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NWTC student meets President Obama

GREEN BAY – An international student, studying at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, has quite the story to tell his friends and family back in Tunisia.

Mohamed Dhib has been in the United States for about ten months.

“It’s so different, it’s not like the U.S. we watch in the movies,” said Dhib.

The movies might be where the story of Dhib’s trip to Washington D.C. belongs. Last week, Dhib went to the nation’s capitol thinking he was meeting with visiting Tunisian government officials.

“We just gave like advice to improve our Tunisian education system through the skills that we’ve learned here,” said Dhib.

After his meeting, Dhib was taken on an impromptu tour of the White House. He was told he’d be meeting the leader of Tunisia.

“They told us the Prime Minister and high level people from the White House, but honestly I didn’t expect it would be that high level,” said Dhib.

While in the Rose Garden, it was as high level as it comes.

“Suddenly somebody said like “oh, hi guys, how are you doing?”said Dhib. “For like ten seconds nobody said anything. We were all like this, and it was the President and our Prime Minister.”

The meeting lasted about fifteen minutes. Dhib told the President he was studying in Green Bay.

“He said, ‘How’s it going there? Do you like the winter?” said Dhib.

While Dhib says he can’t recall all the details, he remembers enough to make his fellow international students at NWTC wish they were there.

“I’m a little bit jealous, because when do you get the chance to meet the President of the United States?” said Felix Winkler, a German exchange student at NWTC.

“He was a practical person,” said Dhib of Obama. “He’s humble. I like him.”

Dhib couldn’t say whether he was more excited to meet President Obama or the Tunisian Prime Minister. He says meeting the Prime Minister is just as rare as an average U.S. citizen meeting the President.

Okuma America Corp and Madison College partner to train machinists, programmers

Okuma America Corporation, a world-leader in CNC machine tool manufacturing, and Madison Area Technical College (MATC), a member of Partners in THINC, today announced their partnership to provide superior CNC education to students. The three-year partnership will deliver high quality hands-on training in service, repair, operation, programming, application and maintenance of Okuma machines as part of MATC’s machinist certificate and degree programs.

Madison Area Technical College will offer training led by NIMS certified, Level 1 instructors on Okuma CNC machines and simulators in the college’s new Ingenuity Center. In addition to providing equipment, Okuma will assist in developing content and programs that are aligned with Okuma’s workforce goals. “We’re pleased to join forces with MATC in CNC education. This partnership will provide a workforce pool to the local industry base that has the skills required to perform CNC related jobs,” said Lisa Rummel, chief financial officer at Okuma America.

Ribbon cutting ceremonies showcasing the Ingenuity Center will be held at MATC on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at 3:30 p.m.

Read more: From digitaljournal.com: "Okuma America Corporation and Madison Area Technical College partner to train the next generation of machinists and programmers"

Students learn business communications on fast track

As a non-traditional student in Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Business Management program, Jim Voss of Boyd had something of an advantage going into the Speed Networking event held as part of a planning and decision making class. He’s been at ease talking to people for years.

“I just never thought of it as ‘networking,’ ” Voss said. But he’s long understood the value of making business connections through personal connections. It’s something business people do constantly in social settings, but for some, especially young people, it can be difficult.

“You don’t have people waiting to talk to you,” Voss said about those social situations. “You have to go up and meet people.”

Getting some practice doing that was what the Speed Networking event March 31 at CVTC was all about.

The event involved 40 business people, matching the number of students in the class. Students are told to dress for a business setting but are not allowed to bring a resume. Although skills developed may help in job interviews, it is not an interview practice session, but something more informal.

Students sit down with the volunteers and talk for five minutes, then switch tables and talk with a new volunteer, meeting as many of the business people they can in the allotted time. This networking practice prepares the students for the real thing when they attend the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Business After Hours networking session April 14.

The Speed Networking event, now in its seventh year, was developed by now-retired CVTC Business Management instructor Grace Rich, along with Jeff Pepper, who is now associate dean of business.

“It’s for the students to experience networking in a controlled environment,” said Mary Felton-Kolstad, who teaches the class.

Rich recalls that the idea for the event actually came from a student, who noted that one skill he didn’t learn, but needed, was how to talk to people he didn’t know.

Voss was a pressman for Chippewa Valley Newspapers for many years and is now studying business at CVTC in search of a new career after industry changes left him without work. His maturity made it easier for him to converse with the business people, many of whom were much younger than him. Still, he had much to gain from the exercise through meeting a variety of business people.

“One of the things I noticed was the directness and the honesty of the business people,” Voss said. “They all had something to say and offered some pointers.”

A couple of the business people Voss met gave him the names of others he could contact in his upcoming job search. “People that know people – that’s what networking is all about. Where else can you get 40 business people willing to meet with students?”

Student Patrick Seipel of Menomonie shared his desire to own his own business someday with the networking contacts he met.

“I was pretty built up around introducing myself,” Seipel said. “I’d talk about what I want to do the next year or the next couple of years and what I want to build for myself.”

Then he would ask the business people about themselves and their companies, sometimes finding a special connection. His business idea involved production of homemade candies and he heard a couple of tips about certified kitchens where he could get started.

“I made some good connections and a possible job opportunity from one of them,” Seipel said.

The business professionals were happy to help, and also saw benefit in the event for themselves and their businesses.

“I made my calendar open so I could do it,” said Kathy Christiansen, director of Lakeland College’s center in Chippewa Falls. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to give back and try to help students feel comfortable. It can be uncomfortable for them to walk up to someone and start a conversation.”

Christiansen was not there on a recruitment mission, but she was aware that some of the students may be interested in going back to school for additional degrees after they graduate from CVTC. “At least they will know we are available. It gave me an opportunity to tell my story. I’m a CVTC graduate who went to Lakeland,” Christiansen said.

Matt Jentile of Fastenal in Chippewa Falls saw the events as a benefit to the students and his company.

“Part of my job as a district manager is recruiting,” Jentile said. We have to get involved with technical colleges and universities and keep our pipeline full. We are growing so fast we want to reach out to students while they’re still in school.”

The Speed Networking event was in a structured setting, but after it was over, a large group of students and business people continued to network, gathering at the Green Mill restaurant and lounge in Eau Claire.

Read more: From chippewa.com: "Students learn business communications on fast track"

Former ag agent touts farm business education

Randy Zogbaum was preaching to the choir.

It was a familiar choir — the Columbia County Board’s agriculture and land and water conservation committee. Zogbaum had been the agriculture agent for the University of Wisconsin-Extension Columbia County before leaving in late November 2008 to be education director for agriculture, natural resources and renewable energy with the Wisconsin Technical College System.

His message fell on receptive ears: Madison Area Technical College is here to help farmers manage the dollars and cents of agriculture.

“Whether you’re a fresh-market vegetable producer or have a 1,000-cow dairy herd, farming is still a business,” Zogbaum said.

Now an MATC agriculture instructor, Zogbaum came to Columbia County on Monday at the invitation of County Board Chairman Andy Ross to talk about a series of farm business classes — each lasting six weeks and offering 24 hours of instruction — that Zogbaum is helping to put together.

Zogbaum is based in Reedsburg, but he said many of MATC’s satellite campuses, including the one in Portage, are expected to offer the classes.

Some of the topics are:

• Understanding the farm business, mainly for people who are new to farming or who are contemplating launching a career in farming.

• Developing a farm business plan.

• Farm business analysis and decision making.

• Farm enterprise analysis and marketing.

• Long-term farm budgeting and management.

Kurt Calkins, Columbia County’s director of land and water conservation, said he thinks classes like these should include education on farmers’ compliance with state pollution control standards.

They will, Zogbaum said — the classes will show farmers the costs of non-compliance, the losses in profit that can result from using more fertilizer than is needed and the sources of financial assistance for farmers who want to (or have to) undertake a costly pollution-abatement project.

Committee member Mike Weyh, who is a farmer, said he was curious about whether the classes would address the sometimes-daunting process of navigating farm markets and determining when and where to sell farm commodities.

That will be addressed in the more advanced courses, Zogbaum said.

He said the classes can be taken sequentially, or experienced farmers can take only the more advanced classes.

Zogbaum said he would not teach all the classes; in fact, MATC is looking for adjunct instructors for the classes, most of which are expected to start this fall.

But some of the people sitting around the table for the committee’s meeting, he said, could play a role in the instruction. For example, Calkins could share information about cost-sharing programs offered by the state through county land and water conservation departments. And representatives from federal offices like the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency could show farmers how to tap into resources offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The cost would be about $240 per course.

Zogbaum said MATC will put out a brochure sometime in the late summer to announce the classes’ schedule and locations where they will be offered.

Read more: From wiscnews.com: "Former ag agent touts farm business education"

Gateway students find careers for women in IT

Obstacles and solutions are a large part of the IT professional’s career choice. Organizations assemble IT staffs to solve business problems. Traditionally, it’s been a man’s world, with women in a decidedly minority role. The IBM midrange community is no different. But last month at the Wisconsin Midrange Computing Professionals Association Technical Conference, a session called Women in IT put the gender topic in a new light.

The role of women in IT is changing. And it’s not changing because we’ve all sat around and waited for change to happen on its own accord. It’s changing because there are people who want it to change and because it’s time for change.

According to the 2013 statistics by the U.S. Department of Labor, 57 percent of professional occupations in the U.S. workforce are held by women, yet only 26 percent of professional computing occupations in the U.S. workforce are held by women. If the number of women in IT careers doubled, it would still fall short of current benchmark for professional women in all categories. Obviously, there is room for improvement.

One person who takes that as a challenge is Beth Akerlund. She was recruited as the keynote speaker for the Women in IT session by Sue Zimmermann, vice president of the WMCPA user group that hosts the annual tech conference for IBM i advocates who take their career development seriously.

Akerlund began her career in IT with a Milwaukee area software company after graduating from college. She moved on to work for Groupon when it was a start-up. There her career experiences expanded as she began working with engineering teams, process improvements, implementing a variety of technologies, and software development. Later she returned to her hometown of Milwaukee, where she is works in custom software development for Centare.

Through a variety of industry networking events, Akerlund became acquainted with women in IT. Their conversations included the need for a women’s network that would provide the platform for meeting, building peer relationships, improving career skills, and provide mentoring to a younger generation of women in computer science as well as other areas of high technology.

As a result of those connections, Akerlund and others launched a Milwaukee chapter of Girls in Tech, a global non-profit organization with 35 active chapters. The Milwaukee chapter’s launch event had 75 attendees. Ten months later, the local chapter membership is 325 and the organization has discovered local business support and support from tech leaders in the greater Milwaukee metro area.

Already in place are programs for conferences, mentoring young girls, mentoring college-aged women, mentoring for women already in technology, a boot camp that teaches entrepreneurial skills, and cultural exchange programs.

One example of a youth outreach program for the Girls in Tech Milwaukee branch is a partnership with Girl Scouts. Another partnership has been set up with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “Businesses in the Milwaukee area supportive,” Akerlund said during a phone call with me last week, “and they encourage us (and men, too) to develop a greater interest in tech careers.”

At the WMCPA Tech Conference, the Women in IT session was peppered with stories about inspiration, enthusiasm, and empowerment.

“Sharing personal stories–triumphs and challenges–benefits everyone who hears them,” Akerlund said.

Alison Butterill, product offering manager for IBM i, was one of the speakers at the WMCPA conference. Women in IT and women in business are topics she enjoys talking to women about, she said in an email.

“It’s important for women to establish goals for themselves–pick something to aspire to and strive for that,” she said. “Business is a game and it’s crucial that women learn the rules and key players in that game quickly. Those who do can leverage their natural human characteristics–like being nurturing and collaborative–to advance quickly. It’s also important for women to find a mentor, male or female, who can be a sort of coach for them throughout their career. Women have come a long way in the IT business, but they are still coming into their own and face challenges.”

Karyl Ruiz, a student at Gateway Technical College (one of the most prominent IBM i-oriented schools in the U.S.), attended the WMCPA Conference and the Women in IT session. Ruiz will graduate in May with associate degrees in software development and Web development. She’ll also have two certifications–programmer/analyst and iSeries operator.

“The Women in IT event helped me to see that we don’t have to know everything come graduation,” she said via email. “With experience those gaps would be filled. It also showed that women do hold a strong place in IT and that the way I was feeling up until this event was common among other women just entering into the field. The speakers made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”

Jessica Wagner, a second Gateway student, looked around at the women who attended the session and took note of the variety of ages.

“A lot of these women came into a field when it was all men,” she said in an email. “It can be intimidating to join a field when it’s all men, especially at a time when women were deciding they didn’t want to be in the home anymore and find their own path. Alison gave a lot of really useful information about what to expect in the business world. One thing schools don’t teach is how to interact in business and the importance of acting professional in the way you dress, your hair style, and the way you interact with coworkers and the boss. I also was really impressed with Beth; her wanting to bring more information to the younger generation about this field is important. I think more women like her talking to the younger generation is important to know that this field is no longer for just men and that women can make a difference.”

Akerlund said her focus and the focus of Women in IT is to show women success stories and demonstrate there is an increase in women in computer science and engineering.

“Organizations that are taking the steps to empower girls and women,” she said. “They’re not just saying there is a problem; they’re taking action.”

Additional information on the Girls in Tech Milwaukee branch can be found at the organization’s Meetup page and also on the group’s Facebook page.

Other resources for women in technology provided by Akerlund include: Women in Technology, She ++, The Anita Borg Institute, and Lean In.

Read more: From itjungle.com.com: "What Works for Women in IT"

State offers four-week driving course, guaranteed trucking job

Up to 300 Wisconsin residents will be able to earn a commercial driver’s license in a four-week training course and be guaranteed a trucking job through a program announced Friday by Gov. Scott Walker.

Fox Valley Technical College currently offers the course, and Waukesha County Technical College will offer it this summer. Applicants must pass eligibility screening, and priority will be given to veterans, dislocated workers, workers receiving federal Trade Adjustment Assistance and some persons eligible for programs under the federal Workforce Investment Act.

The training is free for members of the priority groups. Others will pay $2,500. People completing the training will be placed with one of three trucking firms — Schneider, of Green Bay; Roehl Transport, Marshfield; or WEL, DePere.

Read more: From jsonline.com: "State offers four-week driving course, guaranteed trucking job"

Fox Valley Tech College creates body farm for research

Fans of the CBS drama “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” undoubtedly will take interest in Fox Valley Technical College’s latest venture: the creation of a cold-weather body farm.

A body farm is an outdoor research facility where forensic scientists place animal carcasses and donated human cadavers in various settings — in the open air, in a shallow grave or in a sleeping bag — to study the decomposition of bodies by digestive enzymes, bacteria, insects and scavengers.

The information can help determine the time and circumstances of death, which detectives can use to validate or refute alibis given by suspects in a crime.

Body farms are in operation in Colorado, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, but the FVTC facility will be among the best suited to study the decomposition process in the extreme cold.

Joe LeFevre, chairman of FVTC’s Forensic Science Department, said researchers might conduct experiments on how subzero temperatures mummify body tissue, whether insects inside a chest cavity can tolerate freezing, or whether scavengers like coyotes and foxes lose interest in a frozen body.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions as to what happens to (bodies) after death,” LeFevre said.

The two-acre body farm will be built as part of FVTC’s $34.8 million Public Safety Training Center on County BB at the south end of the Outagamie County Airport in Greenville. Voters approved construction of the training center in April 2012 as part of a $66.5 million referendum.

The body farm, labeled a “forensic field training” site by FVTC, will be located along the west edge of the property. It lies south of FVTC’s “clandestine grave site” area, where instructors will use animal carcasses and cadavers to train forensic scientists, police officers and police dogs to locate buried remains.

Location worries

A resident living on the east side of the airport has serious concerns with the body farm, which is scheduled to open in mid-2015.

“Are we going to have excess flies now?” Tina LeFevre asked. “Is it going to smell now when the wind blows our way? What about if somebody wants to sell their house and potential buyers find out about that? Wouldn’t they go, ‘Eww’?”

LeFevre said most of her neighbors probably don’t know about FVTC’s plans. The body farm and grave site area were not publicized as part of the referendum.

Apprehension over the body farm is one of the reasons so few of them exist, LeFevre said.

“Not a lot of people want to deal with this topic,” he said. “This is not a happy topic.”

FVTC, though, considers its site to be ideal for a body farm. For starters, it’s connected to FVTC, which is known to law enforcement agencies across the country. It’s also isolated from the public by natural topography.

“This area works perfectly because there’s such limited access to it,” LeFevre said. “You can’t get to this area without being either on airport land or our land.”

FVTC will guard the site with a 10-foot-high fence to prevent curiosity seekers and thieves from entering the facility. The fence will be topped with barbed wire and screened with privacy slats.

LeFevre said nearby residents wouldn’t smell odors from decomposing carcasses and cadavers.

“The prevailing winds will keep them more toward the airport, toward the runway where nobody is, or if they are, they’re in an airplane whipping past at a couple hundred miles an hour, so they’re not going to get that whiff,” he said.

Research facility

FVTC plans to work with a forensic anthropologist at a research institution like the University of Wisconsin or the University of Tennessee to conduct experiments and publish the findings.

“We’d be spearheading the experiments, but we’d be partnering with another school, which would probably do some of the experimental design,” LeFevre said. “There’s a lot that goes into research.”

The body farm will be modeled after the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility, started by forensic anthropologist Bill Bass. The Tennessee body farm is located a few miles from downtown Knoxville.

FVTC will start its experiments with pig carcasses to ensure its practices and security measures are sound before moving to human cadavers. Pigs have body proportions and organ placements similar to humans.

LeFevre said UW-Platteville has done a few short-term experiments with pig carcasses, but it hasn’t published studies.

The FVTC body farm will consist primarily of grassland, but researchers might place a body in a shed, in a car or in an above-ground swimming pool to analyze how the variables affect decomposition. They also might replicate suicide scenarios for study.

While the farm will be primarily a research facility, FVTC will document its experiments with photographs for use in its instructional programs. FVTC has 187 students working toward an associate degree in forensic science.

Student access to the body farm will be limited to guided walking tours.

“They still need to get that odor of death,” LeFevre said. “They still need to see, in the field, what scavenger activity actually does to a body.”

The body farm also will further FVTC’s continuing-education program for law enforcement professionals. LeFevre said the CSI skills taught by FVTC will help not only police from east-central Wisconsin, but from Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul and beyond.

“We’d be bringing their expertise up to the next level,” he said. “Right now, we’re just teaching them the theoretical and showing them some photos from a crime scene. With this, we can show them a real decomposing body.”

Cadaver donations

LeFevre said he’s already fielded inquiries from people who want to donate their remains to the body farm. For some, it’s less morbid than having their bodies dissected by the medical community.

“They watch ‘CSI’ and know the way they want to go,” LeFevre said.

Deb Krsnich, a retired Appleton police sergeant, said she would consider donating her body. Before she knew about the FVTC body farm, she thought of sending her arms and legs to a facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala., for use in training cadaver dogs.

Leaving her body to forensic anthropology poses no ick factor for Krsnich.

“I’m not there,” she said. “Because of my Christian beliefs, that’s a body I don’t need any longer, and I’d be doing a service.”

Krsnich, 57, said the only issue with donating her body might be that local researchers, instructors and students recognize her from her police career or from FoxTal, her Black Creek training center for police dogs and their handlers.

“I’m hoping by the time that happens, there’s not too many people who are going to be utilizing the facility who go, ‘Oh, that’s Deb!’” she said.

LeFevre said FVTC will treat cadavers with respect. “This is still somebody’s loved one,” he said.

Read more: From postcrescent.com: "Fox Valley Technical College creates body farm for research"

Professional attire offered free to local collegians

College students living on a budget now have an opportunity to dress the part when they apply for jobs.

The Revolving Career Closet will be open to all area college students two days only: From 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 31, and Tuesday, April 1, in Room 109 at Moraine Park Technical College.

The closet will offer free professional business attire to students who present a college identification card. Clothing such as suits and ties, sport coats, dress shirts, dresses, blazers, blouses and dress pants will be available in all sizes.

The innovative project was developed by five members of Leadership Fond du Lac, a community based program offered through the Fond du Lac Area Association of Commerce.

The group timed the opening of the closet so students planning to attend MPTC’s April 16 Job Fair can dress appropriately. The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Team member Patty Breister, a supervisor at Charter Communications, said the group was looking for a project that would benefit the community and identified there was a need for students in the area to dress more professionally when they went for job interviews.

Back in August 2013, the Leadership Fond du Lac team started brainstorming ideas and contacted key people at Marian University, MPTC and University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac to find out how they group could reach out to students.

“We also spoke to area businesses and surveyed about 15-20 business leaders. They told us that this was definitely something that was needed,” Breister said. “Students need more education on how to come prepared for a job interview.”

More and more young people are applying for jobs dressed in casual jeans and T-shirts, Breister said. The group felt that if it could provide free dress clothes to students it would improve their chances of being hired and teach them how to better promote themselves.

Society Insurance loved the idea so much its employees held an internal clothing drive. Marian University also sponsored a clothing drive.

“We have a large room that is filling with donations — more each day,” Breister said.

Another team member, Caron Daugherty, dean of general education at MPTC, said although the “pop-up” closet will only be offered for two days the intent is to bring it back annually.

“Even people coming in for interviews at the college level, I have seen some not wearing the appropriate dress,” Daugherty said. “And it’s so important to make that first good impression.”

The plan is to have career counselors from the area colleges available at the Revolving Career Closet to counsel students on how they should dress.

“I have heard counselors say that you should dress one step above the position you are applying for. For example, if it is an entry level position, you should dress at the management level,” Daugherty said. “Even if it were a cook position, I would not wear jeans and a polo shirt.”

Mary Hatlen, academic advisor at Marian University, said the collaboration between the three campuses underscores what can be achieved when the focus is on helping all students down the road of success.

Next year Marian will host a job fair and the Revolving Career Closet.

“It takes a team effort to ensure the sustainability of this project moving forward and we are excited about that,” she said.

Other members of the Leadership Fond du Lac Team are Marcus Butts, CitizensFirst Credit Union; Travis Van Dyn Hoven, American Family Insurance; and Sue Toll, from Aurora HealthCare.

Read more: From fdlreporter.com: "Professional attire offered free to local collegians"

NTC, partners open students’ eyes to local careers

F- The Phillips Campus of Northcentral Technical College (NTC) is once again teaming up with community partners to put on a series of events aimed at helping local youngsters at different points in their educational path explore career options available to them right here at home.

First up was Campus Visit Day, which invited local high school students to the Phillips NTC campus for an exploration of occupations and coursework offered at NTC in support of those career fields Wednesday, March 26. Event organizers were expecting around 200 students to come in from across Price County and Butternut for the visit.

A smaller scale version of the event made its debut last year. This time around the visit was expanded to include more academic disciplines and such hands-on features as simulators brought in by NTC’s health division and activities in the welding and electromechanical area of programming.

Ahead of the event, Campus Dean Bobbi Damrow explained that most visiting students would come from the sophomore grade level. Older students, in particular seniors, tend to already be set on a career path by this point in the school year, Damrow said. “So we wanted to give those sophomores kind of an early exploration experience.”

Instructors from Wausau were brought in to answer any questions students had about a specific field of study or the outlook for a particular career path. Next in the event line-up is the Price County Career Symposium, coming to the Chequamegon School District’s Park Falls campus Thursday, March 27 beginning at 5 p.m. The event is open to Price County middle school and high school students and parents of youth in those age groups.

“It’s really important that not only the students attend but that they bring a parent, adult friend or guardian in with them just so they have that support and when they want to go back and talk about that field, they have someone to talk to in their personal life.”

NTC and some of its partners, including local school districts and Northwest Wisconsin CEP (Concentrated Employment Program), Inc., introduced the event last year as an avenue for helping students discover local opportunities in the manufacturing field, nicknamed “Gold Collar” careers due to the increasing demand for a more advanced technological skillset within the occupational area. This year healthcare, or “White Coat,” employment offerings are also being spotlighted at the event due to the high demand for candidates in the career field, Damrow explained.

Students and parents will be able to explore displays set up by local representatives of the manufacturing and healthcare fields between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Attendants will have the chance to ask those professional such questions as the types of career opportunities offered at their business, competencies and skills required to clinch a job in the career field, classes students should be taking in high school and what they can do to further their exploration of those occupations, Damrow said.

The event is also set to feature panel discussions and Q and A sessions led by a sampling of local employees and employers drawn from the healthcare and manufacturing fields.  The “Gold Collar” discussion runs from 5:30-6 p.m., and the “White Coat” group takes center stage from 6-6:30 p.m.

“So, the Career Symposium is kind of one outlet that allows our high school students to connect with local business and industry,” Damrow said, adding that of course, those who have a hand in the event would be glad to see local students pursue some of the occupations highlighted there and one day, come back to work in Price County.

The last program in the event series is geared at a younger group on the age spectrum – area students from grades 5-8. Get S.M.A.R.T. (Science & Math Activities using Real-world Thinking) will be connecting students in that age range with their choice of two hands-on activities at the Phillips Campus of NTC Saturday, April 5 from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Each student needs to be accompanied by a parent or guardian at the event.

Damrow explained that the event, which was open to 20 youngsters in its debut at the Phillips campus last year, has been expanded to include two new activity offerings in order to accommodate more student participants.

Projects in welding and electronics will be back alongside a new IT Media session giving students the chance to produce their own music video and a new Mini Medic tutorial guiding students through basic life-saving skills.

“We hope that this will inspire our middle school students to actually take an active approach to early career exploration,” Damrow said.

A little over half of the 48 slots open to area students were already filled as of March 24. Anyone who’d like to be a part of the event is encouraged to call the Phillips campus at (715) 339-4555 – the sooner the better as spaces are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

“It’s just overall a really fun day for the students,” Damrow said.

There is a $15 charge per student attending the event to help cover program expenses. That fee secures students lunch, their completed projects, a T-shirt and door prizes as well as lunch for their adult companion. The Price County Economic Development Association stepped up as co-sponsor for Get S.M.A.R.T., helping to cover the cost of program materials.

“They see the importance in giving these experiences to the students at a young age,” Damrow said.

Those kind of community partnerships are really what NTC is all about, with the school needing to work with representatives of local industry and education in order to “create a pipeline” that puts future employees to work in Price County, as Damrow explained.

She noted that one major goal of these types of events is to make such vital connections with businesses and industry.

Damrow said, “We have some fantastic career opportunities here in Price County, so having the partners that we have, business and industry and the Price County Economic Development Association, is critical to the success of the events.”

She emphasized that community members are also welcome to stop by events in the NTC calendar and discover what they are all about.

Read more: From PriceCountyDaily.com: "NTC, partners open students' eyes to local careers"

Program highlights National Ag Day

-  In a pristine machine shop that included many tractors in the process of being rebuilt, a distinguished group of speakers highlighted National Ag Day at Southwest Tech in Fennimore Tuesday, March 25. The Dean of Industry, Trades and Agriculture programs at Southwest Tech Derek Dachelet said he was pleased that system officials asked his school to host the event in honor of National Agriculture Day.

Local voters approved a referendum in 2008 to build the new Ag Power center where the program was held. Agriculture is a huge part of the economy in the technical college’s district, he said. In honor of the school’s special relationship with Case IH, a huge red combine served as the backdrop for the speakers who lined up to talk about the importance of agriculture in Wisconsin. The whole event was the brainchild of dairy farmer Becky Levzow, who is the farmer representative on the technical college board. She saw that other sectors of the economy – manufacturing, health care — were continually being recognized for their importance so she suggested the event to highlight Ag Day.

The event was intended to shine a spotlight on the importance of agriculture in the state economy but also to remind people that technical colleges have the ability to train the workers that are going to be needed to move agriculture forward into the future, said Conor Smyth, who helped organize the event on behalf of the state’s 16 technical colleges. Morna Foy, president of the Technical College System, agreed with Levzow, that agriculture is one of the key sectors of Wisconsin’s economy and was enthusiastic about hosting the Ag Day event at a key school in the system. Levzow, who is a partner in a 180-cow dairy near Rio, said careers in agriculture are important not only for students who graduate from programs like those at Southwest Tech, they are crucially important for employers.

Gov. Scott Walker told the audience that Wisconsin’s nearly $60 billion agriculture industry, and its leadership in many commodity areas, is something to highlight on National Agriculture Day. “Agriculture is a vital industry in Wisconsin’s economy, and we are very fortunate to have strong partnerships between our state’s technical college system and the agricultural community,” Walker said. “We are also phasing in the Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit to allow job creators in this industry to grow and expand and invest in their operations.” Walker signed legislation creating the Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit in 2011. This credit took effect in tax year 2013, and increases in four steps to 7.5 percent in tax year 2016 and beyond. The credit, he said, makes Wisconsin a more competitive place to grow manufacturing and agriculture businesses and jobs. Wisconsin’s 1.27 million dairy cows produce over 27 billion pounds of milk and the state hopes to increase that to 30 billion by 2020, Walker said. “We’ve got to keep up with demand.” One-quarter of the nation’s cheese and half of all the country’s specialty cheese is made here, he added. The state also leads in cranberry and ginseng production and is near the top in potato and other vegetable production.

Trade missions and new technologies will help the state expand its export capacity and keep up with new developments in agriculture. Trade specialists from other countries are always interested in our technology and in the education of future leaders in our industry, he said. To keep agriculture a large and growing part of the state’s economy “we’ve got to have people with expertise and knowledge.”

Wisconsin’s 66th Alice in Dairyland, Kristin Olson, said she is a fifth-generation dairy girl and will have traveled 40,000 miles to promote agriculture during her tenure as Alice. One of the messages she carries all over the state is that “we are all impacted by agriculture. We all eat,” she said.

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said that with corn and cows on the state quarter “folks understand we are pretty invested in agriculture” in Wisconsin. “The state has a tremendous reputation and agriculture is one of our two economic drivers. It is a historic and future industry here.” There is only one industry that has to be represented on the state’s technical college board and that is agriculture, said system president Morna Foy. (Levzow is that representative.) “We want to make sure our commitment to agriculture is not forgotten,” Foy said.

Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Ben Brancel told the crowd that everybody should celebrate agriculture every day they eat a meal. “It’s kind of in everybody’s life,” he said. In the early part of the 20th century there were predictions of mass starvation, but yields and productivity in the last half of that century more than made up for the growth in the nation’s and the world’s population. Science and technology pushed food production forward to the point where there were surpluses. Today some of the challenges in agriculture involve having enough trained people to do the work that needs to be done. There are 354,000 people directly employed in the state in agricultural activities, he said. When Brancel was state agriculture secretary in the 1990s there were a few trade missions but in his second tenure at DATCP there isn’t a week that goes by when there isn’t some interaction with someone from another part of the world. State agricultural exports were up 9 percent in 2013 to a total of $3.2 billion. Dairy products, including whey are a big part of that export picture, Brancel said. “Whey used to be a huge problem; it was a waste product. Now it’s one of our largest export commodities. “The Wisconsin Agribusiness Council had identified 400 separate type jobs related to agriculture that are available to people here in Wisconsin,” Brancel said.
“And another pretty important statistic – four out of four people eat.”

Southwest Technical College has several programs targeted towards agriculture, including the Agribusiness/Science Technology Program, Farm Business and Production Management, the Agricultural Power and Equipment Technician Program, and Dairy Herd Management.

Read more: From Wisconsin State Farmer: "Program highlights National Ag Day"

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