From “WCTC helps Superior Crane achieve ISO certification” — Waukesha County Technical College helped Waukesha-based Superior Crane Corp. achieve its ISO-9001;2008 certification, and has featured the process in a video on its homepage.

The Center for Business Performance Solutions analyzed the company’s processes and provided a consultant to assist Superior each week as the company worked toward its goal. Click here to see the video.

As a result of the partnership, Superior’s machine shop became certified in July 2012 and its fabrication and parts department’s Quality Management Systems became certified in July 2013.

With its ISO certification, Superior has expanded its reach to serve the military and nuclear industries. Work processes, training, new personnel and equipment are now documented, while non-conformances are tracked and corrective/preventive actions are taken to prevent their recurrence.

From “WCTC graduates first class of TSA students” — A group of 17 Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers became the first-ever class in the Milwaukee Metro area to earn certificates of achievement in homeland security issued by the TSA Office of Training and Workforce Engagement.

The employees completed coursework through Waukesha County Technical College and were recognized at a June 25 ceremony at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.

“It has been our privilege to provide homeland security-related instruction to the dedicated TSA employees at General Mitchell International Airport,” said Brian Dorow, WCTC associate dean of criminal justice. “They have a significant responsibility each day to ensure the traveling public is safe, and I am confident that our courses will increase their knowledge base.”

The courses were taught by WCTC law-enforcement instructor Mark Stigler at the TSA field office in Milwaukee. Upon successful completion of the program’s three classes, officers also receive a jump start to pursue an associate’s degree from WCTC while improving their career advancement opportunities at TSA.

“The sharing of experience and knowledge among our fellow classmates established a connection that will increase our contribution to achieving the Department of Homeland Security’s goal of ‘one team, one mission, securing our homeland,’ said Transportation Safety Officer (TSO) Paulette Young.

This local group joins the more than 3,800 students nationally who have participated in the TSA associates program. It is designed to give the TSA workforce the opportunity to earn a certificate while also earning college credit. WCTC and General Mitchell International Airport are among the 88 colleges and 98 airports partnering nationwide in the delivery of the program, which is now offered in all 50 states.

From “WCTC’s Career Quest designed for middle school students” — Waukesha County Technical College will host Career Quest, an opportunity for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students to get a closer look at what skills and qualifications are needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

The three-day summer exploration will take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 6, 7 and 8, at WCTC’s main campus in Pewaukee.

Middle school students will be introduced to a variety of careers – including those in Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Metal Fabrication/Welding, Cosmetology and many more — and learn about the education and training needed for those jobs. Cost of the event is $100 per student. Sessions run from at 8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; lunch and snacks will be provided. Registration ends June 28, and the sessions will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Space is limited!

From the options below, students can choose two career sessions to explore: • Future of Nursing (Nursing) • What’s Up, Doc? (Medical Assistant) • Authorized Personnel Only! (Surgical Technology) • To Protect and Serve — CSI style (Criminal Justice) • Emergency! (Firefighting/EMT) • Fuse it Together (Metal Fabrication/Welding) • Precision Parts (CNC Manufacturing) • Explore Robotics (Automation Systems Technology) • Baking Quest (Baking/Pastry) • Culinary Quest (Culinary Management) • The Art of Play (Early Childhood) • Spa Day (Cosmetology)

For details on career sessions, to learn more about Career Quest and to register, visit For questions, contact John Pritchett, Career Quest coordinator, at 262.695.7847 or


From “Students embrace work-study program” — Bryan Obst and other local machine industry leaders are struggling to find skilled laborers that can handle the math and engineering that operating state-of-the-art equipment demands. “We have no choice but to grow our own talent,” said Obst, corporate recruiter at Trace-A-Matic in Brookfield.

Through its assembly of precision machinery, Trace-A-Matic, 21125 Enterprise Ave., serves a multitude of industries, including oil, gas, mining, construction, aerospace, food services, printing, pharmaceutical and railroads.

“You name it, we dabble in it,” Obst said.

In the fall of 2012, Obst reached out to Elmbrook School District administrators in hopes of creating a work-study program for high school students. With his own kids in the district, Obst knew it was the perfect place to recruit.

“We don’t need operators. We need full-blown engineers running our machines,” Obst said. “We looked for a variety of different ways to find people because we’re not finding the horsepower we need to run those machines.”

Real world opportunity

By January, district administrators, Trace-A-Matic and Waukesha County Technical College had come together to craft a pilot program tailored to meet the workforce needs of local employers, fulfill high school graduation requirements and offer free college credits.

Elmbrook and other school districts have been encouraged by the state Department of Public Instruction to create learning experiences that allow high school students to enroll in post-secondary courses at a four-year college, a technical school or other private educational institution.

Starting next fall, work-study students will work to complete remaining high school graduation requirements during the first morning block period. Courses at WCTC will be scheduled in the late morning and afternoon and will fulfill remaining elective and math graduation requirements for senior students, just as Youth Options courses do.

Upon completion of the program, students will earn a high school diploma and machine tool operation technical certificate, as well as participate in competitive interviews for employment at Trace-A-Matic or other local manufacturing firms.

The program will come at no cost to the district, as WCTC and Trace-A-Matic have agreed to fund it. WCTC has secured grants with the state Department of Workforce Development and the Department of Public Instruction.

Building a model

Curt Mould, Elmbrook director of secondary education, said one of the goals of the pilot program was to build a model that could be expanded into other fields.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to provide to our kids,” Mould said. “They leave with a diploma, a certificate and with employability skills. Some of them will have guaranteed jobs, some of which will include up to 100 percent tuition reimbursement.”

Mould wasn’t sure how much student interest the program would elicit, so Elmbrook partnered with the Waukesha School District to ensure filling the 12 open work-study spots at Trace-A-Matic.

More than 20 students applied, including at least 11 from Elmbrook, and Trace-A-Matic was forced to turn students away. The program increased enrollment to 18, and then again to 20.

Obst had the applicants take the company culture index survey, just like regular employees do. The survey exposes drive, determination, stamina and learning style. Two students showed up in suits, and one followed up with a “thank you” note.

Obst also had them take the company math test.

“There were several students from East that didn’t even use a calculator, which completely awed me,” he said.

From “WCTC program will develop business leaders” — To “transform how leaders lead” and strengthen southeastern Wisconsin’s corps of emerging executives, Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) and the Innovative Leadership Institute are piloting an experiential, customized approach to leadership development with an emphasis on real world application.

Through the Leadership Development Program, launched in June by WCTC’s Center for Business Performance Solutions and the Innovative Leadership Institute, instructors Christine McMahon and Joseph Weitzer, Ph.D., aim to equip emerging leaders with tools and skills needed to meet companies’ performance expectations.

While McMahon, a business strategist and a columnist for BizTimes Milwaukee, and Weitzer, dean of the Center for Business Performance Solutions, will incorporate class meetings and one-on-one coaching into the format of their program, much of their approach to leadership development will defy traditional learning models.

“In a lot of learning programs that you participate in, you have materials that you have to learn and absorb and then you have to figure out, ‘How do I apply it in my world?'” McMahon said. “In our program, we’re immersing (participants) in the real world so the ‘a-ha’ moment happens when they take the journey inward.”

The Leadership Development Program, targeted toward professionals likely to move into higher executive positions as well as leaders who are underperforming, will walk participants through an experience-based immersion process to gain firsthand perspective on basic leadership principles.

The 12-month program, capped at about eight participants, will push emerging leaders to identify and examine leadership tenets through the lens of their own workplace experiences. By discussing leadership competencies within the context of their own environments, emerging leaders will remain grounded in the real world while absorbing a diversity of perspectives and engaging in a continuum of self-reflection.

“Through our guided discussions and interactions, they’re going to raise (leadership principles) on their own,” Weitzer said. “We’re going to get them there.”

Part of the honing process will require program participants to reframe their focus in order to accelerate the learning process during individual experiences.

“A lot of what they learn they learn by doing and making mistakes around,” Weitzer said. “The problem is that learning isn’t happening fast enough. So if I make a mistake I could move past it simply because it just happened, or I can learn from it. But if I’m not focused on the right piece of learning, I don’t develop as a leader and I’m more likely to make that mistake again.”

The program’s curriculum comprises 32 pre-developed learning modules zeroing in on critical leadership topics such as effective and persuasive communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, negotiations, and presentation strategies.

Emerging leaders likely won’t cover all 32 modules as McMahon and Weitzer tailor learning outcomes to individual participants to propel them forward with the rest of the group. They will also customize learning outcomes to fulfill the expectations of participants’ companies.

“So when (participants) go back to their organization, we’re not teaching them something the organization doesn’t support,” Weitzer said. “We’re teaching it in alignment with what that organization is expecting of their leaders.”

To identify the needs of both companies and program participants, McMahon and Weitzer have created an initial assessment that surveys organizational leadership about the dynamics of their operations and potential participants about their leadership abilities and aspirations.

“Through the assessment that we do upfront, we’re going to be designing the curriculum to meet the unique developmental needs of the participants,” McMahon said. “So every one of our leadership development programs will be different because it’s going to be based upon what they need.”

The assessment, phase one of four, also helps determine if an individual is an optimal match for the Leadership Development Program. The established phases round out with Authentic Leadership Architecture, Transformation and Integration, at which point emerging leaders take their lessons back to the boardroom.

To ensure each participant receives constant support throughout their personal leadership development, they will be paired with a mentor from within their organization. Mentors, selected and counseled by McMahon and Weitzer, will act as another resource for emerging leaders as they attempt to implement learning modules into the workplace.

“From the organization, itself, they still have responsibility to help this leader develop,” Weitzer said. “They play a role, a very significant role, in that development.”

The Leadership Development Program forms the first pillar in a broader leadership initiative to bolster innovation and support organizational development as a whole. The initiative was born from a series of needs assessments conducted by WCTC’s Center for Business Performance Solutions that highlighted a demand for quality, skilled leaders in the region’s business sector.

McMahon and Weitzer plan to roll out a second stage of the initiative, titled the Innovative Leadership Institute, that focuses on strategies to mold an innovative leader. They will also roll out a third stage exploring ways organizations can pivot to embrace innovation as part of their corporate culture.

Both stages, which will likely be available in 2014, are rooted in exceptional leadership.

“You can’t have innovation without good, solid leadership,” Weitzer said. “You can’t have good organizational structure that’s sustainable without good leadership. Our approach here is, ‘Let’s build a cohort of strong leaders.'”

The Leadership Development Program, which reinforces the Center for Business Performance Solutions’ mission to help companies build a strong workforce and advance productivity, costs $2,900 per participant. The program will debut its first formalized session this August with a second following in October. For more information, visit

From “WCTC’s Criminal Justice Dean Brian Dorow on Boston bombings” — Brian Dorow is the Dean of Criminal Justice at Waukesha County Technical College.

Dorow appeared on FOX6 News following the explosions at the Boston Marathon to talk about law enforcement’s response to a mass tragedy.

View video from


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 “WCTC enters nursing partnership with University of Phoenix” — The University of Phoenix College of Nursing and Waukesha County Technical College have announced a transfer pathway that will enable WCTC nursing students to transfer into the University of Phoenix in pursuit of a master of science in nursing, according to a release.

Under the new partnership, eligible students and graduates of WCTC’s associate of applied science in nursing degree program will be able to transfer into University of Phoenix’s bachelor of science in nursing degree program. Students may then continue their education by enrolling in the master of science in nursing/nurse administration degree program. The University of Phoenix has local campuses in Milwaukee and Brookfield.

“A more educated nurse is a safer nurse,” said Angie Strawn, associate dean of University of Phoenix College of Nursing, in the release. “For many, the demands of a full-time career as a nurse preclude their ability to pursue an advanced degree. Our new pathway with Waukesha makes the path to becoming a nurse leader more achievable.”

From “Growing a community of entrepreneurs” — PEWAUKEE – As a former small business owner, Russ Roberts knows what it’s like to navigate the rough waters of starting and building a business. So he’s excited to nurture entrepreneurs through Waukesha County Technical College’s Small Business Center.

Roberts, manager of the Small Business Center, said it is a unique program that is a lot like a community service for WCTC. A variety of courses are offered at low prices, such as Business Plan Development, QuickBooks Pro, Understanding Business Taxes and Law for Business Owners.

When WCTC started the center in 2001 and brought in Roberts, who had owned his own financial planning business, to develop and run it, the college had been supporting entrepreneurs for more than 40 years. The Small Business Center has gone from a few non-credited courses and some counseling in 2001 to at least 16 classes. The center also hosts networking events and offers free one-on-one counseling, the Success Mentor Program and Take a Professional to Lunch Program.

Waukesha County Chairman Paul Decker participates in the Take a Professional to Lunch program and teaches Marketing for Small Business, which will be offered April 10 to May 1.

Sharing practical information

The benefit of taking a business class at WCTC, Decker said, is that the instructors have true business experience and share lots of practical information. “It’s kind of a way to tap the brains of people who have been there,” he said.

As county chairman and the co-founder of Maverick Innovation Lab in Delafield, Decker is invested in Waukesha County’s economy, so he is pleased with how the Small Business Center contributes.

“The essence is that the more businesses that we can create that are viable and strong, and if they get going, hopefully they are going to hire people and you are going to make the economy strong,” he said.

Roberts has a similar view. He said if you get 1,000 entrepreneurs’ businesses off the ground, it’s the same as a company hiring 1,000 employees.

“Most states don’t have resources to put behind micro-entrepreneurs. Google was a couple of guys who started out of a dorm room. By the time they figured it out and were Google, (everyone) wanted to help them at that point. We never know where the next Google is going to come from,” Roberts said. 

Rebecca Scarberry, owner of Becky’s Blissful Bakery, is also a believer in WCTC’s Small Business Center and started to teach How to Start a Food Business in 2012. The entrepreneur took Roberts’ FaSTart Workshop class, which is a four-hour informal workshop that provides step-by-step guidance, and received other advice and assistance from Roberts, which she said was a lifeline for her business.

The idea of teaching a class came about after her own business took off and people began to approach Scarberry seeking advice on how to start their own food businesses. Roberts suggested she teach a class, which now averages about 20 to 25 students each session.

“It’s real information,” she said of the Small Business Center. “It’s real assistance for our community for right now.”

Roberts said the center wants to “put support around” starting businesses. “Many times it’s lonely to start a business,” he said.

From “Future welders look to Wisconsin’s new mining law for jobs” — PEWAUKEE – In the confines of a hot, cramped workspace, student Eric Defries practices his craft. Defries is studying at Waukesha County Technical College to become a welder.

“Before this, I was doing windows and doors, and everybody and their uncle thinks they can do windows and doors. That market’s flooded, but welders, that takes skill,” Defries said.

Defries—and other students may soon have their chance to prove themselves. Future welders see Wisconsin’s new mining law as a way to build a career at home, instead of leaving Wisconsin for work.

“A lot of people have moved out of the state, because there’s not enough jobs here, so it’s excellent,” said student Gary Kender.

The news means a potential boost for the hiring pool, and colleges are already taking notice. WCTC recently doubled its lab space for welders ahead of the bill becoming a law.

“We just hope that parents as well as students see these are great jobs with great career opportunities,” said Mike Shiels, dean of the college’s Industrial and Engineering Technologies division.

Though the sparks aren’t flying on any projects just yet, Defries and fellow students have high hopes and are already thinking about the years ahead.

“I’m trying to contribute to the cause. Gives me a job. Gives me benefits. Gives me something to do,” Defries explained.

From “WCTC students make turkey dinners for families” — As you dig in to your turkey and trimmings tomorrow, think about the fortunate recipients of 10 Thanksgiving meals prepared by culinary students at Waukesha County Technical College.

The students who roasted the turkeys and mixed the stuffing, cooked up the cranberries and glazed the carrots don’t know who the families are and don’t need to.

For once, instead of focusing on acquiring skills that will lead to a paycheck, and possibly – someday – a restaurant of their own, they were handed a chance to give to the community. For once, it wasn’t about dazzling diners, it wasn’t about the bottom line.

The charitable effort began last year when a staff member asked if the culinary classes could prepare two turkey dinners for needy families through the SPARKS Alliance, a United Way-funded program in Waukesha focused on increasing parental involvement.

“This year, I wanted to expand it,” said Jack Birren. “I have 17 students in each class. To have them make one turkey dinner seemed like a waste. If I’m already doing one, it’s just as easy to prep for five.”

So he asked and was granted permission to make and donate 10 meals this year.

Two meals again will go to SPARKS, destined for families from Hadfield Elementary School in Waukesha. The rest will be donated to the Food Pantry of Waukesha County for distribution to families on its list.

The meals – four built around a 14-pound turkey, to serve eight, and six featuring a turkey breast, to serve four – were prepared in two of Birren’s classes: five meals last Thursday and five more this Tuesday. In addition, the pastry instructor on Monday donated the corn bread his class already was scheduled to make.

The cost of the meals came out of Birren’s regular school food budget.

The turkeys and turkey breasts were carved up and frozen, along with the accompaniments: mashed potatoes, gravy (made from pan drippings), maple-glazed carrots, homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce, corn bread. (No dessert this year – maybe next, Birren said.) The family recipients will be given instructions for thawing and reheating.

Birren said his students were excited by the opportunity.

“I always wanted to do something like this,” said Deanna Werner of Lannon as she mixed ingredients last Thursday for the stuffing, “but I never had much of an opportunity, being a student and working full time.”

Birren hopes the example set here will stick as the students graduate and build their careers.

Televised food shows have given a higher profile to chefs, he said. “I tell my students, take advantage of what national TV has done for our profession. You can have more of an impact in the community. Get your face out there and find a way to help.”


Preparing dinners to donate doesn’t just help the needy families; the culinary students at WCTC also get hands-on experience preparing the biggest holiday meal of the year, right before the holiday. They can take that expertise home to their families as they celebrate Thanksgiving.

The whole turkeys roasted for these meals were brined overnight, said Birren. Just before roasting, a mixture of softened butter, garlic and fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, etc.) was spread under the skin all over the bird. Then the cavity was stuffed with halved oranges and apples and more of the same herbs.

One advantage of a classroom kitchen is access to specialty equipment – like the combi oven that combines steam cooking and convection heat. Roasted in that oven, the 14-pound birds were crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, in just 1 hour and 20 minutes. (In a conventional oven, roasting would take about 3 ¾ hours.)

This is one recipe from the menu that’s easy to replicate at home. It’s reduced from the students’ recipe.

Whiskey Cranberry Sauce

1 pound whole cranberries

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon whiskey

4 ounces (one-third of a 12-ounce can) frozen apple juice concentrate

Juice and grated zest of 1 small orange (or two-thirds of a large orange)

2/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup canned pineapple tidbits with juice

¾ cup granulated sugar

In saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then keep at a low simmer until sauce is reduced and thickened to desired consistency. Taste and add sugar if needed.

From “Collaboration is king in Menomonee Falls schools” — It was early spring this year in Menomonee Falls when the school district brought together area business leaders, district teachers and administrators, college deans and chamber of commerce representatives to talk about an important issue: the local skills gap.

Particularly for this community rich with manufacturing and industry, that meant talking about health care jobs that would need to be filled at Community Memorial Hospital, and the need for trained workers in area manufacturing plants – and the school district’s role in preparing that labor force.

But unlike similar meetings where conversations fizzle after coffee or lunch, the ideas took root. The school district now aims to rebuild its technical education program from graduation backward, coordinating with a lead local manufacturer and Waukesha County Technical College to revamp curriculum and push new content down to the middle school level that will support that high school work.

At a time when budgets are tight and schools are under increasing pressure to strengthen student performance, collaborative efforts with other districts or nonschool entities are drawing attention as ways to either save money or create better opportunities for children.

A dramatic example would be the wholesale merging of districts to save money. But there are less controversial means to better share resources and streamline non-instructional costs, and Menomonee Falls is a leading example.

A major change two years ago occurred when the district moved out of its offices in an old school building and into the upstairs wing at village hall, which was renovated in 2002. The village was downsizing, and the school district was facing expensive maintenance in its space, so the 10-year agreement between the district and the village was a win-win. Menomonee Falls pays about $36,000 in rent to the village each year, less than it would have cost to renovate the district’s old building.

“For our end, vacating space wasn’t really a means to save,” Menomonee Falls Village Manager Mark Fitzgerald said. “For me, it was more about the fact we had this wonderful civic campus facility and we weren’t fully utilizing it, and part of me thought that was poor public stewardship.”

Sharing space for central operations was initiated under current Menomonee Falls Superintendent Patricia Greco’s predecessor, Keith Marty. But that agreement set the stage for a land swap between both entities this year. The district offloaded an old maintenance facility to the village, in exchange for a better one from the village. The village intends to rip down the old district facility to build a future fire station.

“It’s been a good partnership,” Greco said. “Finances have been a part of it, but the partnership has also been about efficiency and effectiveness and how we can work together. The dynamics are much stronger than what I’ve seen in other communities.”

That partnership is part of what spurred the district to initiate conversations this spring with an even broader group of area stakeholders, focused around the skills gap. At the same time, Greco and Fitzgerald are also talking about how they might share the cost of installing broadband fiber optic cable in future years to provide better Internet access to the village.

The pressure on districts to better share and collaborate is not new. Districts for years have shared specialty teachers in special education or foreign language, and over the past 10 years a few districts around the state have merged.

But the extent to which districts are being urged to explore ways to reduce non-instructional student spending has increased, especially in the wake of Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-’13 budget that dramatically reduced state spending for schools and tightened the cap on how much schools could seek from local taxpayers to plug budget holes.

That legislation also limited collective bargaining and gave school boards more power over setting employees’ wages, salaries and benefits, but the law was overturned and faces an appeal.

Building partnerships

Mergers of school districts remain rare and are usually politically unpractical. More feasible options may fall in the realm of what Menomonee Falls is doing: building partnerships with entities outside the district.

Menomonee Falls faces a significant expense if it wishes to update all of its technical education classrooms and equipment at the high school. But if it could offer certain classes at Waukesha County Technical College, or at a local manufacturing plant that partners with the district, the district could save money and offer students experience on state-of-the-art equipment.

The idea is still very new, and Joe Weitzer, dean of the Center for Business and Performance Solutions at WCTC, said all the parties are still thinking about how it might work, or even if it could work.

“We’re all considering, how do we sell this to parents and legally make it happen?” Weitzer said.

Revising a school’s technical education program by allowing businesses and local postsecondary partners access to curriculum, and considering them as future training partners, is unusual, Weitzer said.

Weitzer offered another possibility: WCTC could offer training to workers at Wacker Neuson, the employer that has stepped up as an anchor business to help Menomonee Falls build up its pipeline of students into postsecondary training and manufacturing careers. The technical college could help mentor and oversee students as they rotate through the plant, perhaps on summer internships.

Weitzer said he hopes everyone can agree to a set of standards in the curriculum by January, and that they could be offering some reshaped technical education classes to students as early as next fall.

“There isn’t a quick solution on this; we have to address how to get a steady pipeline of skilled labor,” Weitzer said. “This isn’t something where we have a business contribute funding for a few years and then we’re finished. We’re trying to build something sustainable for the future.”


From “Manufacturing Summit” — Finding talented workers remains a pressing issue facing the manufacturing industry.

WCTC’s 2012 Manufacturing Summit was created to be a catalyst in creating mutual beneficial relationships between the K-12 school districts, post-secondary institutions, manufacturers, government agencies and local business alliances. The Summit provided a foundation. WCTC invites you to be part of the solution by participating in the Manufacturing Roundtable Discussion, which is an opportunity for participants to contribute in identifying and prioritizing the next “Action Ideas” along with key outcome expectations and timelines.

Roundtable Action Planning Discussions:

  • Increasing Interest in Manufacturing, Engineering and Skilled Trades Occupations
  • Preparing for the Changing Workforce Needs
  • Identifying Partnership Roles

Hot breakfast provided. No cost to attend. Space is limited.


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