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Madison College works to close job training gap

A survey of 341 Wisconsin CEOs reveals a growing concern about finding enough skilled employees to fill job vacancies and facilitate growth.

View video from channel3000.com

Read more: From channel3000.com: "Madison College works to close skills gap"

Ring in the New Year with a new career

I hope you had a joyful holiday season and wish you a happy New Year. This time of year is a culmination of sorts for many Mid-State Technical College students. An impressive class of 142 graduates gathered Dec. 19 for fall semester commencement ceremonies to celebrate a transition from their MSTC hands-on college education to new beginnings and enhanced opportunities in the workforce.

The solid reputation of this college and the impressive skill set of MSTC graduates are well documented. Nearly nine out of 10 MSTC graduates are employed within six months of graduation, and 95 percent of employers who hire MSTC graduates are satisfied or very satisfied with their education, training and skill set. These are some of the reasons why nearly 9,000 people make MSTC their preferred choice for education and training each year.

Yet statistics alone will not ease fear of the unknown. Anxiety sometimes can hinder our desire to achieve the skill set that enhances our career options. Fear ultimately “… holds us and binds us and keeps us from growing.”

However, success is often driven by a willingness to step out of our comfort zones and try something new. The following stories show how two students faced fear, made sacrifices, rolled up their sleeves and tackled the unknown.

Nancy, a 27-year-old mother of three from Stevens Point, was a small-business owner before undergoing an organ transplant, forcing her to give up her business to focus on her recovery. While taking classes on Stevens Point campus in spring 2012, she realized she wanted to pursue a career that empowered her to help others feel good about themselves; cosmetology was a natural fit. She graduated in December with a technical diploma in cosmetology and is currently readying to take her State Board licensing exam. Nancy isn’t going anywhere though; she plans to continue taking classes this semester in MSTC’s business management program.

Dan also stepped away from the status quo. While still a senior in high school, Dan completed paramedic technician program classes at MSTC. Dan since has finished his paramedic core courses, passed his National Registry exams and became licensed in Wisconsin as a paramedic — all before celebrating his 19th birthday. He subsequently was hired as a full-time paramedic, where he works today.

Maybe you know someone who needs encouragement overcoming a fear of trying something new, someone who will benefit from enriching skills they need to be successful in the local workforce. MSTC is the first stop on a path to a new or enhanced career. Our helpful and caring employees provide the custom support and assistance each person needs.

Ring in the New Year with small class sizes, hands-on instruction and engaging faculty with real-world experience. It’s not too late to register for MSTC’s spring semester — classes start Jan. 13. Stop by any of our four locations, call 888-575-MSTC (6782), or visit www.mstc.edu to learn more.

 

Read more: From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: "Column: Ring in a New Year with MSTC"

NWTC unveils Health Sciences Center expansion

GREEN BAY – The future of training health care givers is looking a little brighter at an area college.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College unveiled its 13,000 square foot expansion Monday to its Health Sciences Center.

The expansion includes three new learning labs, a wellness lab, a simulation center, and caregiver learning center.

NWTC’s health services dean says the addition means more learning for students.

“Now with this expansion we’re capable of providing more opportunities for our students,” said Kay Tupala.

“We have an incredible workforce, trained, motivated, interested in improving the care that we’re giving, working together very well with one another,” said George Kerwin, president and CEO of Bellin Health.

The expansion cost about $3.5 million. It was made possible through business partners and community support.

$15 million in grants available to businesses

From biztimes.com: “State program to boost worker training: $15 million in grants available to businesses” – The need to improve worker training in Wisconsin is so significant that even Democrats and Republicans are in agreement. It’s a rare occurrence lately for the Wisconsin State Senate to pass a bill unanimously with bipartisan support. But the Wisconsin Fast Forward bill became that rare occurrence last March when all 33 Wisconsin senators and 94 of 98 state Assembly representatives voted to approve the workforce initiative.

Gov. Scott Walker and Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development Reggie Newson at a recent press event for Wisconsin Fast Forward at Northcentral Technical College.

The legislation was the first to pass in Gov. Walker’s $100 million workforce agenda over the 2013-15 biennial budget period, passing even before the budget did.

“(Wisconsin Fast Forward) is the cornerstone of the state’s workforce investment strategy,” said Reggie Newson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

“It’s the most proactive and most aggressive investment in worker training that I can remember,” said Bryan Albrecht, president of Gateway Technical College.

Wisconsin Fast Forward is a $15 million worker training grant program and it’s kicking into gear in 2014.

“The ultimate goal is to develop talent to fill existing jobs and create new ones,” Newson said.

Applications for the first round of worker training grants were due in mid-December, and DWD – and its new Office of Skills Development that was also created as a part of the Fast Forward initiative – is currently in the process of evaluating those grants, which are set to be announced in January.

The first round of grants amounts to $2.7 million, and focuses on worker training in three areas – manufacturing, construction and customer service.

Scott Jansen, director of the Office of Skills Development, said $400,000 of the grant money will go to customer service, $300,000 to small manufacturers (with less than 50 full-time employees), $1 million to manufacturers of any size and the remainder will go toward construction. The grants are set to be announced in late January, and the earliest training grant implementations could be up and running as soon as March 2014, Jansen said.

A key aspect of Wisconsin Fast Forward, Jansen said, is the program’s requirement to hire the employees being trained.

“We don’t just want to throw public money at additional training,” Jansen said. “We want (businesses) to be able to make the hire at the end of the program.”

Jansen said businesses applying for these grants must prove a commitment to hire.

Newson said that with this program using “demand-driven” requirements, it is focusing on “underemployed, unemployed and incumbent workers.”

The $12 million that remains after the first round will be allocated each quarter, as the DWD will announce a new round every three to four months until June 2015, Newson said.

The Office of Skills Development is currently analyzing which occupations and sectors to focus on for the program’s second round, which will be announced in late January, Jansen said.

Wisconsin Fast Forward is built to be an inclusive, collaborative process, Jansen said, with input and expertise from strategic partners, including the Wisconsin Fast Forward Grant Evaluation Committee, which includes panel members from the DWD, the Wisconsin Technical College System, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, as well as the employers applying for the grants.

“This whole process allows us to be nimble and flexible to be able to meet employers’ needs and incentivize and develop talent in high demand areas of the state,” Newson said. “It also does something impactful that goes along with what the governor wants to do, which is aligning education, workforce development and economic development to create an economic development outcome.”

Newson said the Wisconsin Fast Forward grant programs will be “employer-driven,” “demand-driven” and “customized based on their specific needs.”

In the grant applications themselves, Jansen said, “employers need to identify what the curriculum is, and they’re the ones writing the curriculum.”

“Wisconsin Fast Forward is based on models from other states – Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, Minnesota – creating a demand-driven program that employers can access…to do customized worker training to be able to meet the skills gap,” Newson said.

Pat O’Brien, president of the Milwaukee Development Corporation and the Milwaukee 7, said there’s been a lot of discussion on the issue of the skills gap, noting that many companies complain that they can’t find employees while at the same time the unemployment rate is 7 to 8 percent, and higher for people of color. It is a challenge to the region, he said, with companies getting pickier to compete in a world economy and lower-skills jobs going to Mexico and overseas.

Albrecht said the issue of a “skills gap” is more of a moving target because of rapid changes in new technology.

“There is a skills gap, but there is probably a larger skills mismatch, where (current) skills may not align with new skills that are necessary,” he said, giving automated manufacturing and other computer-related skills as examples. “That second-tier skills training is where we see the gap. The effort now is to close a higher-level skills gap.”

“We need to make sure people are wired into the jobs of the future,” O’Brien said.

The Office of Skills Development was created as a part of this initiative to oversee the grants and programs and to be a collaborative, convening force to align the efforts of the state’s education, workforce development and economic development, Newson said.

“It’s been a very good resource because it provides a communication network,” Albrecht said. “The Office of Skills Development pulled several offices together so it can have a greater impact on the dollars that are invested.”

O’Brien said Jansen, who’s most recent job before becoming the director of the Office of Skills Development was with the Greater Milwaukee Committee, is the right person to be leading this initiative, citing previous workforce development initiatives with the GMC.

“I have a lot of faith in Scott Jansen,” O’Brien said. “He’s been a cornerstone of this project. I really respect Reggie (Newson) for putting this together.”

Jansen said the office currently has four employees, and completes tasks like writing administration rules, designing the grant process, building the website (Wisconsinfastforward.com), marketing the initiative, managing the grant application process and auditing the training program.

It was through the new office’s efforts that DWD was able to identify construction, manufacturing and customer service as the fields for the first round of grants.

“We saw from our strategic partners, from technical colleges and from our employer inquiry that those three are in high demand right now,” Jansen said.

“This is all strategic,” Newson said. “At the Job Center of Wisconsin website, there is somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 available jobs listed at any given time. At any one point in time, there’s between 100,000 and 150,000 jobs going unfilled in the state of Wisconsin. These programs will help us fill those jobs.”

Jansen said that 1,200 to 1,400 customer service jobs are available on the Job Center’s website on a weekly basis.

“Customer service is the number one requested job position in the state,” Newson said.

Any specific connections from this program to the Milwaukee area remain to be seen, but Jansen said there have been many applicants within the Milwaukee area for Fast Forward grants, and that there will be a regional focus.

“You’ll see in grant program announcements that employers will validate request with places like the M7,” said Jansen. “(They) need to validate that those are legitimate skill needs.”

Jansen said one area in Milwaukee where a need for skills development has been identified is in automated manufacturing.

“Population-wise, we’re 36 percent of the state in the M7 region, and we’re 38 to 40 percent of the state’s gross product,” O’Brien said. “On any measure, we’re 35-40 percent of the state’s economy. Any program the state does that’s statewide has a big impact on us. On average, (the Milwaukee 7 region) should get 35 to 40 percent of those dollars.”

Albrecht said his greatest hope for the program is for it to put people back to work.

“In southeastern Wisconsin, with new job areas coming to be available – like the 2,100 new jobs in Kenosha County – we’re going to have to find a way to invest in training to meet that demand,” he said.

Read more: From biztimes.com: "State program to boost worker training: $15 million in grants available to businesses"

Students explore career interests at LTC

Career Expo, hosted at Lakeshore Technical College, will be assisting more than 1,000 Manitowoc County high school sophomores in exploring future career interests while promoting the development of our future workforce.

This event is held in cooperation with the Manitowoc County public and private high schools, University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc, Lakeshore Technical College, Lakeland College and Silver Lake College of the Holy Family.

The high school sophomores will be involved in the following events:

• Career Exploration in 16 various Career Clusters

• Career Fair representing area Manitowoc County businesses

• Employability Skills Session

• Career Mapping Session

• Career Activities with their high school guidance counselors

Over 95 volunteers from across Manitowoc County will speak to students about their respective careers and opportunities for the future. The day program includes career presentations, employability workshops and a Career Fair.

At the Career Fair the students will be instructed to interview three representatives from the 22 businesses showcasing their career opportunities. The students will discuss potential careers, skills required in the field and the advantages and disadvantages of the careers.

The third workshop entitled “You, You, You” will focus on employability skills.

2014 Career Expo is being held Thursday and Friday beginning each day at 9 a.m. and concluding at 11:30 a.m.

It will be held at Lakeshore Technical College, 1290 North Ave., Cleveland. Career Expo will host Two Rivers, McKinley, Reedsville, Brillion, Kiel, Lutheran and Valders students on Thursday and Lincoln, Hilbert and Mishicot students on Friday.

Read more: From htrnews.com: "Students will explore career interests"

MATC pastry instructor learned from one of the best

World renowned pastry chef Jacquey Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School and author of the new book “The Art of French Pastry,” has won countless accolades for his tireless pursuit of perfection in pastry.

He has also been recognized for his exceptional mentorship, which he has extended to dozens of pastry students from Wisconsin. Some, like Chef Kurt Fogle of SURG Restaurant Group, who Pfeiffer mentions by name as a star pupil, have gone on to make their own marks on the world of pastry.

On January 12, Fogle and a team of some of the city’s finest culinary talent – including Chefs Justin Carlisle of Ardent, Matt Haase of Rocket Baby Bakery, Andrew Miller of Hom Woodfired Grill and Jarvis Williams of Carnevor — will host a dinner honoring Pfeiffer. The five course dinner will serve as a celebration of his life, his work, and his new book.

The menu is being kept under wraps, but Fogle says each chef will be pulling out the stops in an effort to pay homage to Pfeiffer.

“We all work together, and we’re all a little competitive,” Fogle remarks, “So, you know everyone is bringing their A-game. There’s something–without trying to sound like too much of a weirdo — about watching five guys really going for it. To be a person in the room experiencing those dishes.”

Fogle has a particular investment in the dinner, since Pfeiffer was a key influencer in setting the direction of his career.

During his tenure with Pfeiffer, Fogle was one of very few Americans who had the privilege of taking part in the prestigious Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition (Best Craftsmen in France), a competition captured in the documentary, “Kings of Pastry.”

NPR’s Ella Taylor remarked, “Kings of Pastry is about the craft, the teaching and learning, the collaborative work, the tedium, the heartbreak and emotional backbone it takes to make something lovely, even if that something is destined to disappear down a gullet in seconds — and even if the maker ends up a noble failure.”

“The whole damn experience was indelible,” Fogle says. “Working with Pfeiffer was two years of just having my mind blown day after day. And it was exhausting. Nothing will ever be harder than that. Nothing. I’m going to continue to challenge and push myself, but that’s the highest level.”

Working together created a professional and personal bond between the two chefs. Fogle says Pfieffer continued to be his mentor even after he left Chicago. In fact, it was Pfieffer who encouraged Fogle to move back to his home state of Wisconsin after completion of the competition.

“Since I was 15 working at O&H Danish Bakery in Racine, I had a passion for this part of the culinary world, and Pfeiffer encouraged me to come back and see where I could enhance pastry here,” he says.

He credits Pfeiffer with launching his career, as well as setting the direction for his art.

“To sum it up,” Fogle tells me, “He’s one of the best pastry chefs on the planet, and in turn I’m one of the luckiest apprentices to walk the planet.”

He went on to talk about some of the things he took away from his experience.

“I don’t want to say I didn’t learn to cook from him,” Fogle explains. “But what I really learned is how to think, how to be organized. He didn’t teach me how to bake, he taught me how to think.”

And for Fogle, part of that experience was learning that he could do anything to which he set his mind.

“One of the first things you learn from him is that anything is possible, because if it’s impossible we’re just going to create a technique or a tool or a trick to make it happen,” he tells me. “It wasn’t how to hold a spatula and fold mousse. It was the commitment and philosophical aspect I gained – learning to be tenacious and resourceful so that when I get out into the real world… when I don’t have a proofer or a sheeter– and I have an oven with hotspots hotter than Mercury — that I could still put out a great croissant.”

Fogle, who has known Pfeiffer since 2006, says he’s more than just a great teacher and pastry chef.

“He’s really really good at foozeball and ping-pong,” Fogle goes on. “Like he makes me feel bad about even playing against him.”

But, Fogle says his gentle disposition is what really makes Pfeiffer exceptional.

“In all the time I’ve known him, he’s never raised his voice,” he explains. “He’s the sort of guy who just makes you want to do things better – whether it’s pastry or what it is… he just never loses any steam. He’s ok going back and back and back and making things better and better. That’s really what rubbed off the most.”

Fogle, who teaches part-time at MATC in their culinary department, says he learned a great deal about teaching from Pfeiffer.

“I think the most important thing that I learned from him is that you have to be patient, and you have to let people struggle through it… a good example is that he was trying to teach me how to pipe something. I was struggling with holding the bag and not moving it. A couple of years later I realized I was doing it properly. But, I don’t know when it happened. He instilled in the idea that you just need to do it and do it again.”

So, when he teaches, Fogle says he always keeps that in mind.

“The fact is, I can’t talk you into being a good pastry chef, and I can’t make you into a great chef. But, I can be there for you and work with you and help you get there.”

Sounds like the sort of teacher we’d all love to have had.

Read more: From onmilwaukee.com: "Through the eyes of an apprentice"

FVTC students learn precision in wood manufacturing

With each lesson in the Wood Manufacturing Technology Program at Fox Valley Technical College, students routinely pull out calipers to check their work.

The goal: “To develop their sense of precision,” says instructor Mark Lorge. By the end of the full-time, year-long program, “The students are not finished products,” Lorge says, but they are “conversant in the language of the industry.” They finish the program with a .003″ sense of precision. While they are not expert cabinetmakers, Lorge adds, “If given a task, they should be able to do it.”

This sense of precision, paired with the students’ broad understanding of secondary wood processing, creates a well-rounded knowledge base, which Lorge believes is essential for a career in the industry. An alumnus of the program himself, Lorge graduated in 1983 and went on to work with production and millwork companies such as Morgan Products Ltd., Elipticon Wood Products, and Valley Planing Mill. In 2013, Lorge celebrated his 20th year of instruction at Fox Valley Technical College.

Associate instructor Glenn Koerner leads the program with Lorge. Also a grad of the course, Koerner returned to Fox Valley Technical College after more than 14,000 hours of working wood industry experience. He has been teaching with Lorge for seven years.

Lorge and Koerner work with approximately 20 students each year, guiding them through five nine-week units of instruction.

“Some students come in with no prior understanding,” Lorge says. During the first nine weeks, they are introduced to the groundwork of every project—planning. They learn to read blueprints before preparing a parts list and production estimate. They also get acquainted with basic machining and wood identification.

The second block further develops students’ understanding of material, terminology, hand tools, portable and stationary power tools, and processes in the woodworking industry through a variety of curriculum methods. Through these methods, they develop the habits required to safely and efficiently perform machining tasks. They are introduced to an advanced level of setup and operation on machines, and they demonstrate their psychomotor and cognitive competency of the process through a series of operation exercises.

During the third nine-week block, students become familiar with the process of cabinetry. Though the instruction does not include formal certification (such as Woodwork Career Alliance, the Carpenters Union apprenticeships, or Cabinet Makers Association certification), it does help students develop the knowledge needed to design and build face-frame cabinetry. They design doors and drawers, they build jigs and fixtures, and they process materials to create laminate countertops. Cabinets completed in the course have been donated to Habitat for Humanity for use in homes built by the organization and its partner families.

After approximately 36 weeks, students learn the principles of veneering, advanced machine joinery, and CNC routing.

Through a partnership with Komo Machinery, the Wood Manufacturing Technology Program at Fox Valley Technical College has been provided with a VR510 Mach 1 S router, software for 21 seats and upgrades of RouterCIM and two seats of AutoNEST applications to operate the machinery. Fox Valley Technical College maintains and insures the CNC equipment while using it to instruct students about current machining technology.

“Most students embrace the CNC technology with enthusiasm,” Lorge says. The program language can be intimidating to students with little experience in computerized equipment, he adds, but they generally do well once they become familiar with the software. By writing G-code, programming the router, setting tools, developing multiple tool programs, and creating a gasketed fixture, students gain an understanding of the machine and its capabilities.

According to Lorge, Komo leads the industry in CNC technology and the partnership is not only beneficial for Fox Valley Technical College and its students, but also for Komo and for local manufacturing companies as well. After graduating from the program, students go on to work in these facilities, where they recommend Komo routers.

The most recent hiring rate for students is “100%,” Lorge says, with the program consistently seeing more than 90% of its graduates landing careers throughout the years. Some graduates even go on to start their own businesses, whereupon they hire more graduates from the Wood Manufacturing Technology Program.

“Fox Valley Technical College is successful because of the feedback it gets from the industry,” says Len Riebau, owner of wood finishing firm WDL of Wisconsin, and a member of the advisory board for Fox Valley Tech. “A company needs employees who possess technical ability and a good work ethic, and good training is one of the keys to success.”

Lorge, who has seen the program develop since he began his first planning lesson in 1983, continuously looks ahead for ways in which it can continue to grow. He and Koerner have been revising the curriculum for web-based delivery and they are currently working to require tablet access for each student by August of 2014.

 

Read more: From woodworkingnetwork.com: "CNC Wood Manufacturing Training at Fox Valley Technical College"

BTC student receives IT scholarship

Tony Reynolds, an information technology student at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, is the first BTC student ever to be awarded the Betty Stevens-Frecknall Scholarship from the Foundation for Information Technology Education.

Reynolds is a member of the BTC chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals. Membership is one of the criteria for the scholarship.

Other criteria include a declared major in a computer technology discipline and GPA of 3.0 or better, at least one full semester of post-secondary education, and enrollment as a fulltime student at an accredited institution.

In addition to a full course load, Reynolds works full time as a developer at Foremost Media in Janesville.

Read more: From gazettextra.com: "BTC's Reynolds awarded Betty Stevens-Frecknall Scholarship"

Top welding student credits instructors

Three weeks after starting Nicolet College’s welding program, Chad Lawfer, of Minocqua, was ready to quit.

Learning the tig welding process was proving to be more than a challenge.

“I have to say, there was one point where I had just had it,” Lawfer said. “I was ready to walk.”

But he didn’t, digging deep to persevere.

On Dec. 17, Lawfer was named Nicolet’s Welding Student of the Year.

“Lawfer definitely deserves it,” welding instructor Warren Krause said. “He could have taken the easy way out and just quit, but he didn’t. He stuck with it and one day everything just clicked for him and he was able to do all of welds.”

Not only was he able to do the welds, he did them to a very high standard, earning straight As.

As good of a student as he is technically and academically, he also has other talents called soft skills which employers seek out, according to Chuck Kopp, adjunct welding instructor.

“Lawfer always comes in with a positive attitude and is always willing to help other students,” Kopp said. “He has a strong work ethic, knows how to communicate well, and is just a great guy to be around. Manufacturers today want new employees with these traits and skills.”

Lawfer said his instructors deserve the credit for his success. “They’ve just been fantastic,” he said. “They take the time to work with you until you really understand what they are teaching. I owe it all to them.”

Read more: From yourdailyglobe.com: "Nicolet College names welding student of the year"

Instructors bring industry insider knowledge

EAU CLAIRE — With a few fresh faces on its agricultural staff, Chippewa Valley Technical College is looking forward to a bright future in 2014. In the past year, the college hired three new agriculture instructors. CVTC horticulture instructor Susan Frame said the new additions bring industry knowledge that will help students excel in their fields.

“One of the advantages Chippewa Valley Technical College students have is that the instructors have been in the industry,” Frame said.

Among the new arrivals are animal science instructor Adam Zwiefelhofer, agronomy instructor Jon Wantoch and farm business instructor Maria Bendixen. All three are UW-River Falls alumnus.

Zwiefelhofer, who majored in agricultural education, hails from the Eleva-Strum area.

The former Genex breeding specialist said teaching was a natural transition, noting, “I always knew I wanted to teach.”

Wantoch, a Mondovi native, majored in agricultural studies with minors in dairy science and biology and was previously employed by Lakeland Cooperative.

The switch to teaching was an easy one, he said, adding, “Helping others fits who I am.”

Bendixen taught high school agriculture in Colby and spent a year serving as UW-Extension agriculture agent for Taylor and Marathon counties before signing on as Clark County’s agent, a position she held for seven years.

Though she worked directly with producers as an ag agent, Bendixen said she was interested in being able to work with them on a more continual basis.

“I’m excited to be able to work with farmers for an extended period of time and to be able to follow up,” she said.

Bendixen joins veteran farm business instructor Mark Denk in aiding farmers in continuing education throughout western Wisconsin.

Continuing education

Zwiefelhofer said many people don’t realize the extent of continuing education CVTC offers.

The ag programs have 80 students on campus. Another 160, mainly farmers, are enrolled in the Farm Business and Production Management program, which offers resources to improve management skills. The program features part-time instruction with topics rotating over six years, versus the typical time-intensive 32-week school year.

Students range from high schoolers (enrolled in the youth option) to farmers in their 70s, Denk said, noting the broad variety of ages and backgrounds creates a unique peer setting not found at larger educational institutions.

“There’s a lot of knowledge transfer that comes into play there,” Bendixen said. “It leads to some lively discussions — which is fortunate, because in agriculture, there’s no one right way to do things.”

Zwiefelhofer said the school has adjusted its curriculum for the ever-diversifying niches of Wisconsin agriculture.

“I think we’ve flexed with the times,” he said. “If there aren’t jobs for our students, we’re not going to be around in the future.”

Though their three main program areas are agriscience technician; landscape, plant and turf management; and farm business and production management, Denk said the instructors have helped students branch out into other topics.

“We’ve had students interested in hops, for example,” he said. “In that case we end up working with them on a more individualized basis or connect them with an industry partner, but the backbone of what they need to learn remains the same.”

That backbone is rooted in ag-focused marketing, sales, equipment and facility courses. From there, students can branch out into the varying tracks.

Industry partners, such as Case IH and John Deere, have been instrumental in CVTC’s ag programs, Denk said.

“I personally feel like we touch on community more than the larger universities,” Zwiefelhofer said. “The labs we do are mostly on farms or businesses in our local community.”

The college has an active biofuels program in which students grow the crops used to generate biofuels. Students can also become certified in skills such as commercial pesticide application, skid-steer operation and performing animal ultrasounds.

Two greenhouses on campus allow students to grow produce, which this year was sold in an on-campus farmers market.

“We also do hydroponics and work closely with cooperating farms and the local farming population,” Frame said.

Students also benefit from a strong internship program, Zwiefelhofer said.

“The internships they take between their first and second year are really what separate us from the larger schools,” he said. “A lot of times it leads into employment.”

Those interested in learning more about the ag programs are welcome to shadow classes.

CVTC also has a transfer agreement that allows students to carry credits into the UW system.

Denk is eager to see how the ag programs develop with the influence of the new instructors.

“We’ve got a great staff here,” he said. “We’re committed to working together for the students’ success.”

Read more: From thecountrytoday.com: "New CVTC instructors bring industry insider knowledge"

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