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CVTC, NWTC provide distance learning options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opinion: Tech education one key to future workforce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WITC-Hayward plans hospitality seminar

- In a joint effort, WITC-Hayward and Sawyer County UW-Extension will host a customer service seminar designed specifically for tourism employees from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at WITC Hayward.

Andrew Nussbaum of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism will present a full-day of informative tips on how employees in the tourism industry can help employers generate customer loyalty. This seminar, Northern Hospitality, will be held at WITC-Hayward. Materials, lunch and snacks are included in the fee of $35 per person or $16.67 for individuals 62 or better.

Employees will hear and be involved in the discussion of the importance of personal job success, customer relations and selling. Some of the specific topics will include: honesty; teamwork; loyalty and job performance; punctuality and attendance; work ethic, selling products, personal image, social media interaction and the job, dealing with customer complaints, and the top 10 customer relations strategies. This seminar will be appropriate for all ages, including high school students.

Seating is limited so register early. For more information or to register, call WITC at (715) 634-5167. Y

Read more: From haywardwi.com: "WITC-Hayward plans hospitality seminar Apr. 26"

Opinion: Demand for IT skills signals next advance in modern manufacturing

By Jennifer Sereno — Wisconsin has been staking its claim as a center of skilled manufacturing since the 1860s. And Blackhawk Technical College intends to help the state build on that legacy for generations to come with a groundbreaking program to develop the new workforce skills Wisconsin manufacturers need to remain competitive in the global economy.

While some of the state’s earliest skilled manufacturing businesses emerged in Milwaukee — steam engine producer Allis Co. (later Allis Chalmers) was founded in 1861 — manufacturers in Rock County were not far behind.

Thanks to the arrival of rail lines in the 1850s as well as the proximity to Chicago, Rock County’s  starting with an iron works, a paper mill and agricultural equipment producers. Parker Pen Co. which ultimately became a global pen manufacturer, was founded in Janesville in 1888.

More recently, Rock County has weathered a number of manufacturing-related challenges, including closure of General Motors assembly plant. However, manufacturing remains the county’s third-largest source of employment, accounting for some 14 percent of jobs, according to the state Department of Workforce Development.

Blackhawk Technical College plays an important role in maintaining the region’s skilled manufacturing leadership. With locations in Janesville, Beloit and Monroe, the technical college offers more than 75 programs that can lead to associate degrees, technical diplomas, certificates and apprenticeships in fields such as business, manufacturing, health sciences, computers and more.

Those offerings will expand in an important way this fall when Blackhawk launches a two-year program that trains students as information technology specialists for advanced manufacturing jobs. The program will complement the technical college’s Advanced Manufacturing Center, the first phase of which is scheduled to open in Milton this fall.

“The face of manufacturing is changing nationally, regionally and locally,” says Gary Kohn, Blackhawk’s marketing and communications manager. “Modernization is critical for survival. And what’s happening with respect to modernization is improved techniques in the plants – new quality management systems, robotics, other intelligent systems.”

In the modern manufacturing environment, skilled workers are needed for more than just operating the increasingly complex machines, Kohn says. They need to be able to integrate, program and fix the machines, as well.

Today’s manufacturing equipment is being linked together through sophisticated computer networks and operated from remote workstations. Kohn says the shift to this new, lean environment puts a premium on workers skilled in information technology with knowledge of both hardware and software.

College officials are quick to credit regional business and community leaders who serve on various advisory groups for identifying the need for such cutting-edge training. Among them is SSI Technologies of Janesville, a privately held company that designs and manufactures sensors, sensor-based monitoring systems, digital gauges and powdered-metal components for automotive and industrial applications.

“Our instructors are constantly getting feedback and seeking input” from industry, workers and community members, Kohn says. “We’ve heard about the need from our community advisory groups … This is going to be a program that should really gain a lot of traction because these jobs are applicable in so many areas.”

In developing new educational offerings that align with the emerging needs of the manufacturing sector, Blackhawk Technical College is bettering opportunities for its students while building workforce capacity for the future. If history shows anything, Kohn says, it’s that manufacturers and workers need to be adaptable.

“We use that word ‘adaptability’ with a lot of our programs,” he says. “We want our welders to be familiar with precision machining and we want our industrial mechanics to be able to weld. Our HVAC students don’t just fix air conditioning units; sometimes they have to build things requiring machining.”

If Wisconsin is to maintain its heritage as a global center of skilled manufacturing in the New Economy, advanced training such as the manufacturing information technology program offered by Blackhawk Technical College will be key.

Read more: From bizopinion.wisbusiness.com: "Demand for IT skills signals next advance in modern manufacturing"

WTCS Board recognizes D&S as ‘Futuremakers Partner’

The Wisconsin Technical College System Board recently awarded its Futuremakers Partner award to D&S Manufacturing of Black River Falls.

The award recognizes the unique and dynamic partnerships between Wisconsin’s technical colleges and their employer partners.

D&S Manufacturing, specializing in metal fabrication of large-scale components and assemblies, is a long-time partner with Western Technical College. While its main campus is in La Crosse, Western also serves communities throughout the region, including Black River Falls.

“It was an honor to receive this award, and particularly fitting that company president Mike Dougherty and the Dougherty family were specifically recognized for their outstanding support and long-term commitment to Western,” said John Barkley, D&S vice president and general manager.

“Many of our employee owners have taken advantage of and benefited from the educational opportunities that Western offers. We look forward to continuing our support of Western and the opportunities it provides to our community and region.”

In presenting the award, WTCS Board president Drew Petersen noted that D&S was a driving force in establishing the Jackson County Welding Skills Institute, a unique partnership formed with Western and other partners to meet the growing need for trained welders in the Black River Falls area. Without that support, Petersen noted, the initiative would not have been possible. The company has also funded scholarships at Western over many years, and provided tuition assistance for its employee owners.

“D&S Manufacturing is a true partner,” said Lee Rasch, president of Western Technical College. “Members of both their management and production staff serve on our program advisory committees. We value their support and honest feedback, which helps to ensure that our educational programming is relevant and responsive to the communities we serve.”

Read more: From lacrossetribune.com: "WTCS Board recognizes D&S as 'Futuremakers Partner'"

Health care delegation visits Fox Valley Tech

— International health care delegates will be in the Fox Cities today and Friday to gain insight into health care management best practices and tour facilities.

The Fox Cities Regional Partnership will host nearly 20 delegates from the Special American Business Internship Training Hospital Administration program. The mid- to senior-level health care executives from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Ukraine began their U.S. tour March 28 in Washington, D.C.

“We’re excited to host this prestigious delegation and have teamed up with our region’s world-class health care organizations to share their knowledge and experiences with the group,” Larry Burkhardt, executive vice president at Fox Cities Regional Partnership, said in a statement. “Our local health systems have been able to provide a variety of the best health care options in the region, and to have others outside the Fox Valley learn and benefit from our leaders is an honor.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce is coordinating the group’s visit. A Commerce Department representative contacted the Fox Cities Regional Partnership and requested the visit after finding information about the region’s health care assets on the Partnership’s website. The representative said the Fox Cities was selected for its national reputation as a leader in high quality health care at low cost.

The delegates will visit with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Fox Valley, the Orthopedic & Sports Institute of the Fox Valley (OSI), Neuroscience Group, Affinity Health System at St. Elizabeth Hospital, ThedaCare at the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value, Neurospine Center and Fox Valley Technical College’s new Health Simulation & Technology Lab.

Discussion topics will include financial management, new medical technologies and risk management, equipment manufacturers, relationships with insurance companies, medical ethics and conflict resolution, and doctor and patient rights.

Read more: From greenbaypressgazette.com: "Health care delegation visits Fox Cities"

“Bridges2Healthcare” grant funds healthcare academy at Western Tech College

One of seven colleges to receive the “Bridges2Healthcare” Grant, Western Technical College hosts a Healthcare Academy which introduces career options in healthcare to those interested.

The four day Academy runs from April 8 through April 11, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The Healthcare Academy provides introductions to various career options in healthcare, training, and employment requirements.

The participants are additionally mentored by a Success Coach in communication and study skills, financial literacy, safety, stress management, customer service, and how to stay healthy.

Not only is it a 30 hour introduction program, but the benefits stretch beyond the four days.

Tutors and Success Coaches will be available to participants if they choose to pursue a career in the health field.

“I have seen a huge increase in the need for employees, well trained and prepared employees in the health care field,” said “Bridges2Healthcare” facilitator, Ray Heidel. “The healthcare field is huge.”

The program is partially funded by the nearly $13 million “Bridges2Healthcare” Grant from the Department of Labor, making it free to all those interested.

The grant was awarded to seven colleges in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin recognized for a growing need in healthcare employees as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program.

Those interested must be at least 18 years old, out of high school, and be interested in the healthcare field.

The next Healthcare Academy session is set to take place in June; to preregister for the event, contact the “Bridges2Heathcare” Facilitator, Ray Heidel, at (608)789-6216.

Read more: From wkow.com: "Bridges to Healthcare" grant funds Healthcare Academy at WTC"

New Ingenuity Center hopes to connect unemployed with manufacturing jobs

The Ingenuity Center at Madison Area Technical College is the 8th and final building renovation as part of the 2010 referendum. The center has been open since the beginning of Fall semester, but on Wednesday afternoon college officials held a ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony.

The ceremony itself showcased the overall goal of the new center. Instead of simply cutting a ribbon with a pair of scissors, the ceremony ended with a student-programmed robot cutting a poly cord. College officials say the poly cord symbolized the more than 50 programs that use the Ingenuity Center to teach classes. Nearly every program uses the material in some shape or form.

“It is 62,000 square feet of lab and classroom space dedicated to advancing Wisconsin manufacturing,” Interim Dean of Applied Science, Engineering and Technology Denise Reimer says.

Business analysts say manufacturing is a growing sector in many parts of the country, one that is experiencing a major gap in employment. Openings are available, but managers are having a tough time finding skilled workers to fill them. They’re workers like single mother of four Rose Appleton.

“I’m excited about what I can learn and what I can do,” Appleton says. “The robotics program and the fact that I will be able to work with metal and program a machine. To do so is just phenomenal.”

After working many years in retail, Appleton found herself unemployed about two years ago. Through a grant she was able to take manufacturing classes and found herself a new job at Evco Plastics.

“Initially they declined me because I didn’t have the manufacturing skills. Once they found out I had the manufacturing certificate I was eligible to start at Evco,” Appleton says.

Not only is the center giving students new opportunities, it’s also causing increases in enrollment. This Spring college officials saw a 6% increase over last year, with signs pointing to more growth ahead.

“This is the answer, is bringing individuals here to give them those job ready skills so that they can go into the manufacturing environment,” Reimer says.

College officials say more than 50 programs will use the center to teach their classes. The space is used for a variety of programs, from automotive to biotechnology.

Read more: From wkow.com: "New Ingenuity Center hopes to connect unemployed workers with manufacturing jobs"

Golf course will become learning lab for FVTC

Winagamie Golf Course has been a second home to Mary Beth Nienhaus for 43 years. Now, the legendary educator, coach, golfer and benefactor has donated the 27-hole facility to the Appleton Education Foundation.

“It’s humbling that Mary Beth would think of the Appleton Education Foundation as such a worthy recipient,” said Julie Krause, executive director of the foundation. The golf course, with an estimated value of more than $2.5 million, is the largest gift the foundation has ever received, she said.

An agreement for Nienhaus, 70, of Appleton to give the golf course to the AEF was finalized at the end of 2013, and was formally announced Tuesday during a news conference at the golf course. The Appleton School District and Fox Valley Technical College are collaborating with AEF to offer local students hands-on learning experiences at the facility — from small-engine repair to horticulture, agronomy, marketing and event planning.

The course will continue to be open to golfers.

Nienhaus, a longtime golf professional at Winagamie, became a partner in the business in 1972. She took over sole ownership in 1993.

She said she had a prospective buyer for the property, but by donating it to the foundation, she will preserve the legacy she’s worked to build. A board of directors will oversee the course’s operations, and it will continue as a for-profit business. Any profits will be set aside for capital improvements to the golf course, Krause said. AEF will eventually receive dividends from the course, and will use them to fund grants for educators in Appleton schools, but no AEF funds will be put toward the course.

This isn’t Nienhaus’ first contribution to AEF. In 1997, she gave the foundation one of its first major gifts — $200,000 for the renovations at Goodland Field. Nienhaus Sports Complex is now home to the Appleton West baseball, softball and soccer teams.

Her relationship with AEF didn’t end there. In 2011, she committed a matching gift of $100,000 to West for improved physical education and athletic facilities.

Appleton School District Administrator Lee Allinger said he isn’t surprised by Nienhaus’ generosity.

“Mary Beth is a person who has this incredible community vision and has really backed up her beliefs with the actions she’s taken over the years,” he said.

The possibilities

Nancy Johnshoy, Winagamie Inc. board president and AEF director, said the foundation thought long and hard about the golf course and how it would benefit local students.

“At first glance, owning a golf course operation may not seem like a natural fit for the Appleton Education Foundation, but as we thought about it and let our imaginations wander, we realized it has a natural tie-in for the school district and Fox Valley Technical College,” Johnshoy said.

Teachers from FVTC and the Appleton School District will collaborate to create learning opportunities for students at Winagamie.

Susan May, president of FVTC and a member of the Winagamie board of directors, said she’s thrilled to see students learning in a “realistic laboratory” at the golf course.

Nienhaus will continue to be involved in golf course operations as a member of the board of directors and through the junior golf academy. When she decides the time is right, Neinhaus will give AEF control of the junior golf academy. The foundation will continue the academy’s mission into the future.

With more spare time on the horizon, Nienhaus hopes to travel more during the summer, to continue volunteering and to play golf.

“I have this wonderful golf course here and I hardly play golf,” she said. “Years ago I used to play well, and then once I turned professional I gave lessons — tons of lessons, thousands of lessons over the years — and, of course, then I couldn’t do everything, so I didn’t play a lot of golf.”

When Nienhaus looks out over the expansive golf course, which opened in 1962, she is reminded of her parents.

“I see my dad (Sylvester) all the time, because he planted over 600 evergreens out here,” she said. “When he planted them they were probably three, four feet high. And now you take a look at them and they’re huge.”

The hard work ethic that drives Nienhaus came from her parents, she said. Her father spent more than 40 years at Kimberly-Clark Corp. and worked part time at Gelbe’s Nursery. Her mother, Mabel, worked a variety of jobs over the years and was employed in the pro shop at Winagamie for a time.

Enviable career

Nienhaus distinguished herself in teaching, golfing and coaching over the years.

She won the Wisconsin Women’s Public Links Golf Association Amateur Championship in 1963 and 1964. The victories helped her become Marquette University’s first female varsity student-athlete: She joined the men’s golf team in 1965.

Nienhaus was the first person to represent Marquette in intercollegiate postseason play. She won the Wisconsin State Golf Association Championship in 1968 and 1969, and was named the Wisconsin Female Golfer of the Year in 1969.

Teaching has been a passion for Nienhaus. She taught physical education at Appleton West High School for 28 years and coached the girls’ golf team for 25 years. During her tenure as a golf coach, West won four state championships. She was named the LPGA Coach of the Year in 1987 — the only high school coach ever to receive the award.

Her passions for teaching and golf led her to start the Winagamie Junior Golf Academy, which teaches the game to children. It’s funded through the Winagamie Golf Foundation and is one of the state’s largest junior golf programs. Even though she retired from the school district in 1999, Nienhaus still logs 80- to 90-hour work weeks during the golf season.

An independent person and trailblazer, Nienhaus is single and has no children. She said people at the golf course often ask where her husband is.

“They think I’m sort of a token owner or something. When I tell them I’m the sole owner I think that takes them back a little bit,” Nienhaus said.

“The cute thing I always say is because I’m so independent if I would have married and had children, then the husband clearly would have been the one to take care of the kids and make the meals and everything,” she said. “Of course, years ago that never would have happened. Nowadays it’s a more common occurrence.”

Read more: From greenbaypressgazette.com: "Nienhaus donated Winagamie Golf Course to Appleton foundation"

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.

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