Why Career and Technical Education Matters!

I could not say it better than this video by Kevin Fleming and Brian Marsh with support from Citrus College (Glendora, California) titled Success in the New Economy. The written transcript, complete with information sources, is also available. Enjoy!!

Posted in General

Local Control of Tech Colleges Threatened

This is a shortened version of the article that first appeared in the July 10, 2014, Fennimore Times as part of its “Buzz About Town” series. It is reprinted here with permission from Fennimore Times Editor Rob Callahan.

Wisconsin’s technical colleges are units of local government. As such, they have been supported by local property taxes; responsive and accountable to local citizens, employers, and communities; and governed by boards comprised of local people. This model has resulted in unsurpassed performance outcomes and accountability.

However, local funding and control is under attack. A “Joint Legislative Council Study Committee on the Review of Wisconsin Technical College System Funding and Governance” is meeting this summer. Its official assignment identifies the aims of the legislators behind its creation, “the Study Committee is directed to review the current governance model of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) in the interest of transferring governance responsibilities of local district boards to the state WTCS Board and examine the current funding model for the WTCS with a preference toward reassigning current local property tax revenue to a broader state tax source.”

In the past I worked in state-controlled systems of higher education in two different states. I know that state control and funding would severely constrain our technical colleges’ ability to respond to the needs of local employers, communities, and others in the engaged, flexible, timely, and accountable way these stakeholders deserve.

Furthermore, a reasonable amount of local funding is essential to the interests of technical college stakeholders. While local funding for our 16 colleges averages less than 5% of the total property taxes paid by taxpayers statewide (In 2014-15 Southwest Wisconsin Technical College’s property tax levy on a $100,000 home will be around $126/year) this revenue stream is essential for the rapid program and facilities changes as well as the quick equipment upgrades employers and students count on.

Finally, state control would radically change the relationship between local citizens, employers, and the colleges. Local district boards are driven by responsiveness to local employers, property tax payers, advisory committees, and other stakeholders as well as by partnerships with District businesses, secondary schools, economic development organizations, communities, and other organizations. A statewide board would not have the same level of responsiveness, partnerships, or accountability to local interests.

For over 100 years, our technical colleges have been units of local government successfully meeting the needs of students, employers, and communities. Why fix what ain’t broken?

Posted in Buzz Around Town Column

Congratulations Suppz.com!

One of Fennimore, Wisconsin’s thriving businesses, Suppz.com, broke ground on a new warehouse, office, and retail space in the Fennimore Industrial Park on July 1, 2014.  Construction of this 12,000 sq. ft. complex is expected to start soon and will involve a couple of Fennimore mainstays, Midwest Builders, Inc., and Fennimore Lumber and Design Center.

Suppz.com started as Fennimore Fitness, now Suppz Gym, where owners Brent and Mary Sheckler sold supplements. Suppz.com, the online supplement business, grew from there.

Congratulations and best wishes for success in all their ventures go to Brent, Mary, and the entire Suppz staff.

Posted in General

The Southwest Tech Foundation

The Southwest Wisconsin Technical College Foundation exists to raise, manage, and distribute cash and in-kind contributions and grant funds as well as to provide student housing for the benefit of the students, employers, faculty, staff, and other Southwest Tech stakeholders.

Duane M. Ford, Betsy Tollefson, Foundation Donors Renee and Tom Sigwarth

Duane M. Ford, Betsy Tollefson, Foundation Donors Renee and Tom Sigwarth

It is important that the College find and use sources of revenue other than taxes, tuition, and student fees. The available options are grants, contracts, donations, and funds earned from entrepreneurial endeavors.

Karin Tepley, Scholarship Recipient; Harvey Bastian, Foundation Donor; Marsha Parker, Scholarship Recipient

Karin Tepley, Scholarship Recipient; Harvey Bastian, Foundation Donor; Marsha Parker, Scholarship Recipient

Revenue from these sources provide direct support to students; improve the quality of the College’s instructional and training programs; help us develop and implement new and innovative programs and services; and otherwise support continuous improvement and sustainability. They also help Southwest Tech keep tuition, student fees, and local property taxes right priced.

I am pleased to report that the Southwest Tech Foundation has achieved significant growth in total number of scholarships awarded, total scholarship funds provided to students, number of students housed, and all other cash and in-kind contributions. The following table summarizes the Foundation’s last three years of growth and success.

Foundation Chart

Foundation Donor Event

Foundation Donor Event

Thank you to all the wonderful people and companies who have supported the College’s mission through cash or in-kind donations to the Foundation! Congratulations to the Foundation Board of Directors as well as to the Foundation’s staff members over the past three years: Heather Fifrick, Betsy Tollefson, Sara Bahl, and Samantha Goss.

Anyone interested in learning more or in supporting post-secondary career and technical education in Southwest Wisconsin through a tax-deductible gift, may contact the Foundation at 608.822.2362; foundation@swtc.edu; or by visiting the Foundation’s website.

Posted in General

Nine Graduate from Southwest Tech’s 160-Hour Jail Academy

Spring graduation ceremonies continue at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. The latest happened June 16, 2014, when nine students graduated from the College’s 160-Hour Jail Academy. In the Academy students learn the key concepts and requirements for county jail operations and are introduced to the role of the jail officer as a corrections professional.

2014-Jail-AcademyThis spring’s graduating class included: Blake Bender, Justin Hundt, Kyle Johnstone, Kelly Klein, Alyssa Linsmeyer, Mason Nemitz, Nicholas Portzen III, Samantha Shepherd, and Cody Trumm. Ms. Michelle Sandry, Wisconsin Department of Justice Training and Standards, spoke at the ceremony. Congratulations to all!


Posted in Celebrations

Southwest Tech’s WLDI Graduates

On Friday, June 13, three Southwest Wisconsin Technical College and Foundation colleagues graduated with the latest class of Wisconsin Leadership Development Institute (WLDI) participants. The class included forty-seven graduates, including the following Chargers:

  • Chantel Hampton, Social Science Instructor – Division Coordinator
  • Julie Pluemer, Supervisor for Teaching, Learning & Academic Outreach
  • Betsy Tollefson, Director of Development, Southwest Tech Foundation
(L to R) Phil Thomas, Mentor; Chantel Hampton, WLDI Graduate; Julie Pluemer, WLDI Graduate; Duane Ford, Mentor; Betsy Tollefson, WLDI Graduate; Barb Tucker, Mentor

(L to R) Phil Thomas, Mentor; Chantel Hampton, Graduate; Julie Pluemer, Graduate; Duane Ford, Mentor; Betsy Tollefson, Graduate; Barb Tucker, Mentor

Previous WLDI graduates from Southwest Tech were: Wynn Henderson (1995-96), Joan Senn (1995-96), Paul Bell (1996-97), Ellen Leuck (1996-97), Ronald Coppernoll (1997-98), Nancy Flanagan (1997-98), Carol Kopp (1998-99), Ginny Moore (1998-99), Sondra Ostheimer (1999-00), Carol Rogers (1999-00), Stacy Martin (2001-02), Tammie A. Richter (2002-03), Brek L. Schneider (2002-03), Jeffrey Gilow (2003-04), Joy Kite (2003-04), Candace Croft (2004-05), Rita Luna (2004-05), Kathleen Garrity (2005-06), Jaime Klein (2005-06), Caleb White (2006-07), Kris Wubben (2007-08), Derek Dachelet (2008-09), Kevin Hoff (2008-09), and Barb Tucker (2010-11).

WLDI was initiated in 1995 by the Wisconsin Technical College System State Board and the Wisconsin Leadership Development Institute Coordinating Team. The goals of the Institute are to a) develop leaders in all areas of technical college administration based on ability, potential for promotion, and personal goals; b) create a pool of qualified leaders within the WTCS; c) increase the diversity of leaders across all management levels; and d) provide experience in management and leadership through structured experiences and practicum opportunities with a college mentor.

Starting this year, WLDI offers two academies. Its Foundation Academy is designed for those new to leadership; Kathy Witzig, Counselor, is participating from Southwest Tech. Its Advanced Academy, which is new this year, is designed for experienced leaders with new or expanded responsibilities; Derek Dachelet, the College’s Dean for Industry, Trade, and Agriculture, is participating.


Posted in Celebrations, General

Health, Education and Public Safety

The following article first appeared in the May 29, 2014, Fennimore Times as part of its “Buzz About Town” series. It is reprinted here with permission from Fennimore Times Editor Rob Callahan.

Thanks to an outstanding faculty and staff, many good things are happening at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. This is the first of a series providing highlights from around the College.

Today I shine the spotlight on Southwest Tech’s Division of Health, Education, and Public Safety led by Ms. Katie Garrity, Dean. I am grateful for her help writing this article.

This year, 446 Health, Education, and Public Safety students received a technical certificate, technical diploma, or associate degree. The number in each program was Nurse Assistant 245; Nursing 43; Practical Nursing 36; Medical Assistant 31; Dental Assistant 22; Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement 15; Early Childhood Education 15; Medical Coding Specialist 11; Human Services Associate 8; Medical Laboratory Technician 6; Physical Therapy Assistant 6; Direct Entry Midwife 4; Child Care Services 3; and Medical Transcription 1. Because employer demand for medical transcriptionists has fallen away, Southwest Tech last year stopped enrolling new students in that program.

Graduates from several allied health programs must pass certifying exams before they can work, but passage rates verify that a Southwest Tech education well prepares students for those exams. For example, the first-time passage rate for nursing students has been 100%, 100%, and 99% the past three years.

Most Southwest Tech graduates seek immediate employment or use their credential to advance in their current place of work. However, some graduates continue their education either while working or as a full-time student. For example, Nurse Assistant graduates may enter a practical nursing or nursing education program at Southwest Tech or elsewhere. Or, students receiving associate degrees may transfer into a baccalaureate degree program at a four-year university.

For students with an associate degree in one of Southwest Tech’s allied health programs, transfer into a bachelors program has become significantly easier. Starting this fall, Franklin University will be offering the classes needed to complete either a BS in Allied Health Management or a BS in Nursing on Southwest Tech’s Fennimore campus.

The Division is currently developing three new programs. Health Information Technology (HIT) as well as Cancer Information Management (CIM) will be offered entirely online, lead to associate degrees, and begin fall 2014. The College already has accepted 13 students and is processing 6 additional applications for these programs. More students are expected by August. These programs are perfect for those who want a rewarding healthcare career, but prefer to avoid the emotional and physical “messiness” of direct patient care.

The College received funding from two grants to support these programs’ development. An $119,000, one-year, state grant from the Wisconsin Technical College System is funding the start-up of CIM. A $770,000, three-year, federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration supported creation of the “Southwest Health Network,” a partnership of regional health information specialists. The Network is now helping develop the curriculum for HIT as well as creating collaborative strategies for student recruitment and for training and retention of incumbent health information technology specialists.

The third new program, a one-year technical diploma in Laboratory Science Technician, starts fall 2015. This program will be embedded in the Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) curriculum, meaning graduates will enjoy two options. They can either a) take their diploma and get a job in food processing, chemical manufacturing, healthcare, or any organization needing lab techs or b) complete another year at Southwest Tech and earn the associate degree in MLT. These programs are perfect for people interested in working in a laboratory setting.

Two additional healthcare highlights deserve mention. First, Southwest Tech gave regional healthcare providers an opportunity this year to submit proposals for leasing space in the Health Science Center from which to provide medical, dental, and mental health services to the public. Crossing Rivers Health, previously named Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital, was awarded the contract and started operation this spring.

Second, the Division will offer two conferences this summer for midwives or those interested in midwifery. Both conferences will feature nationally recognized practitioners.

Southwest Tech’s Public Safety Programs serve thousands of students each year. Offerings include education and training in Criminal Justice (associate degree); Driver Education, Motorcycle Safety, Traffic Safety, Law Enforcement Academy, Jail Academy, Dispatch Certification, Fire Services, Emergency Medical Services, and more.

Driver Education is offered to students in 20 Southwest Wisconsin school districts via contract with those districts and to 400 additional Wisconsin students via online courses.

The Law Enforcement Academy, which must be successfully completed to work as a police officer in Wisconsin, is changing. Through this year, the Academy included 520 hours of training; per State statute and rules, future Academies will include 700 hours. The result will be better prepared entry-level police officers.

Much is going on at Southwest Tech. These are highlights from only one Division and do not even include all of the exciting happenings there! Learn more on the College’s web or social media sites.

Posted in Buzz Around Town Column