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 “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.

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From “New FVTC program helps trucking companies fill skills gap” — Appleton – Instead of working against one another, a group of local trucking companies is teaming up to create a training program that will benefit all of them. The new program is believed to be the only one of its kind in the country.

Appleton West students are some of the first to hear about a new program being created at Fox Valley Technical College. After several local trucking companies found themselves trying to steal trailer tech employees from one other, because there’s a shortage of workers with the necessary skills, those companies decided to team up to create a curriculum to specifically teach trailer technician skills.

“It was a way for us to try and get more technicians in the field that we could all benefit from and ultimately the customer does,” says Margo Kane from Master Fleet, one of the participating companies.

The 18-week trailer tech program will cover a range of skills, everything from welding and electrical work to brake work and accident repair. With a 99% job placement rate, anyone who enters the program is pretty much guaranteed a job upon completion.

“For about $2200 somebody can come in for 18 weeks and go out in the industry and start at a good wage,” says Dan Poeschel from FVTC.

While high schoolers are being targeted for the trailer tech program, Fox Valley Tech officials tell us those who already work in the trades industry can easily transition into this program.

Says Poeschel, “The people that really transition well are somebody that may be a carpenter and they’re having a hard time finding work there. They could go right into, come on with a lot of skills and really excel at this.”

Registration for the new trailer tech program will begin in November. Classes are scheduled to start in January.


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.

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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 “Column: Career, tech education a real-world way to learn” — Career and technical education is a cooperative effort between technical colleges and employers. Students receive instruction and training in the classroom and also with local employers through internships, externships and clinical rotations. These real-world skills and experiences help graduates be better prepared to enter or re-enter the world of work.

Mid-State Technical College offers certificates, technical diplomas and associate degrees in more than 100 areas.

MSTC graduates enjoy careers in many industries and service areas in all of our communities. Some examples include law enforcement and corrections officers, surgical technologists, manufacturing and electronic technicians, welders, registered nurses, automotive technicians, accountants, cosmetologists, urban foresters, business managers, supervisors, marketing professionals, computer programmers, medical assistants, respiratory therapists and much more. As we look around at the businesses and industries in our community, it is easy to see the impact of career and technical education.

A technical college education is the training that is sought after and needed by employers in the 21st century. In fact, 93 percent of employers are satisfied or very satisfied with the education and training and would hire technical college graduates again.

The preparation provided at a technical college includes the necessary academic and technical skills to be highly productive employees in their field of choice.

The required technical skills are changing each and every year; many of these skills were unheard of a generation ago. We work with employers in our communities to stay abreast of changes and advances in technology so that these new tools and skills are incorporated into our programs.

In addition to offering programs of study to meet the workforce needs of tomorrow, technical colleges are well suited to offer just-in-time training and training aimed at upgrading employees’ skills.

Mid-State Technical College is your community’s college. Turn to us when you are ready to develop employee training or enter a program of study to earn your associate degree or technical diploma. MSTC’s Marshfield Campus is at 2600 W.Fifth St. in Marshfield. You may reach us at 715-387-2538 or visit our website at Let us know how we can be of service to you.

Brenda Dillenburg is dean of the Mid-State Technical College campus in Marshfield.

From “Many transfer options available for college students in area” — Obtaining a college degree can be one of the biggest moments in someone’s life. Schools in our area make it easier than ever to start at one campus and end at a different one.

Many colleges and universities offer students the option to transfer courses from one school and then use them towards their completion of a degree at another school.

The reasons for doing so differ. For some, starting at a community college and moving on to a four year school can help them save money.
Other students might want to take a class at one school that isn’t available at another.

Many schools in our area offer a transfer option, including Northcentral Technical College and UW – Marathon County. The close-knit environment of these schools mean students sometimes only need to travel a few minutes up the road to get transfer credits.

“We’re very proud of our community relationships in this area,” says Suzi Mathias, Director of Transfer and Placement at NTC. “We have some very strong collaborations with other colleges and we work with them frequently.”

She says it’s common for students to decide ahead of time to start their degree at NTC and complete a four-year degree at another school. At NTC students can transfer credits to more than 35 institutions.

Transfer directors say the most important thing when helping a student decide where to gain credits is looking at their particular needs.

“I think it’s important for students to be able to move some credits around because plans change,” says Keith Montgomery, Dean and CEO at UW- Marathon County.

One option offered through the University of Wisconsin Colleges is the Guaranteed Transfer Program. You begin as a freshman at a UW campus and receive guaranteed admission to complete a four year degree at another school. You must complete a declaration form, as well as keep a minimum GPA of a 2.0 (2.8 for UW-Madison) as well as complete the number of credits required for junior status into the transfer school.

Visit for more information.

Dems present jobs proposal

February 11, 2013

From “Sen. Chris Larson talks jobs proposal, legislative agenda” — Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson (D, Milwaukee) and the Democrats unveiled an expansive jobs proposal last week made up of nine initiatives.

Among the proposal’s plans are giving small businesses grants up front to get started rather than tax credits down the road, requiring Wisconsin to buy American products when it comes to infrastructure and a new grant program to fund workforce development partnerships between businesses and technical colleges.

“If we restore funding to technical colleges that was cut and we’re able to close the skills gap that we have, that’s 35-thousand jobs,” Larson said on a visit to La Crosse Tuesday. “With the buy American and prioritize Wisconsin initiatives, as well as the one putting grants up front as opposed to tax credits, those would take more time to come through.”

“But all in all we’re looking at several thousand jobs,” Larson said.

The prioritize Wisconsin initiative requires the state “attempt to purchase at least 20-percent of materials and contractual services from Wisconsin-based businesses.”

“You can make sure there’s a priority given,” Larson said. “When we send money out of state for contracts or supplies, that money’s likely not coming back.”

“But if we incentivize to make sure, even if it means we have to pay a little bit more, that we’re employing Wisconsinites and making sure they have a job, then that money is staying in our state’s economy,” he added.

Larson also called on Senate Republicans to approach job creation with greater urgency.

“We haven’t seen a jobs proposal come through the senate yet, which is why we put these out,” Larson said. “The first thing to pass was a bill settling a political score against the secretary of state.”

“So (Democrats) shrugged our shoulders at that and decided that, if the Republicans aren’t willing to put forth jobs proposals, let’s put some forward and hope the Republicans see them,” he said.

Larson added that, while job creation is his party’s top priority as the new legislative session continues, the Democrats also have other goals.

“We saw largest cut in state history to education in the last budget — $800-million to K-12 education alone,” Larson said. “So we’re looking to see those funds restored. With the Governor touting extra money from those cuts and looking to spend that money, we’d like to see that priority set to make sure all kids have access to a quality education.”

“I also think another priority everyone can agree on is making sure we have more accountability and transparency throughout our government,” Larson said, “particularly in the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation which has seen inherent problems.”

“We’ve seen millions of dollars lost and now we’ve seen least qualified individual on the list of people to be hired getting the reigns to the organization from the Governor,” he said.

Governor Scott Walker announced that Reed Hall, who had served as the WEDC’s CEO on an interim basis, would accept the post full-time earlier this month.

The state paid for a search firm which recommended three finalists to the Governor, but the Governor said all three of those finalists recommended he appoint Hall instead.

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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.

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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 “Summit addresses skills gap, new ways to prepare students” — Representatives from business and education discussed how to better prepare students for the workforce through improved curriculum and partnerships at the second annual Business Education Summit held Friday at Blackhawk Technical College (BTC).

The event featured updates on the latest efforts to close the skills gap.

BTC Vice President of Learning Sharon Kennedy kicked off the morning with an overview of what’s been accomplished in the past year in terms of better preparing students for employment. She said employers surveyed on what they wanted last year had reported a long list of soft skills from new employees that were sorely missing. The skills ranged from interview skills to being on time.

After getting the employer input, Kennedy wrote a letter to the different college units to determine if such soft skills were being taught and learned that about 50 percent of classes were not teaching the skills.

The soft skills reported in demand from employers have been streamlined to include the ability to communicate professionally, use appropriate technology, work effectively in teams, demonstrate professional work behavior, show respect for diversity, solve problems efficiently and lead by example. Those core abilities are being incorporated into all departments including highly technical fields.

The soft skills now have been incorporated into all classes at BTC. For example, welding classes have adopted a strict attendance policy to re-enforce the importance of showing up to work on time. There also have been math instructors embedded in welding curriculum to help students apply math and use it in blueprints.

Kennedy said BTC also has adopted a new assessment to test students on their written and oral communication skills, and Kennedy noted plans are under way for a Career and Professional Development Center. BTC continues to partner with area business people with more than 300 partners who meet regularly with BTC advisory committees.

During the Summit, Stateline Career and Technical Education Academy (SCTEA) Director Heidi Carvin, a retired Evansville Superintendent, gave an update on the progress of the partnership.

SCTEA, a not-for-profit collaborative partnership, was formed to give students real life skills to improve prospects for future employment. The idea is that the students would learn technical skills taught by industry professionals. Organizers had hoped that students would be entered into career pathways as dictated by regional business requirements.

In the Stateline Area those areas included manufacturing, business and finance, construction, healthcare, hospitality, pre-engineering and automotive and transportation. The following school districts are affiliated with the regional program: Beloit, Beloit Turner, Clinton, Evansville, Janesville and Parkview.

There have been four active Centers of Excellence through the consortium — the automotive program in Beloit, construction program in Janesville, along with health and welding classes offered at BTC.

On Friday, Carvin said transportation had been a challenge for students who preferred to stay at their own schools as opposed to going to the Centers of Excellence.

SCTEA’s new focus is to work on aligning curriculum to the career pipeline. SCTEA is focusing on getting more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes at area schools. Carvin said SCTEA meets regularly with the participating schools to work on incorporating more STEM courses, as well as extra math courses.

Another new focus is on getting more career guidance and relevant courses to middle schoolers. There are efforts underway to give eighth graders more information on different career opportunities and the necessary courses to take in high school to reach their career goals.

From “Candidates agree on community college support, CVTC hopeful for future” — EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) – In a debate focused on showing voters their differences, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney actually agreed on the need to support community colleges’ cooperation with hiring businesses.

“One of the things I suspect governor Romney and I probably agree on is getting businesses to work with community colleges so that they’re setting up their training programs,” Obama said.

“Oh yeah,” Romney said in response. “It’s going over well in my state, by the way.”

Doug Olson with Chippewa Valley Technical College said the school has always had those types of connections and is glad to hear of the bipartisan support.

“We tailor our programs and even add new programs or eliminate programs based on that need. Our entire focus is meeting the workforce needs of the businesses in our district,” Olson said. “I think both parties really recognize the importance and need for a skilled workforce.”

Eau Claire’s Plank Enterprises, a parent company to three manufacturing companies calls CVTC its “lifeline” to find new skilled workers, employing graduates like machinist Cody Pattison.

“I knew that right away that I was going to acquire the skills to find a job,” Pattison said. “I need people to come in that I can train and help out, so I don’t have to work a crazy amount of overtime and it worked out for me.”

“We’re in constant interaction with CVTC, both with instructors and administration there as well to share what our needs are in the manufacturing industry,” Plank Enterprises President Mike Ottum said. “The real challenge today is trying to find that skilled workforce.”

The candidates do differ on how the programs should be funded.

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From “Deal with the skills gap in advanced manufacturing” — Wisconsin’s technical colleges’ success in aligning technical education and manufacturing careers was the focus of an international delegation in Washington, D.C. recently.

Experts from Wisconsin, California, and New York were invited by the U.S. Department of Education to meet with Chinese officials interested in American approaches to involving business and industry leaders in the development of education programs. Wisconsin leaders focused on the technical colleges’ approach to developing “gold-collar careers,” which offer rewarding opportunities in high-tech manufacturing to those with a passion for pushing the limits of machining, electronics, IT, and other technologies.

Wisconsin’s representatives were Jim Mackey, the Wisconsin Technical College System’s manufacturing program expert, and Dan Conroy, vice president of human resources for the Nexen Group, a leading manufacturer in northwestern Wisconsin and a close partner of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.

“Chinese manufacturers are facing some of the same challenges we are, including worker preparation and closing skills gaps,” said Mackey. “We had a great response from everyone involved.”

“The meeting was amazing,” said Conroy. “There was much openness and sharing. All the participants were congenial and engaged.  It certainly reinforced the importance of our efforts – the urgency of the skill shortage issue – and highlighted the fact that we have to keep chasing this.”

This was the second time that U.S. and Chinese officials convened on the topic of career and technical education, with the focus of this session on the unique and critical role Wisconsin employers play in developing the curriculum for each education or training program.

“I believe Nexen Group is the standard for other manufacturers to follow when it comes to promoting “gold-collar careers,” said Bob Meyer, president of WITC “I’m pleased that the Chinese educators were able to expose themselves to a best practice partnership as represented by Jim Mackey and Dan Conroy.  The Chinese delegation learned from the best in the nation.”

Local and regional employers serve on advisory committees for each technical college program. These committees rely on the employers’ expertise to ensure that courses and programs are aggressively modified to consistently reflect current industry practices. The employers also provide valuable local labor market insights, which allow the colleges to be confident that program graduates will find employment upon graduation.

“Knowing both Jim and Dan well, I guarantee that this was a productive exchange, and one that really showcased the great work being accomplished by all of our colleges in delivering manufacturing programs that truly reflect the needs of employers,” said Mark Tyler, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board.

Roughly 90 percent of Wisconsin technical college graduates are placed in jobs within six months of graduation. This latest recognition of the high-quality education and training programs offered by the technical colleges comes as the state tightens its focus on job creation and positioning for Wisconsin’s employers to be even more globally competitive.

“The success of WITC, as well as the other 15 Technical Colleges in Wisconsin, is dependent on strong working relationships with business and industry,” said Meyer. “And there is no stronger partner in that regard than Nexen Group under Dan Conroy’s leadership. Not only does Nexen Group invest itself heavily with participation on WITC’ advisory committees to strengthen our programmatic offerings that hone our graduates’ capabilities, but the company is also extremely dedicated to developing career pathways in the K-12 system by clearly articulating all of the exciting and challenging manufacturing career options available.”

From “Scant new talent is finding IBM i” — IBM i shops are worried. Some would say things are well past the worried stage and the lack of college grads with skills that match IBM midrange requirements has become a huge concern. Coincidentally, there are a lot of college graduates with huge concerns about finding jobs. It shouldn’t be that hard to raise the success rate for both sides. Where is the breakdown occurring?

Let’s start with a positive. At Delta Dental of Wisconsin, the state’s largest dental benefits provider and a company running its core business on IBM i, the IT and HR departments work together on a recruitment strategy that has close ties to colleges where IBM i skills are part of the computer science curriculum. They are on advisory boards that help determine the classroom subjects.

Delta Dental has cooperative relationships with Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin; Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin; and Muskegon Community College in Muskegon, Michigan.

“The technical colleges do an excellent job at connecting with businesses and finding out what the job needs are,” says Sue Shulfer, director of human resources at Delta Dental of Wisconsin. “They will develop curriculum to meet needs where possible.”

Working with three colleges provides Delta Dental with a wider scope of skills as individual curricula at each school provides some differentiation. Mid-State, for instance, has a combination of RPG and PHP programs that fits in well with the application planning at Delta Dental.

Brian Pinter, the IT manager of applications at Delta Dental, says multiple language skills are high on the IT hiring priority list. His goal is to eliminate development teams with extremely specific responsibilities. “We want teams that can do Web development whether the data resides on Windows or System i or whatever. We want to get away from teams only dealing with the front end or only dealing with the back end. We want people who can do the job from end to end.”

Pinter and Shulfer are pleased with the college graduates they’ve hired during the past two years, but it hasn’t replaced the company’s efforts to also hire experienced IT professionals when the job requirements make that a better choice. And Shulfer also pointed out that it is wrong to assume that hiring college graduates means hiring employees in their early 20s. More often than not, the Delta Dental hires have been people in their late 20s and early 30s who have been retrained as IT workers. “One of our oldest staff members was a recent grad,” Shulfer says. “These are people who re-directed their careers.”

Delta Dental isn’t the only IBM i shop working with the community colleges in the Midwest. The advisory boards at several schools that I found are nurtured by companies willing to hire graduates with the training that suits their needs. Jobs for graduates are a powerful incentive for the schools’ computer science departments in the recruitment of students, even when those students have never heard of IBM i before talking to an i-minded computer science instructor. Collaboration between companies running IBM i and local colleges with computer science departments is the foundation for developing new talent capable of stepping into enterprise computing.

Jody Karnes, CIO at CU*Answers, a credit union service organization, told me the technical team at her company recently contacted Muskegon Community College regarding students of that school’s RPG program.

“The future is based on young talent leading the way after they enter the market with the skills related to our current code, not just the code people are talking about in magazines, through the media, or over the net,” she says. “Millions and millions of lines of code and strong business foundations are built on technologies that simply do not get into the news or are not the flash points that attract people’s attention.”

“Many college programs are struggling to entice students into computer programming courses for core processing and business systems that aren’t as attractive or enticing as some development languages used in writing games and social media sites,” Karnes continues. “Therefore, businesses that still need talent for midrange and mainframe languages need to help fill the academic pipelines and spark interest for students considering future programming careers. These businesses will employee programmers for years to come.”

In the past, CU*Answers was more interested in hiring people with experience, but it has changed its emphasis to helping people build experience and cultivate their skills. Karnes is a proponent of establishing internships as a way of locating and obtaining talent. The company is also launching an employee reimbursement program that will cover up to 100 percent of the cost of tuition and books for IT-related courses at MCC.

Char Parker is the CIS coordinator and a member of the CIS faculty at Muskegon Community College, where computer programming students must complete two of three educational tracks to gain a degree. Those tracks are: .NET with C# and VB, open source with C and Java, and the IBM i track. Without Parker, there would likely be no IBM i-related classes. She, however, remains a strong advocate of the platform despite a slim enrollment in the IBM i curriculum. Last year there were six CIS graduates that completed the IBM i coursework.

Most of the calls she receives, from companies looking for graduates who have completed IBM i classes, originate in Michigan, but she’s also received inquiries from companies in Iowa, Wisconsin, and South Carolina. It’s mostly a word of mouth network that leads out-of-state companies to Parker and MCC.

Parker deserves a lot of credit for her efforts toward keeping IBM i skills in the MCC curriculum, building relationships with IBM i shops willing to work on the skills pipeline, and matching students with jobs. But she’d be the first to say she’s not a one-person army. She relies on others in the IBM i community for some guidance and support.

For instance, she leans on Jim Buck, who runs the IBM i program at the Gateway Technical College’s Kenosha, Wisconsin campus. Buck is also president of the Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association, and has been down these same roads matching students and jobs for quite a few years. He has been successful in aligning colleges with companies looking for a skills pipeline. Larry Bolhuis at Frankeni Technology Consulting and Laura Ubelhor at Consultech Services are both closely connected with Parker and MCC. Bolhuis, an IBM i systems design and implementation expert, provides access to an IBM i for students at MCC. Ubelhor is assistant director of the COMMON Education Foundation, and is president of the Southeast Michigan iSeries User Group. She has been involved with internship programs that connect students with IBM i shops and in promoting career opportunities for students.

There is an informal network among the colleges and IBM, Parker says. Some employers find their way to the IBM Academic Initiative website, where colleges with IBM i curriculum are listed. Unfortunately, this listing is out of date, which leads to user frustrations.

Peter Glass, the program manager for IBM’s Power Systems Academic Initiative, told me there are plans in place that will make difference in promoting IBM i awareness at the collegiate level and facilitating the collaboration between colleges and IBM i shops.

Frankly, this is long overdue and similar promises have been made in the past relative to the IBM i platform. But here is what Glass says is being done for Power Systems, which includes AIX along with i.

It begins with an updated database for schools actively participating in the IBM Academic Initiative. It will include school name, location, faculty contact, and Power Systems-related courses being taught. Glass says there will be far better data one month from now.

There will also be a job board, which has been talked about for several years. Glass says he will work with the IBM sales team and client representatives “to establish an honest-to-goodness list of jobs available at client and business partner locations–not a search engine like popular online employment sites, but rather a well-maintained, current, accurate listing of real jobs at real shops and give students at member schools the ability to view them and go after them.”

Glass also promises an increase in Power Systems Academic Initiative marketing. The areas receiving attention include IBM technical events, an enhanced Web presence, engagements at the IBM Customer Briefing Centers, and direct contact with schools and universities.

I looked back to an IT Jungle article from May 2007 to find IBM promising to get 20,000 students trained, into internships and projects, and eventually getting them jobs in the workforce. I’d be surprised if 1 percent of that number was accomplished in the past five years if only the IBM i platform is taken into account.

Whether the gearing up of the Academic Initiative program will come to grips with the reality of the IBM i skills pipeline is about to be seen.

From “Moraine Park offering CNC Machinist Boot Camps” — Moraine Park Technical College is combating the skilled worker shortage by launching manufacturing skills academies in a series of 15-week boot camps.

In July, Gov. Scott Walker announced a Wisconsin Workforce Partnership Grant from the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation, Inc., for Moraine Park.

The college will use the $705,647 grant to provide specific training necessary to create job opportunities at partnering businesses including Amerequip Corp., Brenner Tank, John Crane Orion and Mid-States Aluminum Corp.

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machinist Boot Camp information sessions will be held on Moraine Park’s West Bend campus. They are scheduled from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4; and from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 6.

Each session will include business partner presentations, job placement opportunities, entrance requirements, program fees and CNC Machinist Boot Camp schedules.

Boot camp basic requirements include people who are currently unemployed, people not currently employed as a CNC machinist or people employed in a field unrelated to CNC. Additionally, participants cannot be current employees of any of the four covenant grant partner companies.

The boot camps are part of the Wisconsin Workforce Partnership Grant.

Those interested in attending one of the free information sessions must RSVP by emailing or calling 920-929-2117.

From “Nicolet wins grant to start manufacturing program” — Rhinelander – Thanks to a $750,000 grant, Nicolet College will have a new manufacturing skills training program this fall.

Nicolet got the largest share of a $3.8 million grant awarded by The Wisconsin Covenant Foundation awarded $3.8 million to five colleges.

Area businesses worked with the college to win the grant, and they’ll continue to help with the development of the new program. “We bring in people who actually do the work every day that this program is designed to produce graduates for,” said Kenneth Urban, vice president of student and academic affairs. “We ask those people what they do every day during their day-to-day work. We then take that information and use it to design the courses and the outcomes that graduates will master.”

Those workers will come from the manufacturing companies that helped win the grant: Dr. Foster & Smith, Inc., HyPro, Inc., Packaging Corporation of America-Tomahawk Mill, Printpack, Inc., and Wausau Paper Corporation-Rhinelander Mill.

The companies are providing in-kind donations in the form of employee tuition reimbursement and equipment.

Their commitment shows how important the program is to the Northwoods.

“What’s critically important about this program and what it will bring is the graduates will be the people that actually repair, maintain troubleshoot the equipment that keeps the plants running,” Urban said.

The program starts this fall and has room for 20 students.

It’s a ladder system, which means students start with a certificate, then earn their one-year technical diploma and two-year associate’s degree.


From  Filling the skilled worker gap — DOOR COUNTY — Consider this: according to the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturers Alliance, one out of every two northeastern Wisconsin manufacturing companies is going to have trouble finding skilled workers in 2012.

Meanwhile, Door County’s unemployment rate for June 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, remains at 8.1 percent. While that’s a full point lower than the county’s unemployment rate this time last year, it’s still much higher than the 5 percent or less the county was seeing in summers before 2009.

There are workers who need jobs, and there are jobs that need workers. They just don’t seem to be finding each other.

“It starts at the national level, and it’s a repeating theme right down to the local level,” says Jerry Murphy, executive director of New North, Inc. “There are skills and training missing, most of which have to do with secondary degrees.”

New North is a marketing and economic development organization that monitors and links businesses in 18 counties throughout northeastern Wisconsin, including Door County.

Murphy says the businesses New North works with recognize the problem they’re facing and are getting involved to find a solution.

“What I think is unique about northeastern Wisconsin is the very genuine, very sincere partnership…between education and business institutions,” he says. “There’s a ready acceptance on the part of the business community that they have to be involved.”

In Door County, schools and businesses have struck up a couple of initiatives designed to train a new skilled labor workforce.

Building a Better Workforce

About 50 high school students from Door and Kewaunee counties have participated in the Door-Kewaunee Business and Education Partnership’s (DKBEP) annual home construction program, which is currently in its sixth year.

According to Tara LeClair, DKBEP business and education manager, almost 60 percent of those students have gone on to some sort of trade-related program at Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC).

“Our big focus is on high school kids, encouraging them and training them,” says LeClair.

DKBEP also offers a high school Certified Nursing Assistant Program, a Youth Co-op Program where students can ‘try on’ a career for a semester, and schedules tours so students can see what goes on inside area businesses.

“The biggest challenge in shaping students’ perceptions is in, say, manufacturing,” says LeClair. “Lots of students view those jobs as dark, dirty, dingy jobs, but that’s not true. A lot of tours we schedule with schools open kids’ eyes.”

Something relatively new to the area is the Computer Numeric Control (CNC) Mobile Lab that has been travelling from school to school in the region since last September, allowing students to practice running computer-operated equipment and earn NWTC credit from the comfort of their own schools.

The purchase and operation of the lab was made possible through a partnership between DKEBP, NWTC, area high schools, and local businesses like N.E.W Industries, a CNC production company in Sturgeon Bay.

N.E.W President and C.E.O. Chris Moore says he currently has 200 workers on staff, and he’s perennially looking for 10 to 12 more people to fill open positions. He’s hopeful new projects like the mobile lab will help revive interest in manufacturing careers.

“The biggest challenge anybody in this business faces right now is finding enough qualified people for our workforce,” says Moore. “Everybody recognizes the fact that, especially at the high school level, students don’t have an interest.”

Sturgeon Bay Schools Superintendent Joe Stutting, whose students are involved in both the home construction and mobile lab projects, says he’s looking for ways to revive that interest and show students they don’t necessarily need to attend a traditional college to have a great career.

“The notion that to have a successful career you need a four-year degree is something we’ve been battling for awhile,” he says. “The truth is you just need to get something. We’re looking to see how we can align with the technical college and to see what we can do to help kids down that pathway sooner.”

Training Today’s Workers for Tomorrow

But it’s not just the workforce of the future that needs training. According to Murphy, workers already in the job market need to retrain themselves, so they, too, can claim unfilled jobs.

“I don’t think the job market is static. If it was people could wait out the storm,” he says. “The demands on the workforce are very dynamic, and you have to be investing in yourself.”

According to Melissa Emery, associate director at the Door County Job Center, about 300 displaced workers in the county have taken advantage of federal Workforce Investment Act funds, which can be used to provide training for high-demand occupations in fields such as medical care, welding, and CNC operation.

“We work with a case manager and work on getting them into NWTC usually,” says Emery.

Some resources are also available for businesses seeking to make sure their current workforce’s skills don’t become obsolete.

Sheila Curtin, who works in Corporate Training at NWTC, says the Washington Island Ferry Line and Heat Treat Furnaces, Inc. (HTF) have both recently received Workforce Advancement Training grants from the state, which provided funding for on-the-job training.

“For the ferry line, we did training in welding and marine diesel,” says Curtin. “HTF was computer design and modeling. They secured a contract and needed to upscale their business.”

The grants are competitive, and not every business is likely to receive one, but Curtin says businesses and workers must constantly monitor where they may have fallen behind and look for ways to catch up.

“For workers and companies…you need to address skill gaps to remain competitive. Because it is very competitive out there,” she says.

Workers Mean Business

Of course, the big push behind training all of these workers in Door County comes packaged with the hope they, and the businesses they work for, will stay in Door County.

“We need youth to come back here and raise families here, which will help with our business growth,” says LeClair. “We benefit a lot by the fact that businesses understand this, that they have to open their doors to kids.”

Cheryl Tieman, coordinator for NWTC’s Sturgeon Bay campus, says the community is taking a lot of the right steps toward keeping businesses in the area.

“There are a lot of things being done locally that make us a good place to locate,” she says. “The number of people graduating from high school is getting smaller, but there are professionals moving into the area.”

As for the skilled worker gap, Murphy says he’s optimistic it will close given enough time.

“I think our public resources are doing a great job and business involvement is incredible. What we need to do longer term is make sure schools, parents, and communities are on board,” he says. “These are hugely significant occupations and add a huge amount to our GDP. We need to be invested in the next generation, or we’ll lose it.”

From “Federal Reserve cites Nicolet College/Lac du Flambeau partnership as positive example of workforce development” — It’s not too often the Federal Reserve takes note of what is happening in rural northern Wisconsin.

But the agency that sets monetary policy for the country did just that recently by publishing a story on Native American economic development efforts that cited the successful partnership between Nicolet College and the Lac du Flambeau tribe.

A major initiative of the college and tribe in recent years has been to increase the number of tribal members who hold bachelor’s degrees. To accomplish this, the college established a dedicated classroom in Lac du Flambeau to teach University Transfer Liberal Arts classes, among others.

“For this northern Wisconsin tribe, bringing the community college to the students, rather than having the students drive to the college, is turning out to be quite an effective workforce development strategy,” wrote Jacob Wascalus in the July issue of Community Dividend, published by The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

He continued: “The Nicolet College-Lac du Flambeau partnership provides community members with a convenient opportunity to take classes on a range of subjects, such as business management and natural resources, that are fundamental to careers with tribal employers and area businesses.

The goal of the partnership is to increase the overall educational attainment of tribal community members—first by establishing a curriculum for them to earn an associate’s degree from Nicolet College and then by facilitating their transfer to a traditional, four-year institution, such as a college within the University of Wisconsin System. Currently, approximately 7 percent of Lac du Flambeau Reservation residents have bachelor’s degrees. The tribe would like to see that number increase to 10 percent through this program.”

The article also quoted Rachelle Ashley, Nicolet’s director of Multicultural Services.

“Because we’re a small college, we’re able to adapt to the changing needs of students and regional job providers,” Ashley explained. “We’re doing a range of classes in response to the workforce demands of tribal employers.”


From “Wisconsin to join the Complete College America Alliance of States” — MADISON — Today, the Governor’s College and Workforce Readiness Council (CWRC) made the recommendation to join the Complete College America (CCA) Alliance of States.

The CCA is a national non-for-profit, focused on increasing the number of certificate and degree holders in the nation. States joining CCA’s alliance pledge to significantly increase the number of students successfully completing college and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations. Currently, almost 30 states have joined CCA’s alliance.

CWRC representatives include leaders of the University of Wisconsin (UW) System, the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU), the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the Department of Workforce Development, and the Department Health Services, as well as private industry representatives and members of the state legislature. Council members unanimously recommended joining the coalition to embark on common data reporting and initiatives that can help improve Wisconsin’s effort to boost the number of postsecondary certificates and degrees.

“It’s important to consider new ways to improve job placement among college graduates,” said Governor Scott Walker. “Wisconsin’s membership in Complete College America will strengthen our workforce by better enabling our colleges and universities to prepare our students for the jobs of the future.”

“We believe that joining CCA can help us achieve the goal of the ‘more Graduates for Wisconsin’ initiative of graduating an additional 80,000 degree-holders beyond our current trajectory by 2025,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly. “In the process, we can demonstrate once again our strong commitment to transparency and accountability, and help our external stakeholders learn more about our successes in this area.”

“Joining Complete College America is a step towards complete and transparent information for Wisconsin,” added CWRC chair Tim Sullivan. “We need to be able to compare ourselves to other states to improve our strengths and address our challenges.”

“Participating in Complete College America provides Wisconsin’s technical colleges another opportunity to assess our student success efforts and communicate those efforts to state and national policymakers,” said Wisconsin Technical College System President Dan Clancy. “Improving retention and credential attainment for all learners is a WTCS priority. We look forward to learning about and implementing innovative best practices from around the country as part of CCA,” added Clancy.

“Although the 23 colleges and universities in WAICU are all private, nonprofit organizations, they all share in the goal of increasing educational attainment in Wisconsin and look forward to working in partnership with the UW and the WTCS as well as CCA to move Wisconsin forward,” Rolf Wegenke said.

From “NWTC seals Miller Electric welding training deal” — Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and Miller Electric Manufacturing Co. have finalized an agreement that will see $1.3 million in new welding equipment going to the college and training credits going back to Miller employees.

The three-year agreement brings updated welding and plasma cutting equipment to NWTC campuses in Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay and Wausaukee High School.

Miller and NWTC have worked together for more than a decade, and Monday’s announcement comes at a time when welders are in demand, officials said.

“There is a projection there is going to be a shortage in North America of more than 250,000 welders … within the next couple of years, and that is vital to the manufacturing economy that is a mainstay of the overall gross domestic product,” said Mike Weller, president of Appleton-based Miller Electric. “There are many small employers out there that are the backbone of this economy that are hurting for those kinds of skilled employees.”

A few years ago NWTC was graduating about 75 welding students a year. That number has increased to about 200 a year, and the institution has increased its instruction staff from three or four staff members to 11, said NWTC President Jeffrey Rafn.

“Most of these jobs that are in these industries are highly skilled and need people that come out of our college with at least one or two years of education,” he said. “You used to be able to go into manufacturing with a high school diploma. That’s not really the case anymore; you need to have some high skills.”

Joseph Draves, associate dean of trades and technologies at the college, said they anticipate demand for welding instruction to remain strong.

“We’re running out of lab space, and we expect it to continue to grow,” he said. “We’re looking at a section yet this year in Sturgeon Bay.”

The college is also looking for other places it can add welding courses for high school students, similar to a program in Wausaukee. Green Bay Southwest High School is adding a welding lab, he said.

The college is removing its 3-year-old welding equipment and will start installing the new gear next week.

“Students are getting training on the latest technology available. That’s what they’re going to see when they get into the workforce,” Draves said. “We’re preparing them to go out into the work force and be ready to hit the ground running.”

From “Wisconsin technical colleges join multi-state career pathway study” — The Wisconsin Technical College System is teaming with nine states to create a framework of benchmarks and success measures for career pathway initiatives, a model of education that’s viewed as a method of filling the skills gap in the state.

The Alliance for Quality Career Pathways will also partner with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Law and Social Policy and the Joyce and James Irvine Foundations, according to a WTCS press release.

“The WTCS has developed a number of new educational models that are nimble in responding to the changing education and training needs of both businesses and students,” WTCS president Dan Clancy said in a written statement. “Our recent success with career pathways for both high school students and returning adults will only benefit from being part of the alliance.”

Career pathways are a coordinated sequence of education and training services that simplify for students advancement in education and employment in an industry or job sector. WTCS career pathway plans target lower-skilled adults and high school students to help them earn the postsecondary credentials needed to compete for higher-skilled jobs.

The model has been gaining traction, but until this alliance there has been little research of what results in a successful program and how best to measure that success, according to WTCS.

The other participants are Arkansas, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia and Washington.

“Wisconsin should be proud of its involvement in this effort to increase the number of Americans with postsecondary credentials,” Gov. Scott Walker said in the release. “I look forward to the results of this multi-state collaboration and am hopeful it will yield yet another route for Wisconsin students to learn the knowledge needed to help solve our state’s skills gap.”

From “Manufacturing Partnership aims to close skills gap” — Herker specializes in precision machining, contract welding and mechanical assembly. The company’s sales have grown significantly over the last five years and customers have increasingly outsourced processes to Herker, which has contributed to an $8 million investment in equipment and capacity, according to the company.

“Manufacturing is vital to the economic success of our City and the region, and building a skilled workforce is key to these companies and their ability to compete,” Mayor Barrett said.   “We have growing companies that need skilled workers, and we have people who need jobs.  I am proud of this partnership and our ability to work with local manufacturers like Herker.”

Barrett introduced the Manufacturing Partnership during his State of the City address in February. The program is held in cooperation with the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (MAWIB), Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) and the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP) and aims to close the skills gap in the manufacturing sector.

“We developed this partnership with the understanding that we have an opportunity to move Milwaukee residents into family-sustaining jobs.  This community has been devastated and as this sector of the economy grows we have a real strategy to get people back to work,” said Don Sykes, President/CEO of the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board WRTP/BIG STEP has assisted the partnership in finding companies who would like to train workers for open positions. This is the third graduation from the program in the last few months, according to the city.

“We have manufacturers throughout Milwaukee and the region struggling to find the skilled workforce they need and our model demonstrates that strong leadership from the private and public sector can solve these challenges,” said Earl Buford, President and CEO of WRTP/BIG STEP.

From “WTCS honors Charter Films with “Futuremakers Partner Award” — A major manufacturer in the Superior area is the latest recipient of the “Futuremakers Partner Award” from the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) Board. Charter Films, Inc. accepted the award at this week’s WTCS Board Meeting at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) Superior campus.

Dan Clancy, president of the WTCS, presented the award to Chris Trapp, CEO of Charter Films, Inc. “The Futuremakers Partner award celebrates the impact of college and employer collaboration in helping hundreds of thousands of students set a direction for their future,” Clancy explained. “Through these partnerships, we are building a highly-skilled workforce and strong communities.”

Charter Films, Inc. is the leader in engineering, extruding and manufacturing plastic films for a wide variety of industries. The company has partnered with WITC to create and grow their own training program, Charter University. This computer-based education program allows employees to gain new skills and boost income potential. WITC and Charter Films also worked together to secure Workforce Advancement Training grants for the program.

“This award recognizes our partnership with WITC and exemplifies our commitment to training and education of our employees. It also recognizes the importance of cooperation between business and educational institutions,” said Trapp. “We have worked together for many years to help align our job skill needs with the education curriculum at the technical college,” Trapp added.

Charter Films is one of the major manufacturing employers in Superior and Douglas County. They ship products using local trucking firms and rail, and purchase supplies from local companies in the region. “This company has a significant impact on the local economy and is an asset to the community and the state of Wisconsin,” Clancy said. “The Board is very pleased to recognize Charter Films as a WTCS Futuremaker partner and a key economic development driver in northwest Wisconsin.” In addition, Charter Films has partnered with WITC and WTCS to promote manufacturing careers to high school students.

From “The C.A. Lawton Co. receives education grant” — The C.A. Lawton Co. (Calco), De Pere, Wis., recently was awarded a Workforce Advancement Training (WAT) grant for skills training. The grant will be used for leadership development and team building and include welding and electro-mechanical coursework.

Calco, manufacturer of industrial components, worked with the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College to complete the application process and tailor a specific training program. Companies are chosen to partner with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College when applications are approved by the Wisconsin Technical College System grant committee.

The grant will supplement Calco’s investment into a program that will involve casting, maintenance, and administrative staff.

“The attitude, skill, and ability of people is an essential part of our success – far more than most of our capital assets,” said Alex Lawton, president and CEO. “That’s why we’re constantly working to improve the work environment, improve people’s capabilities, and provide advancement opportunities. Training and education across all job types and levels captures a meaningful portion of our investments most years.”

WAT grants focus on improving the occupational skills of employees and are available to the technical college districts, as directed by statute. Colleges typically partner with companies to submit applications. Grants are available for small and large businesses and are designed to upgrade the skills and productivity of employees of established businesses with the objective of supporting regional workforce and economic development efforts. In addition to very specific job-related skills, such as welding, electrical maintenance, and customer relations, training can include a combination of occupational, academic, and employability topics or courses.

“During these times when funds can be scarce it’s always great to have your community and its institutions (government, education, etc.) recognize that you are trying to do good things and thus are valuable to them both now and in the future,” Lawton said.

Calco employs about 150 between two facilities in De Pere. Its integrated business includes patternmaking, casting, and machining capabilities. It provides large iron castings and machining for domestic manufacturers in the HVAC, municipal pump and valve, mining, and power generation industries. Its customer base includes Siemens, General Electric, Metso, and IR/Trane.

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