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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.

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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 "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"

NWTC wants people to talk about student suicides

GREEN BAY – Northeast Wisconsin Technical College wants people to talk more about college suicides.

A Send Silence Packing display was put up Wednesday. 1,100 backpacks were laid out to represent the estimated 1,100 college students who die by suicide each year.

Some included stories about the people behind the numbers.

Organizers say while talking about suicide can be uncomfortable, it must be done.

“It’s something we really haven’t talked enough about. You know, if we’re not talking about it, then people aren’t getting hooked up with a lot of the resources that could help them you know make some different choices and get them the help that they need,” said Paul Valencic, NWTC mental health counselor.

The national nonprofit Active Minds presented the display. Organizers say NWTC students are working to open their own chapter on campus.

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Stritch, WCTC form credit transfer partnership

Fox Point-based Cardinal Stritch University and Waukesha-based Waukesha County Technical College have formed a credit transfer agreement for students studying digital media.

The agreement is meant to encourage WCTC students who earn an associate of applied science degree in graphic design to continue their development in Stritch’s new bachelor of arts in digital media program.

Starting in May, new WCTC graphic design associate’s degree holders can apply up to 69 credits toward the Stritch bachelor’s degree.

“Our students are showing increasing interest in transfer opportunities to four-year universities so they can continue their education and climb their career ladder,” said Denine Rood, WCTC vice president of Learning. “We’re committed to providing them with seamless credit transfer to premier partner institutions like Stritch.”

The agreement has formed a cooperative relationship between the schools, which will help both to better accommodate transfer students.

The B.A. in digital media aims to ready students for careers in media and digital arts, including social media, website design and print design.

“The digital media program prepares students for successful careers in a variety of emerging fields,” said Dan Scholz, dean of Cardinal Stritch’s College of Arts and Sciences. “We are thrilled that this new relationship with Waukesha County Technical College will allow its graduates the ability to further hone and develop their skills in our new bachelor’s program.”

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NTC to compete for $1 million Aspen Institute prize

— The Aspen Institute has named Northcentral Technical College as one of the nation’s top 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and $1 million in prize funds, according to an NTC news release.

The Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C., and Aspen, Colo., identified the top 150 community colleges through an assessment of institutional performance, improvement and equity on student retention and completion measures.

“We are honored to be recognized by the Aspen Institute as one of the top 150 community colleges nationwide,” said Lori Weyers, NTC president. “This is a tribute to our excellent faculty and staff who demonstrate an ongoing commitment to our students and their success.”

The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, awarded every two years, is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges and recognizes institutions for exceptional student outcomes in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.

Read more: From "NTC to compete for $1 million Aspen Institute prize"

FVTC brings gluten-free cookbook author to Appleton

Rebecca Reilly used to skip school to stay home and cook.

“That was the time Julia Child and Graham Kerr were on television, and I was in a family where we did all the cooking,” the Massachusetts chef said. “My mother had three girls, and we were responsible for cooking because she was working, too.”

As an adult, the kitchen remained a safe haven for Reilly.

“The world was safe as long as I had my apron on,” she said.

Reilly is a classically French-trained chef with more than 20 years in signature cafés and high-end kitchens as head chef, sous chef, pastry chef and menu consultant. She also is nationally recognized as a gluten-free chef, instructor, author and food coach.

The latter is the result of learning in the mid-’90s that she, her daughter and her son all have celiac disease.

Fox Valley Celiac's support group has partnered with the Fox Valley Technical College culinary arts program to bring Reilly, author of the bestselling cookbook, “Gluten Free Baking,” to Appleton on April 5. Reilly will teach gluten-free breads and desserts from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and gluten-free homemade pasta and simple meals from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Each session is $10.

Culinary arts students from FVTC will offer a gluten-free lunch between sessions for $8. Vendor booths offering gluten-free products in their stores will provide information, coupons and samples.

“The board of the Fox Valley Celiac Support Group is thrilled to be hosting chef Rebecca here in Appleton,” board member Rebecca Mailand said. “By partnering with Fox Valley Technical College culinary arts program, we were able to make this a reality. Festival Foods has been a huge help as well by providing us with the ingredients chef Rebecca will use during her sessions. In addition, Festival Foods as well as Happy Bellies Bake Shop, the Free Market and Bulk Priced Foods will have vendor booths at the event.”

For Reilly, learning about celiac disease started with her son, now 22.

“My son was very sickly,” she said. “As a 5-year-old he couldn’t even walk across a basketball (court) without someone picking up and carrying him. And he couldn’t breathe. He was an emotional, physical mess.”

While allergy prick tests showed no sensitivity to gluten, blood work did.

Feeding her son gluten-free foods transformed not only his life, it also helped Reilly’s irritable bowel and made her daughter’s migraine headaches disappear.

“My son was a gift. I look at him as my gift to heal all three of us,” she said.

Reilly said she loves teaching people how to make flexible and delicious breads and pizza and more with alternative grains.

“People go, ‘Oh, my god. I can do this. I can have pumpernickel. I can have focaccia. I can have, I can have, I can have,’” she said. “When people take my class, it transforms their lives. … I am not about recipes. I’m about teaching you how to make it.”

Read more: From "Fox Valley Celiacs bringing in gluten-free chef for demonstrations"

Lt. Gov. Kleefisch visits WITC

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch spent the day in New Richmond last Wednesday keeping company with local business people at a breakfast meeting and during tours of WITC and three local manufacturers.

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Green Bay hiring reflects statewide needs

— Job openings in Green Bay reflect those statewide, with truck drivers, customer service and sales representatives, and registered nurses in greatest demand.

“The top positions are almost identical,” said Jeffrey Sachse, economist with the state Department of Workforce Development. “The only thing that pops up is more welder openings than CNC openings, because of the nature of the work.”

Welders have been in demand in the region for several years. Green Bay, Marinette and Sturgeon Bay have a lot of fabrication and shipbuilding companies that require welders.

Sachse said that more than anytime during the last three years, hiring is up across the board. All industries are looking for new workers. Much of that is driven by the increasing flood of baby boomer retirements. Many boomers put off retiring during the 2007-09 recession and its aftermath when retirement funds took a hit, but now are making the move.

Construction jobs have grown the most in the region, driven by the U.S. 41, Schreiber Foods and Lambeau Field projects.

“The greatest concentration is on the Highway 41 corridor,” Sachse said.

Construction jobs increased by 7 percent in 2013.

“That’s twice the industry average,” Sachse said. “Those are per-recessionary growth numbers, and it’s more than twice the growth of any industry over that same period.”

The demand for health care workers is growing as baby boomers age and health care systems add facilities and bring older ones up to date.

In addition to nurses, the Green Bay area has openings for nursing assistants, medical and health services managers and personal care aides.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay has waiting lists for its health care programs, though not as long as they once were, and it ramped up its manufacturing programs to add weekend and evening classes.

“Some of our graduates six months out are making $36,000 a year as welders. Electromechanical technology graduates are making $50,000,” said Jennifer Pigeon, manager of career services at NWTC.

Read more: From "Green Bay hiring reflects statewide needs"

NTC adjusts to meet employer demands in IT, nursing, manufacturing

— Information technology is on the A-list of in-demand jobs in Marathon County right now.

Laurie Borowicz, vice president of student services at Northcentral Technical College, says the college is doing its best to keep up with demand for positions in the IT field.

“We could take 50 more students in IT tomorrow if we could find them,” Borowicz said. “That’s probably our issue right now, is finding people, getting people into these high-demand programs.”

The technical college is trying to make it easier for students to take the IT track by offering more courses in the evenings and online, she said.

Jim Warsaw, economic development director for Marathon County Development Corp., said there’s a growing concentration of IT and technology-related businesses in the Wausau area and those employers currently can’t openings.

“NTC doubled their graduating class in IT and it still isn’t enough to keep up with demand,” Warsaw said.

In addition to IT, Warsaw said, other popular positions in the area include welding, skilled trades, manufacturing, health care, sales and nursing.

Most job activity, he said, is with companies that were prepared to come out of the recession when things turned around, most of which are larger employers.

“Small businesses are still trying to cope with the recession’s impact on their cash flows and equity positions,” Warsaw said.

The job of certified nursing assistant, or CNA, is big right now, according to Marathon County Job Center W2 job developer David Cruz.

One reason for that growth is that it’s easier to get started in a certified nursing course than in a registered nursing program, Cruz said.

Overall, the unemployment picture has improved in Marathon County over the past year.

The most recent figures from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development show the December 2013 unemployment rate for Marathon County at 5.7 percent. That’s nearly a full percentage point better than the 6.6 percent registered in December 2012.

Read more: From "Information technology, nursing head list of popular local jobs"