From “Rhinelander college gets $1.9 million state grant” — Nicolet Area Technical College was awarded $1.9 million in state grants Tuesday to train up to 303 students for in-demand jobs, such as welding and nursing assistants.

The money comes from about $35 million earmarked to help Wisconsin technical colleges train nearly 5,000 workers for jobs that employers need filled, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said during a stop announcing the grant.

Last week, Northcentral Technical College in Wausau received $2.3 million from the program Gov. Scott Walker calls his “Blueprint for Prosperity” to train another 160 in-demand workers, including for diesel transportation jobs.

Here’s a breakdown of the additional students the money will help at Nicolet Area Technical College: 16 in electromechanical technology, 92 in welding, 30 in computer support specialties, 50 in business management and marketing, 80 in nursing and 35 in early childhood education.

“The college has a long history of working in close partnership with area businesses to determine training needs,” Interim President Kenneth Urban said in a statement. “These grants will directly benefit our students by giving them the exact skills they need to be successful, while businesses in the region will gain a skilled workforce to drive economic development.”


From “Three MSTC students place in statewide skills contest” — Three Mid-State Technical College, or MSTC, students placed in the top three in the respective events at the 41st annual State SkillsUSA Secondary Leadership & Skills Conference, a showcase of career and technical education students. Competitions were held April 29 and 30 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

SkillsUSA, a national nonprofit organization, describes itself as “a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.” A total of eight students from MSTC’s SkillsUSA chapter participated in four events: Hunter Johnson and Aaron Kaczmarek competed in Automotive Service; Mark Cannon, Colin Reffner, and Troy Sobish participated in Precision Machining; Michael Demski and Quinton Kluck competed in CNC Milling; and Tyler Weinfurter participated in Welding.

Kaczmarek finished in first place in Automotive Service, and has qualified to travel to Kansas City, Missouri, to compete in the National Leadership & Skills Conference in June. Reffner and Kluck each placed third in the respective competitions.

MSTC, one of 16 colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System, offers more than 100 associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates. Student-focused and community-based, MSTC serves a resident population of approximately 165,000 in central Wisconsin with campuses in Marshfield, Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids, and a learning center in Adams.

From “Walker: ‘Manufacturing Matters'” — Wisconsin is open for business. Manufacturers are welcome.

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College hosted over 150 people, including Gov. Scott Walker, during a Manufacturing Month event Monday morning, Oct. 21.

“I think manufacturing matters,” Walker told his receptive audience, which included area dignitaries and high school students. “I think it has been a proud part of our state’s history, but more importantly I think it is going to be an even more dynamic part of our state’s future.

“We just got to make sure we have people ready to fill those positions.”

The event was made possible in part due to the efforts of the Southwest Wisconsin Chamber Alliance, a new collaboration of six Chamber of Commerce groups (Dodgeville, Fennimore, Lancaster, Mineral Point, Platteville and Prairie du Chien).

“As an advocate for all of our businesses and communities, we endorse southwest Wisconsin as an economically feasible region to start or relocate a business,” said Southwest Wisconsin Chamber Alliance co-chair Robert Moses. “Our goal for today is to bring a higher level of awareness for the manufacturing opportunities in southwest Wisconsin.”

In his opening remarks, Southwest Tech President Dr. Duane Ford noted several successes the College has enjoyed relating to manufacturing since 2011.

Southwest Tech has increased the number of workers it trains per year by more than 63 percent since 2009. In addition, the College has developed two new programs.

One program assists maintenance technicians to understand how the machines they utilize network with computer systems. The second helps electricians work in specialized environments of dairy and food manufacturing plants.

Ford noted Southwest Tech has benefited from more than $3.93 million in support from 27 different private, state and federal grants.

“What ensures our success is when employers, economies and state governments work in partnership,” he said. “So thank you, manufacturers, and thank you Governor Walker and Secretary [Reggie] Newson, as well as members of the legislature.”

Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) of the 51st Assembly District and Lee Nersion (R-Westby) of the 96th Assembly District were among those in attendance. Jeff Curry attended on behalf of Rep. Travis Tranel, who is currently traveling abroad in Taiwan.

Walker has toured other Wisconsin Technical College System schools this month, where Ford believes the governor has heard similar success stories.

“Southwest Tech’s story is not at all unique,” he said. “All 16 of Wisconsin’s technical colleges are at the heart of workforce, economic and community development within their local districts.

“All 16 listen and respond. All 16 succeed via productive partnerships with numerous private and public stakeholders. And all 16 are this month celebrating successes similar to what you see in southwest Wisconsin.”

Walker proclaimed October as Manufacturing Month to recognize the contributions of the state’s manufacturing employers and workers and to highlight manufacturing as a valuable career pathway.

“Our focus in October is on manufacturing, but really our focus needs to be all year around,” he said Monday morning.

“There are two key industries that drive this state’s economy: one is manufacturing and the other is agriculture.
“There are some great opportunities to grow and expand in that regard.”

Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector contributes nearly $50 billion a year to Wisconsin’s economy and ranks second in the country in the relative size of its manufacturing sector, which employed more than 450,000 workers as of July 2013.

Walker told the audience when it comes to manufacturing in Wisconsin, there are many key areas the state government can help.

“One is lowering the cost of doing business in Wisconsin,” he said. “More often than not, it is just getting out of the way.

Walker noted he signed into law Sunday a property tax relief bill. The two-year, $100 million increase in state school aid is projected to save $13 for the typical homeowner this December.

He also mentioned the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit, which is available for income derived from manufacturing or agricultural property in the state. It will offset a share of Wisconsin income taxes.

In 2016, the credit will increase to 7.5 percent.

“When you lower the cost of doing business, you put money into the hands of people, as consumers, and into the hands of employers,” Walker said. “That makes tremendous business.

“The time is right for us for us, particularly when it comes to manufacturing, to make a case that we have a pretty compelling argument to be in the state of Wisconsin.”

Walker also explained the state aims to become a better partner in the role of education.

“When it comes to manufacturing, one of the things we did, in particular in this budget, is we put funding in so we in the future can start as early as sixth grade, doing academic and career planning,” he said.

The state’s technical colleges will also be counted on to play a role.

“We want to stress when it comes to manufacturing, how important it is to have good technical colleges focused on advanced manufacturing, healthcare and IT, those are the areas with the biggest work shortages in Wisconsin,” he said. “We think filling those positions, and putting more resources in our technical colleges and worker training programs are key to economic growth and ultimately more jobs in the state.”

Walker said some members of his generation are in need of a “wake up call” in regards to the changes in manufacturing.

“If you look in the state of Wisconsin, the average manufacturing job will pay $52,000 a year,” he said. “That’s 25 percent higher than all jobs out there.

“It’s not just a higher salary, 87 percent of all manufacturing jobs have benefits, compared to 72 percent of jobs statewide.”

The turnover rate in manufacturing careers is 4.7 percent, compared to 8.1 percent across all jobs, Walker pointed out.

“Manufacturing is the place, and we need to do a better job of selling that, particularly to schools,” he said. “There is a tremendous need and opportunity out there, and it is only going to get bigger.”

The third and final area Walker indicated the state could assist manufacturing is in infrastructure.

“You need a good transportation system to get product from market,” he said. “That is why we invested $6.4 billion in the state’s transportation system this year.

“Whether you are a manufacturer, whether you are a cheese maker, or a dairy farmer, or anything else, you have got to have a good transportation system. And it has to be in all parts of the state of Wisconsin, not just around the big cities.”

In closing, Walker referenced a voluntary portal for employers to list job openings. Many of the 30,000 to 40,000 jobs listed weekly are manufacturing jobs.

“Consistently, we hear from manufacturers that one of the challenges is not that they don’t have jobs open, they do, the challenge is not having enough training to fill those jobs,” Walker said. “So we got people looking for work over here, and we got jobs over here.

“We need to do more to connect the dots, to make that connection.”

Following his remarks, Walker told the media gathered it is an exciting time to be a young person in Wisconsin, but also an exciting time as Governor, as he tours the state and learns success stories.

“Today is a good example, you have a great crowd here. You have some young people, you have some businesses,” he said. “It is similar to when I was earlier in the year was over at Cabela’s and we saw some of the students involved in the Gold Collar program, and saw the partnerships not just with Cabela’s but other businesses that were partnering with that as well.

“What I like about what you see at Southwest Tech, and you see it at other great technical colleges around the state, is a very real connection between the technical college and employers in that region. And I think that is the key to success.

“We can’t just have people going through courses, whether it is in our technical colleges or for that matter our University of Wisconsin system. We have got to have a focus on, what are the needs, what kind of perspective employees are employers looking for and how do we help make sure there are more?”

From “Service Motor Co. given naming rights to FVTC training center” — A long-time partnership between Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton and Service Motor Company, a Case IH dealership with six locations in eastern Wisconsin, has just gotten stronger. Last week, the school granted SMC naming rights to its recently expanded agriculture training center after a recent $1.1 million gift in the form of scholarships, equipment and financial support.

Company officials said forming another partnership with FVTC made sense–especially since the college passed a $66.5 million public referendum in April of 2012, which included construction of the new 2,800 square foot training center.

“Great education requires the latest technologies,” said SMC President Jim Sommer. “Our support of the college exemplifies its vital role in developing a skilled workforce built on efficiency and innovation.”

SMC is a fifth-generation family owned and operated company that specializes in the sales and service of agricultural, construction, and lawn and garden equipment. In 2010, the company teamed up with Case IH to pledged $15 million in training equipment to FVTC over 10 years. The college uses that equipment to prepare learners in agri-business programs, along with agriculture outdoor power equipment, farm operation, natural resources and horticulture.

“Service Motor Company’s support helps us improve farm management systems in soils, field production, harvesting and more,” notes Mike Cattlelino, an associate dean at FVTC.

Cattlelino adds that over the past five years, 99-percent of the school’s agriculture program graduates earn jobs within six months after graduation.

From “Project Mini Chopper” — It’s hard to believe it has been six years since the inception of Project Mini Chopper.

What started as a casual conversation in 2007 among local employers about the impending worker shortage has grown into an exciting collaboration among The Chamber of Manitowoc County, the Economic Development Corporation of Manitowoc County, Lakeshore Technical College, Manitowoc County school districts and area businesses.

It has been said that the true legacy of a good idea is in its sustainability. Although the economic conditions have changed considerably since 2007, one thing remains the same today as it did six years ago: the concern of having an adequately skilled workforce to sustain the needs of area employers.

This concern makes Project Mini Chopper just as relevant today as it was during its planning stages.

So what is the risk: a worker shortage or a skills gap?

Both. We all know that manufacturing has evolved from its repetitive and often low-skilled roots, to a highly-skilled and technically-agile workforce able to think strategically, solve problems, and work as a team.

The brawn-powered processes of yesteryear are replaced with brain-powered 21st century manufacturing methods with innovative, creative and adaptive prowess.

Gone are the days that a high school diploma (or even the lack of one) is ample qualification for a “factory job,” where you were all but guaranteed a lifetime of employment at a livable wage.

Today, without a post-secondary credential (ranging from an occupational certificate to an advanced degree), career options are severely limited. More than ever, postsecondary training is necessary to acquire the skills necessary to thrive in today’s efficiency-driven manufacturing world.

Project Mini Chopper exists, and continues to flourish, because of the skills gap (the gap between the skills possessed by the workforce and the skills needed by manufacturers).

Its mission is to convey to our youth, parents, and community the importance of acquiring the technical and soft skills needed by area employers, in addition to promoting the challenging opportunities awaiting them in 21st Century manufacturing careers.

Last year, four area companies invested both time and money in the development of our future workforce by sponsoring a Project Mini Chopper team: HMF Finishing sponsoring Two Rivers, Miller Ag-Bag sponsoring Lincoln, LTC sponsoring Valders, and Manitowoc Motor Machining, Eis Implement Inc., School District of Mishicot and Dowco co-sponsoring Mishicot.

Sponsoring companies make more than just a financial investment in their high school team. A company liaison is designated to collaborate on all aspects of the bike, from design to final build, in the process providing valuable professional mentoring throughout the project.

As mentioned earlier, through interaction with the company, school instructor and project committee members students learn important technical skills (mechanical design, welding, painting, electro-mechanical, materials management and procurement, and quality control), as well as the increasingly-important soft skills and management skills (budget, project and time management, teamwork, safety, problem-solving and public speaking).

Thus, Project Mini Chopper provides a well-rounded learning experience that will benefit students regardless of their post-graduation career track.

If you are interested in investing in this project and our future workforce, please call The Chamber, (920) 684-5575.

From “Moraine Park Tech. College’s STRAT program receives national recognition” — It’s developing executive talent in the community, helping to navigate a new economy, aligning talent and engaging a workforce. Moraine Park Technical College’s Strategy, Alignment, Talent (STRAT) program just kicked off its second session and is pleased to announce the honor of receiving the National Council of Instructional Administrators (NCIA) Honorable Mention in the category of Community and Workforce Needs and Partnerships. Moraine Park will be recognized at the awards luncheon of the International Conference on College Teaching and Learning on April 11 in Jacksonville, Fla.

NCIA is an affiliate council of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), dedicated to serving the needs of professionals involved in instructional administration in the community college.

A panel of community college practitioners from across the country evaluated Moraine Park’s STRAT submission and selected it for the recognition. Two submissions in each category are recognized as a winner and honorable mention.

“This is an outstanding recognition to receive and further represents the quality program that STRAT is providing to others,” said Dr. Sheila Ruhland, Moraine Park president.

How does STRAT work? STRAT combines classroom training, experiential learning, practical application and personal coaching to help leaders grow into strategic thinkers to help their business grow. As the business climate continues to change, leaders need to be able to think forward while leading the change in their organization. Developed with input from industry leaders, STRAT provides the necessary training, locally, to help develop the skills leaders need to strategically navigate this new economy. For more information, visit moraine

From “FVTC projects viewed favorably” — GRAND CHUTE — A former student, three representatives from local employers and a public official provided favorable input Tuesday night at a public hearing on seven proposed capital facilities projects being studied by Fox Valley Technical College.

About 30 people attended the public hearing before the FVTC Board of Trustees but only five spoke about the projects estimated to cost from $65 million to $85 million — some or all of which might end up as a referendum on the April 3 ballot.

“One of our greatest challenges as an employer in an ever changing world is finding and retaining a skilled workforce,” said Stephen Kohler, human resources director at Pierce Manufacturing, which employs about 1,800 people in the Fox Valley.

He said FVTC has been a “lockstep partner” and strong advocate for many years, including three years ago when it developed a welding school to help address a severe shortage of skilled welders, with assistance from Miller Electric.

“We couldn’t hire them fast enough,” Kohler said. “So we decided to train our own. We are very pleased.”


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