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.

Celebrating the Many Gifts of 2013

As we begin a brand new year, I can’t help but think of the many gifts of 2013 that were celebrated in December.  First was the gift of mid-year commencement where we celebrated over 400 students who completed their degrees and diplomas at this time.  Holding commencement at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center just before the holidays is always a very festive and joyful occasion.  It was great to see so many of our faculty and staff there to salute our graduates.  And our guest speakers were just terrific—Julia Garvey and Alan Zierler.

Also in December, we celebrated our 30th year milestone of the FVTC “Adopt-a-Family Program.”  So what does that mean?  Over the course of three decades, our staff have adopted at least 12 families of our own students in need and provided them with food, gifts, and good cheer in celebration of the Christmas season.  Thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of our staff, over 360 families have benefitted from this annual endeavor.  I recall personally leading this effort many years ago, doing some of the shopping, wrapping, and delivering of gifts…an experience I will certainly never forget.

Late in the month of December we held a special holiday dinner where our guests of honor included the individuals, families, and businesses that made significant contributions to the FVTC Foundation in 2013.  Major sponsors of the Foundation Golf Outing in 2013 were acknowledged:  Community First Credit Union, Miron Construction, Silver Star Brands, and Robert W. Baird & Company.  With their wonderful support, along with many others, the golf outing netted $108,000 in scholarships for students.  We also acknowledged the tremendous new partnership with Service Motor Company and shared our deep gratitude for their contribution of $1.1 million toward the continued development of our agriculture programs.  Finally, we celebrated the fact that 11 newly endowed scholarships were established in 2013.  These gifts involve commitments of at least $10,000 that will allow scholarships to be provided to students annually in perpetuity.  A special thank you to the following individuals, families, and companies for providing these legacy gifts:

  • Kathy Drews, established a scholarship in memory of her daughter, Stephanie
  • Reinhart Food Service
  • Merlin Gentz, retired Academic Vice President, and his wife Beverly
  • Nancy Wittrock, retired Business Technology and Accounting Assistant Instructor, and her husband Marv
  • Jan Case, Special Needs Instructor
  • Shannon Ladd, Dean of the Health Division
  • Wolfgang Wallschlaeger, Lifeline Counselor
  • Trudie Luebke, retired Enrollment Services Specialist, and her husband Emory
  • Kathi Seifert, community leader
  • Leigh Ann Mrotek-Gorzek, daughter of former Nursing Instructor, Joanne Mrotek, along with her husband Mark
  • Susan and Tim May, established a scholarship in memory of Susan’s father, Arlen Schmitt

Each of these gifts will mean a great deal to the students who receive scholarships for many years to come.

Thanks for allowing me to reflect on some of our recent gifts and the generosity of so many wonderful people.  Thanks also for following my blog in 2013 and I look forward to sharing more thoughts and perspectives with you in this new year!

View photos of commencement ceremony:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152075727774267.1073741831.43283069266&type=1

Cookin’ Up Scholarships for Students

Chef Jeff, Department Chair for our Culinary Program, has recently written a wonderful cookbook and is selling them throughout the community with all proceeds going to support FVTC student scholarships.  With the holidays fast approaching, I plan to buy several copies as gifts for my family members.  This might be the perfect gift for someone you know as well.   It’s a great cookbook and a great cause…ingredients for a successful initiative.

Cooking with Chef Jeff

Cooking with Chef Jeff

We decided to interview Chef Jeff to get a little more perspective on his background, why he wrote this cookbook, and what he hopes to accomplish.  That interview follows…

What first attracted you to becoming a chef?
When I started cooking professionally 30 years ago, the culinary profession was not at all glamorized like it is today.  I started cooking because I like to cook and I liked to eat good food.  You really never stop learning about food.  It’s really amazing.

How long have you been an instructor in the Culinary Arts Department at FVTC?
I actually started as the Food Service Manager for the college 16 years ago, and have been teaching here for the past 14 years.  I began my teaching career as a lab assistant at UW-Stout in 1987.

What made you decide to create a cookbook?
I had always wanted to produce a cookbook, but I ‘m not very good (nor interested in) the clerical side of projects.  Pat Pollock, Business Technology Instructor, and the Administrative Professional club approached me in January and offered to compile my recipes for me, and I was all up for that idea.  They have been amazing to work with.

What is your favorite recipe? And, why?
I honestly like all of my recipes, but the one at the top of my list is the Crispy Orange Chicken recipe.  It is very light, fresh and flavorful.

So, Jeff, what’s your inspiration behind doing a cookbook?
Well, I only had two things that were of critical importance to me.  First, I only wanted to provide 100 of my recipes so that if it is successful, I would produce another one down the road.  Actually my plan is to produce 2 more, with one of them featuring primarily grilling, smoking, sausage and barbecue recipes.  Second, I was pretty set on selling the book for $20, which admittedly is a tad higher than comparable cookbooks but I wanted it to raise funds for scholarships.  One-hundred percent (100%) of the proceeds will be invested into an endowed fund that will generate scholarships in perpetuity.  I believe that once people understand the rationale for the price, they will be supportive.

Where can this book be purchased?
The cookbooks are conveniently located at the following locations: Wire Whisk, Landreman’s Family Restaurant in Kaukauna, Bulk Priced Foods Shoppe, Fox Valley Technical College Bookstore (Appleton Campus-inside Entrance 10), The Meat Block, and all Community First Credit Union locations throughout the college’s district.

More Than 50 Miles Away?

Last week the Fox Cities played host to some very important visitors.  The Fox Cities Regional Partnership, an initiative of the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry focusing on economic development in the region, brought eight site selectors here for a three-day visit called a “familiarization tour.”  Site selectors are individuals who work with companies nationally and world-wide as they consider either moving to a new location or expanding in a new location.  They work with their clients’ site criteria and offer recommendations that will fulfill those specifications.  If site selectors don’t know about your community and the assets it offers, you will not likely be among the potential sites for consideration.

So, “familiarizing” site selectors with an area known as the Fox Cities in Wisconsin was the focus of this visit.  Over the course of just a few days these site selectors were able to experience the hospitality of area business and community leaders, tailgating and attending a Packer game at Lambeau Field, touring the various communities in the region, and hearing from several panels representing the business sector, public services, and community engagement.

There was one other significant experience that made up this visit.  Fox Valley Technical College was asked to host the panel conversations which we held in the new Health Simulation and Technology Center, a lunch demonstration experience in the new Jones Dairy Farm Culinary Theatre, and a tour of some of our manufacturing programs.  I was honored to have the College be a major part of this site selector visit as I clearly know we have so much to offer area employers and prospective employers…customized educational programming, preparing people for jobs that are in high demand in this region, faculty who have worked in their respective industries, and labs that are equipped with technology that represents what one would find in leading, progressive workplaces.

I wasn’t able to attend the final report-out session as the team of eight site selectors wrapped up their experience and provided feedback to community leaders.  Turns out though, that they were extremely complimentary of many things they found in the Fox Cities, particularly the unique asset that Fox Valley Technical College represents in this region.  They suggested that, from an economic development perspective, the community is really under-marketing this asset that would prove very attractive to companies considering locating here.  I couldn’t agree more.

Continue reading