Tech College News Archives

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.

Read more: From "Suicide awareness display at NWTC"

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.”

Read more: From "Stritch, WCTC form credit transfer partnership"

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.

Read more: From "Lt. Gov. Kleefisch visits NR businesses"

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"

Gateway Tech offering optometry assistant programs

RACINE – Starting later this spring, students at Gateway Technical College will be able to begin training to become an optometry or ophthalmologist assistant thanks to a federal Affordable Care Act grant.

Gateway received a five-year $10 million grant in 2010 to help pay for health programs and help students going into health related fields, said Stacia Thompson, the project director for Gateway’s Health Profession Opportunity Program.

It’s largely gone to pay for support services for Gateway students going into health fields. That included tuition assistance, tutoring, job search assistance and transportation and child care assistance.

The idea of the grant was to help prepare and train students for the growing health care industry, Thompson said.

Recently area optometry and ophthalmology professionals indicated the need for more training to help assistants learn how to use new equipment, Thompson said. Currently the closest place to receive the training is Milwaukee, she said.

“A lot of things the college does are employer driven,” Thompson said. “The local workforce came to us and said there was a need and we saw we had to respond to that need.”

Through the federal grant, Gateway was able to purchase approximately $103,000 in equipment to start offering the program at Gateway’s Racine campus, she said.

That includes equipment that checks for glaucoma, tells what prescription glasses are currently, and helps determine lens prescriptions.

The grant is also paying for the instructor for the first class and books for the first class, Thompson said, although she did not have the cost breakdown for those.

They already have a limited group of 15 students who are in the process of registering for the classes starting in May, but it will be open to the public as a whole in the fall semester, Thompson said

To complete the certificate program students must complete four classes, adding up to 13 credits.

Read more: From "Gateway offering optometry assistant programs"

Boscobel High School offers course options for college-bound students

By Tricia Hill – Boscobel High School faculty have been working on helping their students in grades 9-12 prepare for college by giving students the opportunity to participate in transcripted, articulated and Advance Placement (AP) courses. Currently, they are offering 14 credits of transcripted courses, which means they can be added to their college transcripts; six credits of college board-certified courses and three credits of articulated courses.

“We encourage our students to take these courses,” said guidance counselor Rhonda Scallon.

The transcripted courses include Accounting, Computer Applications, Speech, Vocational English, and Theme Writing. This is the first year that Theme Writing and Speech have been an option for seniors to take as transcripted courses. The students are encouraged to take these courses not only by the faculty, but also by some of the Southwest Wisconsin Technical College faculty.

“When a student decides to take the course, faculty from Southwest Tech come and talk to the students so they have an idea on what to expect,” Scallon said.

Once a student enters into the transcripted courses, they will be taking a course that they can add to their college transcripts. However, if a student starts taking a transcripted course and their grade seems to be dropping, they have the opportunity to not continue it as a transcripted course, but they must remain taking the course at the high school.

There is currently only one option available to students interested in taking an articulated course, which is a Southwest Tech math course. Students can only use the credits earned by taking this class if they plan to attend Southwest Tech. When taking an articulated course, the student earns a certificate of completion instead of credits added to their college transcript. However, in order to earn the certificate, the student has to earn a B or higher at the completion of the course.

Boscobel also offers some AP courses to their students, such as AP Biology and Advanced Urban History. Boscobel hopes to some day add AP Psychology to the list. Come this May, Boscobel will have nine of their students partaking in the AP exam so see what they have learned.

“The students in AP classes are working during the summer on course work,” Scallon said.

Having these options for Boscobel High School students is a great asset if students take advantage of the situation, according to Scallon. If the students participate and work hard in these programs, they will be given a head start at courses that will be expected of them in college, get a taste of college AP work, see how rigorous the class work can be, and best of all, the classes are free for the students if they take them while in high school.

“As of right now there are no disadvantages to the programs,” Scallon said. “I feel we are setting up the ground work with other colleges by having our students take part in these programs.”

Some students may have concerns if the college they plan to attend will accept credits from Southwest Tech. So the teachers have introduced them to a website called Transfer Wizard, where the students are able to go and see if their college accepts credits from Southwest Tech.

Read more: From "Boscobel High School offers course options for college-bound students"