From “Number of employers up at CVTC job fair” — Employers and potential employees got the chance to connect Wednesday thanks to a career fair held at CVTC.

More than 70 employers were on hand for the fair that was held for CVTC students and alumni. The technical college says the number of employers at the fair has increased from past years pointing to more growth in the number of jobs available in the Chippewa Valley.

Manager of Student Services Grants & Operations Natti Marlaire told us they’re “up 16 employers more than we’ve had in the past, which shows that the economy is bouncing back. Employers are specifically looking for CVTC grads, looking for the skilled worker, and it’s a great opportunity to match our business industry needs by matching them up with students who will be graduating. “

CVTC says 87% of its graduates find jobs related to their field after graduation.

From “Skilled trades workers needed for new construction projects” — Sun Prairie — Everywhere you look new construction is popping up all over the place in Wisconsin.

While the boom in business is good for the economy, it’s turning into a problem for contractors like Dan Duren.

“Right now, we have people to draw from but we are fighting over those people we have,” said Duren.

He’s the owner of Duren Custom Builders, and has homes to build but not enough skilled tradesmen to work on them.

“There’s concrete work, foundation work, flat work, roofers, siders, insulators, electricians, plumbers, HVAC guys, there’s a whole list,” said Duren.

He’s not the only one on the hunt. Wednesday on Craiglist there were dozens of similar postings. Meantime, at Madison Area Technical College, remodeling instructor John Stephany’s phone is ringing off the hook.

“I already had over a third of our students hired and was fielding calls daily,” said Stephany.

He says the uptick is due to low interest rates, and people deciding to move forward with homes. However, many skilled workers turned in their tool belts during the recession, and now people like Duren are feeling the impact.

“It’s the young guys coming in, the young blood coming into the workforce we’re lacking on,” said Duren.

According to MATC this trend is also happening in other parts of the country like Texas, and Florida, something they believe will only grow in the coming months.


From “Welding Boot Camp creates skilled workers”  — There’s a boot camp taking place in Fond du Lac, Wis. – one that doesn’t require boot shining, marching and bivouacs, though you do have to wear a helmet and other gear and follow instructions.

This particular group of “recruits” is firing welding torches. Along with Brenner Tank LLC of Fond du Lac, Moraine Park Technical College developed a Welding Boot Camp to train individuals for entry-level work in the welding profession. The first eight-week camp began June 18 and ran through August 15; a second seven-week round will start in September. All participants earn four college credits that articulate into Moraine Park’s welding program.

“Brenner Tank formed the partnership with Moraine Park in an effort to maintain our competitive edge,” said Dawn Marie Polakoski, PHR, Brenner Tank’s human resources manager. “ Moraine Park’s custom training program is providing the skilled welders we need to support our continued growth. As a local manufacturer, we are very pleased with the creation of the Welding Boot Camp.”

While built in conjunction with Brenner Tank, the program was designed with the broader purpose of helping manufacturers address a serious shortage of skilled welders and is open to any manufacturing employer who may have similar workforce development needs. The program works to connect energetic, dedicated individuals with a sincere interest in a welding career with employers by helping those individuals develop the foundational skills needed to be successful. Ten candidates were selected by Brenner Tank for the first boot camp. Their ages varied but their passion for welding is the same.

Sara Buechel, 18, of New Holstein, Wis., applied because she enjoys welding and wanted to get further education in the profession. Joel Grier of Fond du Lac, also 18, also wanted to learn more about welding and be able to get a good job. Daniel O’Connor, 36, of Fond du Lac sees the Welding Boot Camp as an opportunity to better himself and have a shot at a new career move. And, the camp is a chance to expand job opportunities at Brenner for Forrest Brunet, 42, of North Fond du Lac.

Brenner Tank interns are paid to train three days per week at the welding lab on Moraine Park’s Fond du Lac campus under the instruction of adjunct faculty member Jonathan Thill. For the remaining two days of the week, they work at Brenner, where they apply the skills they learn in the classroom. Tuition is employer-paid. The Brenner Tank interns who successfully complete the program are given priority consideration for a permanent position with Brenner.

“We’re very excited to be partnering with Brenner Tank,” said Kathy Schlieve, Moraine Park economic and workforce development sales representative. “They have been instrumental in helping Moraine Park develop this program and are actively working with area high schools to educate students about career opportunities in manufacturing. Welding interns who successfully complete the boot camp are filling open or new positions and are earning a better wage. Moraine Park’s goal is to provide the type of rapid response that companies need to develop and maintain a competitive advantage and grow their business, and the Welding Boot Camp delivers on that goal.”

Polakoski concurs, “This program is a win-win that meets our needs as an employer but also helps the individuals being trained to begin earning a good wage while developing lifelong career skills that they can build on for future career advancement.”

With additional training, the opportunities that exist for these individuals abound.

“Manufacturing has become very high-tech and offers a variety of career opportunities,” said Marcia Arndt, Moraine Park dean of manufacturing technology. “The future workforce has to be technologically savvy to handle the competitive climate of the global market. In addition to technical skills, employers are looking for people who can problem-solve, work in teams and adapt to change quickly. Moraine Park’s manufacturing program helps individuals develop these skills for future success.”

For more information about upcoming welding boot camps in Fond du Lac, call Moraine Park at 920-924-3449 or e-mail


From “Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College puts students to work” — Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College is saying “Let’s Get to Work!”

Companies from throughout Twin Ports visited the college to collect resumes and give advice to eager students.

With graduation just around the corner, the college held a job fair to help students transition into the real world.

“They’re starting to think about how to land that first job…we have a number of workshops on how to tie a tie, how to do an interview, and a whole bunch of other topics,” says Bob Meyer, President of WITC.

“It helps me a lot because in my profession cosmetology you want to always look your best, look professional,” says Chenoa Quam, student at WITC.

Meyer says the high demand for skilled workers in Northland states was one of the major reasons “Let’s Get to Work” was created.

“There’s a high demand for skilled workers in Wisconsin and in Minnesota even in the Dakotas with all the drilling for natural gas and oil out there…huge demand for welders, machinists, and of course with the baby boomers retiring there’s also a lot of demand in health occupations,” Meyer adds.

Employers have seen the benefits of attending the fair by finding their next crop of workers.

“We have about a 91 percent placement rate. It’s been pretty much at that level all through the recession,” says Meyer.

And with such a high success rate, businesses like this one, keep coming back.

“Oh we’ve been attending this for a number of years,” says Sandi Wade, a nurse at Interim Healthcare.

And with good reason. Interim Health Care has experienced the advantages of the attending the fair, first hand.

“What’s nice about coming here is they have a nursing program so the nurses that are graduating may apply with us and…we have had students in past years that have applied for us and are still working with us, “Wade continues.

WITC filled the students with career guided information then filled their stomachs with a spaghetti lunch.

The final event showcased a panel of HR employees giving tips on how to make a lasting impression.

42 Twin Ports companies attended the fair.


From “Growing Weld Fixture Design and Build Company Takes Part in Efforts to Close Manufacturing Skills Gap in Wisconsin” —  On March 13, 2013 Governor Scott Walker signed the bill known as “Wisconsin Fast Forward”. This bill is designed to address the skills shortage in the state’s manufacturing workforce and will better link employers and job seekers. This bill will allow Rentapen Inc., a weld fixture tooling company to hire skilled workers with the right education.

Rentapen Inc., a Machine Tool Design Company and Manufacturer of precision metal shims is just one of several manufactures helping with the effort to get the word out that jobs in manufacturing provide job security and require extensive skills. According to manufacturers, there is a large disconnect in Wisconsin between the workforce and the number of skilled workers ready to fill positions.

According to the panel of speakers at the New Faces of Manufacturing Summit hosted by Waukesha County Business Alliance, 68% of manufacturers reported a lack of talent or skills in the manufacturing industry. High school students and college freshman, who have not determined a major, do not think about manufacturing. When they do think of manufacturing, they think of it as dirty and made up of people who are low income and lower skilled.

Rentapen Inc. has been a member of the Waukesha County Business Alliance for almost two years and has been affected first hand by the skills gap. Recently, Rentapen Inc. has joined the “Dream It Do It” Marketing Action Team. This action team is made up of individuals around South-Eastern Wisconsin, and is dedicated to lessening the skills gap.

Rentapen Inc. has found that some of the most skilled workers are graduating from technical colleges. Rentapen has hired over 5 individuals from Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) alone; these students have started as interns and have excelled and been retained.

“It’s exciting to be in manufacturing right now. We are in a busy and growing industry. Finding, training, and maintaining good talent is key to being competitive in the global marketplace,” said Susan Straley, President of Rentapen. “We are pleased to have the support of the College, and the State in helping manufacturers succeed in Wisconsin.”

The second part of the bill that Governor Walker signed creates a workforce training grant program at the Department of Workforce Development. This grant program will be used to leverage additional private dollars to help both new and current employees to acquire additional job trainings skills. The bill, coined “Wisconsin Fast Forward,” creates a website that uses real-time job data to match employers and potential workers, provides $15 million in state funds for worker training grants and creates an Office of Skills Development within the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to help provide specific training for employers who need workers with specific skills.

Rentapen Inc. and many other manufacturing companies are struggling to find skilled workers to fill a variety of positions because the education that people are getting does not fit the skills needed in the actual working environment. Individuals are taking courses to receive a 4-year diploma but are not attaining the correct skills needed to excel in the work place.

“One problem is, parents and adults are pushing students to get degrees in subjects that do not necessarily prepare them for jobs that actually exist in the market,” said Nicole Thies, Marketing Coordinator. “There is a large amount of history majors, political scientists and lawyers than is needed in the workforce. At the same time, the average high schools do not have a manufacturing class or a program designed to teach about a CNC operator. There is also need for machinists and welders; these courses are not offered or encouraged in a lot of high schools throughout the state and the nation.”

Manufacturing is one of the fastest growing industries like nursing, retail and food service. The manufacturing sector is aging. Within the next five years a new generation of workers will need to have the skills and experience to take over for the generation that is leaving. Companies are trying to deal with the hundreds of years of experience that will be walking out the door in the next five to ten years. There may not be thousands of new jobs, but there will be thousands of openings, and Wisconsin does not have the skill sets to fill in.

From “Changing economy means embracing continual learning” — More than two decades working as a bricklayer was enough for Mark Vander Velden.

When construction activity dried up during the recession, it became more clear to Vander Velden he needed a career switch, but at 50 he wondered if learning new skills for a new career was still possible.

“I haven’t been in a classroom since high school so it was a little nerve-wracking to even think about going back,” said Vander Velden, who lives outside Hortonville.

Vander Velden checked out Fox Valley Technical College in 2011 and hasn’t looked back. He enrolled in the electromechanical program that year and expects to graduate this fall.

Vander Velden said he’s best at hands-on learning, which is a big part of the program he selected.

“It was great to be learning about all the different kinds of programming controllers and hydraulic systems I could potentially be working with,” he said.

Workforce training

Vander Velden isn’t alone. The median age of FVTC’s students are in their early 30s, which means the college serves many people like Vander Velden who want to update current job skills or try a different career, said Chris Matheny, vice president of instructional services at FVTC.

Matheny said keeping workers’ skills updated is the college’s ongoing mission and with the business environment in constant flux, the college also must be in regular communication with the community to ensure its programs are meeting regional needs.

“Our purpose really is to make sure that we’re always talking to our employers and get out as much as possible to ensure we’re giving them the skilled workers they need,” Matheny said.

Matheny said FVTC has advisory groups it regularly consults with to keep its programs up to date.

Appleton-based Miller Electric Mfg. Co. is one of its business partners. Miller has worked with FVTC on a variety of training programs for its own workers and on initiatives to enhance manufacturing training for other regional employers.

“A well-trained workforce is a competitive advantage that differentiates us from other global companies and prevents us from experiencing significant skill gaps due to future retirements of our baby boomers and to meet our future growth requirements,” said Mike Weller, president of Miller Electric.


From “Education fair to promote technical jobs” — GRAND RAPIDS — For Scott Stanczyk, losing his job at the Whiting paper mill when the facility closed its doors in 2010 provided the incentive he needed to pursue a new career path.

Now in his last semester of the renewable thermal energy technician program at Mid-State Technical College, Stanczyk said his love for the outdoors and the environment gave him the opportunity to reinvent himself.

“The economy was terrible when they first shut the doors, and the job outlook was pretty tough, so I needed to do something,” he said. “I was glad to have the opportunity to take this course and have some support from our government as a dislocated worker. It’s been a great experience here at Mid-State.”

It’s experiences like Stanczyk’s that workforce development leaders hope to share with a new generation of students in a world of changing perceptions about the relevance and role of the technical and industrial sector. It’s for that reason that Mid-State Technical College is hosting its second annual Technical and Industrial Education Fair from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. today at its Wisconsin Rapids campus.

“This is a great opportunity to explore technical educational and apprenticeship programs that lead to great careers with excellent pay,” said Gary Kilgas, associate dean for the college’s Technical and Industrial Division, which is organizing the event.

Designed to benefit high school students seeking to advance their education, individuals looking to expand their skill set or retrain for a new career, as well as parents and friends, the event will provide them with an opportunity to tour facilities and engage in a variety of individual technical program demonstrations, according to an MSTC news release.

There are opportunities in south Wood County for people who want to work in fields such as industrial mechanics, instrumentation and controls, engineering technology and welding, said Rick Merdan, a manufacturing facilitator for Workforce Central, a grassroots initiative to help match local employers with the skilled workers they need.

“All of those are very high-demand fields, with people in very good positions, very good jobs coming out of those programs,” Merdan said.

A key part of promoting jobs in the technical and industrial sectors is to change what have become outdated perceptions, especially with an expected increase in the number of such jobs available due to looming retirements, said Bruce Trimble, employer services director for the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board.

“The perception (of technical jobs) has been dumb, dirty and dark, but they’re anything but that,” Trimble said. “If you go into a welding shop, the air is just like if you would walk into an office building.

“It’s about getting people to realize what’s needed and what those actual jobs are like and that those positions pay very good, family-sustaining entry-level wages.”

At Corenso North America, for example, the core board manufacturer has had a couple positions open for a while that company officials have not been able to fill, President Tom Janke said.

“There’s really an immediate need in some areas,” said Janke, who also serves as board chairman for the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce. “This isn’t something that’s necessarily three, four, five, seven years down the road; there’s opportunities for it right now.”

Janke also encouraged those who are thinking about getting into a technical field to seek out the many opportunities available right in south Wood County.

“You don’t have to relocate,” he said. “You don’t have to go to a large city; there are opportunities right here.”

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