From “Retraining helps Ingli launch new career” — When the manufacturing plant where she worked shut down in 2011, Amber Ingli found herself in need of a job and at the threshold of what would be some years of struggle for her and her family.

Today, she has a job helping people who are in need of a job.

Ingli, a 1991 Ellsworth High School graduate, received her associate degree from Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in the Administrative Professional program May 8. Even before the graduation ceremony, she had lined up work with SEEK, an employment agency in Hudson.

“We’re getting there,” Ingli said of the turnaround from the days of difficulty for her family. “It’s nice to know that I’m going to be working. I feel more at peace.”

Ingli was one of 46 graduates in five academic programs to be honored at the CVTC River Falls Campus commencement held at River Falls High School. The graduates included 21 in the Nursing-Associate Degree program, 12 in Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement, nine in Business Management and three in Marketing Management. Ingli was the only Administrative Professional program graduate.

For Ingli, her CVTC education and assistance from federal job retraining programs were keys to recovery from her job loss. Her husband, Mark, works at his father’s business, Ingli Auto Body in Ellsworth. Amber had a job as a production worker at Johnson Controls in Hudson since 1998. The plant shut down in 2011.

“It was a scary feeling,” Ingli said. “I carried the health insurance for the family. It was a good job, and I was first shift.”

Fortunately, she was eligible for job retraining and financial assistance through the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance and Trade Readjustment Allowances programs designed to help workers displaced due to foreign competition. She was able to start her program at CVTC in January 2012, right after the plant shut-down. But that was a scary time, too.

“I was very nervous. Would I know how to study? Does my brain even work anymore? But it all came back to me. I’m graduating with honors,” Ingli said.

One of her concerns was a lack of background in computers, which would be needed for a job in an office setting. But she found the faculty at CVTC knew how to help people like her.

“They’re used to my generation coming back and my younger generation classmates were very helpful,” she said.

Her studies led her to an internship as an administrative assistant in the human resources office at Sajan in River Falls, and that helped her land the job at SEEK, which she started on April 7.

“I recruit applicants and place them in the correct jobs. We don’t want to place people at just any job. We want it to be the right fit,” Ingli said.

Her experience being unemployed after a plant shut-down helps her relate to the applicants coming into SEEK.

“I know what it’s like to be on that side, and a lot of the people we place are in light manufacturing.”

From “Bottle-maker set to begin layoff process” — For those entering into training, workforce development would pay the tuition and books for the employee, Borremans said.

In February the company sent letters to the more than 50 employees at the plant that it planned to shut the facility down sometime in May.

SEC President Doug Wehrkamp said in a Feb. 28 statement due to technological advances SEC’s customers are able to meet their demand with on-site production.

The company said employees not transferring to one of the other two plants will get two weeks pay for every year the employee worked for SEC with a minimum of eight weeks.

The letter given to employees said voluntary early layoff could occur depending on how quickly operations switch over to Effingham and Bowling Green.

Those relocating will receive $5,000 in moving expenses, an additional $2,500 after employees complete one year at the new plant and another $2,500 after the second year.

Yanik declined to say if employees were offered an early layoff option.

SEC, headquartered in Enka, N.C. opened the Beloit plant in 2007. The plant made Coca-Cola bottles of various sizes and shipped to six different states in the Midwest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From “Clintonville company, employee honored” — CLINTONVILLE – October is Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The state is honoring a company in Clintonville, for rehiring a former employee who is now wheelchair bound.

Operating the press brake at Walker Forge is a job Jake Dudzik loved to do.

“It was definitely a fun job out there that’s for sure,” said Dudzik.

It was until 2007. That’s when Dudzik was partially paralyzed in a diving accident. But being wheelchair bound doesn’t mean he’s out of work.

“It was Jake’s initiative to go to school and be successful at school that allows him to work here. We didn’t take his classes or get his degree for him, he did all of that himself,” said company president Richard Recktenwald.

Three years and a drafting degree later, Dudzik returned to Walker Forge full-time in March.

“I was never one who wanted to go back to school before this that’s for sure, but I had a good group of classmates and teachers and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be,” said Dudzik.

Dudzik now works in front of a computer analyzing projects and preparing cost estimates. While Jake no longer works on the factory floor he says he enjoys his new position and most of all, he says he appreciates being treated like everyone else.

“Just another guy in the shop pretty much is all it is and that’s the way I want it,” he said.

Dudzik’s father Brian also works at the company. He says the state recognition is well deserved.

“It was a long road to go down and today is a proud day for all of us; I mean he had a lot of hard work today.”

Recktenwald says Jake is still a valuable member of the company.

“All we did was give a job to a person with the right skills at a time we had an opening,” said Recktenwald.

And that was all Jake was looking for.

The state gave both the company and Dudzik plaques Tuesday. Walker Forge employs more than 400 people in Clintonville, including several others with various disabilities.


From “Editorial: Tech schools fill big need” — It’s a crown jewel in Wisconsin’s educational system, but doesn’t always get the attention, or the appreciation, it deserves.

The state’s 16 vocational-technical colleges collectively serve tens of thousands of residents, from teenagers to the elderly. Students come to learn scores of skills that help them obtain good jobs, from carpentry to high-tech positions.

One of the smaller — but more sophisticated of those 16 schools that serve Wisconsin is Blackhawk Technical College. Its main campus is on Prairie Road between Beloit and Janesville. Branch campuses are in Monroe and in the Eclipse Center in Beloit. There’s a smaller training center at Janesville, and an aviation unit at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.

WE DRAW READERS’ attention to Blackhawk Tech because the college is observing its centennial next week. There’s a campus open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a celebratory dinner and scholarship fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 13. And there’s much to celebrate.

BTC currently has some 5,700 students. Enrollment tends to fluctuate from perhaps half that number to over 6,000. Since the General Motors plant in Janesville shut down in 2008, former GM employees have joined younger and older students to retrain for new careers.

Blackhawk Tech’s president, Thomas Eckert, proudly asserts that the school has dedicated itself to meeting current shortages of skilled workers, be it in construction, manufacturing, the medical profession or other fields. Meanwhile, there are assorted courses for those who simply want to find fulfillment in art, literature and so forth.

STUDENTS’ AGES VARY from the mid-teens to 90 and sometimes beyond. If there’s enough demand for classes in basket-weaving or parachute jumping, the technical colleges probably can provide the teaching required.

Blackhawk Tech’s student body currently consists of about 3,000 at the central campus, whose facilities constantly are being improved; to the Beloit campus’s enrollment of about 1,400 and a similar number at Monroe.

Eckert is proud to point to BTC’s record of having most who graduate with technical, associate or other forms of certification, find the right employment soon after they complete their one- or two-year stints at the college. Eighty-seven percent of grads find jobs within six months.

ALL OF WHICH suggests that the technical college system helps Wisconsin keep its manufacturing, construction, medical and service industries supplied with the workers needed. It’s been doing that since the state directed public school systems back in the Fall of 1912 to create “vocational schools” for young people wanting to find paying jobs instead of finishing high school, or older folks who were either under-employed or had no job-training.

Older Beloiters will remember the Vocational-Adult school on Fourth Street, which served until the 1960s. Other cities, including Janesville, had similar schools. The popularity — and productivity — of the local schools prompted the state to create 16 districts, each to be served by a central campus and branches as needed. The Blackhawk Tech district, serving primarily Rock and Green counties, is the fifth smallest of the state’s 16 tech colleges.

It turns out that the colleges have been a good investment. Blackhawk Tech’s current budget is about $50 million. That may seem like a lot, but consider that in a year’s time, as many as 4,000 get the training they need to enter the workforce. That’s a good investment. Tuition, often supplemented by financial aid, accounts for about half of the budget. Local property taxes and state aid make up the difference.

AGAIN, THOSE FIGURES may seem hefty, but Eckert says that the community, in one way or another, realizes benefits of $140 for every $100 spent.

Wisconsin’s public school system is, of course, vital as well as costly. And the University of Wisconsin system, with its two- and four-year campuses (including UW-Rock County) ranks with some of the best among the state. So do our private colleges, including Beloit College. We’re fortunate, indeed, that the Badger State’s technical college system bridges what would otherwise be a wide gap between the public schools and the colleges that not everyone wants, or can afford, to attend.

ANNIVERSARY CONGRATULATIONS go out to the technical college that serves our area so well, and to the foresighted leaders of earlier years, who saw the need, and filled it.

From  “One year later: WCTC facility provides high level of training” — PEWAUKEE — One year after it opened its doors, Waukesha County Technical College’s criminal justice training center in Pewaukee is getting strong reviews from area police officers.

The 20,000-square-foot facility, located at a former day care center, provides scenario-based training for police officers.

A recent evaluation of the program has ranged from comments such as “great facility” or “Can’t believe how high-tech it is.”

The Muskego Police trains officers there, and has also included the use of the facility to “train” citizens as part of its twice-yearly Citizens’ Academy.

“It has allowed us to the holistic scenario-based training,” said Brian Dorow, associate dean of the criminal justice program at the college. “We have received just an incredible response from the police officers that are training there. … It is the highest level of training where someone is actively learning when you are able to do the scenario based training. We actually try to replicate what an officer is going to encounter on the streets from start to finish.”

Before conducting exercises in which an officer may have to determine whether to use physical force against a suspect, the training program first does what it can to raise an officer’s heart rate and increase adrenaline before the officer responds to the calls. The trainers will present different variables during the calls.

“They are fatigued, they are breathing hard,” explained Dorow. “That is going a long way.”

About 3,000 officers from throughout southeastern Wisconsin have used the  center. Police officers need 24 hours of continuing education in law enforcement training in order to maintain their certificates.

Waukesha Police Capt. Ron Oremus said his department uses the facility for in-service for annual training updates for its officers. It also gets a lot of use during new officer training.

“It is very helpful to have a facility like that,” said Oremus, who is an instructor during the training.

Before the center was located on Morris Street, the police department used a ranch-style home near WCTC. The training center’s an improvement when it comes to scenario-based trainings.

“I can tell you that while (the ranch-style home) is nice, it just didn’t have the room to train like the new facility does,” Oremus said.

The training center at WCTC could be even more enhanced in the future. Dorow said he wants to add the element of sound into the scenarios. It is not uncommon for area police to be called to scenes that have couples arguing or children crying.


From  “WAT Grant initiates successful partnership between LTC and Nemak”  — CLEVELAND – Earlier this year, Nemak and Lakeshore Technical College received a Workforce Advancement Training (WAT) Grant from the State of Wisconsin.

Nemak, a supplier of high pressure die cast aluminum components in Sheboygan, began extensive training of hundreds of its workers in collaboration with LTC. The WAT Grant program, created in 2005, helps address training needs of Wisconsin businesses and enhance the skills of the workforce while recognizing the value of education and the impact a highly-skilled workforce can have on a company. The results experienced at Nemak have met those expectations, and more.

“We needed to train up to 500 employees in things like manufacturing and quality skills, OSHA safety, lean manufacturing, leadership, and computer training, says Brent Chesney, Director of Organizational Development at Nemak. “The results have been dramatic in terms of efficiency gained.”

Indeed, Nemak has documented significant savings over the first 6 months of this year. “With the help of LTC, we’ve become more productive, more efficient and more competitive,” says Chesney. “LTC has been a critical resource for our continued improvements.”

What’s more, these results are typical as recent survey results once again highlighted the value employers find in the customized training and technical assistance delivered by Wisconsin’s technical colleges.

“Employers continue to tell us that this training and assistance, which is flexible and tailored to their needs, adds value to their operations,” said Mark Tyler, President of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board.

Technical colleges periodically survey employers involved in contract training projects to gauge outcomes and employer satisfaction. Over 500 employers responded to one or more survey questions about training outcomes. Of those employers who responded, 94% were satisfied or very satisfied with the training provided, nearly 95% are likely to use these services again, while more than 96% would recommend them to a colleague. Respondents also indicated that the training improved the company’s work environment and employee retention, reduced costs, and addressed safety and compliance issues.

Survey responses highlighted the value employers place on having incumbent worker training delivered on-site, noting that technical college customized training programs allow employees to apply new skills in their actual facility and specific equipment, not to mention saving on travel time. LTC delivers these services through its Workforce Solutions Division which provides seminars, compliance training, consulting services, and entrepreneurship services in addition to customized training.

Workforce Advancement Training (WAT) grants have extended the reach and awareness of technical college customized training services. The grants, which have consistently received bipartisan legislative support, provide funds to technical colleges to support training programs developed with employer partners. Over the seven-year life of the WAT grant program, technical colleges have received about 17.5 million in WAT grants to support over 1,400 employers in training almost 77,000 incumbent workers across Wisconsin. An additional $4.0 million is available in fiscal year 2012-13. While LTC represents about 3% of the Wisconsin Technical College System, local businesses have received over 10% of state WAT grant award dollars.

“WAT grants are essential to helping provide effective worker training,” stated LTC President Michael Lanser. “We will continue to look for ways to expand our capacity to enrich our communities by providing a workforce that is skilled, diverse and flexible,” added Lanser.


From — “CVTC receives training grants” –– EAU CLAIRE — More than a quarter-million dollars in grants will help area businesses invest in their employees.

Chippewa Valley Technical College was recently awarded more than $270,000 in state grants.  The money will be used to train and develop current employees’ skills in the area of manufacturing.  The grants will help off-set regular training costs by 65 percent.

“If we can provide a workforce that is better than other locations in the country or internationally, that’s a reason to stay here. And so that’s one of the reasons that you want to invest in your workforce so you can sustain the businesses that you have,” says Tim Shepardson, Chippewa Falls CVTC campus manager.

The grants can be used in a number of area’s including industrial maintenance and welding.

From “CVTC launching college for working adults” — EAU CLAIRE — A local college is targeting adults hoping to make it easier for them to get a degree.

Chippewa Valley Technical College is launching a new program for working adults. The program offers associate degrees and certifications in a more flexible format. Most classes will be eight weeks long instead of sixteen, and will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., others will be offered online. CVTC is hoping this will give job seekers the opportunity to learn skills that will make them better qualified.

“There’s a mismatch between the skills that people have today and the openings that are out there. For example in manufacturing, whether it’s in welding where now a two year training program is more inline with what the manufacturers need for more sophisticated equipment, robotics, laser cutters and things like that. So this gives people an opportunity to improve their skills, change their career paths, while they’re still working,” said Doug Olson, Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Some of the programs being offered include business management, human resources and marketing.

Informational meetings are being held at 6 p.m.Thursday, for those who have an interest in the program. Those meetings will take place on CVTC campuses in Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and River Falls.

From “CVTC changes will benefit employers and organizations” — Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) recently made changes to its Business and Industry Services area to better assist area employers and organizations with their plans for success.

Judi Anibas, former dean of emergency services, transitioned to a faculty position to train employers and organizations on security and personal safety-related topics.

Suzanne Blau was recently hired as the business and industry business technology trainer/consultant to assist employers with software and social media training.

Anibas and Blau join three other CVTC faculty members who specialize in customized training programs for employers. The others include: Dan Burns, who provides leadership and supervisory training; Dave Otto, who provides electromechanical and industrial maintenance training; and Jon Leenhouts, who offers safety-related training.

CVTC’s Business and Industry Services team includes: Pam Owen, NanoRite manager; John Kleven, River Falls campus manager; Tim Shepardson, Chippewa Falls campus and Neillsville center manager; Roxann Vanderwyst, Menomonie campus manager; and Jessica Cather, seminar and continuing education specialist.

From “Clancy interview: Outgoing WTCS president reflects on state tech school needs” — Dan Clancy, the retiring head of Wisconsin’s technical colleges, says his successor will need to advocate for greater funding as the system’s 16 campuses push to close the so-called skills gap between what graduates know and what employers are demanding.

Still, Clancy, whose last day is Sept. 14, said he thinks his colleges are doing a good job of adapting to changing needs and preparing some students to go on to four-year colleges, including those in the University of Wisconsin system.

Right now Clancy said he’s busy drafting a budget proposal for the 2013-2015 biennium.

“Our board will definitely be requesting additional funds,” he said. “I’ll have it to the point of being approved by the board, but my successor will have to shepherd it through the Legislature and governor.”

The 2011-13 budget cut state aid to the tech schools by 30 percent, or $71.6 million, over two years.

Clancy is optimistic funding will increase, but he said legislators need to understand that for every dollar invested in tech schools, there is a return of $6.

“I think this coming budget will be better than the last, now that the state is in better fiscal shape,” he said. “My guess is there will be funds for some priority areas, including workforce development … and solving the skills gap.”

Clancy said he also hopes to get increased support for scholarships from the state Higher Education Aids Board.

“We’ve made that a high priority, too,” he said. “That’s been a significant issue for our students, the ability to afford a technical college education.”

Clancy, 57, became president of the tech schools in 2004. Before that, he was the system’s vice president for finance and policy, directing budget development, legislative relations and policy analysis, among other things. A native of Detroit, he worked for the state of Wisconsin for more than three decades, including 17 years with the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Clancy said the “workforce paradox” — where companies have jobs available but can’t find the workers to fill them — is a national issue. He said the guv and other state leaders have made solving this problem a top priority.

“All states are facing a similar dilemma,” he said. “There are jobs to be filled, but employers say there is a mismatch between what they need and what people are bringing to the table.”

He said this is most common at Wisconsin’s advanced manufacturing companies. For example, they are demanding workers with high-tech skills to run numeric-controlled machines and do sophisticated welding.

“They are finding they have to do extra training,” he said. “They would like to have candidates go through a tech college program, either one or two years. But we are having difficulty attracting people to those fields.”

He said many prospective employees do not understand how modern manufacturing has changed and have an image of an industry that may not have a strong economic future.

“It’s not the old industrial work setting that it was 30 years ago,” Clancy said. “It’s cleaner, more comfortable and it’s high-tech. But parents and students may not understand that.”

He said tech schools and employers need to explain today’s manufacturing environment and the salaries those jobs have. In addition, he said today’s students need to have a stronger background in math and science in high school and a better understanding of how to use technology, as well as so-called “soft skills” needed for employment in the modern workplace.

To meet employers’ demands, he said tech colleges have changed curricula, breaking down courses into shorter components so students can, for example, attend a “boot camp” in which they get a certificate in the basics of modern welding.

This gets workers on the “first rung” of the employment ladder without needing to be in school for a long time, he said.

“Then they’ll need to come back and get additional training so they can advance on the job,” Clancy said. “We call that career pathways. It really helps people who have lost their jobs, especially older workers who want get employed again fast. It helps on the employers’ side, too, because they need workers quickly, too.”

In many cases, he said manufacturers are willing to pay to train those workers.

“So we are very flexible on when we offer that kind of training, at night and on weekends and online,” he said, noting that some companies are doing their own advanced training after tech schools have taught them the basics.

Looking back, Clancy said he is proud of the work he’s done to foster increased cooperation between tech school and the UW System, with greater opportunities for students to transfer credits into upper division programs.

He said Wisconsin’s vocational colleges have handled significant growth well, with the population now at more than 400,000 – an increase of roughly 40 percent in full-time-equivalent students.

“Based on who we have been serving the last four or five years, we have helped thousands and thousands of people who lost their jobs get retrained. They want to have a family-sustaining job and career.

“And for students, especially in rural areas, tech school training can be life changing,” he said. “That’s pretty amazing.”

Audio of Clancy interview

From “Plant closing leads to new career for TR woman” — GREEN BAY — On Nov. 18, 2009, Linda Eis drove home from her job at the Budweiser plant in Manitowoc – a place she’d worked for the last 28 years – knowing that the future she’d planned for herself and her family would be changed forever. The plant was scheduled to close and she was losing her job.

Nervous and uncertain of her prospects, she drove to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, poured over the health care program options, and decided on a new future.

Two and half years later, that decision would lead her to graduate from NWTC at the top of her class, becoming a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. She would receive two prestigious national scholarships and emerge with bright prospects for a new career as a certified surgical technologist.

“Coming back to school after all these years, you’re scared,” said Eis, who lives in Two Rivers with her husband. “But the college is very ‘adult-learner-friendly.’ After a while, it started to give me back the confidence that I didn’t know I’d lost.”

Although Eis had been out of school for 32 years, she decided success in the classroom would lead to success in the workforce. She put in extra hours in the lab, studied extensively and focused on her clinical experience. School became her new job, and her instructors took notice.

“I don’t think I have ever worked with a student that had a better attitude and stronger work ethic,” said NWTC instructor Mary C. Wessing. “The operating room is often a stressful place to work, and Linda was able to deal with whatever came her way.”

Eis’s late-career journey mirrors that of many Americans since the start of the recession. In fact, an increasing number of Americans are returning for education later in life. Seventy-eight million baby boomers soon will be entering retirement, and four out of five plan to work past the age of 65. Many of those jobs require updated skills and training. At NWTC, 20 percent of the population served – through degree programs, certificates, basic skills courses or enrichment classes – are more than 50 years old.

When Eis graduated in May with a 4.0 grade point average, she found her hard work had paid off in other ways after being told she’d won two competitive national scholarships. The Foundation for Surgical Technology awarded her $750 for its annual scholarship, and shortly after, the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting chose her as the 2012 recipient of its $500 scholarship.

Eis is still looking toward the future. She’s interviewing for positions in the health care field and is confident that her education has prepared her for success.

“My goal from the start was to get a new job,” she said. “Losing my job [led] to much more, I earned a new profession.”

From “CVTC board approves budget; notes enrollment decline” — After rising enrollment peaked in 2010-11 at Chippewa Valley Technical College, student numbers are declining even as area employers see growing need for trained workers.

Technical colleges in Wisconsin noticed rising numbers around 2008 during the recession as people lost their jobs, said Margaret Dickens, CVTC’s director of planning, research and grants.

This is what CVTC leaders referred to the “workforce paradox” — continued high unemployment, but not enough trained workers to fill high-demand jobs in skilled manufacturing.

“We have people out of work, but we have jobs waiting,” Barker said.

Training offered

In the 2012-13 CVTC budget approved 8-0 Thursday night by the college board, there are a couple of initiatives meant to address that demand.

The budget expands manufacturing programs to train high-tech workers in that sector, Barker said. The number of seats in a diesel trucking program also is going up because of one of the region’s other fast-growing industries.

“That’s a direct effect of the sand mining industry,” Barker said.

And as they’re seeing a decline in the number of high school graduates, the college wants to court people 35 and older who want to take classes.

“We have to reach out to the adult learners as well as we do the high school graduates,” Barker said.

CVTC’s strategy to boost older adult enrollment is to offer more classes at night and online, award credits for previous education and compress classes so they last eight weeks instead of the standard 16 weeks.

The new budget had no increase in total taxes CVTC collects from property owners in its 11-county district, but the impact to individual homeowners may vary.

The owner of a $100,000 home who paid $174.17 in taxes last year to CVTC will see a $2.65 tax increase under the new budget. But that’s assuming the property value of the hypothetical home did not decrease, and many did in the region.

The new budget also includes spending for a new Energy Education Center on CVTC’s West Campus, but that project still needs about $1 million in private donations and state approval.

“There was a bubble from the unemployment,” she said.

Enrollment reached an all-time record in 2010-11 at 4,720 full-time equivalent students. But it fell to 4,469 in the academic year that just ended, and the college expects it to stay level for 2012-13.

Reasons for drop

CVTC leaders said several factors could be contributing to the recent declining enrollment.

College President Bruce Barker said those eager to get retrained did so in the past few years.

“Those who were laid off and needed to go back to school did and are graduating,” he said.

Shifting demographics in CVTC’s 11-county area also can be playing a role.

Enrollment in western Wisconsin elementary and high schools are lower than they were in prior years, CVTC communications director Doug Olson noted.

Current third-graders are anticipated to create another “bubble” in higher education when they graduate high school, Olson said, but not as big as what CVTC saw the past couple of years.

Reduced financial aid from the government also could be preventing some students from attending, Dickens said.

As the college sees a slight drop in enrollment, it’s coming at a time when local industry demands more trained workers.

“They’re just desperate for employees,” Dickens said.

From “Older Americans Seek Employment After Losing Savings During Recession” — WASHINGTON, May 31 (Reuters) – When Joe Burklund of Des Moines, Iowa, lost his job at the depths of recession in 2009 after 30 years in the advertising and marketing industry, he never imagined another career.

He was almost 60 and optimistic he would land another job in his field, where he was earning $65,000 a year.

After collecting unemployment checks for a year, Burklund took a part-time job at grocery chain Trader Joe’s. As he watched his retirement savings bleed almost dry, he realized his situation would not turn around anytime soon.

An acquaintance suggested he train for call center work, servicing banks and insurance companies. “I said, ‘Well, I may as well try that because nothing else seems to be working,'” Burklund told Reuters.

Thousands of Americans aged 55 and older are going back to school and reinventing themselves to get an edge in a difficult labor market, hoping to rebuild retirement nest eggs that were almost destroyed by the recession.

“I went into it thinking ‘I am not too sure I am cut out for call center work,’ and I never really wanted to sell insurance. But I was willing to try anything to gain full employment,” said Burklund, who has set aside hopes to retire at 65.

Within two weeks of completing the program, he had three interviews and two job offers. In March, he started working at Marsh Insurance.

A similar tale is recounted by Tom Halseth, about 380 miles east in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Halseth, 60, lost his job in May 2010 after 30 years as store manager with retail chain JC Penny. He spent 16 months unemployed.

Today, Halseth is a quality assurance technician with dried fruit packer Mariani Packing Company in Wisconsin Rapids. He landed the job after a rigorous five-month program that included biology, chemistry and math classes and a two-week internship.

According to the Federal Reserve, household financial assets, which exclude homes, dropped from a peak of $57 trillion in the third quarter of 2007 to just over $49 trillion in the fourth quarter of last year, the latest period for which data is available.

A survey to be released this summer by the Public Policy Institute of AARP, an advocacy group for older Americans, found a quarter of Americans 50 years and older used up all their savings during the 2007-09 recession. About 43 percent of the 5,000 respondents who took part in the survey said their savings had not recovered.

Many older workers who lost jobs during the downturn are too young to retire and usually would not be considered ideal for retraining.

Independent groups like the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, which is working with local communities and businesses to build skills and careers for workers and job seekers, are working to debunk that myth.

In the last four years, the Fund has helped about 1,860 Americans 55 years and older retrain for new jobs.

According to data from the Labor Department, 2.65 million people participated in its Workforce Investment Act programs in 2011. Those programs, which are also designed to help people find jobs, are separate from those run by independent groups like the National Fund for Workforce Solutions.

About 345,000, or 13 percent of participants in the Workforce Investment Act programs, were 55 years and older.

“If they have a 20-year record of being a great worker, companies will take them,” said Fred Dedrick, executive director at the National Fund.

He said the Fund, which worked with the academy in Iowa that trained Burklund and with the Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin, where Halseth received his food manufacturing science certificate, has a 60 percent to 70 percent success rate finding jobs for graduates.

“It also depends on the labor market. If you have an unemployment rate of 4 or 5 percent they will take them,” said Dedrick.

“But if you have a high unemployment rate of say 10 percent, and you have the choice of investing in somebody who is 50 or somebody who is 30, of course you will invest in the younger worker because they will be around longer.”

The unemployment rate for workers 55 years and older edged up to 6.3 percent in April from 6.2 percent in March. This age group accounted for 16 percent of the 12.5 million unemployed Americans last month.

While the jobless rate for older Americans is much lower than the 8.1 percent national rate, it is double what it was when the recession started in December 2007, a statistic with which people like Paulette Gordon, 59, are all too familiar.

Gordon, from Houston, Texas, lost her job as a technical analyst for energy companies two years ago after three decades structuring acquisitions of oil and gas wells.

She brushed up her resume to include administration skills. So far that has not yielded anything and last month she sold her jewelry to pay rent.

“I am surviving by the grace of God,” Gordon said.

Productivity experts like Frank Lonergen say it is a mistake to overlook these so-called baby boomers, given their wealth of experience.

Lonergen, whose company Ancile Solutions helps businesses to improve employee productivity through training, argues there is not much difference in terms of performance between a 25-year-old worker and a 55-year-old one if both are afforded the right opportunities.

While it is a reasonable expectation that somebody hired at 55 would want to retire at 65, it could also be argued that a 25-year-old would probably not build a career at a single company, he said.

“I think a 55-year-old worker who has the opportunity to come in and is given the right framework to help them get on board would have a much longer tenure than a 25-year-old,” said Lonergen. “The tendency for 25-year-old workers is to look at accelerating their career after two or three years.”

Even with new skills, older workers are re-entering the labor market at very low salaries, in most cases just above the minimum wage, which can be as low as $5.15 an hour and no higher than $9.04 an hour, depending on the state.

Given the damage inflicted on their savings by the recession, this means many will probably continue to work well past the usual retirement age of 65, a fact acknowledged by both Burklund and Halseth.

The share of Americans 55 years and older who are in the work force – which means either working or unemployed but looking for a job – is 1.4 percentage points higher than when the recession started.

In contrast, the overall labor force participation rate dropped in April to a 30-year low.

Last month, 4.6 percent of workers aged 55 and older held more than one job, according to AARP and government data.

Halseth declined to specify his salary, but said it was a third of what he made as a JC Penny store manager. “While what I am making now is well above minimum wage, it would be hard to make a good living out of it,” he said.

“At least I have a job and the possibility of going up. My 401k (retirement plan) was ravaged by the recession; that’s one of the reasons I will keep working,” said Halseth. “Before, I could have retired at 62 and retired comfortably, but I can’t do that anymore. I want to work until 70, if I could.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Burklund.

“Right now I am making $32,000 a year and there is a bonus program. I may not retire until my late 60s,” said Burklund, who likes to joke that he will retire six months after his death.

From “Job prospects improve for college graduates” — College graduates face better job prospects this year than in any since the recession.

That doesn’t mean finding a job is easier than it’s been, but there are more of them.

“In general, we’re seeing certain occupations or sectors that are getting better,” said Jennifer Pigeon, manager of career services and K-14 relations at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.

That view is seconded by Amanda Nycz, director of career services at St. Norbert College in De Pere, and Linda Peacock-Landrum, who holds the same position at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“This past year we’ve definitely seen an increase in hiring. There have been more job postings and an increased presence (of employers) at job fairs,” Peacock-Landrum said.

St. Norbert senior Emily Collins, 21, who graduates today, said classmates who’ve gotten jobs give her hope.

“I think the jobs are out there as long as you are doing your part and looking for them,” Collins said. “It’s really helpful to at least have a little plan.”

Technical college graduates find jobs quicker than graduates of four-year schools, mostly because they often are training for specific jobs. And more of their students are older and have some work experience.

Mark Hickman will graduate Monday from NWTC. Hickman, 54, was a warehouse foreman at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay when he was laid off in September 2010.

“I always preached to my workers to keep your skills fresh,” he said.

Taking his own advice, he entered NWTC’s two-year supply chain management program, which he completed in a year and a half.

He was hired by The Manitowoc Co., where he is a warehouse supervisor.

“The manager said he hired me because I had 30 years’ work experience and I upgraded my skills. He said that was the key ingredient,” he said.

Networking remains one of the best tools for finding jobs, Nycz said.

“This is my sixth professional job. Every single one, I knew someone at the place I ended up working,” she said.

Up to 70 percent of jobs are gotten through knowing someone, Nycz said.

Social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, internships and job fairs all are ways to network.

Peacock-Landrum said some companies will post openings on LinkedIn or through other networks, but not their websites.

Collins interned at one company where she interviewed and has another coming up where at least one employee is a St. Norbert College grad.

“It makes it much more comfortable to know someone is there to help you,” she said.

Job availability is across the board; manufacturing, engineering, information technology and health care are among the leaders.

“We have a high need from employers for computer science grads,” Nycz said. “They are looking at people with high technical skills, who have that critical thinking.”

One of the few subjects to cross the divide in this supercharged political climate is the need for more qualified manufacturing employees. The administrations of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, are quick to tout the advantages of manufacturing careers.

“It’s about educating the general work force that manufacturing is a viable career and it’s right here in our backyard,” Pigeon said.

The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday released an analysis of wages and benefits of manufacturing workers that found that total hourly compensation for manufacturing workers is 17 percent higher than for nonmanufacturing workers.

“I don’t think students understand what’s available for them in manufacturing, and the support roles are fewer. I think that’s why our students don’t think immediately about manufacturing,” Peacock-Landrum said.

Nycz said middle management jobs are increasing, as are sales and marketing opportunities.

Other areas of growth include environmental and energy jobs, logistics and supply chain management, heavy equipment operation and diesel repair.

“Construction does seem to be coming back as well. I had two employers this week contact me about construction students,” Pigeon said.

From “Retired State Patrol trooper now works at counselor” — Lee McMenamin reached a professional crossroads a few years ago.

McMenamin, 55, retired from a 25-year career with the Wisconsin State Patrol in August 2008.

What McMenamin, of Bloomer, saw during his years in law enforcement prompted him to pursue a second challenging career instead of riding off into the sunset and relaxing in retirement.

“It’s an honorable profession, and it’s something that needs to be done,” McMenamin said of law enforcement. “I loved every job I had with the State Patrol. I never had a bad day with the State Patrol.”

But during his later years as a law enforcement professional, “I was left with a feeling, ‘What is it all about? What did I accomplish?’ I was left with kind of an empty feeling as far as a career,” he said.

“I realized most of what law enforcement is dealing with is people with alcohol or drug addictions. With most crimes, the thread almost always gets back to somebody dealing with an addiction.”

The alcohol and other drug abuse counselors he met during his law enforcement career impressed him.

“You know, I thought that was something I could do,” he said.

In August 2008, McMenamin enrolled in Chippewa Valley Technical College’s two-year alcohol and other drug abuse associate program.

“I was retired a couple days before I became a full-time student. I became the old guy in the back of the classroom,” McMenamin said.

Even though McMenamin never had a defining “aha moment,” he said he had been thinking about this career possibility for a few years before retiring from the State Patrol.

“The longer I was involved with law enforcement, the more I was convinced these were good people dealing with a disease,” McMenamin said of those with drug and alcohol addictions who get into trouble. “I felt a need to explore what it is that keeps otherwise good people from being law-abiding citizens.”

Gail Kinney, chairwoman of the college’s AODA associate program, said McMenamin – who now works as an inpatient AODA counselor at L.E. Phillips Libertas Center in Chippewa Falls – was not an atypical student.

When 40 new students enter the program each fall, only one or two are 18- or 19-year-olds fresh out of high school. The vast majority are older, usually ranging in age from the mid-20s to the mid-50s, Kinney said.

Students share a common motivation.

“The common thread is most people in this world have been touched by addiction, and that piques their desire to keep it from happening to others,” Kinney said.

The program’s difficulty surprised McMenamin.

“The number of people who start and finish the program … there’s a big gap there,” he said. “But the training has to be hard. It’s dealing with a disease that’s very cunning. It’s devastating and blunt.”

Kinney admitted the program is difficult.

Addiction is a brain disease, and students must understand the workings of the brain and the drugs involved, she said.

“Some students find it wasn’t what they thought it was,” Kinney said. “There’s other things we have to know than just talking to people. The rigor of the program is higher than most people think.”

Addiction changes the brain, Kinney said. “It’s not as simple as, ‘Haven’t you learned your lesson?’ Addiction takes everything from you before it takes your life.”

Kinney is not surprised at how quickly McMenamin adapted to his new career.

“Lee was an exceptional student. He was hired as a counselor before he even graduated from this program,” she said.

McMenamin has the right mindset for this profession, she said.

“He’s had an appropriate dose of humility,” she said. “He’s always had that attitude, ‘There’s something new to learn here.’ We all think we know something about addiction.”

As a CVTC student, McMenamin served internships with the Fahrman Center in Eau Claire and the St. Croix County Department of Human Services.

After graduating in May 2010, McMenamin first worked for Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. His primary client was the Eau Claire County Drug Court, where he worked as a counselor for a year.

Drug Court works with criminal offenders who have drug or alcohol addictions. Offenders can reduce their incarceration time by successfully completing the court’s treatment program.

“These are good people who need another chance,” McMenamin said. “I don’t know how many chances that is, but they deserve it.”

The Drug Court team, which consists of criminal justice, treatment and social services professionals, “truly get it that second, third and fourth chances are the key,” he said.

Seventy to 80 percent of Eau Claire County Jail inmates have some type of connection with drugs or alcohol, Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer said.

Some who get in legal trouble realize their issues with substance abuse and can correct their problems on their own, Cramer said. “Unfortunately, we see some of the same people over and over again who do not self-correct.”

Drug Court has shown some success, “but it’s a long road,” he said. “I know people who slip and fall and have to start all over again.”

McMenamin believes education and treatment for criminal offenders with addictions is at least as important as incarceration.

There are sanctions for participants who aren’t successful with Drug Court, but the bottom line is treating the addiction, he said.

“I understand punishment is sometimes necessary, but I truly believe it can’t stand alone,” he said. “If we successfully treat the disease upfront, we won’t spend as much money as a society on incarceration.”

Drug Court coordinator Patrick Isenberger said he admired McMenamin’s transition from one challenging career to another.

“It’s fascinating and it’s admirable,” Isenberger said. “He’s doing that for a reason.”

McMenamin said while talking to some of those he arrested over the years, many times he thought, “This is really a nice guy. Either he’s really fooling me or he’s a really nice person who is acting bad for a reason.”

That is when he realized substance abuse was a key consideration for criminal activity, he said.

Cramer hopes initiatives such as Drug Court and the county’s new evidence-based criminal justice approach aimed at addressing each offender individually instead of using a traditional cookie-cutter approach will show dividends.

“Hopefully they will start showing with numbers going down in the jail or in the number of cases we refer to the district attorney’s office,” the sheriff said.

With the State Patrol, McMenamin started as a trooper for Dunn and Chippewa counties and worked his way through the ranks as a sergeant, training instructor, lieutenant, chief of personnel, deputy commander and then finally commander of two of five of the State Patrol’s regional districts.

McMenamin was married to State Trooper Deborah McMenamin, who was killed in 1989 after she pulled over a car for speeding on Interstate 94 near Eau Claire and a passing van drifted onto the right side of the road, striking her patrol car and then hitting her. She was 31.

He’s now married to Mona. He has three grown children and nine grandchildren.

As McMenamin worked his way up to one of the State Patrol’s top administrative positions, something kept gnawing at him.

“Law enforcement could have been a struggle for me if I would have let it,” McMenamin said. “But I was a cop that never concerned myself with the final outcome.

“There are some cops who get eaten up by (criminal) sentences,” he said. “Somewhere along the line I shifted toward the philosophy of there’s more to this than the criminal act.”

McMenamin has been working at the Libertas Center since October.

“I came here because it was really one of my targets when I decided to become a counselor. This was the place I really wanted to get to work in,” he said.

“I hear it every day. Patients say, ‘You people treat me so good and with respect,’ ” he said. “We bolster their dignity and self-respect to give them the tools they need to deal with sobriety. It’s a disease, not a lapse in character.”

Law enforcement officials are coming to realize the importance of treatment and education, McMenamin said.

“They’re getting there,” he said. “And as a taxpayer, we should all be on board with treatment and education instead of incarceration. It just costs less.”

From “Walker announces 3 year, 4 million dollar program for technical colleges” — Governor Scott Walker was in La Crosse announcing a 3 year, 4 million dollar program that will focus on fostering partnerships between Wisconsin technical colleges and employers.

Walker visited Pacal Industries to announce his new “Wisconsin Workforce Partnership Grant.”

He hopes to close the gap between manufacturing jobs and available workers.

“There’s all sorts of issues brought up from employers, but one that’s frequently brought up is employers saying ‘In my business I’ve got jobs, I just don’t have enough bodies to fill them,’” said Walker.

Any Wisconsin technical college will be able to apply for a grant. Applications will be able to be submitted March 22nd through May 9th.

Democrat party chair Vicki Burke says that this grant is making colleges jump through hoops when they shouldn’t have to. She believes Walkers grant announcement is a campaign stunt.

“He comes with these little programs so he can make an appearance and get some publicity out of it. To me it seems like a campaign visit,” said Burke.

Western Technical College in La Crosse plans on sending in an application. After talking to president of the college Lee Rasch, he says that they plan on submitting a more regional application to get the best results.

“We’ll put a regional application together. It’ll be a solid one. The announcement today is good news, we’re glad to have that opportunity,” said Rasch.

The Covenant Foundation will select award application winners based on how many degree holders will result, how many jobs will be created, and how aggressive the employer proposals are among other criteria set by Wisconsin Covenant Foundation.

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From “Stoughton Trailers growth could indicate US is recovering from recession” — BRODHEAD — Some people think Stoughton Trailers is a canary in the economic coalmine.

“If you look at our history, sometimes we’re leading into an economic downturn,” President Bob Wahlin said, “but sometimes we’re leading out of that same downturn.

“We hope that’s the case.”

Stoughton Trailers laid off hundreds of workers at it Brodhead, Evansville and Stoughton plants in the early stages of the recession. Now, it’s hiring.

While the downturn of the last few years has been unprecedented, Wahlin sees production and manufacturing coming back on a national level.

“As that happens, trucking picks up; people are more aggressive in replacing their fleet, and consumer confidence picks up, (which means) more freight to move,” he said.

“Hopefully, the trailer industry picking up is a sign of greater success happening,” he said.

Stoughton Trailers is receiving orders from companies gearing up for the next shipping season of summer into fall and the holidays. The increase means a ramp-up in hiring at Stoughton Trailers, but Wahlin said he doesn’t want to give the impression that everything is great.

The company, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, manufactures conventional and intermodal transportation equipment. Intermodal domestic freight transport uses containers that can be moved between rail and truck.

Stoughton’s main product is the dry van, which is the box-and-chassis combination that makes up the box-shaped semitrailers commonly seen on the highway.

The Brodhead plant, where standard fleet trailers are produced, was built for speed and efficiency, Wahlin said.

The Evansville plant builds a redesigned intermodal container and chassis.

The company’s corporate headquarters and a trailer manufacturing facility are in Stoughton. The company is hiring for shop floor positions at all three locations.

The downturn

Stoughton Trailers’ last peak was in about 2006, when the company employed 1,200.

By the end of 2008 and into 2009, “the trailer industry more or less stopped,” Wahlin said.

Trailer sales dropped more than 85 percent from the recent peak.

“That’s not just the Stoughton Trailers trailer. That’s industrywide,” he said. “With that type of drop, things just shut off. We had to reduce in the short term like never before.”

The company only had enough work for about 250 people.

“We don’t expect things to be that bad again,” he said, noting that those were unprecedented times.

Stoughton has been steadily building back up since 2009. At the end of 2010, the workforce was a little under 500, and the number grew to 800 by the end of last year.

By the end of summer, Wahlin said the company hopes to have 925 to 950 workers.

“Hopefully we can continue that ramp-up path, and things are looking positively for us to do that, but right now we can only commit to adding that many positions,” he said.

When the economy took a dive worldwide, people stopped buying and tried to squeeze another year or two out of their equipment, he said.

“Part of what’s driving the current demand is now that’s catching up with people,” he said. “That coupled with freight tonnages is trending very positively, and companies are ready to get back into their usual equipment replacement cycles, and in fact, most of them have some catching up to do.”

Stoughton is filling orders for Family Dollar now and does a lot of work for UPS and larger fleets seen on the road. The company also works with all kinds of decaling seen on the sides of trailers.

The company redesigned its container built in Evansville to compete with overseas companies. Because it’s a new product, orders aren’t consistent yet, he said.

After reopening the plant last year, the company shut it down after Christmas until now. Most of the workforce was diverted to the Brodhead and Stoughton plants.

“We’re doing everything we can to re-enter that market (of containers),” he said. “It’s still a very difficult environment.”

A ‘healing process’

In response to earlier stories about Stoughton Trailers, some current and former employees complained on The Gazette’s website,, about working conditions and what they claimed was a lack of respect for workers.

Wahlin said downsizing a company from 1,200 people to 250 is painful for everybody.

“We’re still healing from what happened the last few years,” he said.

The company tries to bring back workers who were laid off, but Wahlin said some have gone in other directions, he noted.

Stoughton Trailers is working on changing its culture, he said.

“That’s not an easy thing to do—not something that happens overnight,” he said.

Management took advantage of the downturn to educate and train its workforce, particularly managers, he said. Classes in lean manufacturing, leadership, ergonomics, safety, quality, “you name it” were held, many at the plant through a partnership with Madison Area Technical College.

The manufacturer also has “significantly increased” its automation and use of robotics in the last few years.

“It’s a physical job, hard work, and our employees work very, very hard,” he said. “That type of environment may not be for everybody.”

A normal week for plant workers is 40 hours, but orders have forced overtime because the company doesn’t want to hire too many workers too soon, Wahlin said.

Restoring pay and benefits cut during the recession also is a priority. The company has been increasing benefits “periodically as conditions continue to improve” and is “getting close” to pay increases for many shop floor employees, he said.

From “Man keying into new career” —  

“If you want to change your life then do it, but you have to realize it’s hard work.”

That’s what Gerald Terrones, owner of TurtleCreek Computers, said about his odyssey following a manufacturing layoff at age 59. Terrones graduated with honors from Blackhawk Technical College 10 years ago, earning his certificate to be a computer service technician, and recently started his own business.

The lifelong Beloiter, now 69 years old, has seven grandkids and a great grandchild waiting to be born. The student of life shared the story behind his business while dispensing sage therapy for those suffering from unemployment or the workplace blues.

In Terrones’ earlier years, he worked at various manufacturing plants as a machine operator and occasionally a foreman. However, he watched most of the plants he worked for slam their doors shut, including Beloit Corporation, and manufacturers in Sharon and Rockford. The final blow was when Terrones was laid off from yet-another employer at age 59.

He suspects it may have stemmed from an impending hip replacement. Despite the stress of the incident, Terrones considers the layoff the best thing that ever happened to him.

At the time, Terrones said he couldn’t afford to retire and approached the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board at the Rock County Job Center in Janesville. He tried job hunting, but suspects his age may have been working against his chances.

“This old guy walks in and they are probably wondering ‘how long is this guy going to work for us?” he said.

Staff at the Job Center referred him to computer service technician program offered at Blackhawk Technical College (BTC) and helped him cover the tuition and books for one year.

Terrones admits going back to school was a huge undertaking, and he had to retrain his brain. Shortly after he started school he found a full-time job in manufacturing in Stoughton, but decided to keep attending school anyway. He said his wife, Jan, was a tremendous supporter, and expressed gratitude for his teachers at BTC.

“I can’t thank them enough. They don’t tell you the answer, they make you work for it,” he said.

And he was working for it a lot. In the laboratory, instructors doled out parts to make computers, while requiring massive amounts of homework, tests and worksheets.

“I’m not saying it was fun, but it was interesting,” he said.

Although he said not too many kids hung around the ‘old man,’ he did find a few buddies only a decade younger than him. However, some had families and Terrones had to bid them farewell.

Terrones continued to stumble upon fellow soldiers in the trenches of post-manufacturing struggles. He fondly recalled a man he knew from Beloit Corporation who he found working as a nurse, when he finally got the looming hip replacement.

Launching his fledgling business was a struggle, as he attempted to do it while still working full-time. It pretty frustrating because he would miss computer service calls while at work. And by the time he got home, customers had found someone else to nurse their computers.

Terrones was finally able to retire from his full-time job at age 65 to devote himself fully to his business.

“Every year it’s progressively gotten better,” he said.

Terrones’ customer base grew and he attracted senior clients, who he said relate to him. He often trains them on the latest software and e-mail options available in the comfort of their own home, without exorbitant prices or judgment. He can transfer documents to new computers and can keep it under wraps if someone is still an outdated software package. He provides repairs, upgrades and virus removal.

“My number one priority is customer service,” Terrones said.

In the past three years he’s built 11 custom built computers for seniors, students and even gamers. He’s built a solid base of 50 customers, but is always scouting for more.

He said the house calls are popular for people who don’t want to unplug their computer and lug it in for service. He’ll help people make a simple repair for a much lower price than the teams at big box stores. He takes a conservative approach, opting for a simple fix rather than pushing a pricey purchase. He also prides himself on fast turnaround. If a students has to start college or get to a term paper, he’s been known to perform a miracles in short order.

“I’m very fussy. My wife thinks I’m a fanatic, and it’s probably true,” he said.

Terrones said he’s pleased with the new life he’s created. He enjoys his business and also moonlights as a crossing guard at an elementary school.

“I am busy, and I don’t like my life any other way,” he said.

He admits his journey was very difficult, but having survived it has made it all the more satisfying.

“The end result makes it really good,” he said.

The fit and spry sage encourages younger folks to pursue something they love while they still have the time, although he cautioned against obtaining education for jobs which don’t exist anymore.

“Think about a change, but it has to be the right change,” he said.

For other more mature people who are out of work, he gives a clarion call to action.

“Just don’t give up and stay home when you are laid off. Be ready to make a change,” he said.

From “Milton woman hopes sticky stuff can be a career” — MILTON — Connie Hilton is one of those lucky people. She has found the thing she loves to do.

In her case, it’s creating things with duct tape and teaching others how to do the same.

Now, all she has to do is figure out a way to make money at it.

She’s already part of the way there. She teaches classes in duct tape design for Blackhawk Technical College, which also is where she’s going to school to learn how to run a business.

How does she love duct tape? Let her count the ways:

— Versatility—”You can do basically anything with it,” Hilton said as she showed visitors around her 10-by-10-foot basement workroom.

— Speed—Unlike many crafts, it doesn’t take long to finish a duct tape project.

— Durability—It will stand up to a lot of punishment, although it is a lot heavier than cloth, she admits.

— Ease of repair—”Just slap on another piece of duct tape.”

— Variety—Duct tape has come a long way since it was first used to seal ammunition cases in World War II. The variety of colors and patterns is amazing.

Hilton will travel to Walmart, Target or Michaels craft store to obtain colors that are made exclusively for those stores. Her most-used color is the traditional gray, because it’s by far the cheapest. She often uses it to line the insides of handbags.

Her favorite place to buy tape is Dave’s Ace Hardware in Milton because it’s close, the prices are competitive, and she likes to support a local business, she said.

Yes, she’s quite familiar with the cult favorite Canadian TV comedy “Red Green,” in which duct tape figures prominently.

No, she has never fixed a duct with duct tape.

Hilton gets ideas from books and YouTube videos, but she creates her own patterns, cutting them on a board designed to cut fabric squares for quilts.

“I do it my own way,” she said as she showed her visitors how she can take a zip-locking bag, cut it down to size and surround it with a dragon-pattern duct tape, soon producing a zip-locked coin purse.

She’s been doing needlepoint and other crafts for years. About a year ago, she interviewed for the position of craft instructor at the Hidden Valley RV Resort in Newville.

She needed a quick demonstration, so she made something with duct tape. She got the job and had the best time teaching vacationers.

She later got a steady gig teaching the senior citizens at The Gathering Place in Milton. One project involved multicolored duct-tape poinsettias for the Christmas season.

Hilton has become so well known that she rarely goes out in Milton without someone pointing her out as “the duct tape lady.”

“I knew I liked doing it, but until I started doing it last summer down at the campground, I didn’t know that I loved it,” she said. “And who wouldn’t like to do the thing that they love?”

She has worked plenty of jobs, mostly in retail. She was laid off from Lab Safety Supply, giving her the opportunity to do what she always wanted to do: go back to school. She’s one semester away from an associate degree in business.

Hilton is not the first person to make flowers and handbags with duct tape. But she hopes to make a career out of it. She’s hoping to provide entertainment at children’s parties and teach crafts. She also sells her creations on, a website that specializes in helping people sell homemade wares.

Most of the things she makes are containers—purses and all manner of handbags. She designed one to protect her Kindle, one for her laptop computer.

She also makes flip-flop house slippers, wall art and fantastical flowers.

“Every project that I make is something new. Every project I make, I’m excited about it,” she said.

Hilton also gets a kick out of teaching adults as well as children.

“I am a student, and I need this job. But I also want to do it. I really want people to learn,” she said.

Hilton’s crafty ways with duct tape also have become her solution to the age-old problem: the high cost of accessorizing. She always has a purse that matches what she is wearing, she said.

And if she doesn’t, she can quickly make one.

From “BTC proposing education center to fight ‘skills gap’ cited by employers” — JANESVILLE — A shortage of qualified workers could be the main hindrance for Rock County employers who’ve indicated that they plan to expand their operations or introduce new products in the near future.

That’s an early finding of a two-year survey of local companies by Rock County 5.0, a five-year public/private economic development initiative designed to reposition and revitalize the county’s economy.

“The same things we’re hearing locally about the skills gap is what we’re reading about nationally,” said James Otterstein, Rock County’s economic development manager.

Since early 2010, Rock County 5.0 has been meeting with the leaders of 100 county companies who employ more than 10,000 people. The goal has been to compile as much information as possible about industry needs for both the short and long terms.

A final report will be issued early next year, but Otterstein said Friday the findings are becoming clear: Growth and expansion is planned but only if employers can recruit workers with the needed technical skills.

Blackhawk Technical College is aware of the skills gap and is working to reduce it, BTC President Tom Eckert said Friday at a meeting of local employers.

The session’s purpose was to get employers’ input on their workforce needs and how BTC can help.

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From “Outlook for Brokaw mill employees not all bad” —  BROKAW — Many of Wausau Paper’s 450 workers in Brokaw have skills that will help them find new work after the mill closes March 31, local economists say.

The Mosinee-based papermaker announced Wednesday that it is selling its premium print and color paper division to Neenah Paper and closing the Brokaw mill.

Dave Eckmann, economic development director for the Marathon County Economic Development Corp., said the challenge is figuring out how to incorporate the laid-off workers into other industries. Many of the mill’s workers — machinists, for example — have skills that would make them candidates for jobs in other manufacturing sectors, such as metal fabrication, he said.

“You will not find a more skilled worker than you will in a paper plant, because they know how to do a lot of different things,” Eckmann said.

Machinists, millwrights and forklift operators also typically have skills that can be enhanced with additional training at technical colleges in fields such as welding and operating computer-controlled machines used in manufacturing, said Tom Younger, manager of the Marathon County Job Center. Many mill workers have experience operating and repairing machines — skills that are valued and needed at manufacturing businesses, Younger said.

“A lot of businesses might say, ‘He does not know what my business does, but if they are a good worker, we can train them,'” Younger said.

Accountants and salespeople might have to learn new products or accounting systems, but they easily can work for other companies in the same roles, Younger said.


From “Western receives piece of $12.69 million jobs training grant” —  Western Technical College will be able to give extra guidance to dislocated workers transitioning into healthcare programs, thanks to money from a recent federal grant. The three-year $12.69 million grant was awarded to a consortium of seven colleges in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, including Western and two other Wisconsin Technical Colleges.

Western’s $2.1 million share of the “Bridges2Healthcare” grant will be used to create pathways and bridges for student success as they enter the healthcare field. The college hopes that redesigned student services and developmental education made possible by the funds will lead to better retention and achievement rates.

Some of Western’s specific goals include expanding classroom access within several healthcare career paths, designing a new instructional model for Anatomy and Physiology, and providing more intensive advising, tutoring, and intervention efforts. By September 2014, Western plans to increase the number of certificate and degree holders in areas of Personal Care Workers, Nursing Assistants, Central Service Technicians, Surgical Technologists, Human Service Associates, and Medication Aides.

“These new initiatives wouldn’t be possible without this grant,” said Lee Rasch, Western president. “The funds will allow the college to provide needed training that will open doors into good paying careers in healthcare. Ultimately our entire region will benefit.”

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From “Vets for hire” — Steve Robinson, emerging media manager at Core Creative Inc., a Milwaukee-based advertising agency, joined the Army National Guard in 1999 because he saw the military as an opportunity to learn new skills and broaden his horizons.

“I wanted to round out my experiences,” Robinson said. “I saw it as an opportunity to grow and push myself in new ways.”

Robinson is one of the 1.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have returned to the United States since the conflicts began, according to the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The United States will pull out all 45,000 troops remaining in Iraq by Dec. 31 and plans a drawdown in Afghanistan by 2014.

A new generation of soldiers is returning home and will be looking to transfer the skills they have learned in the military to the local workforce in a dismal economy.

The unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans is 12.1 percent, and the Obama administration is making job retraining programs for veterans a key priority.


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