Success Has A View

I feel like I don’t really leave the office sometimes because I see our college wherever I go.  Most visibly, it’s hard to avoid noticing the college’s name when you see our truck driving students navigate their way around roads and highways in semis and other specialized trucks.

Every time I see our trucks around the community, for starters I remind myself to be patient!  Most recently though, I found myself reflecting on the distinctiveness of this career and how it’s changed with new technologies and better comfort.  On the other hand, one thing that hasn’t changed is the high demand for these skilled drivers.

When thinking about truck driving as a career, it’s easy to focus on the challenges associated with moving big, bulky vehicles across the country on little sleep.  I’ve learned, for example, that perceptions like these, albeit sometimes true, do not represent the big picture when it comes to this important segment of the transportation industry.

Take, for instance, how today’s skilled truck drivers themselves look at the profession.  One of our recent completers of the college’s Truck Driving program, Robin Grapa, touched many of us here when she shared her story in a recent issue of Women in Truckingmagazine.

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Rubbing Elbows with Global Businesses

Workplace training is one area that flies a bit under the radar in higher education, but it is certainly a vital part of what we do at Fox Valley Technical College.

I’m amazed at the different types of businesses that our expert workplace trainers get to rub elbows with on a regular basis.  In fact, I often stop in my tracks and take a step back to ask myself, “Wow, we really do this for that company?”  In particular, I marvel at the number of global businesses, many of which are Fortune 500 ™ companies, that look to Fox Valley Tech to train their employees.
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It’s Time to Put the “Body Farm” to Rest

You may have seen the flurry of media recently regarding a forensic training field at our Public Safety Training Center (PSTC). The concept of an outdoor forensic training field may make for a tempting headline, but it is far from being anything final.

I’m sure you may be wondering about this development, so I’ll attempt to provide some clarification about this proposed aspect of the overall facility.

First, the concept of an all-season forensic training field has been included from the very beginning through all planning and referendum communication phases of this Center. The very first rough drawings of this facility included this potential outdoor lab, as did early conversations with community leaders in 2009.  As the project progressed, we often addressed questions about it, but this part of the Center wasn’t highlighted because it’s by no means the primary focus of this new facility. From the beginning, it was considered a longer-range project for possible development in the future.

Right now, the forensic training field is only a concept, an idea, a possibility for further consideration.  We are nowhere near actual implementation.  Before any action is taken, we would need to address regulatory requirements, reporting standards, and operational processes, let alone the research and development our staff would need to undertake.  We have many more critical priorities than this, both in getting the PSTC up and running and across the College overall.  Ultimately, we may determine that it simply isn’t worth pursuing if the regulations are prohibitive and/or costly.

Looking back, it’s important to remember that public hearings were held to provide information and answer any questions on all of our referendum projects, which were widely supported by the public in 2012.  FVTC delivered more than 125 community presentations, our web site included detailed information on the projects, and communications were sent to municipalities, planning commissions, the DNR, and many other agencies.  We sent letters to the adjacent property owners to inform them about the PSTC and invited them to contact us with any questions or concerns.

We were also required to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment for the PSTC development.  In that report, the forensic training field was specifically referenced in terms of secured access, visual appearance, and odors.  This was made available for public review and feedback, and a public hearing was held specifically on this report.  The final document has been posted on our website since it was published in September 2012.

Our local media sources have really gotten ahead of themselves on this one; perhaps some of our own exuberant and well-meaning staff has as well. I find it very interesting that all of this media attention has generated a number of inquiries from people about donating their bodies for this type of research, as well as contacts from several universities worldwide interested in working with us at this facility. They, too, are perhaps getting ahead of themselves.

Is there merit to the idea of creating the nation’s first all-season forensic training field to support forensics education, training, and research?  Absolutely.  But, as I’ve tried to convey, there’s a lot more homework to be done.  And if this moves forward at some point, it will need to be done with respect for process, laws and regulations, neighbors, and communications that are appropriate and timely.

Amazing People at Work, 24/7

What makes my job so enjoyable is working with people who do amazing things.  Sometimes these amazing deeds are accomplished with a lot of behind the scenes people and processes, making the outcomes even more impressive.

Recently, I learned of quite a story from staff in our National Criminal Justice Training Center (NCJTC).  Through this Center we lead many national training initiatives with other agencies in programs such as AMBER Alert, Human Trafficking, and Internet of Crimes Against Children (ICAC).  The story reminds me once again of the amazing people who work tirelessly day and night to keep our communities safe.

A detective from a police department in Illinois attended an ICAC undercover training session delivered by the NCJTC.  The Center holds many of these types of specialized training sessions throughout the year, which bring law enforcement personnel together from across the country, sometimes attracting international participants. Continue reading

Wall to Wall Energy at this Job Fair

As I arrived on the scene at our recent and first-ever Manufacturing Job Fair, it had the makings of being at a big sporting event… lots of people, plenty of energy, and certainly something at stake.  At this event, however, the winners were everyone who attended.  Everywhere I looked I saw one hand shake after another, plenty of smiles, and great connections being made between career seekers and regional manufacturers.

Over 450 visitors attended the job fair.

Over 450 visitors attended the job fair.

As you see by the photos, every inch of wall space had to be used on the north side of our Appleton campus to accommodate the nearly 470 visitors who attended the job fair.  These individuals had the chance to meet with any one of 70 employers that were on a mission to find qualified candidates to address their workplace needs.  Most of these visitors were our own students, and some of them were even bused here from Oshkosh.  It was also great to see many faculty members join their students at the event.

Our Student Employment Services department and Manufacturing division did an outstanding job of putting on a world class event.  I learned that the job fair had originally filled in about two weeks, and then we worked at creating extra space so we could welcome those partners that were on a temporary waiting list.

70 employers were looking for qualified employees.

70 employers were looking for qualified employees.

The first thing I noticed as I had the privilege of greeting the industry representatives was the energy level between prospective employees and employers.  I learned again that this vital sector in our region is thriving, but needs more people.  These employers took time out of their busy schedules to be here because they believe in the value that a Fox Valley Technical College graduate brings to the workplace.

So, if you have a skill or a desire to learn a trade in areas like automation, welding and metal fabrication, machining, electronics, mechanical design, and electro-mechanical technology, to name few, I can say that this is the time to pursue a promising career in the manufacturing sector. The energy and opportunities at this event had me wishing I was 18 years old again!

More information about the Manufacturing Job Fair, including a list of employers that attended, can be found here >>

Serious Movement

Well, another first for Fox Valley Technical College this week…our Boeing 727 was moved from the far northwest corner of the Outagamie County Regional Airport as close as possible to its new home at the Public Safety Training Center (PSTC) on the far southeast corner.  You may recall that about 18 months ago FedEx made the extraordinarily generous donation of this aircraft to the College for conducting a variety of training exercises at the PSTC once that facility is operational.  The airport has been wonderful about essentially “holding” this rather large piece of equipment for us until we can move it to the permanent location.

Serious Movement

FVTC’s Boeing 727 was moved from the Outagamie County Regional Airport to FVTC’s Public Safety Training Center.

As you’ll see in a few of the photos I’ve attached, airport personnel used a typical aircraft tow for a portion of this trip.  Then our staff got creative and brought in two more terrific partners, Service Motor Company and Case IH, with one of their big Case IH tractors to finish the job.  This appears to be a bit of a take-off on the commercial where the Toyota Tundra pick-up truck tows the space shuttle Endeavor.  It certainly provided for an interesting media event!

Special thanks to our aviation maintenance instructor, Dennis Moehn, who took the pilot’s seat in the aircraft for this move and to Corey Lee, instructional aide in agriculture, for driving the tractor.  As I looked through all the photos from this move, clearly there were some tense moments and very tight maneuvers in getting this done.  Interesting thing about Fox Valley Technical College…we always seem to have the personnel, expertise, partners and/or equipment to get virtually any job done!

This was just one more step toward getting everything in place at the PSTC, which is making remarkable progress.  I’ve also attached a few photos on the current state of this facility.  Can’t wait for this project to be finished during the last few months of 2014; it’s going to be incredible.

New Training Center in Fox Valley Takes Off, NBC26
Large Plane Moved to FVTC Training Center, WHBY

What New Year’s Resolutions Might We Make for Recent GED/HSED Completers?

Last week a 3-inch stack of letters showed up on my desk to be signed.  On a regular basis I personally sign congratulatory letters to every student who completes their GED (General Education Development) certificate or HSED (High School Equivalency Diploma) through Fox Valley Technical College.  Typically I’ll sign about 60-100 of these letters at any given time and annually we have about 500 individuals who earn their high school credential through our Adult Basic Education programming District-wide.  But this stack of letters representing completers in the last few months of 2013 was out of the ordinary and had me thinking about the people represented by each letter.

The primary reason for the large surge of GED/HSED completions at the end of the year is the fact that the GED test that had been in use nationally since 2002 was completely changed effective January 1, 2014.  Anyone who had been in progress toward their GED, but not completed that series of tests, would need to completely start over.  It is estimated that approximately 43,000 individuals in the State of Wisconsin were in this situation.  So, many individuals made the extra effort to forge ahead and complete in 2013.  Good for them!

When I sign these letters, I look at each name and where they live.  It is always fascinating to me that so many people who live in our region have not completed high school in spite of the excellent high school graduation rates experienced by our area’s schools.  What’s clear to me is that we have many individuals and families moving in and out of the area and many who have dealt with a whole plethora of life’s challenges that have prevented them from attending and/or graduating with their high school classes wherever they may have been living at that time.  And each year our GED/HSED completers also represent the entire age spectrum…from those in their early 20s to individuals in their 80s whose lifelong dream has been to earn their high school credential.  We’ve opened the educational doors for many of these students that they never thought possible through this important first step.

As I signed this overwhelming stack of well over 300 letters I kept thinking about how our region’s workforce desperately needs each and every one of these people.  But we need them to develop workforce skill levels that go well beyond the GED/HSED.  And we need them in occupations and industries that are having a difficult time attracting people with the necessary skill sets.  Many of these individuals desperately need to pursue Fox Valley Technical College’s technical, occupational programs to really have the career opportunities available in our local economy.

And yet, most of these individuals will not continue their education to be eligible for these opportunities based on our on-going follow-up analysis of this student population.  I imagine this is the case for a variety of reasons, but I can’t help but wonder what could be done to help these individuals and families have much brighter career and economic futures?  How do we get them to take that critically important next step?  Are there New Year’s resolutions we might make on their behalf?  I would be very interested in hearing your ideas.