Facilities Are One Thing, But People Make the Difference

Last week I had the opportunity to welcome almost 300 crime story and mystery writers to our facilities for their national conference being held here in Appleton—the Writers’ Police Academy.  I welcomed our guests as they arrived at our Public Safety Training Center for their two day-long and firsthand experiences with law enforcement, fire protection, forensic science, and EMS disciplines.

We’ve always known that this incredible facility would have a national draw, but honestly I don’t think we could even have dreamt of the audiences that would find it useful and instructive.  Mystery writers???  Actually, it makes perfect sense.  These novelists want to get their details right as well as accurately describe things like crime scenes and the handling of emergencies.  And here’s the perfect match with FVTC.  As one of our instructors said, “law enforcement is always looking for ways to educate the public about our duties, jobs, and profession.  Having authors accurately portray our profession is a great step in eliminating the ‘Hollywood’ effect.”

By the way, this event is a great example of economic development in this region—a Fox Cities asset that becomes a draw for bringing people, business, and commerce into our community.  Three hundred people from all across the country were here for 3 days staying in local hotels, eating in local restaurants, flying in and out of our local airport, etc.  And this is just one conference, one group, and one that will likely return in the future.

If you have seen this facility, I think you can quickly imagine how impressed our visitors were with the realistic, hands-on learning opportunities that it offered.  I’ve included several photos here to give you a glimpse at some of their experiences.  When these writers arrived on Friday morning they were impressed with the facilities.  But when they left on Sunday, they were clearly impressed by the instructors, their knowledge, expertise, and experience, as well as their incredible level of professionalism.  One of our faculty members, Dr. Joe LeFevre, made this all happen, and many of his colleagues as well as our community law enforcement partners were right by his side in very successfully executing this major undertaking.  Kudos to everyone involved in making the writers’ Fox Cities experience an outstanding one, and I’m sure very, very memorable! 

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Placing My Bets on FVTC Graduates

FoxVal-Auler-Dentistry11If I were a gambling person in the world of graduate outcomes, I know where I would be placing my bets. It would be on the employment results of FVTC’s graduates. The odds are pretty good. In fact, the odds are that 9 out of every 10 of our graduates (students who successfully complete one of our degree or diploma programs) will be employed within 6 months of graduation. And, most will be employed in a position related to their field of study. We know what these odds represent because every year the College does exhaustive follow-up with our graduates not only 6 months after graduation, but also 5 years after graduation to get a good understanding of their employment and professional growth. The latest report focused on our 2014 graduates, and of that group, 92% were employed 6 months after completing their credential.

But the good news doesn’t end there. What impresses me even more is what happens to the earning potential of our graduates within just a 5 year period of time (and we see results like this year after year). Looking back at our 2009 graduates, the average starting salary for that group in 2009 was $32,282. However, within 5 years that average salary jumped to $46,140, or a 43% increase during that time compared to the Consumer Price Index increase of 10.5% over that same period. There’s little question that our graduates gain value and add value in the marketplace very quickly. I’ve included a graph here that might help understand these results:

Graduate Follow Up Graph

2014Engineering_VanWieBros08In looking at just a few of our programs, an average annual starting salary of $53,000 for our dental hygiene graduates right out of the gate, or $43,700 for our automated manufacturing and electromechanical graduates, or $51,000 on average for mechanical design graduates 5 years after graduation, represents a very solid return on tuition and time investment. Several of our programs, like Agribusiness/Science Technology for instance, have experienced 100% job placement year in and year out for a number of years now.

Should you be thinking that there are very few jobs or opportunities available in the fields that FVTC prepares students for or at these S_Coopersalary levels, let me dispel that myth. In fact, as only a few examples, last year in the FVTC District alone, there were more than 46 full-time job postings for every 2-year marketing graduate, 14 positions for every machine tool graduate, 30 for every administrative assistant graduate, and 16 job postings for every electromechanical graduate. Great opportunities are everywhere for our graduates! I’d put my money on them every time.

Junior Achievement and Technical Education

Building and programming robots with industry reps was hands-on fun.

Building and programming robots with industry reps was hands-on fun.

Wow, the late spring is sure a busy time of year!  So many events and celebrations that are all wonderful, but they seem to happen all at once.  This week we hosted a new, first-time event for the Junior Achievement organization on our campus—a “Technical Careers Challenge” for about 50 eighth grade students from the Appleton Area School District.  It was a pleasure to welcome this group of kids and to attend the celebration dinner that evening with them and members of their family.
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Opening Our Doors to High School FFA Competitions

I took a little time to stop out at the Service Motor Company Agriculture Center at the Appleton Campus on Friday morning to take in a regional FFA competition.  This was the 39th annual FFA Career Development event that we have hosted.  The morning’s competitions involved over 70 Wisconsin high schools and 1,200 of their students.  Our parking lot was filled with yellow buses, which is always wonderful to see!  And many of those buses left their local communities at a very early hour to be here in time for the event.

These students, as individuals and in teams, were competing in this regional event to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in 13 agriculture-related different areas…everything from agronomy to livestock, dairy products to ag mechanics, and more.  The various events were being held in every classroom and lab of the Ag Center, but also in other campus buildings as well as off-site locations such as the county fairgrounds and a local stable.  High school ag instructors were involved, our faculty and staff were heavily engaged, and many of our own students were assisting with running these events.  Students that qualify will then move on to the state and ultimately the national competitions. Continue reading

Reaching Educational Goals Translates to Hope, Promise, Confidence, Opportunity

Earlier this month on a single day I participated in two celebratory events…a GED/HSED graduation ceremony at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution (OSCI) and a Phi Theta Kappa honor society induction at our Appleton Campus.  I couldn’t help but think about the interesting juxtaposition of these two events on the same day and how they were similar, yet very different.  At OSCI, just over 80 inmates had recently completed their GED/HSED or a skills training certification in areas such as food service, horticulture, Braille transcription, or computer fundamentals.  Phi Theta Kappa is an organization for students with high academic standing who are interested in leadership and service opportunities, an honor society pursued by many of our top students.

While the settings, situations, and specifics of these two celebrations were certainly very different, here I’d like to focus on the similarities.  For these students of all ages, whether completing a GED or food service certificate, or earning a 4.0 GPA and holding a student leadership role on campus, the look of accomplishment on their faces was very much the same.  The expression of pride by family and friends also looked much alike.  And in hearing the words of these students, one could sense a feeling of hope for their futures, a readiness for the next challenge or next steps, and a growing confidence in the ability to pursue new opportunities.  Hope, promise, confidence, opportunity.
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A Deep Dive into Apprenticeship

Last week I had the privilege of serving as one of two representatives from the Wisconsin Technical College System to participate in the Wisconsin Apprenticeship Summit.  This conference was sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread in Racine.  About 40 industry executives, workforce and education leaders, and apprenticeship policy makers gathered for three days to review, discuss, and make recommendations for the future of Wisconsin’s 104-year-old apprenticeship system.

The Governor kicked off this summit along with Roger Dower, president of the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread; Reggie Newson, secretary of the WI Department of Workforce Development; John Ladd, administrator in the Office of Apprenticeship at the US Department of Labor; and Karen Morgan, director of the Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards for the WI DWD.  The summit focused on the key issue of ensuring that Wisconsin has the skilled workforce it needs, with an emphasis on how apprenticeship serves as one of the key solutions for building this pipeline of future workers.

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National Education Priorities Could Hold Promise for Major Local Impact

A few weeks ago President Barack Obama unveiled an ambitious proposal to make two years of community college free and universal.  It’s referred to as “America’s College Promise” that, as of today, holds only sketchy details other than the fact that the Federal Government would provide about three-quarters of the funding and the expectation that participating states would cover the cost of the remaining one-quarter.  Starting just with the required state match, it appears there would be many strings attached to this program—for states, for educational institutions, and for students.

It is outstanding, however, that our top elected officials at both the state and national level truly understand the opportunities and promise that community and technical colleges hold, both for people and for our growing and changing economy.  But given the political dynamics of Washington, I think this proposal (although an incredible opportunity for this country) is a long shot, and it’s frankly even a longer shot that Wisconsin would voluntarily participate in a match program given our own politics and financial condition. Continue reading