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Skilled workers in demand

EAU CLAIRE — As a student in Chippewa Valley Technical College’s (CVTC) Machine Tooling Technics program, Eric Weining of Menomonie has a valuable set of skills for potential employers. Unfortunately, it was probably too late for the employers at the CVTC Spring Career Fair Wednesday, April 9, to entice him.

Weining will not graduate from the program until December, but that didn’t stop him from getting a job at Phillips Plastics in Menomonie. He started about four weeks ago.

“I work in the tool room as a mold machine technician,” Weining said. He heard about a job opening there and had some contacts in the company, but his plans to finish his degree at CVTC was key. “That was motivation for them. They had been looking to hire a student from CVTC for their program.”

Starting early

In a sign of improving economic times, participation in the CVTC Spring Career Fair was up once again, and the message to employers was clear: Start your recruitment efforts early, as skilled workers are in high demand.

Overall, 81 private and public employers set up tables at three CVTC facilities at this year’s Spring Career Fair, up from 69 last spring and from 58 in spring 2012. The 37 employers at the Manufacturing Education Center represented an increase from 30 at the Spring 2013 Career Fair. In spring 2011, only 22 manufacturing businesses participated.

Kuss Filtration in Bloomer had never participated in the Spring Career Fair before, but it was time for the company that was spun off from Cummins Filtration to get proactive.

“Now that we’re spun off, there’s no outside support for troubleshooting equipment,” said Ben Rubenzer, manufacturing engineering manager for the company. He’s looking to expand a maintenance team of 14 at the plant that employs up to 170 workers.

“We’re looking at exploding our capabilities and our skill set internally,” Rubenzer said. “We’re looking at Electromechanical (Technology) students.”

Kuss Filtration was not the only company looking for people with the training to design, program and maintain the often automated equipment found in today’s manufacturing plants, nor was Kuss the first new employer to take part in the fair. Universal Services, a power line installation company out of Hastings, Minn.; Crown Trucks, a lift truck manufacturer from St. Paul; and Koch Pipeline were among several new Career Fair participants looking for people with such skills.

Some employers are anxious to find applicants.

Increased demand

Brad Moran at the TTM Technologies table said he has 31 maintenance workers at the Chippewa Falls plant, but he could use 40. “We’re constantly adding equipment. We’ve been on the increase the past two and half years,” Moran said.

A crowd of Machine Tooling Technics students gathered around the Riverside Machine and Engineering table, examining some of the small metal parts the company manufactures. The plant, which will be moving from Chippewa Falls into part of the Hutchinson Technology building on Eau Claire’s north side, has needs for machinists, inspectors on all shifts and calibration technicians. A sign at the table requested applicants for those jobs.

“About 90 percent of our crew is CVTC graduates. We recruit very heavily here,” said Elisia Gonsowski of the Riverside team.

Giles Nielsen of Five Star Plastics in Eau Claire was looking for Electromechanical Technology students, but also had his eyes open for people with other skills as well. On his table were two plastic prototype parts made through use of two different kinds of three-dimensional printers. CVTC recently added one of those types of printers.

“We have a rapid prototyping department,” said Nielsen. “If they know about this process and how to run these machines, it’s all the better.”

Plenty of openings

Companies tended to be quite familiar with CVTC graduates.

“We hired a CVTC student last year who is a multi-craft technician. He does a little bit of electrical and instrumentation and mechanical. He’s doing a great job for us. We’re looking to see who else is available,” said Natalie Caldarera of Koch Pipeline.

Denise Nelson of Universal Services had openings for as many as eight Electromechanical Technology technicians, four aerial linemen and a diesel mechanic – all skills taught in specific CVTC programs.

Students in the sought-after programs found a lot of interest from potential employers, but, as in Weining’s case, it was often too late – for the employers.

Electromechanical Technology student Charlie Yohnk of Bloomer has been working at Catalytic Combustion in Bloomer since September. “I plan to stay there, but I’m going around seeing what everyone else is up to,” he said.

It’s not too late for companies to spark an interest with Sam Reider, who can bring a diversity of skills. The 2007 Chippewa Falls High School graduate attended CVTC in the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology program, then served his country in Afghanistan as a diesel mechanic in the service. He’s now a CVTC Industrial Mechanics program student.

“I like fixing stuff. I want to see what’s out there after I graduate,” Reider said. He drew some early interest from Five Star Plastics, even though he’s not graduating until May 2015.

For Career Fair employers, recruitment is a long-term project.

Read more: From chippewa.com: "Workers in demand"

MPTC eyes $1.5 million addition

A proposed $1.5 million addition planned for Moraine Park Technical College will enhance the front entrance, centralize services and accommodate student veterans.

The addition will be located on the west side of the C-Building in close proximity to the C-Parking (visitor) lot. A ground-breaking ceremony is scheduled for June 2.

The Student Services Addition Project is pending May 6 approval by the Wisconsin Technical College System State Board.

The project will move MPTC from “good” to “wow,” said Stanley Cram, vice president of student affairs. The new “one-stop shop” includes a walk-up service area for enrollment and eliminates the current physical barriers between staff and the student.

“Like any business it is important that customers — in our case student learners — are able to quickly identify where they need to go for information and services they are seeking,” Cram said. “We recognized the Fond du Lac campus most obvious need is to have a clearly identifiable ‘Front Door.’”

There will be a concierge desk for visitors and students and offices for recruitment staff, academic advisors, and student counselors. The addition will provide a handicap-accessible entrance.

“We are creating the space with a Ritz Carlton concierge concept of service,” Cram said. “When individuals enter the front door they will be greeted by a concierge desk who will determine their specific needs and will guide them to the appropriate services.”

The space will also include a welcome center, which will be staffed with advisors, a veteran’s representative and trained recruitment staff. Cram said the plan includes technological features such as flat-screen meeting notices.

A separate area is dedicated to assisting veterans through the admission, enrollment and financial aid processes and introduce them to veteran services offered by the college.

The project will be funded with $300,000 from college reserves and $1.2 million promissory note borrowing.

Bids for the project will be opened at 2 p.m. April 24 during a public bid, and the project is expected to be approved at a May 21 meeting of the Moraine Park Technical College District Board. Bid requests were sent to 15 pre-qualified general contractors, said Tim Flood, director of facility services.

Somerville Inc. of Green Bay is the architectural firm that designed the 5,212-foot concrete block addition to match facilities at MPTC’s Beaver Dam and West Bend campuses.

“I think it’s an outstanding design that ties into the existing building,” Flood said.

The main entrance will be closed during construction and students will access the school through the C-2 entrance, which is off the main parking lot. The driveway will remain open.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of November and ready for students for the winter/spring 2015 semester.

Cram said additional services will be considered during the second phase of the project.

“I want Moraine Park to be home for our students and alumni. If you need us you have a home that will always strive to provide the best experience for a lifetime,” he said.

Read more: From fdlreporter.com: "MPTC eyeing $1.5 million addition"

Green Bay area students learn about employment in agriculture

Seventh- and eighth-grade students from five area public schools had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of 32 different agricultural employment fields at the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp.-sponsored Ag Career Days. More than 900 students gathered at Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy April 10-11 to learn about potential future careers based in agriculture.

“Today is about showcasing opportunities available in agriculture,” said Tori Sorenson, GreenStone Farm Credit Services and co-chair of the KCEDC Ag Committee. “Students are getting further away from family farms, and we want to make these local opportunities known.”

Students had the opportunity to rank four different “clusters” of careers: Dollars and Sense, Grinding Gear, Diggin’ Deep and Cow “Tipping,” with the intention of learning about specific jobs within those clusters.

After a bus tour of the Ponderosa, the students broke into their groups and had the opportunity to interact with local business people.

“We need to put the tools in the toolbox and offer the opportunity to learn about where food comes from,” Sorenson said.

Monica Streff, a nutritionist at Cornette Farm Supply, dairy farmer and custom calf ranch raiser, served as one of the stops in the Cow “Tipping” cluster, and she talked about mixing products to create a formula for calf nutrition.

“I look at kids as the future of agriculture. If we don’t educate them today, we may not have a future,” Streff said. “There are jobs that involve more than just animals, like in horticulture, crops, sales, mechanics, fruits and vegetables.”

Steve Bretl of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College was a presenter in the Grinding Gear cluster, informing students about the diesel technician program at NWTC. He was showing the students how to use a PTO dynamometer, which can calculate if a piece of machinery is producing the horsepower and torque it is rated for.

“The complexity of the industry requires students to have communications, math, and technical skills in high school to prep them for program soft skills,” Bretl said. “It is important to make them aware now of what they can do and how they can obtain their goals.”

Students from Luxemburg-Casco, Algoma, Kewaunee, Denmark and Southern Door attended the two-day event.

Read more: From greenbaypressgazette.com: "Area students learn about employment in agriculture"

NWTC budget up slightly, but tax levy plummets

Gov. Scott Walker’s property tax cuts mean a big change in the way Northeast Wisconsin Technical College balances its books.

The community college’s general fund budget for next school is expected to increase by about 1.8 percent from $77.2 million this year to $78.7 million for 2014-15.

But NWTC’s local tax levy will drop by about half, from $59.3 million to $27.6 million, under the Republican governor’s plan to use the state’s projected $977 million surplus to cover property and income tax cuts. The measure, approved by the state Legislature and signed by Walker last month, sends $406 million to technical colleges to reduce property tax levies.

That means the owner of a home valued at $150,000 in NWTC’s district would pay about $115 for that portion of their tax bill, compared with $240 last year.

A public hearing on the budget proposal is set for next month.

“It didn’t give us more money,” NWTC President Jeff Rafn said of the changes. “It just swapped state money for local money.”

NWTC will receive about 42 percent of its funding from the state, compared with 9 percent currently, he said.

“In my view it is good and properly re-balances things,” Rafn said. “The down side would be if they would eliminate property taxes altogether. Then we would become a state institution and would lose local control.”

Some people have expressed concerns that technical schools can raise taxes yet are governed by appointed bodies rather than elected officials, Rafn said. He noted the state’s 2013-15 budget limits property tax increases to value added by new construction in municipalities within the school’s district in the past year, which is anticipated to be less than 1 percent for NWTC.

“Property taxes aren’t going to go up,” he said. “But taking away local control would hamper our ability to make quick local decisions.”

Rafn cited expansion of nursing programs to meet higher demands at NWTC as an example.

The state Legislature has formed a Special Committee on the Review of Wisconsin Technical College System Funding and Governance — co-chaired by Republican Rep. John Nygren of Marinette — to review the process.

As part of next year’s budget, NWTC is looking to increase some offerings, including programs in fire-medic, therapeutic massage and software development.

The school also will expand some programming, such as its health and wellness program and joint programs with area high schools.

It will use grant money to fund a variety of learning coaches and tutors.

The school plans to eliminate a financial institution management program which is losing enrollment, but Rafn said students enrolled in the program still could finish.

Read more: From greenbaypressgazette.com: "NWTC budget up slightly, but tax levy plummets"

ABB enables students to utilize latest technology in lab

ABB Inc. recently donated eight democases from a new DTC product line to Waukesha County Technical College’s Automation Technology Program, which will enable students to utilize the latest technology in lab work and applications.

With hands-on access to newer technologies, it is believed that the utility of learning will be accelerated in both the school and workplace environments.

Delivery of the democases, “enables us to upgrade our labs – and gives students enhanced hands-on training with the latest available drives technology,” said Jesse Stuller, automation instructor and supporter of industry-academic support programs at WCTC. “Our goal is to provide the highest quality education to our students. Our partnership with industry provides the avenue to accomplish that goal.”

The drives democases donated are from the new ACS880 high performance DTC product line.

“These units provide a simple, yet comprehensive, all-in-one solution that is specialized for training and learning,” said Dennis Miller, ABB Sr. Technical Instructor, who arranged the donation. “The democases facilitate a complete application simulation.”

Miller also said the older democases feature older technology and have been in use for over 15 years, making the upgrade current with the latest technology ABB offers end users and keeps the Automation Technologies Program up to date.

Self-contained Labs

The donated drives are extremely user friendly and ideal for students to use.  Students will be able to program and test them as they become familiar with drive technology for the first time.

The drive is connected to a small motor and has an external input/output control panel wired to the analog inputs, digital inputs, digital outputs and analog outputs.

Students can fully simulate use of controls for any given application, and spin the motor like in a real application. The democase’s user friendly properties is said to aid in the learning process, even in the areas of serial communications and PC interfacing. The whole gamut of applications can be simulated from basic speed-control to more complex torque-control applications. They are ideal for facilitating learning with parameter adjustments and incorporating drives into electronics projects/applications.

The drives also offer networking capability to DeviceNet and other communication module protocols, so students can see and understand how computers are used in industrial environments. Programming and monitoring of the drive can be accomplished via specific PC or Drive software.

Students will program the drives and operate motors that simulate real-world installations and loads.

Beyond an introduction to the technology, students will have an opportunity to drill into the equipment’s performance characteristics in order to understand what control features they will be able to access, modify and offer customers in the workplace. This shortens the distance between experience in school and the workplace. The ACS880 democase can be used to teach and illustrate “complete” motor control.

Benefits of Using Drives

The benefits of using drives also include teaching energy consumption to the students.  This fact is becoming more and more useful as the world becomes more energy conscious.

The Adjustable Speed Drives (ASDs) are drives that can be used in any application where mechanical equipment is powered by motors. They provide extremely precise electrical motor control, allowing motor speeds to be ramped up or down, or maintained. Utilizing only the energy required rather than having the motor run at constant, fixed speed saves an excess of energy.

The ability to manipulate motor control helps motor users realize 25 – 70 percent energy savings, according to ABB experts. Using an AC drive also prolongs the operation of small motors and reduces wear and tear in installations.

Read more: From controldesign.com: "ABB enables students to utilize latest technology in lab"

Gateway property taxes cut in half

— The property taxes local residents will pay for Gateway Technical College next year are to be cut in half thanks to an act of the Legislature passed this year, according to officials and Gateway’s proposed 2014-15 budget presented Thursday.

The total amount taxpayers are budgeted to pay next year for Gateway is $28.98 million, down from $60 million this year.

“Homeowners will see a reduction in their local property taxes which gives them the relief they are looking for and Gateway has been able to demonstrate good performance, so we’ll see an increase in the revenue streams to support ongoing training,” Gateway President Bryan Albrecht said following a budget presentation Thursday at the Gateway Technical College District Board meeting in the HERO Center, 380 McCanna Parkway, in Burlington.

Under Act 145, the property tax relief act passed this year, the state will pick up a large portion of what local property taxpayers usually pay for technical colleges throughout the state, explained Conor Smyth, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Technical College System. It doesn’t mean a new pool of money for technical colleges, he said. It means local taxpayers will pay less, while statewide taxpayer dollars, now part of the state surplus, will be more heavily relied upon.

The surplus is the result of holding down spending, Act 10 savings, and the growing economy, according to state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester.

Amount local taxpayers will pay Gateway Technical College will be greatly reducted in Gateway's 2014-15 budget

Change in state funding

Statewide, local property taxpayers used to pay 68 percent of the cost of technical colleges. That is now reduced to 33 percent, and the amount the state pays is going from 9 percent to 44 percent, Smyth said.

For Gateway, approximately $32 million is being moved from local property taxes to the state. That means about $83 in property tax relief for someone with a $100,000 home.

Vos, the Assembly speaker, said the biggest complaint he hears from constituents is about taxes and this provides relief, but state Rep. Cory Mason, R-Racine, said instead of simply swapping out property taxes more money should have gone to technical colleges for worker training, and he had proposed a bill that would have done that.

Mason said he voted against Act 145 not because he thinks the property tax cut is bad, but because technical college funding needs to be restored to prior levels.

“All the money they put into the technical college went to property tax relief, nothing from that bill went for job training or getting people back to work … If jobs really is the No. 1 issue, we should be investing in things that get people back to work.”

Albrecht said the college is getting additional state funding through a new performance-based calculation that rewards the school for doing well. The college has also applied for an additional $2.7 million through what is being called the Blue Print for Prosperity, according to Albrecht. That includes money for more boot camps, among other things.

Additional budget items

Overall, Gateway’s proposed total budget is down from $161.62 million to $156.76 million. Albrecht attributed that in part to Act 10, which essentially eliminated collective bargaining for public employees. It allowed Gateway to make changes to benefits such as retirement and health insurance, he said. Also he said over the last three years there were approximately 85 retirements, which contributed to the college’s savings because employees who had been with Gateway used to receive longevity pay based on the number of years they were with the college. Now he said instead of budgeting for longevity pay, they have funds budgeted for merit-based pay increases.

“We certainly want to be an employer of choice and recognize employees for the great work they are doing,” Albrecht said.

Read more: From journaltimes.com: "Gateway property taxes cut in half"

Blackhawk Technical College to host upcoming seminars

Blackhawk Technical College’s Business and Community Development division is holding three different seminars in late April and throughout May aimed at enhancing business climate and improving workplace safety.

The classes, which will be held at Blackhawk’s Central Campus and Center for Transportation Studies, are:

Building Inclusive Teams: A How-To Leader’s Guide; Monday, April 28; 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Central Campus; $69.

This workshop demonstrates how to effectively build a team in an era when the workplace often is a collection of individuals with different social values and abilities. Learn how a business can appreciate and celebrate these individuals yet still mold them into an effective workforce.

Mobile Air Conditioning Certification; Thursday, May 8; 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Center for Transportation Studies; $69.

This is a State of Wisconsin approved certification course for operators of refrigerant recovery/recycling equipment. Those who install, repair or service mobile air conditioners with refrigerants or anyone who operates a business where refrigerant is recycled or used to charge mobile air conditioners must be certified. Participants must pass a final test to receive certification.

OSHA 10-Hour Voluntary Compliance for General Industry; Tuesday, May 20; Thursday, May 22; Tuesday, May 27; and Thursday, May 29; 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Central Campus; $249.

This certification seminar is intended for managers and other personnel responsible for job safety and implementing practices that comply with OSHA standards. This course introduces the OSHA act and covers topics such as walking and working surfaces, exit routes, emergency plans, fire prevention and protection, electrical safety and hazard communications. Participants will receive and OSHA 10-hour card.

For more information on these and other programs sponsored by BTC’s Business and Community Development Division, contact BCD at (608) 757-7728 or online at www.blackhawk.edu.

Read more: From wisbusiness.com: "Blackhawk Technical College Community Development Division to host upcoming seminars"

Students use LTC facilities to make mini-choppers

Motorcycles are taking shape in metal shop classrooms across Manitowoc County as students work toward a Friday deadline to complete their bikes in time for a late-April motorcycle show.

The project is a collaborative effort by the Economic Development Corporation of Manitowoc County, The Chamber of Manitowoc County, local high schools, Lakeshore Technical College, and sponsorship by area business.

Read more: From htrnews.com: "Mini-choppers take shape at area schools"

CVTC, NWTC provide distance learning options

As rural schools deal with the reality of reduced budgets and smaller enrollments, one of the inevitable trends is the reduction in the number of classes offered as schools focus on core subjects.

A number of Clark County schools are turning toward sharing teachers in a number of elective classes as a way of saving costs, while still providing students with learning opportunities.

Sue Rudesill, a family and consumer sciences teacher, begins each day in Neillsville, and then around lunch time makes the 20-minute commute to Greenwood to continue teaching in the afternoon.

It’s the first year she’s split time between two schools and said it took a little getting used to the first semester.

She would find herself trying to help students after class in Neillsville, but that potentially delayed her getting to Greenwood, causing the first part of her class in Greenwood to be missed.

After discussions with administrators in both districts, she said she now has a little more time to make the commute this semester.

Another change that districts are seeing is the increased reliance on distance learning courses. Students will be in a normal classroom, but the teacher often will be miles away in another school.

“We do have some rooms that are now available,” Neillsville School District Superintendent John Gaier said. “A lot of the rooms that used to have classes in them are now being used as distance learning classrooms. It’s possible for a high school class period to have four online classes going on.”

Students in Neillsville take distance learning classes through a number of different institutions, including the Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.

But it’s not just courses being taught at institutions of higher education that students are taking. Sometimes schools share courses with each other through distance learning.

In Loyal, students take social studies through Granton, a required course for graduation.

“That’s a big step to go into that. Spanish is an elective, but to have a required class that’s important, the reason we did it was it seemed to be the least detrimental. The teacher would be the most able to appropriately communicate with students. You would not want to do chemistry (over distance learning),” Cale Jackson, Loyal School District administrator, said. “History seemed like something where the kids could still have a good experience even though it was over the distance learning.”

It takes a lot of work and coordination between schools to sync schedules, Jackson said, “but everybody is in the same boat, so everybody is willing to do it.”

Read more: From marshfieldnews.com: "Teaching, class sharing rises at rural schools as budgets shrink"

Opinion: Tech education one key to future workforce

Hundreds of job seekers attended a recent job fair hosted by Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland. Just as telling, about 50 employers were registered.

Companies are recruiting for a mix of permanent and seasonal jobs, including full- and part-time. Many of the major employers in Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties were represented. Opportunities are there for the taking for those with the right skills.

Jobs are certain to be a key issue in this year’s gubernatorial election. The presumed Democratic nominee, Mary Burke, has criticized Gov. Scott Walker’s jobs plan as ineffective and scant on details. The state GOP, in turn, has criticized Burke’s record as state commerce secretary, and says her jobs plan lacks substance.

Democrats often point to Walker’s inability to meet a campaign goal of creating 250,000 new private sector jobs as evidence that his plan is not working.

Those seeking and creating jobs are more concerned about results than political rhetoric, however. Job seekers want good, well paying jobs, and employers want workers with skills to do the job. Key to meeting the needs of both job seekers and employers is identifying and developing those skills.

On today’s front page, our series on how technology is dramatically changing education continues with a focus on instruction after high school. Higher education is key to many competitive jobs in our high-tech world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a four-year degree.

A 2012 report on Wisconsin workforce development quoted research by Georgetown University, which determined that up to 925,000 jobs would become available in Wisconsin in the decade ending in 2018, due to retirements and growth. An estimated 70 percent of those jobs will require less than a four-year degree, according to the study.

That makes schools like Lakeshore Technical College, which offers a variety of one- and two-year degree options, a major player in the jobs training scenario. In fact, many local manufacturers have open positions requiring the very skills that schools like LTC can teach in a one- or two-year period. There is a shortage of workers to fill these positions, that according to one LTC official can pay up to $60,000 annually.

Such training is beginning sooner with high schools in Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties having the opportunity to offer introductory manufacturing classes beginning next school year thanks to an Advanced Manufacturing Mobile Lab unveiled at Lakeshore Technical College recently.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch called the facility “opportunity on wheels” during a dedication ceremony.

The lab is one of many ways the school is seeking to prepare the workforce of the future. Experts predict future workers will be more tech savvy, highly trained in specific skills and better able to adapt to employer needs.

All of that requires the proper education, be it at the university or technical school level, but our education system faces other challenges.

Wisconsin is among the leaders in the country with its 90 percent high school graduation rates but that still leaves roughly 14,000 dropouts each year.

The problem does not end there, however. The state’s graduation rate at four-year higher education institutions is just 36 percent, and only 29 percent of those seeking associate degrees at two-year schools do so within three years. Many factors play into these numbers, but the bottom line is that a majority of post-secondary students don’t complete the course of study they embark upon.

That trend needs to reverse if employers are going to find the skilled help they need and if job seekers are available to fill those jobs.

Many students, before going the route of a four-year university education, would benefit from at least exploring two-year institutions like LTC, UW-Manitowoc or UW-Sheboygan. Cost (and resulting student debt) is a major factor in such decisions. Two-year schools are proven to be less expensive, particularly if housing costs are not a factor.

Education is key to a developed workforce and technology is key to education. Take the time to learn more about each, and use that knowledge to choose wisely the path most productive — for you and society as a whole.

Read more: From htrnews.com: "Opinion: Tech education one key to future workforce'"

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