From spooneradvocate.com: “Lawmakers look to lessen technical colleges’ reliance on property taxes” — by Shemane Mills, WPR -Concerns about property taxes have lawmakers looking at other ways to fund the state’s 16 technical schools. They’re also considering changes that could reduce local control of technical schools.

Historically, the property tax has been the largest source of revenue for the Wisconsin Technical College System, a sore point for some taxpayers and the Wisconsin Realtors Association. In the last budget, the state put $406 million towards technical schools in an effort to shift some of the system’s funding away from property taxes.

The WRA’s Joe Murray supports the state increasing its share of funding to 45 percent, but urged lawmakers to consider funding technical schools in the future without any property taxes.

“From our experience, after watching this debate over the last 30-35 years, the only way you ultimately start and keep property taxes going in a certain direction is to take stuff off the property tax,” said Murray.

That leaves the question of where money for technical schools would come from, according to Josh Dukelow from the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce.

“The same people who pay property taxes to support technical education pay municipal taxes to support law enforcement, pay school taxes to fund primary education, pay income taxes to fund state services, and pay sales tax when they shop or dine,” said Dukelow. “To maintain our premier educational resources in Wisconsin, we will have to pay one way or another.”

Dukelow also expressed concern about possible changes in governance of technical schools, saying a more centralized approach wouldn’t be as quick to meet the needs of local business. He said each area of the state has different workforce needs that may not be suited for state control.

From jsonline.com: “State technical colleges to share $28 million in grants to train workers for high-demand jobs” — The state’s 16 technical colleges will share $28 million in grants to train more than 4,900 workers for jobs in high-demand fields, Gov. Scott Walker announced Thursday.

The Wisconsin Fast Forward grants, which were created by law in March with bipartisan support in the Legislature, will be administered by the Department of Workforce Development.

The grants are intended to add capacity to 100 programs at all 16 technical colleges and accommodate up to 4,908 additional students in training programs in key industry sectors such as manufacturing, health care, transportation, construction and architecture, and education.

Grant funds can be used for expenses such as course development, instructor wages, and purchase of consumable materials. They cannot be used for financial aid, tuition, or capital improvements.

Individual grant awards will be announced at each technical college over the next two weeks.

Technical colleges submitted initial lists of programs for grant consideration earlier this year.

The Department of Workforce Development developed objective, data-driven measurement tools and processes to validate wait lists for grant eligibility purposes, evaluate each technical college’s funding request, make award decisions, and monitor taxpayers’ investment, according to the governor’s office.

“This substantial investment in the Wisconsin Technical College System will help our top-notch technical colleges build the capacity to train thousands of workers across the state with skills we know are in high demand by employers,” Walker said in a prepared statement.

Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy said the technical college system is energized “not only by the investment in our strong partnership with DWD, but also by the confidence in our technical colleges to deliver on these grants.”

The legislation Walker signed into law in March as part of his Blueprint for Prosperity initiative calls for allocating a total of $35.4 million to the Wisconsin Forward worker training program with a focus on three areas:

· Reduction of waits lists at Wisconsin technical colleges for high-demand fields;

· Collaborative projects between high schools, technical colleges, businesses, and other partners to increase opportunities for high school pupils to earn industry-recognized credentials; and

· Enhancing the employment opportunities of workers with disabilities.

The Department of Workforce Development already has awarded more than $2.1 million in grants to train high school students in school-to-work programs, and is currently seeking grant applications with up to $1 million available to train workers with disabilities.

From stevenspointjournal.com: “UWSP, MSTC officials hope transfer agreement increases enrollment” — Officials from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Mid-State Technical College say they hope a recent statewide transfer agreement will mean an increase in enrollment as students see more opportunity to move from one campus to another.

Signed by University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross and Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy earlier this month, the Universal Transfer Agreement identifies 48 core general-education courses for which students can transfer credits within the two systems. The agreement goes into effect July 1 for the 2014-15 academic year, can be renewed annually and is open to private and tribal institutions that choose to participate.

“Building on the hundreds of existing articulation agreements between the UW System and the WCTS, along with the innovative Transfer Information System, this agreement is another step in our joint efforts to make post-secondary education accessible for more students, facilitating their progress to becoming successful contributors to the Wisconsin economy,” Cross said in a statement.

Gov. Scott Walker, who proposed the agreement as part of the state’s biennial budget adopted last summer, said in a statement that he believes the agreement will allow students more flexibility and speed up the process for those looking to finish their degree.

Greg Summers, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at UWSP, said the agreement will provide an even playing field for students looking to attend a university after completing their studies at a technical college.

“Before, you would have some credits that would be accepted at Stevens Point that might not be accepted at UW-Eau Claire or UW-Superior,” Summers said. “This agreement broadens the access students will have if they decide to pursue their degree.”

Mandy Lang, vice president of student affairs for MSTC, said students most often transfer to a university to pursue degrees in areas such as nursing and business. Lang said it’s too early to tell whether the agreement will increase enrollment, but making it easier to transfer general education credits is good step for students wherever they choose to attend school.

Nearly 90 students from MSTC and Northcentral Technical College in Wausau transferred into UWSP in the 2012-13 school year, and Summers said he expects that number to increase because of the agreement.

“That would be the goal. I think as students see there is a predictable pathway to get their degree, there will be more interest,” Summers said.

From lacrossetribune.com: “Job training law to help businesses compete globally, Doyle says” — ONALASKA — A law incubated in La Crosse will hatch jobs throughout Wisconsin and enhance Badger State employers’ ability to be global players, said author Rep. Steve Doyle.

The law, which Gov. Scott Walker signed in April and repeated at a ceremonial signing at Crescent Printing Co. in Onalaska Friday, expands Workforce Advancement Training grants to technical colleges.

“Current use of WAT grants is too limited for many businesses to make use of them,” said Doyle, an Onalaska Democrat. “This proposal was designed to help companies compete in new markets by expanding the way these grants can be used.”

Established in 2005, the state-funded WAT grants are administered by the Wisconsin Technical College System, which awards them to the state’s 16 tech schools to train companies’ current employees.

That differentiates them from programs to train new employees and allows businesses to advance their workers’ skills, Walker said.

Roger Bjorge, president of the fourth-generation company Crescent Printing, said, “It’s an opportunity for our employees to take classes to get further training.”

The company, which Bjorge co-owns with Bill Lund, has 45 employees, Bjorge said.

Grants previously were allowed for businesses with no more than 100 employees or $10 million in gross annual income. The new law expands the programs to businesses with up to 250 employees and allows grants to tech schools to help business expand their markets or diversify.

“This diversification will ultimately result in job growth,” Doyle said.

The grants range from $2,500 to $200,000 a company for general businesses and $2,500 to $50,000 for small businesses.

The grants provided about $17.6 million to help hundreds of employers train more than 77,000 workers across the state by the end of fiscal year 2012.

La Crosse economic development professionals helped formulate the law at a roundtable that included representatives of Western Technical College, Workforce Connections, the La Cross Area Chamber of Commerce, the La Crosse Area Development Corp. and other members of the Seven Rivers Alliance, as well as Doyle and Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.

Doyle authored the measure in the Assembly and asked Shilling to sponsor it in the upper chamber, and she enlisted Republican Sen. Joseph Leibham of Sheboygan as primary author, while she became secondary author.

“I give her a lot of credit for getting something done without getting credit,” Doyle said.

The bill passed the Legislature with nearly unanimous bipartisan support. Out of 380 bills the Legislature passed this past session, only 31 had Democrats as primary authors.

“Jobs creation is not a partisan issue, and I was happy to work with both sides of the aisle to make sure this bill became law,” Doyle said.

From lacrossetribune.com: “Walker signs jail transfer, training bills” — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed bills introduced by area legislators into law Wednesday.

Senate Bill 648, written in the Assembly by Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse, will reduce jail expenses by allowing localities to transfer inmates to less expensive facilities in neighboring counties.

La Crosse County had identified Houston County, Minn., as a potential cost-saving destination, but state law previously barred such transfers. The new law allows transfers to neighboring counties, in or out of state, if the savings is 25 percent or greater.

Assembly Bill 226, co-written by Rep. Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska, allows more businesses to benefit from worker training partnerships with Wisconsin Technical College by expanding the eligibility for Workforce Advancement Training grants to businesses with up to 250 employees (up from 100). This bill also allows the Wisconsin Technical College System Board to award a grant to a district board to provide assistance with market expansion or business diversification.

From lacrossetribune.com: “WTCS Board recognizes D&S as ‘Futuremakers Partner’ — The Wisconsin Technical College System Board recently awarded its Futuremakers Partner award to D&S Manufacturing of Black River Falls.

The award recognizes the unique and dynamic partnerships between Wisconsin’s technical colleges and their employer partners.

D&S Manufacturing, specializing in metal fabrication of large-scale components and assemblies, is a long-time partner with Western Technical College. While its main campus is in La Crosse, Western also serves communities throughout the region, including Black River Falls.

“It was an honor to receive this award, and particularly fitting that company president Mike Dougherty and the Dougherty family were specifically recognized for their outstanding support and long-term commitment to Western,” said John Barkley, D&S vice president and general manager.

“Many of our employee owners have taken advantage of and benefited from the educational opportunities that Western offers. We look forward to continuing our support of Western and the opportunities it provides to our community and region.”

In presenting the award, WTCS Board president Drew Petersen noted that D&S was a driving force in establishing the Jackson County Welding Skills Institute, a unique partnership formed with Western and other partners to meet the growing need for trained welders in the Black River Falls area. Without that support, Petersen noted, the initiative would not have been possible. The company has also funded scholarships at Western over many years, and provided tuition assistance for its employee owners.

“D&S Manufacturing is a true partner,” said Lee Rasch, president of Western Technical College. “Members of both their management and production staff serve on our program advisory committees. We value their support and honest feedback, which helps to ensure that our educational programming is relevant and responsive to the communities we serve.”

From automationworld.com: “D&S Manufacturing lauded for supporting industrial education” — The Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) board recently bestowed the Futuremakers Partner Award on D&S Manufacturing of Black River Falls, Wis.

D&S Manufacturing Vice President and General Manager John Barkley, and Human Resources Manager Sherri Hein accepted the award.

The WTCS Board honored D&S Manufacturing for their broad based support and longstanding partnership with Western Technical College. In his presentation, Drew Petersen, WTCS board president, highlighted the role D&S has played “as a driving force in establishing the Jackson County Welding Skills Institute, which serves to provide training for welders in the Black River Falls area.”

Petersen added that without the support of D&S, the initiative would not have been possible. Additionally, D&S has a long history of providing funding for scholarships.

D&S Manufacturing is an employee-owned company that custom manufactures large-scale components, assemblies and complete weldments for customers including Caterpillar, Oshkosh Corp., Parkson, The Trane Company and CNH.

D&S’s plate-metal fabrication processes include machining, laser, high definition plasma and oxy-fuel cutting, and manual and robotic welding. The company also provides liquid spray painting, powder coating, shot blasting, assembly and testing services.

Barkley said, “Many of our employee owners have taken advantage of and benefited from the educational opportunities that Western offers. We look forward to continuing our support of Western and the opportunities it provides to our community and region.”

D&S employee owners serve on WTCS advisory committees to provide support and feedback to ensure relevant, responsive programming for the community.

D&S also is committed to providing leadership throughout the community, said Barkley. It will continue its lab partnership with Black River Falls High School, where it provides financial support, equipment and supplies to encourage students to pursue a career in welding.

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