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

Wrapping Up Another Year

As 2014 comes to a close, I look back on the many wonderful events and accomplishments of so many over the course of the year.  Time goes by so very quickly, and before we know it an entire semester is over or we’re approaching the next major holiday.

The holiday season is also a pretty incredible time here at the college as so many of our staff and students engage in fundraisers, food collections, Adopt-a-Family, and other major activities to support needy individuals and families here in the region.  I’d like to share just one of these remarkable efforts with you in this post. Continue reading

Mike Rowe Makes a Dent in the Skills Gap

I’m sure you know who Mike Rowe is…the guy with the incredible voice, the guy who has hosted the TV show “Dirty Jobs” for many years.  What you may not know is that Mike Rowe has been a tireless advocate of technical education, the trades, and the occupations that keep this country making and moving.  He clearly understands the fact that there are great jobs and great careers available for individuals with technical skills and simply not enough people to fill them.  This is commonly referred to as the “skills gap” in America.  I’ve attached a short video clip here that provides a snapshot of his advocacy.

Mike Rowe scholarship recipient Jonathan Block

Mike Rowe scholarship recipient Jonathan Block

I received an interesting call recently informing me that the Mike Rowe Works Foundation was going to award 40 scholarships to students from across the country who were pursuing a technical education and that one of those 40 recipients was FVTC student, Jonathan Block.  Turns out that Jon, from Birnamwood, WI, submitted an application for this scholarship seeking the financial support that would allow him to reach his goal of becoming a diesel technician.  We were asked to see what we could do to provide some amount of match to the $6,200 scholarship award from the MRW Foundation.  I’m pleased to share that the FVTC Foundation stepped forward with a $1,000 grant and our terrific partners at NAPA Auto Parts provided Jon with $1,800 in tools plus an awesome tool cabinet.
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Up Close and Personal With Rural Entrepreneurs

The culminating event of the College’s celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week involved a series of small business tours in Waupaca County.  We were very pleased that Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch joined us at the FVTC Waupaca Regional Center to kick off what was a great morning of tours and a look behind the scenes of six businesses that our Venture Center has assisted in some way in recent years.  Like so many things, it’s one thing to hear about the work our staff are doing and the impact we’re having, but to actually see the results in action is quite another thing.  What follows is a brief overview of our experiences that morning and some of the real gems that operate in rural Wisconsin.

First we heard Chris Wenzel’s story about how his business came to be.  He is the owner/operator of Fremont Bait & Tackle and First Cast Tournaments.  It was great to hear his excitement for the tourism that takes place on the Wolf River, particularly for the fishing that occurs from March through mid-May.

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An Eye-Opening Experience

One of the most interesting aspects of my job involves getting to know a very wide range of community and business partners that we work with here in the region.  One of these partners for several decades has been the Oshkosh Correctional Institution (OSCI), in which we continue to collaborate with in an instructional capacity.  David Hines, the education director for OSCI, recently invited me to visit the institution along with our VPs Chris Matheny and Patti Jorgensen.  We spent the morning touring and learning more about this area correctional facility.
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