Over the next decade, nearly 55 percent of Wisconsin’s jobs will require a technical education. With 49 campuses across 16 districts and additional outreach facilities designed to work with local communities throughout the state, Wisconsin’s Technical College System is uniquely positioned to impact the Wisconsin economy.
Nine out of every 10 Wisconsin Technical College System graduates are employed within sixth months of graduation, and graduates currently work for companies like Apple, Disney and the Green Bay Packers. Most stay in the state.
“Our primary interest is in transforming our offerings to inspire the next-generation learner,” said Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System. “That’s not about how old you are; it’s about learning style and opportunity.”
More than 370,000 students at varying stages of their academic career take advantage of the System’s programs and curriculum each year, focusing on industries like manufacturing, engineering, business, information technology, health care, hospitality, tourism, culinary arts, food processing, renewable energies and agriculture.
With a strong focus on modern manufacturing, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay has recently remodeled its labs and shops. The school has also established bilingual and weekend programs to reach more students, and has implemented mobile labs to bring high-tech manufacturing education to rural areas.
The college has been designated a World Class Manufacturing Center and routinely graduates approximately 25 percent of the state’s welders.
While the System’s role in the state’s manufacturing workforce has been widely documented, it is also developing talent for other economy-driving industries. According to Foy, WTCS has helped deliver tens of thousands of skilled professionals to the culinary arts, hospitality, agriculture, health care and information technology industries.
Located in Cleveland, one of Wisconsin’s tourism hotbeds, Lakeshore Technical College has a strong focus on supporting the culinary arts and hospitality.
The school has established a state-of-the-art restaurant classroom, where students gain direct experience cooking and creating recipes for actual customers.
“The immersion learning in the restaurant provides them with regular opportunities for hands-on experience, and nothing can substitute for that,” said Rufina Garay, associate dean of culinary and hospitality at Lakeshore Technical College Culinary Institute.
Students in the programs run all aspects of the restaurant three days a week, she said, also gaining direct exposure to the business aspects of the restaurant, including customer service, inventory and purchasing.
Graduates are in high demand.
“Students are learning that they can gain a world-class education and experiences through these programs,” Garay said.
And do it without mountains of debt. Cost was one factor Emily Van Haren considered when she enrolled in Madison Area Technical College to pursue her electrical engineering degree. Her intent was to get an associate’s degree, then enroll at University of Wisconsin-Madison via the college’s credit transfer program, but that didn’t end up being necessary.
Today Van Haren works for Apple. The opportunities available via Madison Area Technical College led to the Apple internship and an eventual job offer.
Academic programs in science, engineering and mathematics at Madison Area Technical College have earned national recognition and funding for excellence.
Similarly, the strength of the programming at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton is increasing the number qualified workers ready to lead the state’s agriculture industry.
“We’re fortunate to have a broad-based curriculum,” said Mike Cattelino, associate dean of manufacturing technologies at Fox Valley Technical College. “Our students are the producers of the future, and it’s our job to make sure they have the best opportunity to succeed.”
Fox Valley Technical College has almost 30 apprenticeship programs in place for industries like agriculture, horticulture, precision agriculture and even small engine repair.
“We partner with local farms and let our students gain valuable hands-on experience doing virtually everything in the facility with the help and assistance of industry professionals,” Cattelino said.
The System continues to expand programming to help students of all ages, and the communities where its campuses are located see the continued benefit of a technical education.
Said Foy, “That’s great for individuals, but it’s also the future of our economy.”