From “Walker plan for worker training gets support” — Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to spend $35 million to help technical colleges train people for high demand jobs is finding support at a legislative hearing.

Backers of Walker’s proposal testified Tuesday before the Assembly’s Committee on Workforce Development. The full Assembly was expected to vote on the plan next week.

Walker wants to spend $35 million to eliminate waiting lists for high demand fields at technical colleges, help high school students get trained for high-demand jobs through dual enrollment programs and support programs that help people with disabilities find work.

Wisconsin technical college system president Morna Foy says she is “stoked” about the possibility of the funding being approved. She says it would definitely result in more people getting trained for jobs in high-demand areas.

From “Packers Foundation awards $500K to civic and charitable groups” — The Green Bay Packers Foundation on Tuesday, December 17th awarded $500,000 to 188 civic and charitable groups throughout the state of Wisconsin in its annual distribution of grants.

Charlie Lieb, chairman of the Foundation committee, made the announcement.

Overall, including a recent $250,000 major gift to the UW-Green Bay Scholarship Fund, $750,000 was awarded this year.

Both the total donation amount and the number of recipient organizations are records for the Foundation.

The groups were guests at a luncheon in the Lambeau Field Atrium, an event that welcomed all the recipients and honored the outstanding efforts and services performed by each of the organizations.

The Foundation now has distributed more than $3.7 million for charitable purposes since it was established in 1986 by Judge Robert J. Parins, then president of the Packers Corporation, “as a vehicle to assure continued contributions to charity.”

Of the Foundation’s contributions Tuesday, 53 grants – aggregating $142,050 – were awarded to Brown County organizations. Additional grants, totaling $357,950, were made to 135 other groups around the state.

Additionally, under the Packers Scholarship Program established in 2002, $15,000 was awarded – $7,500 to Scholarships Inc., for distribution to students in four-year colleges, and $7,500 to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) for distribution to students in two-year associate degree or apprenticeship trades programs.

A portion of the scholarship funds come from National Football League Properties which, at the Packers’ request, returns to the Foundation royalty fees paid for using the Packers logo on Wisconsin automobile license plates.

Because the royalties do not fully cover the scholarships, the Green Bay Packers fund the remainder of the amount, a figure which totals $89,000 since 2006.

In the past year, the Packers Foundation also has distributed an additional $57,375 on behalf of National Football League Foundation – $20,000 in “Community Quarterback” awards to civic leaders for contributions to the community, $12,375 in the NFL’s “Coach of the Week” program, which honors successful Wisconsin high school coaches on a weekly basis throughout the season, $20,000 through the “Hometown Huddle/Youth Fitness Zone” program and $5,000 for the NFL National Partnership Grant focusing on efforts related to the military.

In addition, a $250,000 Matching Youth Football Field Grant was received and was awarded to the Ashwaubenon School District for the redevelopment of the Ashwaubenon High School football stadium and practice fields.

“We’re honored to congratulate and thank this year’s recipients for their excellent work in our communities,” Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said at the event. “Their efforts inspire us and truly provide a positive impact.”

The Green Bay Packers Foundation Trustees include, in addition to Lieb, Tom Arndt, Rick Chernick, Valerie Daniels-Carter, Ricardo Diaz, Terry Fulwiler, Jerry Ganoni, Mark McMullen, Tom Olson and Hon. John Zakowski. Bobbi Jo Eisenreich is the secretary of the Foundation.

The grants and other programs highlighted Tuesday are two components of the Packers’ efforts in the community. The Packers’ community outreach department responded to more than 10,000 requests from organizations and individuals in 2013 with donated autographed items for fund-raising efforts that raised more than $3 million.

These efforts, combined with direct cash donations by the Packers to various charity endeavors, resulted in a comprehensive Packers charity impact in excess of $6 million in the past year.


From “IT project to train workforce” — By Tom Perez, US Secretary of Labor – Information technology is a driver of the modern economy — in Wisconsin, nationwide and around the globe. But you don’t need to be Jeff Bezos to have a successful IT-related career.

The Wisconsin Technical College System has designed a new project that will allow more adult learners — in particular veterans, laid-off workers and others whose livelihoods have been disrupted by trade — to acquire the skills necessary to get good IT jobs.

During a visit Wednesday to Gateway Technical College in southeastern Wisconsin, one of the partners in this 16-college consortium, I will highlight a $23 million statewide grant that the federal government is making to support this innovative and dynamic curriculum.

I’m eager to see firsthand how federal dollars will improve Gateway’s ability to create a pipeline of workers with the IT competencies needed in advanced manufacturing. I’m looking forward to talking with students, with school officials from several of the community colleges and with the business partners who are essential to the program’s success.

The grant is a part of the U.S. Labor Department’s TAACCCT program; that stands for Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training. As an acronym, it leaves something to be desired. But as an investment in our community colleges’ capacity to prepare Americans for 21st-century jobs, it is critical and unprecedented.

Partnership on several levels is the key to the program’s success; indeed, it is a prerequisite for consideration for a grant. Local businesses in particular are directly involved so that the colleges are aligning their instruction — hand in glove — with local industry’s needs.

This kind of demand-driven approach is the only sensible way to build human capital and empower the workforce. There’s no point in offering a certification or credential in advanced widget manufacturing if no company in the area is hiring widget technicians.

Working in collaboration with several employer partners, the Wisconsin IT project will give people the training required to become everything from human resource specialists to multimedia artists, from web developers to pharmacy technicians. Grant dollars will be used throughout the Badger State — to enhance programs in computer support, to create new career pathways that combine health and IT-related skills and more.

Skills development is a pillar of President Barack Obama’s strategy to grow the economy from the middle out, not from the top down. We have a talented and resilient workforce. But for our workers to climb ladders of opportunity, they need us to strengthen the rungs. They need us to invest in their potential.

Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training does exactly that, helping workers learn precisely those state-of-the-art skills that employers need and that will keep our economy strong for decades to come.

The program is now in its third year, having pumped nearly $1.5 billion total into community colleges nationwide. The latest round of funding, announced earlier this fall, includes 57 grants that will support projects in every state, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. They will expand programs in a range of growing industries including advanced manufacturing, transportation and health care.

The career training program helps businesses stay on the competitive cutting edge in a complex global economy. And for workers, it serves as a springboard into the middle class, catapulting them into jobs that can support a family and provide basic economic security.

We’re proud to help Wisconsin community colleges offer top-notch IT instruction. And the career training program overall is critical to the Obama administration’s mission of creating economic growth, opportunity and widely shared prosperity.


From “NTC Phillips Campus in midst of expansion” — An expansion project geared at better meeting the needs of one increasingly in-demand base for education in the Northwoods is moving forward at Northcentral Technical College’s Phillips Campus.

Each year, NTC completes two major capital projects, and current construction efforts at the Phillips Campus make up one of those projects for 2013.

The overhaul involves an expansion of the manufacturing lab along with the addition of 4,500 square feet of new classroom space to the southwest corner of the campus building.

“What it’s going to mean is that the Phillips Campus is going to be able to support more programs such as the machine tool and the manufacturing technician, which will complement our one-year and one-semester welding programs,” said NTC North Campus Dean Roberta Damrow.

The footings and floors for both areas of expansion are in. Now, the campus is waiting for segments of the actual building to arrive, something project leaders believe will happen in mid-January.

Damrow noted that these project aspects are expected to be wrapped up in April.

It looks like the new spaces will be useable in time for summer classes and then see full scheduling by fall semester of next year, as Damrow explained.

One really nice feature about the classroom addition is that the partition between two distinct classrooms can be opened up to create a larger area spanning 1,700-square feet, Damrow noted. This feature will help cover the campus’ increased need for face-to-face instruction to support expanded offerings in the manufacturing lab while at the same time providing a space different groups can utilize outside of school hours.

“We should be able to support community needs for large groups,” Damrow said.

Four new IVC (Interactive Video Conferencing) rooms will be added along with the large, connectable classrooms.

This will allow the North Campus of NTC to stream more courses offered at other campuses across the college system. Damrow sees this increased distance learning capacity being particularly useful when it comes to meeting community needs for continuing education, something that’s a cornerstone of work in the early childhood field or the food and beverage industry, to name a few career areas.

“Any sort of occupation that needs continuing education. We’ll be able to stream in more classes so people don’t have to travel as far to be recertified,” Damrow said.

Expansion plans also call for the creation of something called a net meeting room, which will hold 16 computer spaces for students taking online and Adobe Connect classes.

This allows for more flexibility in course offerings to meet the diverse needs of different learners.

A new set of bathrooms is also in construction plans for the larger classroom space.

In addition to the building expansions, contractors are putting up a stand-alone storage shed behind the main building to house equipment and materials for use in the manufacturing lab. This structure is on schedule to be completed before Thanksgiving.

“The Price County campus continues to see growth, and we attribute that to the newer campus and the newer programming that we continue to bring in…” Damrow said.

Area residents find in NTC a nearby institution where they can access a range of education options, as Damrow explained.

Instructors at the Phillips Campus sees a number of high school students “getting a jump on their college career” via technical college courses that are transferable to other colleges, as well as students who spent their first year post-high school at the campus and then transfer to Wausau or other colleges across the state.

“It’s a cost effective way to start your education. It’s also a cost-effective way to earn your first degree, and we know that lifelong learning is the way of the future, so we intend to continue to be innovative in offering things that are going to support the local industries,” Damrow said.

The campus is tentatively planning for a spring ribbon cutting to dedicate the new spaces.


From “Thriving manufacturing sector shows it stuff at Expo” — The breadth and depth of Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector was on display at the Manufacturing First Expo & Conference.

Clintonville’s Specialized Products Ltd., Middleton’s Meridian Laboratory, Green Bay’s The Lake Companies and many others demonstrated why Wisconsin is the nation’s second-largest manufacturing state. More than 16 percent of the state’s economy is tied to manufacturing, and to hear business representatives tell it Thursday at the KI Convention Center in downtown Green Bay, business is good.

Gina Webster of Specialized Products said a statement that Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector grew 35 percent during the last four years seems right.

“That sounds pretty consistent with what we experienced,” she said. “This year has been down a little, but last year we had a fantastic year.”

The positive attitude among Wisconsin manufacturers also reflects a national trend. U.S. factory activity expanded in October at the fastest pace in 2½ years. Overseas demand and healthy U.S. auto sales appear to be supporting factory output. The housing recovery is also lifting the furniture and wood products industry despite a recent slowing in home sales.

The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index for October rose to 56.4 from 56.2 in September. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

U.S. factory activity has now risen at an increasingly fast pace for five straight months, according to the ISM’s index. In October, a measure of new orders rose slightly. And a gauge of production fell but remained at a high level. Factories added jobs, though more slowly than in September.

Factories also expanded in Europe this month, though at a slightly slower pace, according to surveys in that region. Manufacturing indexes have all picked up in China, Japan, and South Korea.

The overseas strength is boosting demand for U.S. factories. A measure of export orders jumped to its highest level in nearly a year and a half in October, the ISM report said.

Meridian Laboratory in Middleton is representative of many small Wisconsin businesses that do precision work for global distribution. A quarter of its rotary-electrical products go to Korea and 20 percent to Japan. It has a growing presence in China, and the rest goes to customers throughout the United States. The company has 11 employees. Most of them have been with the company for 20 years or more.

The company’s willingness to do small precision orders fills a niche, said Sven Krause, new business development manager.

“We are small, specialized and specific,” he said.

Specialized of Clintonville specializes in wire-harness assembly, electromechanical assemblies, soldering, mold production and prototyping, among other things. The company has 130 employees.

“Probably our biggest problem is we’ve grown so fast in 20 years,” Webster said.

For The Lake Companies, the challenge is finding workers with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software and manufacturing experience. The software services vendor has 35 employees.

“We have always been challenged at that,” said Karen Sikorski, senior account manager.

One solution has been to hire former employees of customers — they don’t go after current workers — or find people with ERP experience in other industries.

Sikorski said a number of their customers are expanding, adding either work areas or employees.

Creating new manufacturing workers was one theme of Thursday’s event. Northeast Wisconsin Technical College of Green Bay and Lakeshore Technical College of Cleveland were on-site with mobile training labs, and groups of high school students toured the exhibit hall, which had more than 130 vendors.

The mobile labs allow the college to expose high school students to up-to-date equipment.

“As you drive down to the high school level, the biggest challenge you have is facilities,” said Peter Thillman, dean of workforce and economic development at Lakeshore. “That’s the big thing, to get the equipment in their hands.”

Kevin Grabian, instructor for NWTC, said jobs are available to those who want and prepare for them.

“You can come out of TC with an electromechanical degree and have your pick,” he said. “You can’t be just an electrical guy or just a mechanical guy. They want both.”

The expo was sponsored by First Business Bank-Northeast, Insight magazine and NEW Manufacturing Alliance.


From “Calling it a career” — MARINETTE – Pat O’Hara calls today the golden age for technical colleges because the skills students leave with are those employers seek.

“It’s really job-specific technical skills that are a premium in the workforce right now,” he said.

O’Hara added that the workforce has changed significantly during the past 20 years.

“The demand locally, statewide and nationally is that everyone has some post high-school education but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “It could be something even more short-term such as a one- or two-year program.”

O’Hara, 63, who recently retired as campus dean of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College-Marinette after 141⁄2 years, will miss his colleagues the most.

“I’ve worked with some awfully good professional people who cared about their community,” he said.

It’s not the exemplary star student who comes to mind when O’Hara thinks about his tenure at the college.

“It’s the people who really needed the extra help you could affect at a time when they’re in need whether creating a GED program at the jail, working with dislocated workers or starting an emergency fund for students who needed some financial assistance,” he said.

O’Hara, a native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, received a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and a master’s degree in education from Drake University in Des Moines.

He said education wasn’t just a job but a calling in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

“So we were saving the world,” O’Hara said. “It’s hard to lose that mentality that you were put on earth to save the world even though you knew you couldn’t.”

Students had a limited menu of options when he arrived in June 1999.

“Now we’re really a full service, comprehensive college campus,” O’Hara said.

Besides offering more programs and a larger curriculum for students to choose from, NWTC-Marinette also boasts a broader range of support services including academic and financial aid advising, counseling and testing and career services.

“And, of course, I did not do that alone in any way, shape or form,” O’Hara said, laughing. “These are things that happened while I was there. You never do anything alone. There’s no white horse, trust me.”

O’Hara just received a State of Wisconsin Citation by the Senate which recognizes his career and contributions for the past 26 years. During his tenure at NWTC-Marinette, O’Hara added new programs in health, business and trades; developed training programs for dislocated workers, particularly during plant closings during the 2008 recession; worked with the American Association For Community Colleges on bringing grants to the school to promote manufacturing careers and entrepreneurship; oversaw $4.1 million in NWTC building additions to the Marinette campus and North Coast Center on Main Street and increased campus enrollments by 75 percent.

NWTC-Marinette currently has about 430 full-time equivalency students and a total enrollment of more than 3,200 students. In 1999, it had about 250 full-time equivalency students and a total enrollment of about 1,200 students. The college also has about a 90 percent job placement rate in an occupation related to a student’s training within the first six months of graduation.

During retirement, O’Hara will serve as president of the board of directors at the Marinette-Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Tri-City Area United Way Campaign Committee and intake coordinator for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program through the college and United Way.

He’d also like to return to oil painting, sailing, kayaking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. O’Hara wants to spend more time with his nine grandchildren, too.

“Unfortunately, I like to eat too much and I didn’t seem to abandon that,” O’Hara said, laughing.

From  “Area farmers affected by shutdown” — APPLETON – The shutdown of the federal government is causing headaches for many.

One group affected by the stalemate in Congress is farmers, and depending on how long the shutdown lasts, you could pay more at the grocery store.

Appleton dairy farmer Mark Petersen told FOX 11 he is ready to put Congress out to pasture.

“No matter what side of the aisle they are, because their job is ironing these things out and sitting down and compromising and talk and come up with a solution. They’re not doing it,” said Petersen.

Petersen and farmers like him rely on the government for a lot of their business planning.

Randy Tenpas with Fox Valley Technical College’s Agriculture Department told us the federal shutdown is frustrating.

“The real impact will be felt the longer we go from this,” Tenpas explained.

Tenpas told us 23 agencies affiliated with agriculture are shut down right now. Even the USDA’s website is offline.

“You’re looking for a federal loan, for example, for expansion. That’s on hold right now,” Tenpas explained.

According to Tenpas, certain permits and subsidy payments will also be delayed.

Tenpas said, however, the widest-felt impact would likely be food inspections. He told us there will still be inspections to ensure national standards, but with fewer federal staff, those inspections will happen at a slower pace.

“What if we can’t ship and export products because it’s not inspected? That’ll have an impact and we may see that in commodity prices,” said Tenpas.

Tenpas told us at this point there’s not much farmers can do but wait and see what happens next.

“Just going to have to have a little patience,” said Tenpas.

Petersen told us no matter what happens in the federal government, farmers are going to keep doing what they do.

“Farmers are going to keep producing and they’re going to keep taking care of their business,” said Petersen.

On top of that, Congress has yet to pass a new farm bill.  An extension expired Sept. 30. That means dairy farmers will have to wait for their checks from the federal milk income loss program.

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