CVTC leader: State aid boost keeps job training in high gear
January 24, 2014
Any way you look at it, Gov. Scott Walker’s announcement during his State of the State address Wednesday that Wisconsin technical colleges will receive an additional $35 million is good news, Chippewa Valley Technical College President Bruce Barker said.
Barker was enthusiastic after hearing Walker’s remarks about increasing funding for the technical college he oversees and others.
“It’s certainly good news,” Barker said of the additional money, part of a program dubbed Wisconsin Fast Forward. “It’s definitely more money for training and education, and that’s a good thing.”
However, Barker said while that money can be used to hire more teachers, he doesn’t believe it can be spent to add laboratory space, already in high demand at CVTC.
“It’s additional dollars, but we have to see what the requirements will be,” Barker said. “The problem is the capacity of our labs. Our welding lab goes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and these are year-round programs.”
The main components of Wisconsin Fast Forward aim to eliminate waiting lists in high-demand job markets such as manufacturing, agriculture and information technology, and help high school students get credits through dual enrollment programs between high schools and technical colleges.
CVTC has longer waiting lists for nurse hygienists and nursing programs than in manufacturing or agriculture programs, Barker said.
“We’re certainly seeing a big demand in manufacturing and transportation, for truck drivers. Both of those programs, we’re at maximum capacity,” Barker said.
State Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, who introduced Wisconsin Fast Forward in the Assembly, said the initiative is a step in the right direction.
“Linking job seekers with employers that target critical and in-demand jobs while working with tech colleges and workforce development centers across the state puts a sharp focus on employment issues at a local level, where need and demand can be best addressed,” she said in a news release.
In addition to those programs, Walker proposed replacing $406 million in property taxes for technical colleges with state dollars. That would be accomplished by lowering the property tax levy that technical colleges can assess on homeowners.
“It’s a step in the right direction for local taxpayers,” Barker said. “But with the switch to state dollars, you fear losing local control. You also fear a cut in the state budget.”
Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy said in a statement Thursday that Walker’s plan brings better balance to the system’s funding structure. Foy said the system has “long sought greater equity between local and state investments.”
Effect of Governor Walker’s plan to change tech college funding
January 24, 2014
Western Wisconsin property taxpayers would save about $15 million under tax cuts proposed by Gov. Scott Walker.
Money from the state’s expected surplus would offset taxes levied by Western Technical College, benefiting homes and businesses in Western’s 11-county district.
But Walker’s proposal is more than a money dump. It would also transform funding methods for Wisconsin’s technical colleges.
Western’s top official lauded the plan but wondered about the future.
“Essentially, it’s shifting the balance,” Western president Lee Rasch said. “If this plan is going to help reduce the impact on property tax, it’s really a wonderful thing.”
The governor’s plan would inject state funding into Wisconsin’s network of tech colleges in 2015 to ease the burden on local taxpayers. The average homeowner would save $89 per $100,000 of property value in Western’s district, which includes La Crosse County.
It’s a savings from this year’s rate, but it’s also lower than taxes were before voters passed an $80 million bonding referendum in 2012, Rasch said. Western’s total levy this year, not including debt, was just more than $25 million. Walker’s plan would cut that to $10.3 million.
“That’s a pretty significant drop,” Rasch said.
Western’s ability to tax property owners would be reduced from $1.50 to 61 cents per $1,000 of property value.
Western and other technical colleges would switch to a K-12-style of financing, Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance President Todd Berry said. The governor’s proposal would link technical college levies to state aid and impose a cap on all revenue.
Like public schools, low property taxes would depend on continued support from the state. Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the 2015 aid increase “will repeat in future years.”
“This is not one-time money,” Evenson said.
However, if state aid does dip, property taxes increase.
“That puts a new pressure on the state budget that hadn’t existed before,” Berry said.
Last year, Republican lawmakers recommended removing Wisconsin’s technical colleges from property tax bills.
At the time, Rasch criticized the proposal as a threat to local control. Walker’s proposal is “a good plan,” as long as local campuses still have the flexibility to develop courses and react to regional employment trends, Rasch said.
Walker also wants $35 million extra for training skilled workers. The program that would benefit is managed by the Department of Workforce Development, but some of the new funding would be channeled to technical colleges.
Money would go to eliminating wait-lists for high-demand courses and dual-credit programs, so tech schools could offer more college-level classes at nearby high schools.
Western officials are already considering ways to take advantage of the proposed funding, Rasch said. The college has wait-lists for welding, information technology and health care classes.
MSTC programs, local employers would benefit from grant funding
January 24, 2014
GRAND RAPIDS — Building on a strong renewable energy base in central Wisconsin, a federal lawmaker has introduced a bill she says will help expand opportunities for students to learn more about the industry.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., visited Mid-State Technical College on Thursday to announce the legislation and meet with faculty and students to talk about the benefits of renewable energy jobs to state and national economies.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity to be at a campus which is really taking a leadership role on this issue already, because they’re very excited about the legislation but also have some really good wisdom in terms of having some of these programs under their belt,” Baldwin said.
The Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation, or GREEN, Act would allocate competitive grant money for programs that prepare students for jobs or to attend post-secondary schools. Her office said clean-energy jobs pay about 13 percent better than the average job in the U.S., and the field is growing at nearly twice the rate of the national economy.
The grants also would allow technical colleges and high schools to install renewable energy projects for training purposes, Baldwin said.
In addition, the legislation promotes the renewable energy sector in the classroom in an attempt to get students more interested in the industry at an earlier age, Baldwin said. Mid-State’s renewable energy specialist program prepares students to design an integrated portfolio of renewable and traditional energy-producing systems and is the only program of its kind in the Wisconsin Technical College System.
A number of Wisconsin technical college leaders, including MSTC President Sue Budjac and Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna K. Foy, have expressed support for the bill. MSTC already partners with local employers, including those involved in the Workforce Central Peer Council and the Business Education Partnership Committee.
“We knew that we were kind of out ahead of the curve. We knew that the economy was growing around us, and we’ve begun producing technicians in the last few years that are meeting the needs locally and also on a regional and national basis,” said Ron Zillmer, associate dean of the college’s Technical & Industrial Division. “We’re happy about that, but this is the first real significant federal legislation that addresses that green-collar sector.
“I like the approach that Sen. Baldwin has taken with an educational focus,” Zillmer said. “So often, we try to pour support and funding to business and industry, and that’s fine, but in a situation like this where this is an emerging technology, there needs to be a balance.”
A bill similar to Baldwin’s was introduced in the House of Representatives in June and remains in committee, according to govtrack.us, which tracks federal legislation. The bill, by California Democrat Jerry McNerney, also would spend $100 million to develop career and technical education programs and facilities in the renewable energy field.
Baldwin also visited Milwaukee Area Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay on Wednesday.
MATC leaders, Sen. Baldwin discuss expanded focus on ‘green-collar’ jobs
January 23, 2014
Milwaukee Area Technical College has expanded its training for people working in green-collar fields, including those who will maintain and repair growing fleet of vehicles fueled by compressed natural gas.
And the Wisconsin Auto and Truck Dealers Association is expanding training of vehicle technicians to include training to fix hybrid electric vehicles.
In Wauwatosa, Telkonet Inc. has hired five workers who were in the MATC sustainable facilities operations program at the Center for Energy Conservation and Advanced Manufacturing in Oak Creek.
These are some examples highlighted during a roundtable with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) Wednesday morning at MATC’s downtown campus.
Baldwin is visiting technical colleges around the state Wednesday and Thursday to discuss green-collar jobs and a bill that she introduced last week that would expand training for careers in clean-energy and sustainable business fields.
The Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation, or GREEN Act, would create a $100 million competitive grant program through the U.S. Department of Energy to help facilitate training programs, as well as energy-saving or sustainability-focused facility upgrades, at technical colleges around the country.
“This is really going to help build some of the partnerships that have already been started in this case, but create, I hope, a bunch that don’t yet exist,” Baldwin said.
The green collar sector employed more than 3.4 million people nationwide in 2011, according to federal Labor Department statistics released last year.
AT ECAM in Oak Creek, taking courses in the sustainable facilities operations program led Steve Dudek of Brookfield to get hired as a project manager at Telkonet, a developer of energy-saving technologies for hotel and college dorm rooms, even before he completed his associate’s degree, he said.
The program gave him in-the-field training when he got the chance to conduct an energy audit at his children’s school in Brookfield, he said.
Telkonet employees who have gone though the program are already versed in the importance of saving energy in a building and systems that can enable that, and then can “land virtually running,” said Gerrit Reinders, executive vice president of Telkonet, which has 105 employees and is growing.
The training on CNG trucks at MATC in Oak Creek has expanded since it was first launched in 2012.
The program has done five rounds of training, starting with city of Milwaukee employees for the refuse trucks that will run on CNG, said MATC instructor Craig Kuehl.
“It’s been very well received,” he said. Most recently the college conducted training with technical college instructors from around the state, to help broaden the base of people experienced with maintaining CNG vehicles, he said.
Ted Wilinski of MATC said Baldwin’s bill could still be helpful to MATC, even though it has moved more quickly than some other technical schools in training for careers in renewable energy, energy efficiency and alternative fuels.
The college would like to pursue energy-saving changes that would enable the south campus to become certified through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program of the U.S. Green Building Council, and it’s possible this could be a source of funding to assist with that initiative, he said.
Baldwin: Clean energy bill would aid schools, employers
January 23, 2014
Passage of a Senate bill aimed at bolstering education and training for students who want to work in clean-energy jobs would benefit schools and factories in Northeastern Wisconsin, the bill’s sponsor said Wednesday in Green Bay.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said her proposal would help create good-paying jobs in a growing industry, while supporting technical colleges that offer coursework that prepares students for “green energy” careers. The Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation Act, or GREEN, was introduced last week and calls for about $100 million in spending.
“The idea is to make some very prudent, very targeted investments in an area that’s growing … faster than the economy overall,” she said.
The senator met with educators and some students at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s Great Lakes Energy Education Center as part of a statewide tour to tout her bill, introduced last week. NWTC offers programs that prepare students for energy jobs, and is increasing the percentage of its energy supply that comes from green sources.
Scott Liddicott, who teaches energy-management classes at Green Bay Southwest High School, said it’s exciting to hear support for energy education at the federal level.
“It’s so easy to get students and teachers interested in this,” he said. “It’s a compelling and dynamic field. The energy business is really important stuff.”
Baldwin’s bill would allocate grant money for programs that prepare students for jobs, or to attend post-secondary schools. Her office said clean-energy jobs pay about 13 percent better than the average job in the U.S., and the field is growing nearly twice the rate of the national economy.
A hospital in western Wisconsin, she told educators, “completely redid its energy systems” to emphasize green power, and as a result was able to save patients money and avoid staff cuts.
A number of Wisconsin technical college leaders, including NWTC President H. Jeffrey Rafn and Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna K. Foy, have expressed support for the bill. NWTC partners with area school districts, including ones in De Pere and Sturgeon Bay, to deliver energy education, said Amy Kox, the college’s associate dean for energy and sustainability.
A bill similar to Baldwin’s was introduced in the House of Representatives in June and remains in committee, according to govtrack.us, which tracks federal legislation. The bill, by California Democrat Jerry McNerney, also would spend $100 million to develop career and technical education programs, and facilities in the renewable energy field.
Baldwin Wednesday also visited Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, and Milwaukee Area Technical College. She is slated to visit Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids today.
Walker calls on lawmakers to approve tax cuts in State of the State address
January 23, 2014
Wisconsin workers would see more money in their paychecks, under a plan Gov. Scott Walker unveiled Wednesday night.
The governor called for using half of a nearly $1 billion surplus to cut income and property taxes. It was Gov. Walker’s fourth State of the State address. It was also his most upbeat compared to previous years and lasted about an hour.
The governor says the state’s finances are in great shape and the economy is improving every day. He credited his economic development policies since he took office in 2011.
“A true commitment to real structural reforms for state and local government budgets led to our long term fiscal stability, meaningful tax cuts that keep more money in your pocket rather than requiring you to send it to Madison, changes to laws and regulations that make sense if you’re trying to start a business or find a job, and bipartisan investments and worker training are some of the driving forces behind the strong economic recovery,” Walker says.
Walker then unveiled his plans for spending a $900 million surplus. He called the initiative his “Blueprint for Prosperity,” and promised to reduce income taxes by nearly $100 million.
“Earlier today, I directed Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler to adjust withholding for state income taxes by $322.6 million so you can keep more of your hard earned paychecks. Starting in April, a typical working family of four will see $57.90 more in their paychecks each month,” Walker says.
Walker says he plans to use $400 million to reduce property taxes. He says the typical homeowner would see a $100 reduction on their next bill, nearly four times larger than the property tax relief passed last year.
The governor also wants to earmark $100 million for the state’s rainy day fund. He called for $35 million to be put toward job training, with the focus on several areas.
“First, investment in our technical colleges to eliminate waiting lists in high demand fields like manufacturing, agriculture and information technology. Second, we’ll help high school students get training in high demand jobs through dual enrollment programs between our high schools and technical colleges,” Walker says.
Walker then called the state Legislature into special session beginning Thursday, to immediately get to work on the plan. Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson says he doubts Democrats will support the proposals. He says Democrats would have used the surplus to restore funding to education that Walker cut.
“If Gov. Walker had interest in a healthy, responsible budget he could do the following: return the money stolen from our children’s classrooms to make sure they’ll be ready to enter the 21st century economy, take decisive action to return investments to job training, reinvesting the 30 percent cut that Wisconsin’s technical colleges endured in 2011,” Larson says.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca says he’s concerned the tax cuts would eventually cause another budget shortfall.
“At a time of surplus, that’s a self inflicted wound that we shouldn’t have to absorb. I didn’t think anybody would want to have to return to structural deficits,” Barca says.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke issued a statement following Wednesday night’s speech. She thinks Governor Walker is painting an overly rosy picture of the state’s economy. She says she would use a good chunk of the surplus to pay down the state’s debt.
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin used Lakeshore Technical College to help promote her alternative energy education bill yesterday. She spoke at the Cleveland campus about the GREEN Act, which stands for Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation.
The bill would provide funding for postsecondary schools with green energy curriculum to expand into the middle and high school levels. It also would help technical schools fund projects to make them model training facilities for green energy jobs.
Baldwin said the bill will help the growing ‘green collar’ job sector, which currently has more people in it that the fossil fuel field.
While at LTC, Baldwin took time to tour the current wind turbine education facilities and meet with students in the program.
Wisconsin technical college leader backs Walker’s property tax cut plan
January 23, 2014
The leader of the Wisconsin Technical College System is coming out in support of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed property tax cut.
Walker’s proposal would replace $406 million in property taxes raised by technical colleges with state money. He does that by lowering the property tax levy technical colleges can assess homeowners by 89 per $1,000 in value.
Technical college system president Morna Foy said in a statement released Thursday that Walker’s plan brings better balance to the system’s funding structure. She says the technical college system has “long sought greater equity between local and state investments.”
Walker’s property tax cut proposal outlined in his State of the State speech from Wednesday is drawing praise from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Baldwin announces legislation to train worker for green jobs
January 23, 2014
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin on Wednesday, January 22nd, visited technical colleges across Wisconsin to announce her new legislation to help train the next generation of skilled-workers for jobs in clean energy.
Baldwin visited Milwaukee Area Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay on Wednesday and will tour Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids on Thursday.
The Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation (GREEN) Act allocates competitive grant funding for clean energy career and technical training programs so that students are better trained for post-secondary education and better equipped for the high-skilled jobs of the future.
“In order to create a Made in Wisconsin economy that is built to last, we must invest in job training and workforce readiness for clean energy jobs. In Wisconsin, we know that higher education is the path to the middle class and this legislation will help open the doors of opportunity and strengthen our Wisconsin economy,” said Baldwin.
Over three million Americans are employed in the growing green collar workforce, including in clean energy and sustainability, which is more than the amount of people working in the fossil fuel industry, and twice as many as those employed in the biotech industry. In fact, the clean energy sector has grown nearly twice as fast as the overall economy. Additionally, the jobs created in the clean energy economy pay better than the average American job, with compensation rates 13 percent higher than the national average.
“Over the past several years, Wisconsin’s technical colleges have created cutting edge sustainability programs in areas like wind, solar and geothermal. We’ve also “greened” our remaining curriculum by including sustainability concepts in sectors including agriculture, construction and health care. The GREEN Act supports and advances this work in a ground-breaking way,” said Morna Foy, President Wisconsin Technical College System.
By supporting the development of clean energy career and technical training programs, the GREEN Act creates a bridge between secondary and postsecondary schools so that students can transition from high school with technical knowledge that will be expanded and honed in a postsecondary environment. Post-secondary institutions, local education agencies, career and technical schools, and community partners will use the grants to enter into partnerships to develop these training programs. The bill also provides opportunities for technical schools to upgrade their own energy systems to serve as model training facilities.
“We applaud Senator Baldwin’s introduction of the Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation (GREEN) Act. Supporting the development of Career Technical Education programs of study in the fields of clean, renewable, and efficient energy ensures that the United States will have the skilled workforce it needs for the 21st century. This legislation will help support the growth and development of this critically important sector of our economy and is an essential component to a sustainable future,” said Kimberly Green, Executive Director National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium.
APPLETON – About a dozen people braved the cold temperatures Tuesday to see firsthand how the upcoming referendum would impact technical education at Appleton West.
The referendum consists of two questions: One for $25 million to purchase technology and complete capital projects. The other question would allow officials to borrow up to $5 million outside the budget each year. The money would be used to replace outdated technology, perform maintenance projects and cover the salaries and benefits for five instructional technology integrators.
If both questions pass on Feb. 18, people who own homes valued at $150,000 would see the school portion of their property taxes rise $118.50.
Paul Lindberg teaches metals, welding and graphic arts at West. Lindberg showed those in attendance how referendum dollars would expand the technical education area, and allow all the department’s classes to be centrally located.
“Right now we have some of our classes upstairs and some of them downstairs, but if we’re all in one area the kids can move through the classes easier,” Lindberg said.
The lack of updated equipment is keeping Lindberg from training students in additional areas. Lindberg worked with instructors at Fox Valley Technical College over the summer to align three of his courses with their curriculum. Students who take those courses would earn credit through FVTC, but because not all of his equipment is up to industry standards, Lindberg can only teach one of the three classes. That would change if the referendum passes.
Equipment would be updated in the cabinetry/construction lab and the automotive shop as well. The construction space would be expanded and the auto shop would have additional storage, which would give students more space to work.
Julie Painting attended the information session because she has three children who attend West High School and she wanted to learn more.
“It was very helpful,” Painting said. “I’m very impressed that the teachers, the staff want to do what’s best for the students, for the community, and we’re not talking about extravagant spending. We’re talking about just what’s needed to keep up with our economy.”
Other than the technical education areas, West High would receive a secure entrance area and see the kitchen, cafeteria and outside common space remodeled and repurposed. Students who attend West and the district’s other two high schools would be given a mobile device to use — one for every student.