The FVTC Board of Trustees recently approved a new Vision Statement for the College – our vision is to be “a catalyst in engaging partners to bring innovative educational solutions to individuals, employers, and communities – transforming challenges into opportunities.”
Yesterday we had an outstanding opportunity to take a step toward advancing this new vision. The College and the FVTC Foundation publicly launched a new initiative that will support students from low-income families in the FVTC District in attaining a technical degree – the FVTC Promise Scholarship Program. At the launch event, we were joined by many community leaders, K-12 school personnel, local legislators, and media representatives for this announcement and all were very excited about the promise of this initiative and the difference it will make.
In my role as president, I have the opportunity to interact regularly with local business and community leaders. There is not a conversation I’m involved in that doesn’t include the concern about finding enough skilled employees, a challenge that permeates virtually every industry sector today. In just the past year employers posted over 10,000 open positions that they were looking to fill with FVTC graduates in our TechConnect job posting system. Yes – 10,000 job openings posted by employers looking for skilled technical college graduates!
At the same time, the percentage of people in our area living in poverty continues to grow. This can best be seen through the numbers of students in area K-12 schools who are eligible for free or reduced lunch – 40% of students in the Appleton Area School District, 60% in Menasha, and as high as 74% in Wautoma. Most students from low-income families don’t even explore education beyond high school because they simply don’t think it’s possible from a financial standpoint. We need to change that if we’re going to have any chance of addressing employers’ needs for technically skilled workers in the years to come. And we need to change that if we’re going to truly make a difference in the fight against poverty in our communities.
As part of today’s program we heard from one of our current Industrial Welding students, Eric Gonzalez-Kaczmarek, and his compelling story about what this kind of financial support means for his success as a student, what it means to his family, and what it means for his future. While Eric is not a Promise Scholar, he has been fortunate to receive significant scholarships from the FVTC Foundation that represent the kind of support the FVTC Promise will hold for future students. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house once Eric shared his story and his dreams for the future to a standing ovation.
The Foundation is launching a $1 million campaign to support this program over the next five to six years and our goal is to serve 3,000 students as Promise Scholars over that period of time. To me, this is a new arrow in our workforce development quiver, as we work to close the gap between great employment opportunities in our region and the people who most need our help in preparing for those opportunities. You can direct prospective eligible students and families to this program and/or support this initiative with a financial contribution by going to this website: www.fvtc.edu/FVTCpromise or by calling the FVTC Foundation at (920) 735-5656.