A New Benchmark in Fire Training

Last week we had the pleasure of welcoming six statewide agencies representing airport fire and first responder operations, military personnel, and fire departments to the Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting (ARFF) Training Center as the first group of trainees to use this new facility. In partnership with the Appleton International Airport (ATW), the ARFF Center will serve regional, national, and international markets.

Supported by a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the training facility sets the stage for rather intense emergency response drills thanks to a number of real-life aircraft settings and props. These include the only Boeing 777 simulated aircraft fire trainer in the United States, as well as a state-of-the-art wet/fire deck with nearly 100 individual fire zones to simulate a variety of aircraft firefighting situations, and more.

In addition to the FAA and ATW, this project required the support and collaboration of several other organizations, including the Wisconsin Technical College System and the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics, as well as Oshkosh Corporation and their Oshkosh Airport Products division. All of us are delighted to provide yet another staple attraction in the region as a means to draw visitors from essentially around the world. This latest ARFF facility is in elite company—it’s one of only a handful in the United States.

Given the pandemic conditions, we look forward to celebrating with a more formal grand opening of the ARFF Center sometime soon, perhaps this fall, if possible.

A Call for Unity

Photo taken June 1, 2020 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Photo used with permission from Ray Wright & Detective Sergeant John Schira, Appleton Police Department (pictured).

Normally in this blog I stay away from the constant barrage of incidents, actions, and controversies of the day in our state or country, but not this time.  My heart breaks to see this nation being ripped apart, both literally and figuratively because of the historical injustice to people of color and the continuous cycle of oppression.  It’s especially difficult to see this when the daily work of our college is to build people up, develop skills and abilities for brighter futures, support economic development in our region, and advance our communities.

The recent event in Minneapolis leading to the death of George Floyd and countless other incidents over the years are constant reminders of the effects of inequity and racism in our communities. And our college’s understanding of the needs of those we serve is critical to eliminating the historical inequities that stand in the way for many of our staff, students and community members.

We must now, more than ever, be comfortable listening to those affected, seeking out targeted strategies to ensure that opportunities are accessible, and implement actions to ensure that achievements are possible for everyone regardless of individual abilities, differences, and backgrounds. Let’s learn from the vast experiences of our business, professional and community leaders of color, seek their input, and value their contributions as we transform challenges into opportunities.

One of our organization’s core values is diversity, a value that we do our best to live and support every day.  We do this by recruiting and serving a diverse student body in numbers even greater than the growing diversity of our communities.  We do this by dedicating staff and resources to specifically focus on advancing students and staff of color, supporting their success and opportunities.  We also do this by continuously educating ourselves on the challenges of inequity and ways in which we can continue to close current gaps.

Central to current civil unrest are deep issues of social justice and policing in America – very justified outrage given the pattern of incidents of police brutality involving people of color.  I’m particularly dismayed about the issues at hand because at FVTC we offer some of the finest law enforcement training in the country.  For many years we’ve worked with area law enforcement agencies to increase student, instructor, and agency diversity to better reflect our communities.  We prepare officers to serve and protect everyone, placing great emphasis on cultural competence, ethics, critical thinking and professional communication skills.

We have much work to do here in this region and across the country.  We all do – every person, every organization, every level of government.  But this work in rebuilding can only truly advance with a sense of unity – coming together to work on issues that affect us all, especially our disenfranchised community members; not through division and all of the forces that work to divide us in so many ways.

We remain committed as a college to continue working collaboratively with diverse community members, law enforcement agencies, K-12 school districts, non-profit organizations, and others to focus on not just words, not just dialogue, but additional actions to ensure that all members of our community have opportunities and can experience the highest levels of success possible.

I know that the uncertainty we face right now is troubling and unsettling for many in our community and would encourage anyone experiencing anxiety, sadness or deep feelings of fear or anger to reach out for help.  I’ve linked here a number of college and community resources available:  www.fvtc.edu/emergency-resources

Finally, a personal note to our students and staff of color:  I see you, I hear you, I care about you and your future, and we will all continue to learn from you and find ways to ensure that you continue to feel welcome, valued and appreciated at FVTC.

New Partnership Reminds Us to Look Ahead


During the past several weeks we’ve all had to make life-changing adjustments. Our staff and faculty have worked tirelessly to develop innovative approaches and new resources to guide our students through the end of the spring semester and beyond. While we’re all working hard to keep up with daily challenges, I’d like to share a new collaboration that serves as a reminder to look to better days ahead.

The College is honored to engage in a new partnership program with WHBY called “Focus on Careers.” This weekly segment will launch on May 20 and air during Hayley Tenpas’ afternoon program, Focus Fox Valley, each Wednesday through August 5. The segment is designed to highlight careers of promise and what makes a positive college experience as ways to bring renewed optimism to the region.

Thanks to WHBY for joining us in building futures through education and training.