worked frequently in the past with the human patient simulators. But there was something vastly different about this exercise.

This time, the students from nursing, respiratory therapy and paramedic technician programs were working with resident physicians from the UW-Health Clinic, all under the observation of professionals and faculty members. And this time simulator patients actually spoke to the students with complaints, questions and realistic reactions through instructors wired to microphones in another room.

Adding a little more flavor to the mix were volunteers playing the parts of family members who provided comfort to their loved ones, but also sometimes got in the way.

The hours-long scene was as close to a real, live critical patient care situation as the students would see prior to their upcoming graduations. In planning the training session, organizers could not find anything similar being done elsewhere.

“This is fairly groundbreaking,” said CVTC respiratory therapist instructor Don Raymond, who helped put together the scenarios. “Multidisciplinary education is becoming more important. It teaches collaborative teamwork, communication, respect across disciplines and professionalism.”

“This is to help all the disciplines understand the roles of team members and the importance of collaboration and communication, with the ultimate goal of improving patient care,” said CVTC associate dean of health Linda Krueger.

Four patient simulators were used, simulating a pediatric patient, a pulmonary embolism, a heart attack, and severe COPD symptoms. Students were used to working with the simulators, but typically they learned to do specific procedures involved in their disciplines, one at a time. The multidisciplinary training involved more than one patient in the unit to care for, with more than one problem, with other health care workers helping, and sometimes with unexpected results.

“Sometimes we operate in separate silos,” said Kim Ernstmeyer, CVTC nursing instructor. “We do our nursing thing, respiratory does its thing … in scenarios like this, we all work together.”

“In true hospital settings, everyone works as a team,” Raymond said.

“This gives them a chance to work together as a team like they will be doing when they graduate,” Krueger said.

Part of the purpose was to get students out of their comfort zones. One scenario involved a “code blue” – a patient going into cardiac arrest. In a fast-paced simulation, a respiratory therapist worked to maintain air flow while a paramedic did chest compressions, and nurses monitored signs and operated the defibrillator. A nurse eventually took over chest compressions for the fatigued paramedic.

The “patient” ultimately died.

“We were really hesitant to have that patient die. We did not want the students to feel they did something wrong or had failed. But sometimes you do everything perfectly and a patient still dies,” Krueger said.

That point was emphasized in a post-exercise debriefing with the students. Ernstmeyer told them that death was decided no matter what they did. Mike Miller, a critical care paramedic with the Eau Claire Fire Department and a CVTC adjunct faculty member, told students dealing with death is part of the job.

“Don’t get down on yourself if someone dies. It happens,” Miller said.

“We want you walking away thinking you did everything you could,” Ernstmeyer added.

Nursing student Sarah Crotty of Alma found herself out of her comfort zone when a person playing a family member tried to wake the deceased person. She had to deliver the news.

“I said, ‘Well, he passed away,’ ” Crotty related. “I’ve never been faced with that before.”

“Acting it out instead of just looking at it in a textbook really puts things into your mind,” said Emily Nelson, a nursing student from Jim Falls. “And not knowing what you are coming into is what is going to happen in the real world.”

The pace of the exercise was new to the students. Respiratory therapy student Kayla Bowe of Bloomer said she learned to “Keep calm, and keep doing what you’re doing.”

All student participants were in their last semester of their CVTC programs.


From “Inside the new MATC health ed building” — A new health education building is open this semester at Madison College.

The new addition allows students to have hands-on experience in the medical field, with rooms simulating hospitals, hospice facilities, and triage situations.

“In this building here we have theory they teach, they practice in the same space. And then the next day they go out to the clinical site and actually implement what they’ve learned here,” said Mark Lausch of the School of Health Education.

The more than $40 million dollar project was approved by voters in a 2010 referendum.

1,100 students were surveyed to get their ideas on what they wanted to see, as well as the faculty and stakeholders.

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From “FVTC teaches future health care providers with futuristic technology” — By Kristyn Allen – Grand Chute – Fox Valley Technical College unveiled its new Health Simulation and Technology Center on Wednesday.

It’s the first completed project funded by the referendum that passed in April 2012 to expand FVTC.

The three-story, 66,000-square foot facility looks more like a hospital than a classroom, and is designed to give students critical hands-on clinical training.

“Just very impressed with the potential this facility has for developing our new health care providers,” Sharon Schumacher reacted. Schumacher is director of talent development for ThedaCare.

Much of the training is focused on human patient simulators, designed to make students feel like they’re working on an actual human and prepare them for real-life emergencies.

“It is extremely life-like. It’s got pulses in all the places a human being has pulses. You can listen to the heart. You can listen to the lungs. You can listen to their stomach. Their tongue can swell up,” nursing student Daisie Hanson said.

Wednesday, nursing students simulated a patient having heart problems, taking the patient from an ambulance to a hospital room, and doing everything from performing tests to giving the “patient” medicine.

Staff at Fox Valley Tech say cutting-edge technology like this is the new wave in education.

“Almost every major college or university that teaches high-level health care has a simulation lab or they’re developing a simulation lab,” said Robert Sternhagen, coordinator of the Human Patient Simulation.

The $12 million facility also integrates training for law enforcement and occupational therapists, in addition to medical responders and nurses.

From “NTC students head back to class” — The first day of classes is now in the books at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau.

NTC’s campus is once again alive with students. That includes a 19-year-old transfer from UW-Milwaukee.

It’s a day of introductions, nerves, and learning

NTC in Wausau has officially begun its fall semester. School officials say about 4,000 students are enrolled this fall. That includes 19-year-old Emily Worden.

“Stuff is just so much different down there than it is here, it’s just a lot better quality here,” said Worden.

Worden is from the Wausau area. When she graduated high school she wanted to try something new. So she applied and got accepted to UW-Milwaukee.

“I decided I had enough of the small scene so I was going to go down to Milwaukee and I absolutely loved it down there,” said Worden.

But now one year later Worden transferred to NTC, a place she says will definitely help her in becoming a nurse.

“I’m totally a hands-on person so to be there and just sitting there and not having examples to work on it was just like making me crazy,”said Worden.

She says the cost of tuition and close communication with professors are big reasons why Worden transferred to the college.

“You can get the help that you need and sufficient help to help get you in the direction you want to go,”said Worden.

Worden says her new direction will be an adjustment, but it’s one she’s willing to make for a bright future.

“It’s a new start for me I’m really excited,” said Worden.

Worden says she plans on getting her two-year degree from NTC. She says she might go back to UW-Milwaukee for her bachelor’s degree.


From “WCTC enters nursing partnership with University of Phoenix” — The University of Phoenix College of Nursing and Waukesha County Technical College have announced a transfer pathway that will enable WCTC nursing students to transfer into the University of Phoenix in pursuit of a master of science in nursing, according to a release.

Under the new partnership, eligible students and graduates of WCTC’s associate of applied science in nursing degree program will be able to transfer into University of Phoenix’s bachelor of science in nursing degree program. Students may then continue their education by enrolling in the master of science in nursing/nurse administration degree program. The University of Phoenix has local campuses in Milwaukee and Brookfield.

“A more educated nurse is a safer nurse,” said Angie Strawn, associate dean of University of Phoenix College of Nursing, in the release. “For many, the demands of a full-time career as a nurse preclude their ability to pursue an advanced degree. Our new pathway with Waukesha makes the path to becoming a nurse leader more achievable.”

From “Column: MSTC students give back to community” — Winter is ending — I am sure of it! Well, almost sure. Despite the weather, Mid-State Technical College students have been actively engaged in our communities, demonstrating service learning at its finest. MSTC students and employees positively impact hundreds, possibly thousands, of lives each year through volunteerism and service learning.

Service learning is a method of instruction that combines classroom knowledge and skills with real-world experience through community service. Many MSTC students engage in service learning and charitable activities, demonstrating that a technical college education not only provides students with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce, but also community spirit to be valuable contributors to central Wisconsin.

The number of MSTC community projects is too great to list them all, but I’d like to share a sample of the spirit of giving among our students.

Many MSTC programs arrange service learning to help meet specific community needs. For instance, the Early Childhood Education, or ECE, Club filled pillowcases with pajamas, toys, personal hygiene items and games for children who have been removed from their home due to possible neglect or abuse. Mid-State Student Nurses Association, or MSNA, sponsors an on-campus blood drive every semester.

Students also are quick to address tragic events and previously unforeseen needs. Corrections students sponsored a walk that raised $9,800 to assist a local family with their child’s medical expenses. The same group of students is raising money for the family of an Adams County deputy injured in the line of duty.

Student projects also increase awareness and educate. Students Environmentally United for a Sustainable Society, or SEUSS, a club made up of students from MSTC’s five renewable energy programs and the Urban Forestry program, regularly promote environmental sustainability through a variety of events and charitable giving. In one instance, the SEUSS club recently bought and prepared locally grown foods and served dinner to about 180 people at The Neighborhood Table in Wisconsin Rapids. MSTC law enforcement students mentor local high school students and members of the community through the police academies.

I am humbled and inspired by these outstanding and selfless acts of kindness. Generosity and service learning are truly a part of our culture at MSTC. The student club concept fosters self-improvement by providing opportunities to develop leadership qualities, social awareness, occupational understanding and civic consciousness. Development of these skills helps students discover new interests, make connections, and enhance opportunities for employment — all while positively impacting their future employers and the fabric of our communities.

From “WTCS announces new program for nurses” — Registered nurses with a two-year degree from a Wisconsin technical college can now fully apply those credits toward a bachelor degree, according to a release.

The agreement originated with Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) and Cardinal Stritch University, but the replicable approach was immediately made available to nursing graduates of all 16 Wisconsin technical colleges.

The one-day-per week program, part of the university’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing Completion program, is designed for registered nurses looking for enhanced career opportunities, promotions and management positions.

“It makes career progression very attainable for our highly skilled nursing graduates,” said Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, in the release.

Cardinal Stritch, with its main campus in the Milwaukee area and campuses throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota, designed the program specifically for working registered nurses. It is accredited through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

From “Western Technical College celebrates official opening of new BRF campus” — Officials from Western Technical College and the area celebrated the official inception of the college’s new downtown Black River Falls campus last week.

The group held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 16 at the Fillmore Street site to mark the end of the three-year project of what one speaker deemed a “state-of-the-art” building.

“It’s just an amazing, amazing thing,” said Western Technical College President Lee Rasch. “We’re here to stay for the next 100 years.”

WTC officials began exploring the possibility of revamping its former site on Red Iron Road or relocating to the former site of the IGA building in the city’s downtown more than three years ago. The college’s addition of a nursing program and the expansion of other coursework prompted the need for more building space.

Students began classes at the new 18,000-square-foot site in January, but crews just this fall officially ended work on the building, which includes solar panels and other energy efficient amenities.

The $3 million project also is expected to draw increased enrollment for the BRF location because of its move from an out-of-town rural area. About 300 students have enrolled per semester since the new campus opened, which is up anywhere from 50 to 100 students from the Red Iron Road location.

“What a great thing for Black River Falls,” said Larry Lunda, who assisted the college while it prepared to make its move downtown.

From “NTC offers bachelor degree opportunities for online nursing program” — Northcentral Technical College (NTC) in Wausau and Grand Canyon University (GCU) in Phoenix, Arizona are proud to announce a new articulation agreement for the nursing programs. This agreement allows NTC graduates who have passed the NCLEX to transfer into the RN to BSN program at GCU.

“More and more employers are looking for BSN-prepared nurses who can hit the ground running,” said Anne McNamara, GCU Dean of the College of Nursing. “We are excited that this partnership with NTC will allow us to streamline the transfer process for students who are ready for that next step.”

GCU’s RN to BSN program is available completely online with students taking one class at a time. “This articulation agreement will allow current and former NTC students to acquire their degree without leaving the area,” says Lorraine Zoromski, NTC Dean of Health Sciences.

From “Groundbreaking for health and technology center” — GRAND CHUTE – Fox Valley Technical College is expanding. Tuesday, school officials broke ground on a new building.

The Health Simulation and Technology Center is expected to be completed next fall.

A $66.5 million public referendum passed last April will help pay for the project.

It features a three-story, 60,000 square foot building.

“It’s a very exciting day. We’ve been in the planning process for this facility for at least seven or eight years, and to see it come all together and actually turn the dirt today at our groundbreaking, is extremely exciting,” said Robert Sternhagen, the human patients simulator coordinator at FVTC.

Once completed, the new building will also feature new technology, including virtual reality and computer simulation.

From  “Federal funds help N.E.W. Community Clinic expand at NWTC”– The very week that the nation tips a hat to clinics for the poor, one of those facilities expands its staff, thanks to federal funds.

The N.E.W. Community Clinic at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College on Tuesday marked National Health Center Week with a visit from soon-to-be-retiring Sen. Herb Kohl. Clinic staff members honored the long-serving Milwaukee Democrat with an award for championing health care centers throughout his career.

The clinic is hiring an additional nurse practitioner and two other staffers this week with money Kohl helped get as part of his work on the Senate appropriations committee, said Bonnie Kuhr, CEO and administrator of the clinic who also directs two other clinics in Green Bay. The clinic received about $900,000 through the Affordable Care Act.

“The grant allows us to double our capacity,” Kuhr said.

National Health Care Week celebrates 17 health centers throughout Wisconsin, which have 90 sites, Kohl said. There are 1,100 such health centers around the nation with 8,500 sites. The clinics provide health care for uninsured and underinsured, but they end up helping everyone, Kohl said.

“These are people, many of whom are working but can’t afford insurance, who might not get health care at all, or, if they do, it’d be in the emergency room, where it is many, many times more expensive,” Kohl said. “If it’s here, it may be $40, compared with $800 or $900 in an emergency room. We are deeply indebted to you.”

Mary Rahr, director of the N.E.W. Clinic at NWTC, said that branch has treated more than 20,000 patients in its six years of existence.

The N.E.W. Clinic also has a facility in downtown Green Bay that services low-income individuals and families as well as another that is associated with the Salvation Army on the near northwest side of town, where it provides health care mostly to the homeless.

Gov. Scott Walker was originally scheduled to help the clinic kick off National Health Care Week Monday but canceled following the mass shooting Sunday in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek. Walker, a Republican, has opposed federal health care reform, also called Obamacare, and says he will not implement in Wisconsin changes the law brings to the health care industry.

The position doesn’t necessarily mean he opposes health care centers like N.E.W. clinics, which continue to receive state support as well as federal support, Kuhr said. The NWTC branch of the clinic operates mostly with state and federal money, but was required to raise matching funds to be eligible for the $900,000 federal grant, Kuhr said.


From “Nursing student saves drowning child” — After just one semester of nursing courses at Western Technical College, Megan Barbian figured she was at least a year and a half away from saving lives. However, that all changed Wednesday night, when a 20-month-old girl was pulled from the water at Pettibone Beach.

“When I started she had no pulse, no respirations, she was really really pale, her lips were a blackish purple color,” Barbian said.

Lifeguards were not on duty at the time and Megan was the only one on the beach who knew CPR.

“The little girl reminded me so much of my niece, and I was like ok, this is her, ” Barbian said. “You need to do, what you need to do to save her. Did it cross my mind that yeah she might not make it? Yeah, and I was scared. But I started compressions, and after a few minutes she took her first breath. And I was like, we’re getting somewhere.”

The child’s family wishes to remain anonymous, but did contact Western to tell them about Megan’s heroic actions.

“To me, Megan is an angel,” the girl’s grandmother said. “I mean, my granddaughter wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Megan. And I hope she’ll always be part of our family. It’s just remarkable that a stranger can do that.”

Gundersen Lutheran also took notice of Megan’s actions and offered her a job as a pediatric nurse when she finishes school.

“Just thank you, from the bottom of my heart Megan,” the grandmother said. “My family thanks you. You are going to be the best nurse in the world. And words cannot express how grateful we are.”

The child is now home and her family says she’s back to her normal self.

Both Megan and the girl’s grandmother say the incident highlights the importance of knowing CPR.

From “Job demand remains rosy in some sectors” — With all the gloomy global and national economic news, it may seem like most, if not all, industries are either not hiring or even reducing their workforce.

But that’s not the case in northeast Wisconsin for high-demand professions such as nursing or metalworking and fabrication, where job opportunities remained strong throughout the recession and during the slow recovery that has followed it.

The reasons for the strength of the job market in those sectors is twofold.

In manufacturing, a historically strong manufacturing base has been buoyed in part by large government contracts to companies such as Oshkosh Corp. and Marinette Marine. Meanwhile, an aging population is driving the growing need for an array of skilled health care workers.

Companies in the 18-county northeast Wisconsin region are projected to need to fill 10,000 production and manufacturing jobs by 2016, according to a 2010 study by New North, a consortium of business, economic development, chambers of commerce, workforce development and civic and education leaders. The health care field’s numbers were expected to trend upward as well, expanding by almost 4,000 jobs by 2016.

Health care hiring steady

Aurora Health Care is maybe not in as much of a crunch for employees as Muza Metal and Marinette Marine are for fabricators, but there is still a steady need for new employees to fill open positions at locations from Milwaukee to Green Bay.

“There is always a need,” said Gwen Baumel, vice president of human resources for Aurora Health Care.

Aurora gets a lot of applicants for positions from those in the Fox Cities and Green Bay areas, and starts working with potential future health care workers while they are still in school.

“We have a very good relationship with the local schools, which really helps,” Baumel said. “We talk with them so the school stays in tune with employers and what sort of challenges there are.”

One of the good relationships is with Fox Valley Technical College, where nurses graduating from the program are finding a hot job market upon graduation.

FVTC graduates about 40 associated degree nurses and 25 licensed practical nurses per semester and roughly 800 nursing assistants per year.

Once graduated, the majority of those students find work quickly. According to Assistant Dean of Health Division Carrie Thompson, all of the college’s 2011 associated degree graduates were working within six months of graduation. Ninety-three percent of new LPNs were hired within six months of graduation, and nursing assistants placed at 69 percent.

“Most (graduates) stay in the area,” Thompson said. “They are everywhere and in lots of different companies, most of which are in the area.”

Welding in demand

The need for welders is expected to increase 26 percent by 2015, according to the 2009 New North Occupation Opportunity Projections Survey.

Even now, manufacturing companies are struggling to find skilled metal workers.

For instance, Muza Metal Products in Oshkosh, which last month completed a 47,000-square-foot plant addition is continuing a pattern of growth in a metals manufacturing industry that leans heavily on Oshkosh Corp. Muza employs 260 workers over four shifts, but still is short of workers.

“Skilled labor for fabrication is in high demand, especially in this area,” said Muza Metal Products President Dan Hietpas. “It’s a very competitive area and we are still looking for 10 to 15 workers.”

The tough part about filling those openings is that they are night and weekend shifts. Muza keeps its plant running 24 hours a day and needs enough workers to staff each shift. But even paying a premium over the company’s normal $14 to $22 dollar an hour salary hasn’t helped fill all of the positions.

“We pay a 75 cents to $1.50 premium, depending on the shift,” Hietpas said. “That can be quite the bump in salary, but it’s still a challenge.”

In Marinette, the shipbuilding company Marinette Marine is equally hard up for skilled welders, pipefitters and electricians.

The company has added 600 jobs in the past 12 months, and now has 1,400 employees, but is struggling to fill vacancies for skilled trades jobs, and is even having a hard time recruiting people to sign on to train and work for them. The company held open 40 spots for entry-level workers, reaching out to nine schools in the process, but landed only seven graduates.

A typical employee at the shipyard can earn $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

Right now, the future looks “pretty rosy for us,” Marinette Marine President and CEO Charles Goddard said. “We can easily handle 100 or more hires out of high schools in a year.”

The welding/metal fabrication program at Fox Valley Technical College, which works with Muza Metal and Marinette Marine, has a very high job placement after graduation. Ninety percent of last year’s graduates found jobs after graduation. Some of the students in the program were hired before they finished their degrees based on the high demand of the job, which is continuing to grow.

From “Wausau West students share stories from apprenticeships” — More than 60 high school juniors and seniors are working in part-time positions in the Wausau area through Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship program. I’ve written a number of articles about the YA program for the paper in the past year, but for this article, two current YAs have agreed to share their experiences, in their own words.

Morgan Zernicke,
Wausau West senior

I’ve been in the Youth Apprenticeship program for two years. My first year, I worked at Zernicke Farm, doing field work, barn chores and feeding calves. Currently, I’m working at Marathon Feed, where I provide customer service and do anything I am asked to do. I always wanted to go into the agricultural field, but my job at Marathon Feed has made me think more about what I really want to do for my future career. I’ve made the choice to stay in the agri-business area. I’ve been accepted to Northcentral Technical College this fall. I will graduate with an associate degree in Dairy Science Agri-business and hope to work in Marathon or Lincoln County after graduation. The YA program has helped me discover that a career in agriculture is a good fit for me.

Michaela Ketchum,
 Wausau West senior

Not many students could say their senior year has been as victorious as mine has been. As a full-time student at Wausau West High School working as a certified nursing assistant at Kindred Transitional Care, I have strived better to be not only a family member and a student, but a friend to many new patients that I care about deeply. The Youth Apprenticeship program has taken me down numerous exciting and new roads that have helped direct my future. Without this program, I would never have been so eager to plan my future as a registered nurse. While being a CNA, I have had so many opportunities to understand how essential the health field is and what struggles are truly out there. The Youth Apprenticeship program is such an important milestone for a student’s life and can even help them to find the key to their future.

If you’d like to connect with a student looking for an apprenticeship or want to learn more about the YA program, contact your local high school YA coordinator or Donna Schulz at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau at

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.

From “Community Memorial Hospital honors Meyer with Values Award” — Community Memorial Hospital named Stephanie Meyer as the recipient of its Living Our Values award.

Meyer was nominated by her co-workers who say she believes in and applies the CMH core values of trust, care, respect, quality and community in everything she does.

“Stephanie’s dedication to our mission, vision, and values has earned her this recognition,” said Dan DeGroot, Community Memorial Hospital CEO.

As a registered nurse in CMH Surgical Services, Meyer cares for patients before, during and after surgery.

In addition to caring for patients in the operating room, she coordinates pre-surgical visits for patients who need lab, X-ray or physical therapy, and Meyer consults patients on how to prepare for their procedure and helps them plan for their at-home post-op care.

Meyer earned an associate degree from Northcentral Technical College in Wausau in 2004 and a bachelor of science in nursing from UW-Green Bay in 2007. She has been with Community Memorial Hospital since 2007.

“I realize how important it is to treat families and patients with respect and concern,” Meyer said. “I want patients and families to feel comfortable and know we will take the best possible care of them.”

Meyer lives in Coleman with her husband, Lucas, and sons Alexander, 3, and Beckett, 6 months.

Meyer is the daughter of Jennifer and the late Robert Forrest of Suring and of the late Keith Gruber of Coleman.

From “College studies still fall along gender lines” — When Breana Cleven dons a cap and gown next week to accept a certificate in welding from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, she’ll be part of a minority and majority.

Women have outnumbered men at local colleges for more than a generation, and their ranks are growing. But educators say certain areas of study continue to be dominated by women or men. Women, for example, slowly are gravitating to fields typically favored by men, including welding, science or engineering.

Cleven will be one of the 65 percent or so of female graduates, but just one of two women graduating with a welding certificate.

“I’ve always worked on farms and stuff so I’m used to working with men,” said Cleven, who graduated from high school in 2009 and lives in the Wrightstown area. “I got a job welding last summer and did a little bit of welding in high school. I decided to get a certificate and hopefully get a good job.”

When students at three local colleges — NWTC, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and St. Norbert College — graduate in the coming weeks, more women than men will accept diplomas.

For the past 20 years, women have made up about 60 percent of NWTC’s student population. They now make up about two-thirds of the student body, or 64 percent. Sixty-eight percent of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay graduates in 2011 were women and at St. Norbert College, almost 60 percent of the class of 2011 was female.

“I think the trend of more women in college than men has been going on for a while,” said Karen Smits, vice president for college advancement at NWTC who suggested that the long-term trends could be moving to better reflect the makeup of communities.

In the past 10 years, women nationwide have earned about 60 percent of bachelor’s degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In the same period, the number of women earning master’s degrees has grown from 58 percent to 60 percent, and the number of female doctoral graduates has increased from 43 percent in 1998-99 to 52 percent in 2008-09, the most recent numbers available from the Virginia-based center.

Gender specific

Classes at NWTC in decades past were pretty starkly divided — photos from the 1930s show a science class full of men and a typing class filled mostly with women.

Those numbers are changing, but maybe not as fast as people would assume.

“You still see women moving into the health professions and men into manufacturing and construction programs,” Smits said. “We have seen some crossover, but maybe not as much as we would have hoped for.”

When nursing shortages made headlines in the mid-2000s, Smits said NWTC saw a jump in men signing up for its two-year registered nursing program. Still, just 127 men have graduated from the community college with an RN degree in the past 20 years, compared with 1,752 women.

Likewise, in a 20-year span, women accounted for 85 percent of the school’s accounting graduates and all of its administrative assistant, administrative professional, dental assistant and childcare graduates. They also accounted for nearly all the school’s dental hygienist and data entry operations graduates, as well as dominated health- and medical-related programs. Percentages of women are in the single digits for many electrical, automotive and engineering programs, but Smits said numbers of women in those areas are growing.

In the past 20 years, she noted that 96 percent of welding graduates were men. But there are some signs of growth — six women graduated with welding certificates two years ago.

“A lot of people think it’s only a man’s job, but women can do it, too,” Cleven said. “I think the guys are pretty good about it.”

Twenty years ago, 64 percent of UW-Green Bay graduates were women. In 2011 they made up 68 percent of graduates.

Since at least 1990, women have earned about 90 percent of education, social work and nursing degrees at the school. They’ve made up half the business graduates, as well as communications graduates, which includes computers and information sciences.

The number of women, as a percentage of all natural and applied sciences majors, which includes math, rose steadily through the 1990s before leveling off in the mid-2000s. Women represented just 46 percent of natural science, including math, majors from 1990-91 to 1994-95, and just 10 years later, they represented 65 percent of natural sciences, including math, majors. Today, women represent 60 percent of natural science majors.

St. Norbert does not break out the numbers similarly.

Smits of NWTC said administrators are trying to encourage crossover.

“What we’re trying to do is let both genders know there are great opportunities for both,” she said. “For women, we talk about some of the possibilities in manufacturing. For men, we talk about health care, noting it does involve science, you’re just working with people.”

She acknowledges change takes time.

“Children and high school kids are influenced by their parents, or what their guidance counselors talk to them about,” Smits said. “It’s a long, slow process.

“But I do think after 15 years of flat, we’re starting to see an uptick of change. We’re hosting workshops to help kids see different career opportunities, and I think high schools and middle schools are making an effort to show those possibilities, too.”

Equal pay?

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women with associate degrees earn about 75 percent of what men with two-year degrees earn. That could be because jobs traditionally held by men, such as engineering and mechanics, often pay more than jobs traditionally held by women.

The research institute also found that men earn more than women in most fields that require a two-year degree or certificate. The median salary for a female childcare worker, for example, in 2010 was $18,336, compared with $23,716 for men. It noted female elementary and middle school teachers earn about 91 percent of their male counterparts, and females in health-related occupations, such as nurses or home health aides, earn about 88 percent of men in this jobs, despite making up about 80 percent of workers in those fields.

Smits said wages are good in both traditionally male or female occupations, depending on the field. NWTC surveys students six months after graduation who are working in their chosen profession.

The most recent survey found that dental assistants, who are almost always female, earned an average of about $26,000 in 2011.

Those working in the diagnostic medical sonography field, which also is dominated by women, made about $61,000 that year. Nurses made about $47,000, and administrative professionals started at $27,000 a year.

Those graduating from the electrical mechanical engineering program, a traditionally male field, made an average $57,600, she said.

“I think both men and women can earn good salaries and we encourage them to think of it as the start of their career, rather than as a job,” she said.

From “MSTC celebrates nursing milestone” — WISCONSIN RAPIDS – A nursing program that has trained the people who may take your vital signs or draw your blood when you go to the doctor’s office is celebrating 1,000 graduates.

The program at Mid-State Technical College began as a partnership with Waukesha County Technical College for the first two years. Mid-State enrolled its first students in 1991. The program saw its biggest growth between 2001 and 2005.

“It’s a milestone not only for the students, the faculty, but it’s also for our whole community,” said associate nursing dean Mary Moss.

The school will hold a public celebration from 4 to 7 p.m. in the A building on the Wisconsin Rapids campus. There will be brief presentation at 5:30 p.m. Nursing students and faculty will show off a simulated mannequin they train on and other equipment they use in the progrm.

“Our graduates of this program have directly impacted health care here in central Wisconsin,” said faculty member Linda Olsen.

More than 90 percent of the nursing graduates work within 60 miles of the Mid-State district.

The school’s student nurses association is asking you to bring a can of food to the celebration. All donations will be given to a local food pantry.

From “MATC training brings Oak Creek programs together” — A training exercise ongoing at Milwaukee Area Technical College provides a pretty good glimpse at what goes on at the Oak Creek campus.

The situation is this: a (fake) person fell out of a tree and had to be hospitalized, which put nursing students to work. After he got out, he got his hair done, got some cosmetic services, saw a dietician. All things taken care of by students in those particular fields.

On his way home, however, he got into a car accident, which was staged Thursday on the west end of the campus, 6665 S. Howell Ave.

Students training to become police officers, firefighters and paramedics responded. The crash required extrication of two mannequins, a car fire that needed extinguishing, CPR and a police investigation.

The person — played ably by a talking mannequin — will later have complications in the hospital and die, necessitating the work of students training in the funeral services field.

The exercise shows how the MATC programs work together and helps build collaboration among disciplines, officials said.

Thursday’s two-hour training also included two Oak Creek paramedics who lent their services and an ambulance.

From “Mid-State nursing program to celebrate 1,000 graduates” — With the addition of this spring’s graduating class, Mid-State Technical College’s Nursing program will achieve the milestone of 1,000 graduates in the history of the program. A public celebration will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on May 3 in the A Building on the Wisconsin Rapids Campus, 500 32nd Street North. A brief presentation is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the adjoining gymnasium. Members of the community are invited to attend this free event.

Participants will be treated to guided walking tours of nursing facilities, student activities and projects, door prizes, trivia, refreshments and snacks, new classroom technology, and a free blood pressure screening. Attendees can also explore historical nursing equipment and memorabilia displays, see how the Nursing Station works, and meet Sim Man (simulation mannequin).

Mid-State’s Board of Directors added nursing to the college curriculum in 1989 through a partnership with Waukesha County Technical College. This first Nursing class celebrated commencement in May 1991. After receiving approval from the Wisconsin State Board of Nursing, Mid-State enrolled students into its own program beginning the fall semester of 1991, conferring its first graduates in May 1993. The Nursing program expanded in 2000, 2002, and 2003 and currently admits 40 Nursing associate degree students per semester as well as eight practical nursing students per year. More than 90 percent of Mid-State Nursing graduates are employed within 60 miles of the MSTC district.

Mid-State Technical College’s Student Nurses Association encourages participants to bring a can of food to the May 3 event. All food proceeds will be donated to the local food pantry.

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