Tech College News Archives

MSTC responds to employer training needs

As the first baby boomers begin to retire, central Wisconsin health care providers, employers and educators are bracing for what some have termed the “silver tsunami.”

Wisconsin is expected to face worker shortages during the next 20 years as birth rates drop and older adults retire, according to a news release issued Thursday by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

Statewide, 14.4 percent of the population is older than 65, compared to 13.7 percent of the national population, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2012. By 2030, 24 percent of the state’s population will be older than 65, said Tom Walsh, state Department of Workforce Development labor market economist for north central Wisconsin.

Currently in Wood, Portage and Marathon counties, 52 percent of the population is working age, defined as 25 to 54 years old by WISTAX, but that number will drop to 44.4 percent by 2030, Walsh said. He said central Wisconsin has a slightly older population than the rest of the state, but he expected local workforce trends to closely follow state trends.

“One of the big sectors that will be impacted is health care,” Walsh said. Not only will many health care workers be retiring, but retirees also will require more health care services as they continue to age, he said.

“Certainly, throughout our service area, we have fewer workers for every person moving into Medicare,” said Dr. Brian Ewert, Marshfield Clinic president.

“It’s a very transformative time in medicine compared to the 1950s, where … more people (were) getting insured under their employers, and there were more workers and a very small group of retirees,” he said.

Ewert said retirees will consume more health care resources in the coming years, while at the same time, providers are being charged with reducing health care costs.

One model that health care providers have found that benefits patients and saves resources is the patient-centered medical home, in which patients are assigned a primary care team consisting of a physician, nurse practitioner, registered nurse and medical assistant.

The patient-centered medical home, along with other nurse-coordinated services like nurse lines, reduce hospital admissions and re-admissions and allow physicians to spend more time on tasks that require a higher level of licensure, Ewert said.

The model of care allows hospitals to do more with fewer resources, a trend Walsh said he has seen in many other industries.

To address possible physician shortages, Marshfield Clinic has partnered with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine to offer the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine program, or WARM, which allows third- and fourth-year medical students to complete their clinical training at Marshfield Clinic sites with the goal of encouraging students to practice medicine in rural areas of the state.

The WARM program last year included six medical students, two of whom chose to complete their medical training at Marshfield Clinic residency programs. This year, 10 students are participating in the WARM program, Ewert said.

Connie Willfahrt, vice president of academic affairs at Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids, said employers in the manufacturing, transportation and information technology industries have expressed a need for more skilled workers and fear of worker shortages in the future, due in part to the number of expected retirements.

Willfahrt said representatives from the college share information about employer needs at community job fairs, but students are encouraged to develop skills and knowledge in their areas of interest that will allow them to be competitive in the workforce.

Still, MSTC has added sections and expanded its automotive technician, diesel mechanic and welding programs due to employer demand.

“Our mission is to work closely with the employers we serve … to really understand what current and future training looks like to them and how we can align our programs and coursework to prepare graduates to be ready for those occupations,” she said.

“We can’t afford to let high school graduates languish without workforce training or higher education,” WISTAX president Todd Berry said in Thursday’s news release.

Besides training workers to fill open positions, MSTC trains individuals already in the workforce so they’re prepared for promotions or new responsibilities in their existing roles.

“We’re really looking to plant the seed of lifelong learning,” Willfahrt said. “You’re probably not going to have the same position for the rest of your life, and if you are, it’s going to be using different tools and different technology.”

Read more: From stevenspointjournal.com: "Central Wisconsin prepares for baby boomer retirements"

Fox Valley Tech, NWTC host job fairs this week

My centerpiece story on this page talks about attracting and training manufacturing workers, who are in demand throughout Northeastern Wisconsin.

As evidence of the demand, Fox Valley Technical College and the North Coast Marine Manufacturing Alliance are hosting job fairs this week seeking hundreds of workers.

Fox Valley Tech’s Manufacturing Job Fair on Tuesday had no trouble filling its available space with employers, and then some. About 70 companies, including a number from the Green Bay area, signed up for the event to recruit workers in applied engineering, electro-mechanical technology, machine tools, industrial welding, wind-energy technology, wood manufacturing technology and many more. After filling its allotted space, the college designated hallways for additional employer booths.

The event will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday on the FVTC campus at 1825 N. Bluemound Drive, Grand Chute.

The marine alliance has fewer companies, but is recruiting for more than 300 positions during its fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday in the Corporate Conference Center at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.

Bay Shipbuilding of Sturgeon Bay, Marinette Marine, Marquis Yachts of Pulaski and Palmer Johnson Yachts of Sturgeon Bay will be offering jobs in quality control, naval architecture, drafting, electrical, engineering, pipefitting, machining, welding and more.

In each case, potential applicants should bring a resume if they have one and some identification.

Read more: From greenbaypressgazette.com: "Many manufacturing jobs on display this week in Wisconsin"

Interior design students compete at home improvement show

For the 8th consecutive year, the Interior Design Contest between students from local colleges is a prominent feature of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Show.

Sponsored by Nehmey Construction, the contest pits students from Gateway Technical College, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Mount Mary University and Waukesha County Technical College in a competition to design and construct a 12-foot-by-12-foot room display with a 2014 theme of “Bring the Outside In.”

The participating schools, who will each receive $1,000 for the school’s interior design program from the Milwaukee/NARI Foundation, created and built the following designs:

  • Gateway Technical College: A dining room uses elements inspired by the outdoors with warm, neutral tones and earthy prints that creates a classic and informal space. A unique room selection is a dining table created from a reclaimed section of fence that was painted and distressed. The walls have salvaged window shutters, exterior lanterns and a mirrored window, while birdcages function as artistic light fixtures.
  • Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC): A child’s playroom has an urban concept of the outdoors, utilizing bold colors and kid-friendly furniture selections.
  • Mount Mary University: A rustic and feminine-style home den includes natural wood textures combined with light and airy colors. This design also focuses on the use of sustainable and reclaimed products.
  • Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC): A pergola includes rockers, a table and chairs, a screen door and siding.

Gateway, participating for the 4th consecutive year and the 2013 contest winner, has six students that are part of its team. “Students in last fall’s Residential Design Studio course competed against each other to determine the space design,” said Rita Serpe, interior design instructor at Gateway. “Once design was selected, the Commercial Design Studio students work together to install and complete the display.”

MATC returned to the competition after a one-year absence, as six student members of the American Society of Interior Design were actively involved in the design process, with several other students assisting in the procurement of materials and products plus construction. “The work, from concept development through build out and show staffing, is accomplished on a volunteer basis,” said Mary Walgren, MATC interior design instructor. “Students are able to use classroom facilities, equipment, and resources to plan and meet on the design. In addition, any open lab time can be used toward their work on the project.”

At Mount Mary, the 14 students that are part of the competition are from two classes. “The freshmen class focused on project design and development, while the sophomore/junior class worked on project management skills and mentored the freshmen in the design development process,” said Leona Knobloch-Nelson, associate professor and Interior Design Student Chapter faculty advisor. “The students learn collaboration and team participation.”

WCTC has been part of the contest since its inception. This year, eight students that are members of the school’s Interior Design Club have worked on the plan. “Typically we meet over the holiday break to come up with the final plan and start working on construction,” said Brooks Eberlein, WCTC interior design instructor and club advisor. “The week prior to the show is a hustle to get everything ready for a smooth installation, and the week of the show are long hours of prepping the space and getting everything in its proper place.”

The instructors see a variety of benefits for the students, including the opportunity to network with other students, connecting with the business community for resources, and project and time management skills.

“This type of hands-on projects gives students a practical experience that simply cannot be found in a textbook or a classroom,” Walgren said. “They get real-world exposure to deadlines and are able to grow their network of professionals and vendors as they work through the product procurement process. Time management, collaborative design and team projects are standard practice for our industry and this experience exposes students to those concepts.”

“The students have fun because they get the gratification of seeing the completion of their design,” Knobloch-Nelson said.

Serpe explained that students benefit from multitasking schoolwork along with a real-world project. “Plus, they need to be creative working with a small budget,” she said.

“For many, this is a first-time hands-on experience that involves carpentry and construction,” Eberlein said. “These experiences enrich learning and also give students inside knowledge that they may share with clients at a later time. Not only do students get hands-on experience, they take great pride in their efforts. Students have also been able to network with NARI exhibitors. In some cases, this networking has led to internships and jobs. The overall experience is win-win.”

Show attendees have had the opportunity to vote on their favorite room design. The winning school will be announced after votes are tabulated at the conclusion of the show, and the school will receive a plaque.

Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Show hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16. Admission is $8 at the door. Tickets for those 60 and older are $5. Children 16 and younger and all military personnel with a military photo ID card are admitted free.

Read more: From jsonline.com: "Home improvement show serves as teaching tool"

Column: Filling the skills gap — a Tomah tradition

February is Career and Technical Education Month, and we have been hearing a consistent message from many important individuals about the value of career and technical education for our students, the future workforce, and our economy.

In Gov. Walker’s State of the State address he talked about the skills gap which exists in Wisconsin and the employment needs which exist in skilled trades, manufacturing, and construction. Governor Walker acknowledged that “we need enough skilled workers ready to fill jobs open today — as well as those that will be open tomorrow, and in the days to come.”

President Obama, in his State of the Union address, also commented on the need for real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career. While in Wisconsin visiting a General Electric engine factory near Milwaukee, President Obama stressed the importance of having job-training programs that work. He also recognized that a four-year degree is not needed for all good jobs today, but those good jobs do require specialized training.

Our State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Tony Evers, has also stressed the importance of preparing our students to be “college and career ready” through his Agenda 2017. The Department of Public Instruction has been working to advance education reforms to ensure every child graduates ready for further education and the workplace. It appears this is common ground on which we all agree — it is important for our young people to develop skills while still in high school which will allow them to either enter the workforce after their graduation or continue with their schooling.

The Tomah School District has a strong tradition of providing instruction to interested high school students in the area of construction, engineering, and industrial technology. As a matter of fact, Evers, purchased and lived in a house that was built by high school students in the building trades class when he was the Tomah High School principal.

During the THS Success Showcase held on Jan. 16, I spent time in the “shop” classrooms to see the work in which students were engaged. Students were welding, cutting and bending metal, programming a plasma cutter and practicing skills needed in the construction trades. The Technology Education Department at THS provides opportunities for students to gain real-world hands-on experience. Students can learn about engineering robots and mapping digital electronic circuits through Project Lead the Way classes. Through industrial technology classes, they can become competent with power tools, experienced in rough and finished interior and exterior carpentry and trained in advanced machine tool skills, oxyacetylene welding and horizontal and vertical over-head welding.

We also value the partnerships developed with the Construction Professionals Association and AGC of Wisconsin, both of which have provided financial resources and materials for our programs at THS.

All of our Career and Technical Education areas, which include business, family and consumer science, agriculture and technology and engineering education, provide meaningful school-to-work opportunities for our students. Strong articulation exists between Tomah High School, Western Technical College and the Milwaukee School of Engineering in our CTE subject areas. Students enrolled in these courses have opportunities to earn college credit while at Tomah High School. This creates a seamless transition from high school to the post-secondary educational level and into the workplace. We are working on having these instructional experiences enable our students to receive state-approved skill certificates so that our local businesses and industry will have qualified entry-level employees. In recent years advisory councils have been developed in which our local construction, engineering, agriculture, and business leaders meet with school personnel to share their expertise and to provide insights into program improvements. Students at THS have the ability to develop specialized skills that will make them employable in a number of businesses/industries, as well as prepared for pursuing post-secondary education. Options exist, opportunities await and openings in the workplace can be filled by Tomah High School graduates. Filling the skills gap is a Tomah tradition.

If you have any questions or comments about the information and opinions expressed in this edition of The School Bell, please contact Cindy Zahrte, District Administrator, at cindyz@tomah.k12.wi.us or 374-7002.

Cindy Zahrte is superintendent of the Tomah School District.

Read more: From tomahjournal.com: "The School Bell: Filling the skills gap--a Tomah tradition"

Cooper Power Systems partners with WCTC for employee training

Every time someone turns on a light or fires up their office computer, there’s a good chance that a Cooper Power Systems electrical transformer or another of the company’s products was part of the process.

Since 2012, Cooper has been part of Eaton Corp., a power management company with $22 billion in sales in 2013.

Eaton, based in Dublin, Ireland, has 102,000 employees and sells products in more than 175 countries. This week, the company said it was expanding and upgrading its Cooper Power Systems plants in Waukesha that make electrical equipment including power transformers and voltage regulators.

The $54 million project will create up to 200 jobs over the next two years, according to Eaton, as the company expands its Badger Drive plant and upgrades its North St. and Lincoln Ave. plants.

“The reason we are investing in the expansion in our facilities is to help meet the growing demand we are seeing, not only from our utility customers, but also from the commercial and industrial customer base,” said Clayton Tychkowsky, president of the Cooper Power Systems division.

Eaton has a wide range of products including truck transmissions, aircraft fuel systems and electrical systems.

Last week, the company said its fourth-quarter revenue rose 28%, boosted by higher demand for electrical products and systems.

Electrical product sales jumped 57% to $1.8 billion in the recent quarter ended Dec. 31.

Demand picked up in multiple areas including data processing centers, commercial construction and the oil and gas industry.

“One thing all those fields have in common is they require products to help transmit power to a usable point in their electrical system,” Tychkowsky said.

Eaton also stands to benefit from an increase in residential construction because the utility companies that provide power to homes use Cooper products.

“We see long-term potential growth for the products we manufacture here, which is why we feel this is a good investment,” Tychkowsky said about the plant expansion and upgrades.

Last April, Eaton announced it was cutting nearly two-thirds of its 260 jobs in Pewaukee.

The reductions included 130 production and 33 salaried positions as the company said it was moving molded rubber manufacturing from Pewaukee to a plant in Querétaro, Mexico, this year.

The job cuts were unrelated to the Waukesha plants, and the Pewaukee employees will get first preference in the Waukesha hiring, according to Eaton.

As part of the hiring, the company has partnered with Waukesha County Technical College to provide job training.

“We are taking a proactive approach as opposed to sitting back and waiting for talent to be available for us,” Tychkowsky said.

The expansion on Badger Drive will include 55,000 square feet of new manufacturing space.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is providing up to $1.36 million in tax credits for the expansion and plant upgrades, which are tied to the new jobs.

“Retention of sound businesses like this is something we all need to pay attention to. There are other opportunities in the nation for a company like Eaton to move out of state,” said Reed Hall, WEDC secretary and chief executive officer.

Wisconsin also benefits from the electrical products, according to Hall.

“Safe, reliable electrical power is critical to growth. It’s like broadband. There are a couple of things businesses absolutely have to have to consider expanding in our state,” Hall said.

Read more: From jsonline.com: "Eaton expanding, upgrading its Cooper Power Systems plants in Waukesha"

New CVTC simulation lab boosts medial realism

When nursing students at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s (CVTC’s) River Falls campus are working on a training scenario with one of the college’s high-tech simulation mannequins, they can rely only on their own knowledge and instincts. There’s no glancing over at an instructor in search of a nod of approval for a chosen course of action.

The instructor is watching from a separate room, behind glass that students cannot see through. She listens, observes and controls the simulator to react accordingly to what the students do — good or bad.

“This is more realistic than it was before,” said student Anna Hinde, originally from Barron. “We are able to have some hands-on, real-life experiences.”

“We have a lot more space, there are more mannequins, and we’ve got a new teaching lab,” added Colin McConville of Hudson.

Use of computerized simulation mannequins — which breathe, react, and have vital signs like real patients — has been part of the CVTC Nursing program at River Falls for years. However, the new simulation lab that opened in January is a vast improvement over the previous facility.

“Our environment here is more representative of an actual hospital room,” said Simulation Technician Cynthia Anderson, R.N. “The old lab was about half the size of one room in the new lab and had a noisy air compressor in the room to run the mannequins. Our air compressor is now in another room.”

The mannequins were previously placed on something like old hospital gurneys. Now there are real hospital beds for the mannequins and sometimes live people playing patients.

“We’re not tripping on cords anymore,” said Bethany Geske, a Nursing student who lives in Menomonie, in reference to the power cords to the equipment that used to be taped down and are now under the floor.

The lighting is far better and includes a large window to provide natural light, but set high enough to prevent outside distractions and watchers.

Even small details, like the addition of an in-lab telephone, are important. Students sometimes have to call a doctor or pharmacist (played by an instructor) from the simulator bedside. “They get the experience of calling the physician, and learning how to speak with the physician,” said Anderson, an RN since 1990 with years of experience at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn.

An adjacent Learning Resource Center (LRC) for the Nursing program is also an important addition. The center is equipped with smaller artificial body parts like arms, hands and heads. Students practice skills such as making injections and inserting intravenous needles. For CVTC Nursing students, doing homework involves more reading a textbook.

“I’ve used it on occasion to practice skills like suctions and inserting catheters,” McConville said.

Mother and child

Another major addition to the program this term is “Noel,” a birth mother simulator. The mannequin actually simulates the birth of a little rubber baby newborn, with realistic vital signs and potential problems for the mother.

“The baby can be born breach, with a stuck shoulder, or with respiratory difficulty,” Anderson said, mentioning just some of the complications.

A newborn infant simulator, separate from the rubber birth baby, is also new. It shows vital signs and reacts like the adult models. A newborn baby can have a bluish hue, which is normal and soon fades. The simulator is sophisticated enough for instructors to prolong the bluish tint and observe when students notice it as a matter of concern.

“We didn’t have the baby mannequin before this year,” said Natalie Miranda, a student from Lakeland, Minn. “We would have to drive to Eau Claire to do that.”

Sometimes a birth mother and baby were brought from Eau Claire, but transportation and set-up are cumbersome, Anderson said.

Nursing students go out into the field to do “clinical” studies at hospitals, clinics and nursing homes, but the simulation lab work is an essential part of the training.

“It allows them to experience things differently,” said Jennifer Buekema, a CVTC Nursing instructor. “In a clinical situation, we of course don’t let students harm patients. Here, we can let the students make mistakes in the lab.”

“They set up scenarios that we may not see in the real-life clinical settings, but can see later in our professional lives,” said Miranda.

The instructor from the observation room can demonstrate with the mannequin the consequences, through a sudden change in vital signs, evidence of pain, and even a “code blue” cardiac arrest.

“A couple of weeks ago, we were in a code blue, when we had to do CPR,” Geske said.

The students say this kind of hands-on experience is one of the reasons they chose to attend CVTC. It allows them to be ready to enter the workforce right away, even if their plans include further education.

Geske, McConville and Hinde plan on getting nursing jobs after their May graduation, but going back to school to seek four-year or advanced degrees gaining experience as they complete their education.

Read more: From chippewa.com: "CVTC working with line workers on safety"

CVTC hosts financial aid application assistance session

Eau Claire – Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) will be hosting a College Goal Wisconsin event Sunday, Feb. 23, to assist students with financial aid for enrollment in any two-or four-year college in the next academic year. The event will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Casper Conference Center in the Business Education Center, 620 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire. Students who attend have a chance to win scholarships.

College Goal Wisconsin is a national event that provides free information and assistance to families who are filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), the federally required form for students seeking financial aid, such as grants and loans. Completing the FAFSA is the first and most important step in qualifying for aid.

Volunteers from area colleges and universities will help students complete the application process. In addition to staff from CVTC, volunteers from UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, Globe University, and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will assist.

Students should attend with a parent or guardian, if possible. A list of materials, including tax returns and financial records, that families should bring can be found at http://www.collegegoalwi.org. Independent students need only bring their own financial information.

The CVTC College Goal Wisconsin event is one of 29 to be held throughout the state Feb. 22-23 and Feb. 26. Students who submit or save a FAFSA and complete a survey at the event will be entered into a statewide drawing for scholarships ranging from $250 to $1,000.

Read more: From chippewa.com: "CVTC hosts financial aid application assistance session"

Dental pros, students, work to ‘Give Kids a Smile’

EAU CLAIRE — Alyxandria Lunemann clutched her stuffed animals tight and opened her mouth. The 6-year-old girl was nervous about having cavities filled, her mother, Janice Lunemann, said. Dr. Walter Turner’s chairside manner put her at ease, though.

Janice was happy to bring Alyxandria to Chippewa Valley Technical College from their New Auburn home on Friday for the Give Kids a Smile event at the CVTC Dental Clinic. The cavities had been diagnosed previously, but she was having trouble getting Alyxandria in to see a dentist to have them filled.

That’s what Give Kids a Smile is for. Sponsored nationwide by the American Dental Association and locally by the Chippewa Valley Dental Society and the Wisconsin Dental Association, the event offers free dental care to children ages 2-13. This is CVTC’s ninth year hosting the event locally.

The event is particularly helpful for families who lack dental insurance and can’t afford to pay for dental care on their own.

“There is an access-to-care issue,” said Pam Entorf, CVTC dental program instructor. “There is a shortage of dentists who are able to take patients who don’t have insurance or can’t pay. For many of these kids, this is the only time they get any sort of dental treatment. That’s why this event is so important.”

Helping at the event were the CVTC dental hygienist program students and instructors, professional dentists from around the Chippewa Valley, and hygienists and assistants from their staffs. The stars of the show, though, are the young patients.

“I’m pretty happy to be here,” said Janice Lunemann. “Alyxandria had gummy snacks when she was younger and it created some issues with her teeth, but she flosses well.”

Brian Insteness of Lake Hallie brought his 11-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, who had an x-ray taken by Joe Granica, a hygienist with North Lakes Dental in Hayward.

“We don’t have dental insurance, so we take advantage of this,” Insteness said. “She’s getting her check-up and we’ll go from there.”

The kids treated leave with more than healthier teeth. They also take home information and advice. The day is also about education — for children and for the next generation of dental care professionals.

“Childhood dental decay is a communicable, infectious disease,” said Entorf, pointing out that if one child in a family has decay, the bacteria that causes it could spread to other children. “It’s important to teach children as young as possible about how to take care of their teeth so they don’t have problems as they get older.”

The student hygienists work on patients in regular clinic settings as well, but the Give Kids a Smile event is a much busier day, and teaches them that giving back to the community is part of all health care professions.

“A lot of the students who were graduates of the program here come back to volunteer. It’s like a class reunion,” Entorf said.

Turner, of Turner Pediatric Dentistry in Eau Claire, has been giving back through participation in Give Kids a Smile for 25 years.

“The technical college does a very good service for people and kids, and this facility is large enough to handle it,” he said. “I love doing it, and they like my service for the kids. I want to get them off to a right start.”

Read more: From chippewa.com: "Dental pros, students work to 'Give Kids a Smile'"

Scholarships available for blind, visually impaired

The Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired will award 13 $1,500 scholarships this year for full and part-time, blind or visually impaired post-secondary students enrolled or accepted in college and vocational/community school programs, according to a news release from the council.

Applicants must be high school graduates or returning students, carrying a full load of classes as defined by the institution they will attend, and have an accumulated GPA of at least 2.5; part-time students must verify their courses and schedules, according to the release. All applicants must have identified goals for the future, including eventual employment, and they must meet other scholarship requirements.

Go to www.wcblind.org for guidelines and an application. Submission deadline is is March 28; recipients will be notified by April 21, and scholarships will be presented at a Council event on May 10 in Madison.

Read more: From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: "Scholarships available for blind, visually impaired"

Youth Apprenticeship leads to technical college

After years of lagging behind other districts, the Youth Apprenticeship program in Oshkosh is getting a push from the school district and chamber of commerce to offer high school students work experience in a variety of careers.

The Oshkosh Area School District hasn’t historically had a strong apprenticeship program, because the curriculum wasn’t developed enough to meet their requirements or there weren’t employers to sponsor them.

Still, businesses in Oshkosh have consistently been involved in employing students through cooperative education programs, or co-ops, Julie Mosher, OASD director of curriculum and assessment, said. The youth apprenticeship program asks them to take that partnership to the next level.

Wisconsin’s YA program is part of a statewide school-to-work initiative and integrates school-based and work-based learning. Students are simultaneously enrolled in academic classes and employed locally under the supervision of a skilled, worksite mentor.

Oshkosh’s effort to expand apprenticeships comes at the same time that Gov. Scott Walker is pushing to increase funding for the programs. Walker announced in January that Wisconsin’s Youth Apprenticeship, or YA, program would receive additional grants totaling more than $226,000, and Cooperative Educational Services Agency 6 in Oshkosh received $18,747 of those funds.

CESA 6 serves 42 schools in seven counties to coordinate programs and services between schools, districts and the state.

Tania Kilpatrick, CESA 6 career and technical education coordinator, said YA is an important opportunity for students to test drive a career.

“When you’re looking at a workforce, economics, building the pipeline of future employees,” she said. “Any opportunity that you can give kids options for education I think is important.”

Changes to the requirements for apprenticeship programs have changed, while the district’s strategic plan has an increased focus on ensuring students are college, career and community ready.

“With the new checklist and the new requirements that matched our curriculum and matched our philosophy a lot better,” Mosher said. “We felt that we could possibly start getting employers to match up with it.”

With that in mind, the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce stepped in to help create partnerships with local businesses.

Two apprenticeships were recently secured with Bergstrom Automotive.

Hands-on learning

Marc Stanga, a senior at Oshkosh West, is an apprentice at the Bergstrom GM division in Oshkosh. He works for a few hours each day after school and on Saturdays, where he’s learning alongside a mentor to become a GM-certified auto technician.

So far the 17-year-old has learned how to do oil and headlight changes, check fluids and more.

“It’s teaching me the basics of being an auto mechanic,” Stanga said, adding the mentor has been a key part to what he’s learning.

Stanga plans to attend Fox Valley Technical College, where he’s enrolled in the GM program.

“My whole life I’ve wanted to be an auto mechanic,” he said. He thinks the youth apprenticeship will be a big help to getting a job in the future and hopes to receive a scholarship from the program as well.

Stanga said he’s loving his apprenticeship because it’s really hands on.

“It’s like a paid internship,” he said. “You really can see if you really like to do what you were planning on doing.”

Stanga is also working on live cars in a lab at West for the curriculum part of his apprenticeship.

The college-level learning uses standards for 11 different areas that are put out from the national Automotive Service Excellence Certification, Mark Boushele, transportation technology instructor at West, said.

“The homework is all right in front of you,” he said. “So you actually see … the progress that you’re doing and working with.”

Apprenticeships have benefits for both students and employers.

Students gain a valuable, real-world connections between the curriculum and work. There’s no bad internship experience because of the skills one learns during it, Mosher and Patti Andresen-Shew, Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce education and workforce coordinator, said.

Even if students end up not wanting to go into the career, it teaches the importance of showing up on time, flexibility and adaptability, as well as how to work under pressures and stress, Mosher said. Plus, learning they don’t like something can be just as important.

A long-term investment

YA is a heavier load for both students and employers than co-ops because of the mentorship requirement and need to complete a checklist of requirements laid out by the state. Many different scheduling factors have to line up in order for it to work, Mosher said, which is why co-ops have worked out better in Oshkosh in the past.

Juniors and seniors have to apply for the program, and then they have to nail an interview with the employer to get the position. The courses for the program have to fit with the high schools’ schedules, and that has to line up with lab, clinical or work schedules. Students also need to complete a certain amount of hours working on the job.

“All these stars have to align,” Mosher said.

Though it’s a commitment for employers to train, mentor and pay the students, in many cases it’s a long-term investment.

The State Department of Workforce Development said 85 percent of YA students are offered jobs at the end of apprenticeships, which can be more effective than finding workers through recruiters or advertising. Employers have said it also inspires current employees to be even better workers.

“We like to hire locally and have had great success hiring people early in their work life, who can then learn and become a part of our culture and grow with our company over the course of their career,” Tim Bergstrom, President and COO of Bergstrom Automotive, said in a statement.

“The Chamber and our local school system have come together to provide us with a unique opportunity to find just this type of candidate to become a potential long-term team member,” Bergstrom said.

YA is not limited to any one kind of career or student, Mosher said. There’s room for all Oshkosh students, whether they go on to a two or four-year school, into the military or directly into the workforce.

Mosher and Shew would like to see the program expand to include more career paths. Agriculture, communications, tourism, and information technology are just some of the possible programs listed on the Department of Workforce Development website.

Shew and Mosher are actively looking for more employers to participate in YA, as well as students who want to explore their interests in an apprenticeship setting.

Career exploration is the most important aspect of YA, they said.

“We want our students to explore their career options and have a plan,” she said. “That plan may change, but at least they have a plan and they’ve done some thinking behind it.”

Read more: From thenorthwestern.com: "Oshkosh schools working to build apprenticeship program"

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