From “Walker signs bills encouraging more technical education” — Governor Scott Walker visited the Chippewa Valley Technical College to sign bipartisan bills SB 334 and SB331 into law today.

The first one provides scholarships to promising students who are looking go in technical education fields. The second sets up a grant program to help high schools provide more students with advanced technical educational opportunities.

He says there is a tremendous need in our state to train workers for the jobs that are available. Many of those open jobs are in technical fields like IT, health care and manufacturing.

“We want our best and our brightest not only in our four year colleges and universities; we want them in our technical colleges as well” Walker said.

Walker added, “The earlier we start people thinking about those career paths, the earlier we will see what they are good at and plug them that, the more likely they are going to be to fill those positions in the future.”

But we all know education and training is expensive, and that’s where Walker says these grants and scholarship will help bridge the gap.

“That’s not only good for education it’s good for the economy,” said Walker.

SB331 sets up an incentive grant program to have career and technical education programs in high schools. It says schools will get $1000 for each student enrolled in an advanced technical program.

Chippewa Valley President Bruce Barker says he hopes the legislation will also help build more partnerships between high schools and tech colleges across the state.

“The entire technical college system was created to meet the employment and training needs our business and industry that was specific design so programs like this again highlight that partnership,” said Barker.


From “Albrecht testifies before education committee in Washington” — A Congressional hearing on technical education included testimony from Gateway Technical College’s president.

Bryan Albrecht joined three other speakers at the session, hosted by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

The hearing was titled “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: Improving the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.”

The hearing was part of Congressional discussions on renewing the act and its school funding to help with technical and career education.

The committee wanted to explore ways to improve the education programs given that students ages 16 to 19 have a 22 percent unemployment rate nationwide.

Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges and 423 secondary school districts had to split the roughly $20 million in Perkins funds given to the state for fiscal year 2013, Albrecht told the committee.

He said Gateway has used the funds to speed up help for dislocated workers and employees seeking new skills.

Businesses and schools also must work together to improve career and technical education in and after high school, he added. Gateway has joined with Snap-on Inc. and Trane to develop curriculum, training and industry certifications matching those companies’ skill needs, Albrecht said.

He also mentioned Gateway and SC Johnson have developed curriculum based on industry standards as the basis for the college’s boot camp manufacturing program. The boot camp, started at Gateway in fall 2006, is an accelerated program teaching skills in various fields.

He said Perkins money has been used so Gateway instructors could teach their curriculum in advanced engineering, manufacturing and information technology to LakeView Advanced Technology Academy juniors at that academy in the Kenosha Unified School District. Those students can earn between 18 and 40 college credits, giving them a post-secondary head start.

The college also has credit transfer agreements with the 14 high schools in Gateway’s jurisdiction, he added.

Albrecht said there’s been a decline in manufacturing jobs in southeastern Wisconsin, leading parents to encourage their children to study other fields.

A program called “Dream It. Do It.” attempts to explain modern manufacturing jobs to youngsters, he said.

“Numerical control is not standing in front of a lathe all day,” he said. “We have to use new ways of thinking about manufacturing.”


From “Miller Electric Mfg. Co. President Mike Weller recognized for commitment to technical education” — APPLETON  — Miller Electric Mfg. Co. President Mike Weller received the Technical Education Champion Award from the Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association at its summer meeting, recently held in Rice Lake, Wis.

The annual award, granted for outstanding service to a member institution of the Wisconsin Technical College System, recognizes business leaders for their support of area technical schools and partnership in addressing key industry issues. Weller is being recognized for his work with local institution Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC), which has its main campus in Appleton, Wis.

“Mike Weller is more than deserving of this award,” said Dr. Susan May, president of Fox Valley Technical College. “His vision and leadership have contributed toward the economic vitality of our region. Miller represents a business model that is committed to building a world-class workforce, as well as providing quality products that allow other enterprises to thrive.

“More than ever, employers like Miller rely on us for talent development, and working in close partnership allows us to provide extremely relevant programs and services,” said May. “The Wisconsin Technical College System District Boards Association clearly recognizes Mike’s incredible contribution to career and technical education through this prestigious award.”

Among other initiatives, Weller recently served as treasurer and team leader for Friends of FVTC, an advocacy group spearheading support for FVTC’s successful $66.5 million public referendum in 2012. Weller recruited and chaired the 39-member steering committee for the referendum’s proposal to build more than 240,000 square feet of new facilities. The new facilities, located in Appleton, will help meet the school’s growing program enrollment needs.

Weller has led the 30-year Miller-FVTC partnership, including coordination of several million dollars’ worth of welding equipment since 2000. Recent equipment contributed as part of the partnership has been used to establish the school’s Advanced Manufacturing Technical Center, which opened in 2011. The Center enabled FVTC to expand its core welding training programs.

Weller has also served as an adjunct instructor at FVTC, is active in the school’s K-12 engagement programs and is an advocate for Wisconsin technical institutions with the governor’s office.

“Our longstanding partnership with Fox Valley Technical College is a strategic one that I’m very proud of, and I’m honored to accept the Technical Education Champion award,” said Mike Weller, president of Miller. “We understand the labor challenges the industry is facing and we’ve always believed that this kind of direct partnership with a leading technical school can serve as a model for addressing the needs of regional and national manufacturers and other businesses.” 


From “A Technical Education Champion in our midst” — By Susan May, president of Fox Valley Technical CollegeLast Friday evening I attended a very special awards program in Rice Lake, WI.  It was the summer meeting of the trustees from all 16 technical colleges in the state, the District Boards Association.  This association presented its annual TECh Award (technical education champion) to one of our outstanding local partners and good friend of FVTC, Mr. Mike Weller.

It was a pleasure to nominate Mike for this prestigious award.  Mike serves as the President of Miller Electric Manufacturing Co. and ITW North America.  I shared with the audience that evening that I’ve known Mike for 30 years, having first crossed paths with him when he was teaching an evening course for FVTC as an adjunct instructor and I was managing our evening school operations.  So, 30 years ago he was already heavily involved with the College and giving back to his community by sharing his knowledge and experience with students.

Mike’s contributions to technical education and our college have only grown over the years and we greatly value the wonderful working relationship between our organizations.  He is without question a champion for technical education, the career opportunities it offers young people, and the essential role that high-quality post-secondary education and training plays in growing our economy.

Let me share one other really wonderful glimpse into who Mike Weller is.  Mike wasn’t able to attend this awards presentation as he had made a commitment to attend his 3-year old grandson’s birthday party.  Now here’s a leader who has his priorities straight and I’m delighted that he kept his commitment to his grandson.  We were pleased to have Mike’s colleague, Tim Swanson, attend and accept this award on Mike’s behalf.  It was a great opportunity to share this occasion with Tim as he serves on the FVTC Foundation Board of Directors.

On a final note, the TECh Award can be made to an individual or an organization.  In 1997 Miller Electric Mfg. Co. was the recipient of this award.  Now, its leader Mike Weller has been honored by our System’s district boards with this award in 2013.  Both have clearly been technical education champions, our champions, for many years.

From “State officials pitch apprenticeship program” — What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question asked of every child, and the answers aren’t encouraging for manufacturers.

“Wisconsin is facing a skilled workers gap,” said Jonathan Barry, deputy secretary of the state Department of Workforce Development. “We constantly run into business owners that are having trouble filling skilled positions.”

Barry visited Trane’s Engineering Technology Center in La Crosse on Wednesday to promote the state’s apprenticeship program, a state-school-employer partnership that aims to increase the pool of skilled workers.

“Employers want to hire people who have experience,” Western Technical College President Lee Rasch said, which leaves applicants wondering, “If you don’t have experience, how do you get experience?”

The apprenticeship program allows employers to target promising candidates and offer their own on-the-job training combined with classroom study. Workers get trained while earning wages; the average apprentice made $161,000 during their tenure, which lasts between two and six years.

Here’s how the program works:

The DWD lays out core training and job experience standards for several industries and then customizes the process for each employer. Employees spend about 80 percent of their time on the job and 20 percent in theoretical classroom training, usually provided by the Wisconsin Technical College System.

But sometimes there’s just not interest.

“There’s a mantra that manufacturing is dumb, dirty,” Barry said. “It’s simply not the case. It’s not just bending metal all the time.”

Begun in 1911, the program is nothing new in Wisconsin, but it’s taking on new urgency as more companies lament a skilled worker shortage.

Enrollment dipped by about a third, down to about 10,000, in the past decade, a slide that mirrored general economic trends.

A Georgetown University study found that the skills gap will leave almost a million jobs vacant, most of which already exist and would need refilling after retirements.

A recent La Crosse School District survey cited by Rasch found that only 2 percent of students planned to pursue manufacturing careers.

“Everyone has a dream of going to college,” the district’s Career and Technical Education Coordinator Annette O’Hern said. “And when you have a dream of going to college you don’t think about manufacturing.”

Much of Wednesday’s event focused on finding ways to introduce manufacturing to students in middle school and high school.

“I really believe that’s where it’s at,” Trane’s La Crosse plant manager Brad Tacheny said.

Barry emphasized that the program isn’t trying to squelch four-year colleges but offer a realistic, necessary alternative to the “college paradigm.”

“We need to expose young people to the full range of their choices as early as possible,” he said.

The La Crosse School District is hoping to ramp up that exposure. They plan to introduce an Engineering Academy — also covering manufacturing and architecture — next year. The academy will partner with Trane to provide real-life context and expose kids to manufacturing plants.

The district already offers classes in welding and manufacturing, but they’re not always popular.

“We can’t always get a lot of students interested,” O’Hern said. “We’d like that number to be bigger.”

Parents worry about job security and have encouraged children to pursue white-collar studies and a traditional four-year education.

Karen Morgan, director of the Bureau of Apprentice Standards, called on businesses to take initiative.

“We don’t have enough employers that are actually using the apprenticeship programs to train,” she said.

Barry said schools and state programs shouldn’t be the only ones reaching out to students.

“We in the business community need to be doing some of that,” he said.

The apprenticeship program isn’t just for manufacturing. It offers three trade sectors — construction, industrial/manufacturing, and service, which cover careers from plumbing to cosmetology.

The continuing education helps reinforce that such careers have advancement options, Morgan said.

“It’s only the beginning of their career,” she said. “It’s not a dead end.”


From “WITC president honored by group” — Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College President Bob Meyer was recently selected to receive a Wisconsin Association for Career and Technical Education’s 2013 President’s Award. This award is presented each year to outstanding professionals in career and technical education.

“I’m humbled and appreciative to have received this recognition because of the high regard I have for the Wisconsin Association of Career and Technical Education,” Meyer said.

The Wisconsin Association of Career and Technical Education combines the efforts of more than 800 professionals from all levels of education in Wisconsin, as well as business and industry partners, to promote Career and Technical Education. WACTE’s focus is on professional development of its members and development of CTE leadership statewide.

“As we consider the vital role CTE plays in our economy preparing ‘job ready’ individuals, I am grateful for WACTE’s role in advocating for the importance of CTE across Wisconsin,” Meyer said.

“Bob set aside funding for WITC employees to attend CTE events at a time of unprecedented budget cuts,” said Leslie Bleskachek, WACTE’s president, who also serves as WITC academic dean, Business Division. “He also attended and participated in many of the organized events during the year. The fact that he set aside time in his very busy calendar demonstrates his commitment to CTE, its stakeholders and students. In addition, he clearly places a priority on these supportive events, which serves a model for our other members, who might claim it is difficult to find time in their schedules for CTE support. If a president can find the time and resources, others can as well.”

Meyer received his award April 11 during the annual Professional Development Conference in Middleton, Wis.

Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College serves the educational and career needs of more than 25,000 residents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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