FVTC students learn precision in wood manufacturing
January 6, 2014
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
Experts say Hispanic students need more cultural lessons, college options to succeed
September 21, 2011
WIND POINT – Something must be done about the low educational outcomes of Hispanics, experts said Tuesday at a local conference on the subject.
Only 12.7 percent of the about 51 million Hispanics in the U.S. are college graduates, the experts said.
They didn’t provide a specific blueprint for raising that percentage but they did offer several ideas to start making changes for today’s Hispanic students in Racine County and elsewhere. They suggested more college options for Hispanics, more classes that incorporate Hispanic culture and more community collaboration, among other ideas.
“It’s not a matter of reinventing the wheel but a matter of looking at things and saying, ‘What can we do differently?’ ” said conference speaker Arturo Martinez, a Horlick High School graduate and the associate dean of pre-college and bilingual education at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
Martinez spoke with two others during the conference on strategies to improve educational outcomes for Hispanics. The conference, held at The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, 33 E. 4 Mile Road, was attended by about 60 educators and community members.