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.
Boscobel High School offers course options for college-bound students
March 21, 2014
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.
Business, education, community leaders discuss workforce issues
March 20, 2014
There isn’t a lack of jobs in Barron County. There’s a lack of employable people.
That was the theme of the Barron County Workforce Skills Conference, which gathered business, education and community leaders together to discuss local workforce issues Monday, March 17 at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. The problem, often called a skills gap, is only expected to worsen as baby boomers retire.
In Northwest Wisconsin there are now more people who are 65 than who are 18. That ratio is expected to broaden for the next decade or more.
The results of a survey of 46 Barron County employers were presented at the conference. Many reported a lack of qualified applicants for jobs.
“Businesses are looking to add or recruit people they can’t find,” said Beth Mathison of Manpower Eau Claire.
The skills most needed according to respondents were in customer service, general maintenance, office skills, computer/technical skills, skilled trades, banking/accounting, sales, welding and machining.
In predicting future needs, employees with general office, robotics and masonry skills were mentioned the most.
But it was a lack of basic or “soft” skills that got people talking.
Survey respondents made such comments as “don’t seem to have a strong work ethic,” “nobody wants to talk anymore; they want to email/text everything” and “lack of interpersonal skills is appalling.”
Conference attendee Dane Deutsch, owner of a gymnastics center and IT company, said, “I’ve never fired one person for a tech skill. It has always been a character issue.”
Another attendee said, “If you gave me a choice, I’ll take the person with the critical skills. I can teach the tech skills.”
The survey showed the biggest soft skill deficiencies, in order, were ability to organize and use information, integrity/honesty, speaking, creativity, customer service, reading, writing and problem solving.
In regard to improving the workforce, soft skills was rated ‘most important’ by more than 50% of respondents, followed by occupational skills, specific competencies and educational skills.
Respondents said the most important soft skills, in order by percentage, were attendance/punctuality, initiative/motivation, integrity/honesty, productivity, teamwork and customer service.
Education Barron School District Superintendent Craig Broeren said soft skills are emphasized in the school system, but home environment is also key to what kind of adult a student becomes.
Some survey respondents suggested the next generation of workers doesn’t have the right attitude toward work and finding work and aren’t being prepared accordingly in schools.
But Chetek-Weyerhaeuser High School principal Larry Zeman said the average adult would not fare well in the advanced placement calculus or chemistry classes students are taking now.
“What kids know now far surpasses anything I knew when I graduated in 1981,” he said.
But even that may not be enough to guarantee career success.
“The last time we hired someone with just a high school diploma was 10 years ago,” said Dan Conroy, an executive at Nexen Group, an advanced manufacturer with a site in Webster.
Conroy said 70% of Nexen employees have a 2-year degree and can get a starting wage of nearly $20 an hour and work up to $35 an hour.
“We’re successful because we’ve gone high-tech, have well-educated employees and pay well,” he said.
Zeman agreed a 2-year degree is a good option for many students.
“We’ve made a concerted effort in out school district to not fool kids into 4 years or nothing else,” he said.
Zeman also said his district is investing $250,000 to upgrade technical education equipment and offer more welding and machine tool classes in a partnership with local technical colleges.
The school district is also trying to build connections with local businesses to create more learning opportunities.
Jim Woods, representing Wisconsin Voices from the Classroom, presented the results of a survey of 1,973 state teachers, 80% of which said there should be more interaction between schools and business.
The survey also showed 67% of responding teachers believe the educational system is on the “wrong track.” Many also said schools do not have enough money to educate students well, and many feel unappreciated as teachers. “It is a population who thinks they’re not getting enough support from the general public,” said Woods.
But he also said the survey also showed many teachers, particularly younger ones, are willing to change to better student education. “The only way we’re going to get there is having more discussions like this,” said Woods.
Skill Survey The survey was conducted by the Barron County Economic Development Corporation in partnership with the Rice Lake Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Committee.
The survey was distributed through other chamber of commerce groups, the BCEDC website, meetings, individual requests and business newsletters. Most respondents, in order by percentage, were in the manufacturing, construction, health and community services, hotel/restaurant/entertainment or retail and sales industries.
Nearly 75% of respondents had been in business more than 20 years. About 80% had experienced increased or unchanged sales from 2012-2013. About one-third planned to add employees in 2013.
Governor visits Gateway Tech to promote training grants
March 20, 2014
STURTEVANT — A $35 million increase in worker training will help schools such as Gateway Technical College get more people into in-demand programs, Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday.
Walker appeared at the SC Johnson iMET Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd., to promote the increase becoming law Monday. Much of the money, which will go into a training program called Wisconsin Fast Forward, is geared toward grants for technical colleges.
The grants will allow colleges to “buy down” long waiting lists for its programs, Walker said.
“We can make sure there’s no excuse for employers who need folks,” Walker said. “If there’s any waiting list in any of those areas, we’re going to put the money through the Wisconsin Fast Forward program to help each of our individual campuses.”
The move ensures the state does not take a “one-size-fits-all” approach — one area of the state may need high-skilled welders, while another may need mechanics, Walker said. Officials want to work with each campus to address its specific needs, he said.
The $35 million also will go toward expanding programs for employers to hire more people with disabilities, as well as collaborative projects between school districts, tech colleges and businesses.
The measure passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support. Gateway President Bryan Albrecht praised the increase, calling it “an investment in our students.”
“It’s going to make a big difference in our communities so that we can provide the workforce that they need,” Albrecht said.
The state’s focus is not only on filling existing jobs, but on future jobs created through new economic development, Walker said. Wisconsin will see many retirements in the coming years and needs to prepare other workers to fill those roles, he said.
Walker predicted the state will eventually turn its attention from creating jobs to filling jobs.
“We’re going to need more bodies,” he said. “It’s my firm belief that we can’t afford to have anyone who is able and willing to work sitting on the wayside.”
In comments to reporters after the speech, Walker touted recent company expansions into Racine and Kenosha counties, including Meijer’s plans to open a distribution center in Pleasant Prairie and a future Amazon.com facility in Kenosha.
Those are “good signs for southeastern Wisconsin” and will help address unemployment in the region, he said.
He also said the state’s tax climate and focus on growing companies organically helps sway out-of-state companies into expanding into Wisconsin.
“That should show companies, whether they’re coming from Illinois or Minnesota or anywhere else, that we’re not just the short-term romance,” Walker said. “We’re a long-term commitment with businesses that want to grow and create jobs here.”
By Shaun Zinck – Gov. Scott Walker signed a $35 million bill at Blackhawk Technical College on Monday morning to help fund technical college programs and train more workers in advanced manufacturing.
Walker said the bill would affect three areas in the state: bring down the waiting lists on high-demand areas of studies at technical colleges; offer more opportunities for college and high school partnerships for dual credits; and help people with disabilities find jobs in Wisconsin.
“We go out on campuses and we see what’s happening,” Walker said. “We see the relevance we talked about that are connecting not only students, but employers here in Janesville and in Rock County and all over the state of Wisconsin.”
Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, said technical colleges in Wisconsin focus on the opportunities for students to train in specialized skills, and it also helps employers have access to those workers to stay competitive in the marketplace.
“This new prosperity grant will provide another tool for technical colleges to provide help with that purpose and mission to make Wisconsin the greatest economic engine in the world,” she said.
The bill appropriates the funds to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, which will then grant the money to the technical colleges in the state. Walker said the grants are not just workforce development, but economic development, by helping technical colleges “buy down” waiting lists for popular manufacturing programs.
“You hear time and time again from employers that, ‘Not only do I need help filling that high-skilled welder, CNC operator, machinist … but I actually have the capacity to add more work if I can fill the positions I have,’” the governor said. “So it’s not just about workforce development, it’s about opening the door so our employers can create more jobs going forward.”
The partnerships between technical colleges and school districts are also very valuable, Walker said. He brought up his recent tour to the Beloit Memorial High School Technical Education Programming Space.
“It was a great example when you see the technology incorporated on campus right there at a high school,” Walker said. “One of the exciting things we were seeing is young people that are not only excited about what they are learning, but earning credits for high school graduation, and then have that apply to going on to pursuing the rest of what they need for their career at a technical college.”
Helping people with disabilities find employment is also important because no one can “be on the sidelines,” Walker said.
“With this bill we are setting money aside to expand programs like Project Search, which helps young people with disabilities start to explore what their abilities are, and plug them into those as they transition from high school to the workplace,” he said. “We want to help employers find the unique abilities of people who are otherwise identified as having disabilities. This is not a charity program. This is to find their unique abilities so you have an asset for the employer and the employee. It’s a win-win.”
All three parts will help the economy in Wisconsin grow, Walker said.
“By filling key positions, and helping companies know that when they choose to expand and grow here in the State of Wisconsin, they are going to have a steady, strong supply of well-trained, well-prepared, well-educated, hardworking employees that will make them prosperous for many years to come,” he said.
After the bill signing Walker spoke to the media, and when asked, he declined to answer detailed questions about whether he was aware a secret email system existed in the Milwaukee County executive’s office when he held the position, or whether he personally used that system.
“I’ve pointed out the district attorney spent multiple years looking at that and chose to end the report last March,” he said. “I don’t really need to go through and examine all the details. I’m not going to go through things of the past. The district attorney looked at it and chose not to act on anyone else and I think it speaks for itself.”
MATC’s culinary programs expand, benefitting students and public
March 19, 2014
By Nancy J. Stohs – The culinary programs at Milwaukee Area Technical College have undergone major changes in the last couple of years, and the hungry public is as much a beneficiary as the students.
When the student-run Cuisine restaurant relocated in fall of 2012 to the first floor of the school’s main downtown campus, that opened up space on the sixth floor to add a second culinary skills lab and an international foods lab, both of which opened this past fall.
That made two things possible: the addition of four course requirements to the culinary arts curriculum — regional American cuisine, European/Mediterranean cuisine, Asian cuisine, and South and Central American cuisine — and to eliminate the program’s waiting list.
“In the past, we could take 35 new students a semester, or about 70 a year,” said Richard Busalacchi, associate dean of hospitality and food manufacturing programs at MATC. “Last fall we took in about 75 students and this spring 86 students.
“Anybody who applied to the culinary arts program got in.”
The baking and pastry arts program, similarly, nearly doubled its enrollment after a new baking and chocolate lab opened last fall on the first floor. Typically, 50 students would be admitted each year; this year, it was 80.
And that’s where the hungry public comes in. The new baking lab feeds a new student-run venue, the 6th Street Cafe, located across the hall from Cuisine. Opened last fall serving coffee and breakfast, it added lunch this semester.
That was based on a recommendation from the program’s advisory committee.
In order to stay competitive, “the bakeries we knew once upon a time that just did doughnuts and cookies and cakes have evolved,” Busalacchi explained. So while the students do learn how to bake, “they also end up with a solid skill set for the café operation.”
Soups ($2 cup, $3 bowl), salads ($4.95 to $6.95), sandwiches ($6 or $6.94), plus various coffee drinks, pastries, cold beverages and seven flavors of ice cream and sorbet are on the cafe’s menu, which changes slightly every few weeks.
Everything in the cafe is made from scratch, including the breads for sandwiches and the sorbets and ice creams, and — as in Cuisine — ingredients are sourced locally as much as possible.
Last week I sampled a zesty Oaxacan black bean soup, a flavorful spinach salad with walnuts, pears, chevre, grapes and balsamic vinaigrette and an apple wood smoked ham and aged cheddar sandwich. Oh, and a couple of couldn’t-resist desserts sold in the adjoining 6th Street Bakery.
Like Cuisine, the cafe is open most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the fall and spring semesters. Café hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (lunch service starts at 11:30). The café will close for the semester around the first week of May; Cuisine the second or third week.
Cuisine takes reservations (free through Open Table), while the cafe, which seats up to about 70 in two dining rooms and which also offers carryout, is walk-up service.
So far, promotion of the cafe has been internal word of mouth only.
Operating the 6th Street Cafe is the capstone class for the two-year baking and pastry arts program, just as operating Cuisine restaurant is the final course for culinary arts students. Graduation and job-hunting are next.
In addition to these two programs, MATC also added a two-year culinary management program about a year ago.
And where will all of these graduates find jobs?
Busalacchi isn’t worried. Statistics show that more than 800 new food service jobs — cooks, chefs, bakers and managers — are added annually within a 50-mile radius of downtown Milwaukee.
According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant and foodservice industry is the nation’s second-largest private-sector employer, employing more than 13 million people, or 10% of the U.S. workforce.
The school is hoping to have Cuisine restaurant open for business some evenings in the spring of 2015 and that summer, Busalacchi said.
Walker promotes worker training; signs $35.4 million bill
March 18, 2014
Gordon Murphy is still mastering his new trade, but on Monday he gave Wisconsin’s governor a quick lesson on operating a computer-controlled tool mill.
Murphy, a 29-year-old machinist and welder, is one of a dozen students enrolled in the machine tool operation program at Western Technical College, where Gov. Scott Walker stopped on a tour promoting new worker training bill.
The bill, which Walker signed into law Monday, will provide $35.4 million for worker training at places like WTC.
The Republican governor, seeking a second term this fall, touted the state’s falling unemployment rate — down to 6.1 percent in January, the lowest jobless rate since November 2008.
“More people are working, more employers are hiring and personal income is up,” he said. “We want that trend to continue. But one of the things we hear time and time and time and time again from employers is that one of the things they’re looking for to grow — not just to fill positions, but to grow — is even more well-trained, well-prepared, skilled employees.
Walker said spending on worker training will not only help fill job openings, but it also will attract more employers.
Western President Lee Rasch said the region’s greatest demand now is for welders, information technology specialists and behind the scenes workers in health care administration.
Electromechanical workers, who maintain the sophisticated machines used by workers like Murphy, are also in demand, Rasch said, though there aren’t necessarily waiting lists for any of those programs because of a lack of public awareness.
The new Wisconsin Fast Forward funds are designed to help technical colleges work through backlogs, give high school students access to vocational training and enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Rasch said WTC has submitted a $1.9 million proposal, which he said would be used to fund one-year certificate training rather than degree-based programs that would require ongoing funding.
That could mean training for 180 to 190 potential workers, he said.
Walker said the state should focus on advanced manufacturing in order to recapture some of the manufacturing jobs that were outsourced to China and Mexico in the 1990s.
“That’s why it’s so important for people, whether they’re coming right out of high school or coming back to support a new career, for them to have spots available in our technical colleges,” he said, “because they’re teaching them cutting-edge technology.”
Murphy said he landed a job at Chart a couple of years ago after starting the program at Western. He returned to school this year in hopes of landing a better job in the company’s tool room.
If successful, Murphy said he’ll be earning 15 to 20 percent more.
“It’ll pay for itself the first year on the job,” he said.
Youth apprentices find positions with local companies
March 17, 2014
Nick Steenwyk, of Sheboygan, is a computer aided design drafter in the bathing group for Kohler Company in Kohler. Like most CAD drafters, he performs tasks such as working with Creo software to create models and drawings of whirlpools.
Unlike most CAD drafters, Nick is currently a high school student at Sheboygan Christian High School. Through the youth apprenticeship program at Lakeshore Technical College, Steenwyk began working at Kohler Company.
“The best part of my YA experience has been working in a career field I’m interested in pursuing,” Steenwyck said in a news release. “Not only am I able to pick up skills and techniques that with be invaluable in years to come, my experience has been a tremendous help in determining a career field I want to enter.”
Steenwyk is not alone in Sheboygan County when it comes to Youth Apprenticeship. The Lakeshore Technical College Youth Apprenticeship program recently completed their annual Information Nights for high school students interested in the 2014-15 Youth Apprenticeship program. For the third consecutive year, the Sheboygan County Youth Apprenticeship program is seeing large increases in both student apprentices and employer participation.
Representatives from employers like Nemak, Rockline, Blue Harbor and Wigwam also are working with students.
Youth apprenticeship offers students the opportunity to explore future careers while they are still in high school and get paid for their time working at area employers. Youth apprenticeship offers one- and two-year programs in fields like health, hotel and hospitality, culinary, finance, mechanical design, welding and manufacturing.
The Sheboygan youth apprenticeship program has grown rapidly in the past few years, from 11 students in 2010-11 to 32 students in 2011-12. The program swelled to 68 students in the current school year. It’s expected that number will rise to 85 for next school year.
For more information on the LTC youth apprenticeship program, contact Jill Preissner at 920-693-1261 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NWTC partnership helps teen moms finish high school
March 17, 2014
GREEN BAY- Green Bay Area School District and NWTC are working together to make sure teen moms graduate high school.
It’s an effort that may benefit the entire community.
Nineteen-year-old Augustina Medina says she wants to give her 18-month-old daughter Isabella the best life possible.
“When you get pregnant, you’re put in as you’re not going to graduate,” Medina said. “You’re not going to get far in life. And that always bugged me.”
Medina says she was supported by family and school counselors after giving birth.
But she still needed to step up her efforts to graduate from Green Bay Southwest High School.
In Wisconsin, nearly half of high school aged mothers do not graduate.
School social workers say one of the biggest barriers to not graduating high school as a teen parent is not know where to go for help. But two new grants are aimed at helping teen parents get their diplomas and go on to higher education.
The first grant: 200 thousand dollars from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It will provide additional academic support, career counseling, and parenting classes.
“We know that a really strong predictor of whether or not a child will grow up in poverty is if they are born to a mother who is a teen and one of the amazing things of the opportunity of this project is by getting more of our teen parents to the post-secondary level, we can potentially take two generations out of poverty,” said Green Bay West High School Social Worker Kim Schanock.
The second grant is from the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation Women’s Fund.
The organization won’t say how much it’s for.
The money will go toward a two year program which will directly connect NWTC counselors with pregnant high school students.
“How can you develop study skills and really learning about how to apply for financial aid, and how to fill out a college application,” said Amber Michaels, the students services manager for NWTC.
Medina now attends NWTC, studying business management.
She hopes other teen mothers will use the new resources in high school to find their own motivation, and provide a better life for their children.
Madison College to receive workplace excellence award
March 17, 2014
By Mike Ivey – Young professionals in the Madison area, along with some of their mentors, will be recognized March 29 at the first Emerge Gala hosted by the Urban League of Greater Madison Young Professionals chapter.
The event is billed as bringing together diverse young professionals for an evening of celebration at the Concourse Hotel.
The “Emerging Leader of the Year Award” will be announced at the event.
Nominees are Althea René Miller, GED instructor at Omega School, Corinn Ploessl, marketing coordinator at Wegner CPAs, and Lauren Rock, 2-1-1 volunteer coordinator for United Way of Dane County.
“Trailblazer Awards” go to young professionals who have shown leadership within their company and industry. Recipients are Tawsif Anam, managed care policy analyst at Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Joe Maldonado, college continuation manager for the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, and Ald. Scott Resnick, downtown Madison city council member.
“Impact Awards” go to community leaders who have established a record of consistent outreach to young professionals in the greater Madison area. Recipients are Judge Paul Higginbotham, Wisconsin Court of Appeals, and Oscar Mireles, executive director of Omega School, Inc.
The “Workplace Excellence Award” is going to Madison College for its demonstrated record of commitment to the development of young professionals.
In honor of the event, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has designated March 29 as “Young Professionals Day in Greater Madison.”
Tickets for the semi-formal event, including dinner, are $40 with proceeds supporting the Young Professionals chapter of the Urban League along with its youth education programs including the Scholars Academy, Schools of Hope and Martin Luther King Day of Service.