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Apprenticeship requires commitment but yields big rewards

Unlike the television show, you don’t have to compete to be an apprentice in Wisconsin. These on-the-job training and classroom education programs can lead to a highly-skilled occupation in two to five years without having to face Donald Trump.

You do have to have an employer to get you started. These employers are willing to pay you at least 60% of the wage a skilled worker would earn while you learn from someone who already has the skills. That’s right, you get paid while you learn. You also must sign a contract with the employer stating the terms and conditions of the apprenticeship. The employer promises to teach you skills and you promise to learn them. The process is administered by the State of Wisconsin.

Apprentices also get paid for the time they spend in the classroom. The Wisconsin Technical College System usually provides this instruction, required by Wisconsin law.

Construction apprentice working at a job site.

Apprenticeship can lead to good-paying career.

What careers require apprenticeship? You can gain employment skills in construction, manufacturing and service occupations through apprenticeship. If you want a career operating heavy equipment, installing data communications equipment, styling hair, working on electrical lines or machining, apprenticeship can get you there. But there are many more career fields with apprenticeship programs.

According to a recent article from the Center for American Progress, apprenticeship can raise workers’ wages, increase employee productivity, and improve employers’ bottom lines. Find out what it can do for you or your son or daughter.

Teens benefit from mentor relationships

No matter how much you know, your teens usually think you don’t know anything. The rolling eyes signal you are so out of touch, behind the times. Try not to take it personally. This distance is part of adolescence; young people need to separate from their parents to develop their own identity.

Your kids may not listen to your wisdom, but they will often listen to other adults. Think back to your own teen years. Was there someone whom you looked up to who encouraged you and shared his or her experience and knowledge with you?

According to the National Mentoring Partnership, students who have mentors achieve more in school, have better self-esteem, relate well with all kinds of people and are less likely to choose risky behaviors. Mentors can also give young people another view of the world of work by sharing stories of their work life, relationships, challenges and accomplishments.

A study from North Carolina State University showed youth from disadvantaged backgrounds were twice as likely to attend college when they have a mentor. However, even teens who aren’t considered “disadvantaged” can benefit from a mentor relationship.

“All teens reap big developmental dividends from nonparent mentoring relationships during their high school years,” wrote Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D. in Psychology Today. She interviewed 40 youths who were mentored by adults.

Price-Mitchell found that while most teens don’t respond well to being pushed out of their comfort zones, particularly within families, they respond positively when mentors push them beyond what they think they can do.

Who are these mentors? They could be aunts or uncles, guidance counselors, neighbors, teachers, coaches, clergy members, scout leaders or volunteers such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters. There are several national mentoring programs. Visit these websites for more information:

If your child won’t open up to you, encourage them to find another adult who will listen, support and advise. Students Against Drunk Driving and Liberty Mutual Insurance offer this advice to parents:

  • Stay involved! Parent mentors are important regardless of the presence of other mentors. Teens Today research shows those teens whose parents talk to them regularly about important issues are more likely to make good choices.
  • Encourage your teens to communicate with and seek advice from adults in their lives.
  • Get to know your teen’s other mentors. Working together will benefit you and your teen.
  • To alleviate potential concerns, find out if the organization has a screening process, including background checks, for adults who are mentoring children.

Does your teen have a mentor? Tell us your story. How did the relationship develop? What benefits have you seen?




Job shadowing gives students chance to try out careers

In a recent letter to a local advice column “Weight of the World” bemoaned the fact that he/she had pursued two occupational programs only to drop out when it seemed they were “not quite right for me.” Now he/she is trying to pay back student loans on a non-skilled income.

How will you know __________________ is THE ONE? When your son or daughter declares their undying love for a certain occupation and wants to enroll in a college program ask them what draws them to this field? Is it the money? Opportunity for travel? Work with people? His best friend is doing it too?

Many young people have limited views of what is involved in various career fields. Ask them to do some research. Have they watched YouTube for videos on that occupation? What do they know about the day-to-day world of designing video games or taking care of sick pets? Have they ever met anyone who has their dream job?

Mike Rowe, television host and advocate for blue-collar careers says, “The trick is to make sure by the time the kid gets to this point, where he or she is seriously trying to figure out the best path, that they can look at the most options, that they’ve had time to try them on somehow.”

You can help your child try out different careers by arranging for them to “shadow” someone.

How to set up a job shadow experience:

  • Identify a few areas of interest with your child. What careers are related to those interests?
  • Start with your child’s school. Some Wisconsin school districts like the School District of Marshfield have formal job shadow programs.
  • Ask your friends or business contacts if they are willing to arrange a job shadow for your student.
  • Contact companies directly. Some companies have formal programs to introduce students to their industry and specific positions. Others may be willing to arrange a one-on-one experience.
  • Professional organizations and career-specific organizations have job shadow programs to give students opportunities to explore certain fields. For example the Associated Contractors of Wisconsin has a job shadow program.



Top 20 careers for tech college grads

Just how many jobs are out there for Wisconsin technical college graduates? A look at the job openings posted by Wisconsin employers on the TechConnect website reveals skills employers are searching for.

Graduates with marketing degrees have the most number of opportunities (3,500+). Associate degree graduates in this field can expect a median starting salary of $33,000.

Marketing student making presentation

Marketing graduates have many opportunities for employment.

Number two on the site is administrative professional. Employers are looking for graduates who hold a technical diploma or an associate degree in this field. Median starting salary for these graduates is $27,376 according to the website. Nursing assistant is number three with a median starting salary of $23,102.

Electro-Mechanical Technology and truck driving round out the top five. Median salaries for starters in these careers are $40,000+.

Rounding out the top 20 list is:

Business Management
Mechanical Design Technology
Early Childhood Education
Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement
Software Developer
Office Assistant
Network Specialist
Nursing – Associate Degree
Computer Support Specialist
Culinary Arts
Automotive Technician
Supply Chain Management
Food Service Production

When talking with your child about possible careers, encourage them to consider fields with more openings where they will have a better chance of getting hired. Not everyone is suited for marketing careers, but perhaps software developer would be a perfect match for your son or daughter. This list could contain some careers you or your child have never considered.

For more information visit Wisconsin’s technical colleges career programs.


Technical college transfer opportunities continue to grow

More students may choose to transfer between Wisconsin colleges and universities as a result of a new Universal Transfer Agreement between the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and the University of Wisconsin System. The agreement allows students to transfer credits from 11 general education courses between colleges in either system.

Now, students from any of the 16 Wisconsin technical colleges can transfer credits from these courses to satisfy general education, general degree or elective requirements to colleges or universities in the UW System. Likewise, students from UW System institutions can transfer these credits to a technical college.

In the fall of 2012-2013, 3,704 students transferred from Wisconsin technical colleges to the UW System. More students could transfer as a result of this agreement.

During the 2012-2013 academic year, 4,292 students successfully transferred credits earned at a UW System institution to be applied towards completion of a degree or diploma program at a Wisconsin technical college. The number has been increasing over the last three years.

The agreement provides more flexibility for students who aren’t sure of their career goals. Often during the first year or two, students find their career passion or set new career goals. It also gives students a less expensive route to earning a bachelor’s degree since technical college tuition is lower than the UW System tuition.

Representatives of both systems will review the agreement each year, so slight changes could be made to the course list. Not all of these courses transfer equally to the UW System. So check the Transfer Information System website and consult with a college transfer adviser before you begin taking these courses.


Is college degree the ticket to a “Great Life?”

Technical college graduates celebrateA recent Gallup and Purdue University study, “Great Jobs Great Lives,” drew attention to long-term success and quality of life for college graduates. Researchers focused on worker engagement and well-being for 29,560 graduates across the U.S. However, the results do not reflect graduates of two-year community or technical colleges. For that, you have to dig deep into the report. Associate degree holders were studied separately with only 1,557 respondents.

Results showed that 39 percent of four-year college graduates employed full time (excluding the self-employed) are engaged in the workplace. Whether you graduate from a state university, for-profit private college or Ivy League university doesn’t affect how engaged you are. In fact, the same amount of two-year degree holders indicated they are engaged in the workplace.

Gallup partnered with Healthways to create the Well-Being 5 View to measure well-being using these elements: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. Only 11 percent of bachelor’s degree holders are thriving in all five elements of well-being. According to their study six percent of associate degree graduates are thriving in all five areas.

So, how do Wisconsin graduates fair in these measures? The Gallup Purdue study did not report results at a state-by-state level. However, the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) conducts graduate follow-up surveys each year and publishes longitudinal results with some indicators of success for associate degree holders in the state. The surveys do not include questions indicating workplace engagement or well-being, but they do indicate satisfaction with education received and employment success for these graduates.

What we do know

According to the 2013 Graduate Follow-Up Survey 97 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their training. Of the 12,101 graduate respondents in the labor force, 89 percent are employed. For the past 15 years, 86 percent or more of WTCS graduates were employed within six months after graduation with 74 percent in fields related to their education. Five years after graduation, these graduates are making 48 percent more than they did in the first year.

As for the long-term look, 91 percent of 2005-06 graduates said their technical college training was important or very important in beginning their career. Almost 90 percent of these respondents said they would definitely recommend technical college to others.

Are these graduates engaged in their workplace? Do they have a great job and a great life? Let’s take a look.

Adam Hornby, a 2009 graduate of Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, is a service technician for a farm implement dealer.

Adam likes the problem solving and challenges he faces at work. “Every day is different and each job is a little different whether it is a hydraulic problem, or electrical or engine malfunction,” he explained.

Earnestine Daugherty, a 1996 graduate of Milwaukee Area Technical College, is a health unit coordinator at Froedtert Hospital.

“I really enjoy the job,” Ernie said. “I feel for people who are sick or have loved ones in the hospital. I know it helps if someone can lend an encouraging word and let them know that someone cares. I like to be that person.”

These are just two of the many stories you can read about WTCS alumni. You can easily do your own informal research by asking them yourself. There’s a good chance you know someone who graduated from a Wisconsin Technical College.

12 questions to ask before you visit a college

Are you planning to visit college campuses during the summer? Before you pack the car and fill the gas tank, make sure you do some basic research. College websites are a great place to start. Knowing more about a college will help you formulate better questions to ask once you get there and help you decide what factors are most important to you.

Group touring college building

Here are some questions to ask first:

  • What is the cost including per credit, extra fees, books, housing, etc.? (Many schools will give the cost per credit for example, $125.85, but don’t include the extra fees.)
  • What scholarships are available? How do I apply? What is the due date?
  • Which degrees are offered?
  • Is the program you are interested in available? Is there a waiting list?
  • Are the college and program or degree accredited? Is there a certification as part of the program? Is it a national or state certification?
  • What are the admission requirements and deadlines?
  • What is the average class size?

After you have completed your preliminary research, schedule your visit by contacting the admissions office. Weekday visits when classes are in session allow you to see what the college is really like. You might even be able to sit in on a class or talk with students enrolled in the program you are interested in.

When you are on campus ask about student life. What types of campus organizations and activities does the college offer? Find out what type of support is available for students and graduates. Does the college provide connections with employers such as job fairs, internships, or mock interviews?

Ask for graduate employment data. Where do graduates find employment? Is there an alumni association for networking opportunities?

If you plan to commute or keep a car on campus, you probably should ask about parking and other related rules and costs. You will need to add these costs to your college budget. Some colleges require health insurance—another cost to add.

Be sure to bring a notebook or electronic tablet along and record the answers so you can compare them to other colleges on your list. You may want to create a spreadsheet for these purposes. Record your impressions too. Some people find it helpful to create a two-column chart of positives and negatives.

Hope these suggestions make your college decision less stressful and more manageable.

Related articles:

Campus Visit Checklist

10 Ways to Learn About Colleges Online

How to Make the Most of a College Visit

Don’t ignore your hobbies when making career choice

Ashley Pieper will graduate from Nicolet College this month with a degree in Graphic Design. The road to her career achievement was long and winding with some wrong turns. Sometimes when you think you know what your dream job is, you’re wrong.

“I don’t think I spent enough time talking to my high school counselor or exploring other career options,” she admits.

Ashley Pieper working at a computer.

Ashley Pieper discovered her true career passion at Nicolet College.

Since she was a child, Ashley wanted to be a teacher. Young students often want to imitate people who have a lot of influence over them. When you spend six hours a day with someone, and admire him or her, you want to be like that person. In high school, Ashley assisted a second grade teacher and enjoyed the experience. After completing general education requirements at University of Wisconsin – Washington County, she planned to attend the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh for an Elementary Education degree. However, plans changed when she moved.

“I took Early Childhood Education classes at Nicolet, but after a year I decided that wasn’t the age group I was interested in working with,” Ashley explains. She transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Superior for an online Elementary Education program.

It wasn’t until she was student teaching in a local school that Ashley realized she just wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. “I felt like I would dread going to work everyday,” she says.

“I’ve always been crafty, creative and artsy, but thought of it as more of a hobby, not something that I could make a career out of. I got a job at a local newspaper doing computer graphics and took graphic design classes at Nicolet part-time because I was able to.”

After a layoff, Ashley took classes full-time and is finally getting a degree in something she “would love to do everyday for the rest of my life.”

“Nicolet’s Graphic Design program has given me the opportunity to explore so many different of avenues of graphic design, from drawing and painting to digital video and compositing/visual effects. I was able to discover what I truly feel passionate about—photography–and also learned a variety of different skills,” she adds.

Ashley is currently employed as a technology specialist at the Crandon Public Library. She creates all of their marketing and advertising pieces. After graduation, she will focus most of her attention on starting her own photography business.

The moral of Ashley’s story: explore all your options and know your interests before making a choice in higher education.

Her advice to teens:

  • Spend more time job shadowing in high school.
  • If you have set your sights on a career, explore it deeply.
  • Ask your counselor and your parents for help.

Check list for high school juniors and parents

Yes parents–summer is coming and then your child will be a senior. Is your son or daughter ready for their last year of high school? Here is a ‘to do’ list for you and your child:Hand holding pen making check mark

_____ Double check your schedule with your counselor. Have you met all your requirements for your senior year?

_____ Take the ACT. Many post-secondary options use the score to aid in admission.

_____ Schedule your senior pictures.

_____ Make a plan for visiting post-secondary options.

_____ If you haven’t taken a career interest inventory, do that before choosing your post secondary path.

_____ Get a summer job. Work experience is good for you and you can start saving for college costs.

_____ Get a bank account and a debit card. Learn to be financially responsible.

This is a busy time and it will go by fast. Use the summer to prepare and then enjoy all the events that go along with the last year of high school.

Anything you would add to this list?


20 websites that can help find your child’s future

Wondering where to start in advising your child about future careers? Ty Jury, a guidance counselor at Waunakee Middle School, tells students and parents their career development is a “slinky” model rather than the traditional “ruler” model.

“Just knowing the process by high school and where to look for information is very helpful,” Jury says.  He offers the following list of 20 websites to 8th graders and parents to get them started on the career development search.

  1. Wisconsin Careers                  
  2. Waunakee HS Career Clusters
  3. WI Career Pathways               
  4. Parent Involvement                
  5. Career Clusters                       
  6. My Next Move                         
  7. Student Career Videos           
  8. WI Post-Secondary Options  
  9. UW Colleges and Universities
  10. WI Technical Colleges            
  11. WI Private Colleges               
  12. College Searches                    
  13. ACT Planning List       
  14. Military Site                            
  15. Occupation Handbook          
  16. Trade Schools                         
  17. Know How 2 Go                      
  18. Mapping Your Future
  19. Financial Savings        
  20. Student Aid                 


When discussing careers start from the very beginning

Remember the song in The Sound of Music when Sister Maria teaches the children to sing? “Start from the very beginning,” she advises. When you begin to consider your child’s future career and education, don’t start with college or university choices. Start with your child’s interests, personality and talents. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” may not be the best approach either.

It is better to ask your child about their interests and strengths, suggests Steve Langerud, director of career services at DePauw University. “You describe yourself in a functional way and then figure out what that’s called and if people get paid to do it,” he told the New York Times.

What are your child’s hopes and dreams for the future? Ask him or her to describe things they like to do. Ask her to describe a time when she did something she enjoyed and felt she did it well. Ask him what personal qualities describe him. As you discuss your child’s natural talents, interests and abilities connect these to a career cluster or pathway. This career interest questionnaire can help.

Discussing the future can be overwhelming for a teenager. Be sensitive and don’t push it. If your child isn’t interested or is too overwhelmed back off and wait for a better time. Driving in the car is a good time for private conversation away from siblings or friends, computers and television.


Prepare your child for a future full of change

Gone are the days when employees take a job and remain in that position until they retire 30 years later. Change is the new normal in the world of work. The future looks bright for individuals who can adapt and be flexible.sad stick figure, happy stick figure

So how do you prepare your child for that world? Help them learn that things do not always remain the same and they can survive. Even a career that seems perfect for them may evolve to incorporate new technologies or may someday be eliminated.

For example, when I began my career I wrote on an electric typewriter. Soon computer terminals took over offices and I had to learn to use that technology. More recently, the Internet and social media have made radical changes in my field. Once again, I had to learn to use the new technology and adapt to these changes. Rather than quit my job and look for something else or become depressed, I enrolled in some classes.

Remember you are your child’s most influential teacher. How you respond to change will set an example for them. Do you grumble and complain when your boss asks you to take on new duties? Are you fearful about changes in the workplace? Or do you look on the changes with a positive attitude, welcoming the opportunity to learn something new.

Talk with your child about the changes in their own lives — moving to a new home, changing schools, even moving up to the next grade in school. Help them look on the bright side. He might like his new teacher even more than the current one. She won’t have to sit next to ______________ any more. Think of all the possibilities!

Remind your son or daughter of all the positive things that came with a change in the past. Praise him or her for adjusting. This will give your child the courage to face more changes in the future without fear.

You can also help your child develop resilience by assuring him or her that despite the changes around them, your relationship will always endure and your affection for them will not change.

What are some of the ways you have helped your child accept and adapt to change?

More on this topic:

Resilient Kids are Happy Kids by Alexandra Delis-Abrams, Ph.D.

Helping Young Children Adjust to Change: From the Author of Harry the Happy Caterpillar Grows by Cindy Jett

Supporting Student Resilience in the Classroom By Steve Gardiner



Education that leads to employment

If you want to know what employers are looking for these days or what careers are most in demand, ask your local technical college. At least 54 percent of Wisconsin’s jobs in the next decade will require a technical college degree.

Technical colleges keep their ears to the ground when it comes to the needs of local employers. Flexibility allows the colleges to quickly address evolving local workforce needs by creating new educational programs and adapting current programs.

How do they do it? They have relationships with employers, large and small. Advisory boards made up of employers and employees help keep the colleges up-to-date on the necessary skills for various career fields. In addition, college staff members use these connections to track local labor market demand and employment trends, ensuring strong job placement for graduates. This contributes significantly to 7 out of 10 graduates quickly getting jobs in their fields. If a program is needed in an area, a college will add it. Likewise, colleges discontinue programs without strong placement.

This past month the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) Board approved six new programs and another six moved from concept review to program approval phase.

Four of the programs will be added at Northcentral Technical College. The Geriatric Care Specialist technical diploma will prepare graduates to advise geriatric clients in health care settings. Renal Dialysis Technician, a one-year technical diploma, was added to meet the need created by the growing number of adults with Type 2 Diabetes and potential kidney failure. The college will also start offering a one-year technical diploma for Optometric Technicians and a two-year associate degree in Information Technology Web Designer.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College will have a new associate degree program in Manufacturing Operations Management. Demand for individuals with these skills is expected to grow by 9 percent between 2010 and 2020.

The Board also approved a two-year associate degree program in Sales Management for Western Technical College. An analysis of the demand for customer service and sales representative positions in the district shows an estimated growth rate of 10 percent for 2014 to 2018.

On the other hand, the Board discontinued the Bricklaying and Masonry technical diploma at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, due to low enrollment and labor market projections.

Programs approved at past WTCS Board meetings will be starting in the fall. One example is the Manufacturing Information Technology program at Blackhawk Technical College (BTC). Students in this two-year associate degree program will learn to maintain manufacturing systems so they operate at peak efficiency.

Keeping up with the labor market of today and projecting employment needs of tomorrow helps Wisconsin’s technical colleges offer educational programs that lead to employment success. Nearly 90 percent of graduates have jobs within six months of graduation and 71 percent said they were in a job related to their training.

So, if you want a degree that will result in job offers check out what technical colleges are offering.

4 reasons to consider a career in agriculture

Even if you don’t live on a farm or in a rural community, your children could choose agribusiness as a career. Why should they consider a career related to agriculture? This past week I attended the National Ag Day celebration at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College (SWTC) and here is what I learned:

1.  Variety of related careers   Agriculture is more than milking cows and driving a tractor. According to Ben Brancel, secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for Wisconsin, there are 400 different types of jobs in the state’s agriculture industry. The Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources career cluster includes many exciting and interesting occupations. These career choices involve everything from science, to finance, to marketing and sales, to equipment repair and maintenance. The website helps match interests and skills to the multitude of job titles related to agriculture.

Students looking at engine.

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College students inspect the engine of a piece of farm equipment.

2.  Important to our economy  At the Ag Day celebration Governor Scott Walker reminded the audience that agriculture has a $60 billion impact on the Wisconsin economy. “We need people with training and expertise to be innovators and to continue to fuel and grow Wisconsin’s economy,” Walker said. Brancel mentioned the 354,000 people directly employed in agriculture activities in the state. Many communities thrive because of the ag-related businesses that serve farm families.

3.  Lots of jobs   One out of every 10 jobs in Wisconsin is related to agriculture. Wisconsin’s farms not only feed citizens of the state. Food products produced here feed people all over the world. As the demand for agricultural products grows, so does the demand for employees in agriculture-related businesses. Production has increased dramatically because of advances in science and technology. Those advances call for educated people. Many technical colleges are struggling to produce enough graduates to meet employer demand in agriculture. We need more people to enter this industry.

4.  Rewarding field of work  Putting food on family tables is noble work. Today, there are 7 billion people to feed on our planet. By 2050 there will be 9.3 billion. What could be more rewarding than to know that what you do every day helps feed people around the world?Child sitting at empty plate with knife and fork

The next time you eat a meal, talk with your children about where their food comes from. Tell them about what is involved in producing food products and consider touring a cheese production facility. When you drive by a farm engage them in a discussion of what farm life is like. Take your kids to a county fair or the state fair and make sure they visit the animal barns. When you are grocery stopping with them, make note of products you buy that are produced in Wisconsin. You will give them another career option to consider for their future and for the future of Wisconsin.

Save time and money on the way to a college degree

When Jasmyn Clough graduated from Beaver Dam High School in 2008, she had completed enough transcripted credit courses to count as two classes in Moraine Park Technical College’s Business Management program.  When she enrolled at MPTC she was able to hit the ground running with two college classes under her belt.

Clough didn’t stop with her Business Management associate of applied science degree. Instead, she took advantage of the transfer agreements set in place by Moraine Park and entered Cardinal Stritch University at junior status as a Business Management student in the spring of 2013. She’s on a track that will allow her to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in two years.

More and more, high school students are taking advantage of Wisconsin’s many dual credit options to gain technical college credits and skills while fulfilling high school graduation requirements. Last spring, more than 26,000 students were engaged in dual credit classes, earning more than 81,000 credits. At $122.20 per credit for degree or diploma programs or $165.40 per credit for collegiate transfer programs, that’s a lot of savings.

Four male high school students wearing Do the Dual t-shirts.

Students can gain college credit while in high school.

“Dual credit attracts all types of students,” says Ann Westrich, education director – Career Prep for the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). “Students are mostly interested in Career and Technical Education (CTE). They are self-directed students who are fully engaged in a program of study and they know the direction they want to take.”

In some cases, by the time students reach their sophomore year in high school, they have completed the high school courses in a certain area and are ready for college-level work. This often happens in information technology or family and consumer education.

Dual credit options include: advanced standing, transcripted credit, Youth Options and Youth Apprenticeship. In some cases the courses are taught by high school teachers, while in other cases technical college instructors deliver the instruction. Each technical college has a career prep coordinator who oversees the articulation, making sure courses meet same standards for instruction, content, student work, and evaluation as college courses.

Wisconsin educators are encouraging students to engage in career planning at an earlier age. The current state budget supports student academic and career plans (ACP) beginning in sixth grade. A Wisconsin statute has set the goal of providing ACP services for all students in grades 6-12 by 2017-18.

By the time students reaches eighth grade, they should know what courses to take in high school, according to their career pathway. Dual credit courses could be a part of that plan.

How to make summer memorable, not boring

The anticipation of summer means you will want to start planning summer activities for your children and teens. Many of Wisconsin’s technical colleges offer summer camp programs that provide fun while exposing young people to future careers and educational opportunities.

STEM Race Camp at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) teaches high school students teamwork as they explore variables that control performance of a 1:10 radio controlled car, simulating the preparation of a professional racing team.  Participants will learn about science and engineering, racing and skills that apply to any occupational setting. Get your crew together and sign up today.

Mid-State Technical College (MSTC) will offer a similar Race Engineering Camp at its Wisconsin Rapids campus, June 16-19, for students in grades 9-12. If your teen is more interested in robotics, check out the VEX Robotics Engineering Camps at MSTC. Ask your school’s technical education teacher for more information.

CVTC also offers “Girls on Fire,” a firefighter and emergency medical service career exploration camp for girls entering 7th through 12th grades. This five-day, fun-filled, hands-on residential camp focuses on firefighter and emergency medical skills experience, while involving the girls in leadership and fitness activities. Campers stay in the UW-Eau Claire residence halls.

Middle and high school students in the Fox Valley Technical College district have many choices for summer fun and learning. Camps include:  Electric Guitar Building, Girl Tech, Jewelry Design and Fabrication, Fire Science, VEX Robotics, Power of Manufacturing, Learning Chinese is Fun and Learn Japanese Through Manga and Anime Comics.

LEGO® fans ages 9 to 14 can explore robotics, mechanical systems, electronics and programming at Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) this summer at the “Beginning Lego Robotic Programming” summer course. The four-day program will inspire their imaginations and challenge their minds.

You don’t have to wait until summer for Western Technical College’s Camp W on Saturday, March 22. Courses are developed and presented by volunteers and can include things like building toolboxes, learning sign language, making a first aid box, dissecting a sheep eye, or just clowning around.

Learning doesn’t take a vacation. Give your kids opportunities to learn this summer at Wisconsin’s technical colleges.

How to teach your child to solve problems and why it is important

Quarrel - offended sistersRecently, a friend and I were reminiscing about how our daughters fought with each other when they were young. He recalled one episode when his girls were shouting at each other over some conflict and his wife locked them in the bathroom and would not let them out until they resolved the argument.

Do you have a whiner in your family? One who brings you every little struggle or insult from a brother or sister? How do you handle these situations? Do you send them to different corners until they calm down, or make them talk it out?

Teaching your children how to handle conflicts could be the most important lesson you ever give them.

“I have discovered that people who can think in a problem-solving way are more likely to find success and are better adjusted socially than those who cannot think that way, or haven’t learned to,” writes Myrna B. Shure, Ph.D., in her book “Raising a Thinking Child: Help Your Young Child to Resolve Everyday Conflicts and Get Along with Others.”

Shure says the secret lies in teaching children how to think, not what to think. Help your child understand feelings, find alternative solutions and consider consequences.

Children who learn to solve typical everyday problems are less likely to become impulsive, insensitive, withdrawn, aggressive, or antisocial, Shure continues. They are also happier because the ability to think straight relieves emotional tension.

“The thinking child can appreciate how people feel, decide what to do, and evaluate whether the idea is or is not a good one,” she adds. Who doesn’t want that?

Karen Bogenschneider, family policy researcher for the University of Wisconsin-Extension, says, “Studies show that families are the most important contributor to the development of productive and competent workers.” The Extension is teaching parents of four- to 7-year-olds in Clark County how to raise thinking children.

Have you tried the Interpersonal Cognitive Problem-Solving (ICPS) methods Shure teaches? What’s your approach?

For more on teaching children to resolve conflicts:

Even born leaders need some training

Some children are born leaders, others need to be encouraged and developed into leadership. Your child may be the one who is always organizing friends to play a game, go on an adventure or put on a play. However, some would say even those individuals can benefit from leadership training and development.

Recent research identified a certain gene that seems to show up in people who have supervisory roles. Dr. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, lead researcher says leadership “should still be thought of predominantly as a skill to be developed.”

Steven I. Pfeiffer, professor in the Psychological Services in Education Program and director of clinical training in the doctoral program in counseling psychology and school psychology at Florida State University, suggests the following ways to allow a child to practice and refine leadership:

  • Learn about and discuss examples of leaders. Actual leaders and fictional leaders can provide examples for your child. Who are the leaders in his or her favorite books, movies and television shows?
  • Volunteer work offers youth the opportunity to observe model, and practice leadership skills.
  • Mentoring relationships with community leaders also provide young people with opportunities to observe and learn leadership.
  • Summer leadership courses offered by colleges, camps, Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts are great chances to develop young leaders.

High school students learn leadership through group projects and participation in student clubs and government. If your teen has indicated an interest in leadership you may want to consider technical college as the next step for them. Wisconsin’s technical colleges offer many ways to develop leadership skills through:

  • Group projects
  • Leadership training
  • Student government
  • Clubs and extra-curricular activities
  • Courses in Leadership

Adrian Holtzman pursued many leadership opportunities while earning a Liberal Arts degree at Madison College.

“I wanted to be a role model. I wanted to get involved in student life and leadership roles,” Adrian said. He served as leader on a winter break service learning project, lobbied in Washington with the college president, and served as an ambassador for his college. A 4.0 student, Adrian was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year college students with chapters worldwide.

Adrian transferred to U.W. – Madison and plans to study risk management in the School of Business. Currently, he is assistant director for the press office of the Associated Students of Madison and is campaigning to become the representative from Letters and Science for 2014-2015.

I’m not saying that every child should be groomed for leadership. However, if you see potential for leadership in your child you may want to share your observations and encourage him or her to explore the possibilities.

What has been your experience with your child(ren)?

Student leaders use skills to serve communities

Group of NWTC students who organized event.

NWTC students used their team-building and problem solving skills to organize a successful fundraising event. Photo by Megan McCray

On a frigid Green Bay morning, a group of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) classmates learned that a 3.1-mile run could change a child’s life. NWTC Team Building/Problem Solving students hosted the first-ever Winter Wonder 5k Run/Walk to benefit CASA of Brown County, an organization that provides trained volunteers to represent the voice of abused and neglected children in court.

Hundreds of runners and walkers braved single-digit temperatures to participate in the event held on the NWTC campus grounds. The runners raised just under $5,000 for CASA of Brown County. In 2012, CASA served 268 children from 189 families with 121 volunteer Advocates.

“This is an opportunity for them to use their team-building and problem solving skills to actually do something, and make an impact in their community,” said Andy Clark, a leadership development instructor who teaches the class.

The event was part of a semester-long service-learning project – one of thousands completed by Wisconsin technical college students each year. It was also one of 32 projects spotlighted at the Celebration of Student Engagement held in the capitol rotunda this week.

Each year, technical college students from round the state travel to Madison to show legislators how their skills make a difference in their communities. Check out the many different community service and leadership activities that will make these students more valuable to employers and lead more enriched lives.

Video from 2013 Celebration of Student Engagement

Now is the time to file financial aid application

It is time to fill out the FAFSA. What’s the FAFSA you say? The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the next step after applying for college admission.

For seven years our family has dutifully completed this important task for our two daughters. Now that the youngest has graduated, we are free of the FAFSA. It should be easier for you, since some new technology makes the form simpler than in the past.

Believe me, it is all worth it when you receive the financial aid offer letter from your child’s potential college. Financial aid really helped determine the college choice for my younger daughter.

Collect your identification and financial information, and set aside some time to complete the document that will determine your “estimated family contribution.” No matter what type of college your child will attend, you should complete the FAFSA every year. The application is required for grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study.

There are three ways to file the FAFSA:

  • Apply online
  • Complete a PDF document and mail it or
  • Request a paper FAFSA by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

For those just starting the college adventure there is help. College Goal Wisconsin offers free information and assistance at many sites throughout the state on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 22-23, and on Wednesday evening Feb. 26.

Remember, the application is free. One year my husband just entered FAFSA into a search engine and clicked on the top link. Before I knew it, he had entered a credit card number and was charged about $48. Don’t make the same mistake. Go directly to the Federal Student Aid site.

You will receive a personal identification number (PIN) for your student and for you as a parent. Don’t lose this number. You will use it again next year and the year after that, until your child finishes his or her education.

Deadlines vary so check with the financial aid administrator at the college your child is interested in attending.  You can file early and then modify your application when your income tax return has been filed. Don’t put this off, however, since some colleges have limits to scholarship aid and awards go fast.

For more information on financial aid for college visit these sites:

Start career exploration earlier in life

The good news: economic recovery is coming. The bad news: members of the millennial generation (18-34-year olds) are being left behind. That’s the message of Diana Carew, economist and director of the Young American Prosperity Project at the Progressive Policy Institute.

Carew points to recent jobs reports indicating labor force participation is just 54.8 percent for young Americans. Those who have college degrees are underemployed, taking lower-skill jobs from those with less education. The ripple effect could last a while, she warns.

“They are not qualified for high-tech STEM jobs, so they are taking lower-paid jobs that might not require college degree,” Carew told listeners on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Joy Cardin Show.

Young people always experience underemployment. What’s unusual is how high the number is and it’s not declining. Carew says young people are taking longer to integrate into the workforce. A confluence of factors is making things very tough. She mentioned high demand in technical, engineering and data-driven jobs, and baby boomers putting off retirement. The average student debt is $30,000 making for high monthly payments, she added.

Her advice? “Be careful about our investment. Think of college as a workforce preparedness tool.” Carew is urging students and parents to measure the cost of higher education to the expected return.

“We have to ask ‘What skills are employers looking for?’ We need to be thinking about what’s going to make us a desirable candidate to employers that are hiring,” she stated.

Young people should begin career exploration earlier in their lives. They should be thinking about what jobs they want and how to get there.

Carew reminded listeners that a 4-year college degree is just one-way of getting into the workforce. “Society has put preeminence on 4-year degrees,” she said. “It is almost the only acceptable way of continuing your education. The technical or vocational pathway is just as good and maybe even better for some people.”

Parents and students take notice: vocational education is in high demand. Start viewing vocational and technical education as a realistic option for high school graduates. There are jobs, but they require some training. Employers are hiring individuals with technical skills and paying them well.

“Career development is not integrated at the secondary level in all schools,” Carew pointed out. “Students should think about this early on.”

She also wants policy makers to pay more attention to this issue. “Make young people a bigger priority. They are left out of the conversation in Washington.”

The Higher Education Act established federal student aid programs in 1965 and has seen few reforms since then.

“We could use some reform here in repayment options and the structure of loans,” Carew said. “It could be tool to help students make better decisions.”

Policy makers can also help students by integrating technology in the classroom. Make sure young people are trained in financial literacy and career development, she added.

Perhaps we need a new campaign: No Millennials Left Behind.

Four benefits of Career and Technical Education for all students

You want your children to be prepared for college and a career, right?  College and career readiness requires both knowledge and skills. Career and Technical Education (CTE) not only teaches skills for specific career fields, it also teaches skills for life.

What are the benefits of CTE?

  1. Students are more likely to graduate.  In Wisconsin 64.3 percent of students in grades 6-12 participate in CTE. The graduation rate for these students is 13.9 percent higher than students who do not participate in CTE. And that rate has been growing over the last five years.
  2.  Students develop employability skills.  CTE students are significantly more likely than their non-CTE counterparts to say they developed problem-solving, project completion, research, math, college application, work-related, communication, time management, and critical thinking skills during high school.
  3. Students achieve in other subjects. Students at schools with highly integrated rigorous academic and CTE programs have significantly higher achievement in reading, mathematics and science than those who attend schools with less integrated programs.
  4. Students gain job-specific skills related to a specific career pathway. In high school, students can take courses like “Exploring Business; Computer Fundamentals” or “Principles of Business Management” a long with English, math, science and social studies.

More than 90,000 Wisconsin high school students are taking career and technical education courses in fields such as agriculture, business, family and consumer science, health occupations, marketing, and technology and engineering. Those increased opportunities help them find a viable route to a rewarding career. Many CTE programs provide multiple pathways to prepare for diploma and apprenticeship programs, technical college degrees and industry certifications, as well as four-year degree programs and other career and training.

Isn’t that what you want for your child? Find out what CTE classes are available at your local schools.

Green careers begin at Wisconsin’s technical colleges

Sen. Tammy Baldwin will visit four Wisconsin technical colleges this week to introduce the GREEN Act. This legislation allocates competitive grant funding for renewable energy education programs. The Act also provides opportunities for technical colleges to upgrade energy systems to serve as model training facilities.

Wisconsin’s technical colleges are the perfect place to demonstrate the vision behind this legislation. We are leaders in green facilities, practices and career programs.

Wednesday morning Sen. Baldwin will visit Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) with Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). MATC has photovoltaic, wind energy, solar thermal and geothermal energy systems on its campuses. The college is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2030.

In addition, MATC is home to the Center for Energy Conservation and Advanced Manufacturing at its Oak Creek Campus. Students train on a full complement of energy equipment and systems at the Center.

Later that day, Sen. Baldwin visits Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) where sustainability is part of all career programs and students prepare for careers in wind and solar energy. LTC’s wind and solar installations produce a total of 197,500 kWh per year—enough to power more than 17 average American homes for one year.

On Thursday, Sen. Baldwin will tour Mid-State Technical College (MSTC). Students at MSTC prepare for careers in biorefinery, renewable energy, thermal energy and energy efficiency.

Individuals who are passionate about building a greener, cleaner world should explore the career options at all 16 Wisconsin technical colleges. Not only do we prepare students for green careers, we also practice what we teach. The colleges are creating a culture around saving energy, reducing our carbon footprint, recycling more, wasting less and generally doing our part.

Boomer parent’s advice for today’s moms and dads

Happy graduate in cap and gown.On behalf of all Baby Boomer parents everywhere I want to apologize to our children. I’m sorry I said you could be whatever you want to be. I’m sorry I told you a four-year degree was the only way to get a good-paying career. I’m sorry I let you borrow all that money to spend on tuition.

Now you have a four-year degree but no job skills, and you can’t get a job that will pay enough to cover your student loan debt. You’ll likely be paying back those loans until your children graduate from high school. You won’t be able to buy a house or start saving for your kids’ education.

What was I thinking? I was thinking of the world I grew up in, not the world as it is today. Like previous generations, I wanted you to have more education and a better income than I had. I thought skilled jobs were beneath me and I thought manufacturing was dark, dirty and dangerous. I remembered the media reports of offshoring in the early 2000s and didn’t want you to face loosing your job to cheap foreign labor.

Things are different now.  When I was in college no one had a personal computer. Now you must have computer skills for almost any job. Now some of the best-paying jobs do not require a four-year degree. There is big demand for “middle skill” workers and low-skilled health care occupations have the highest growth rate.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 only one third of jobs were in occupations that typically require post secondary education. Of those, only 16.5 percent typically require a bachelor’s degree while 18 percent typically require an associate degree. And in 2011, the median annual income for occupations requiring an associate degree was $62,850. That’s right, you could be making more than I make with my bachelor’s degree and 25 years of experience.

Occupations requiring an associate degree are projected to grow by 18 percent between 2010 and 2020. Occupations that typically require apprenticeships are projected to grow the fastest at 22.5 percent.

Those manufacturing jobs? Now, they are clean, safe and very high tech. And the pay isn’t bad either. Manufacturers are bringing jobs back to the states.

I’ve also learned that education is a life-long endeavor, not one and done. The four-year degree I earned 30-something years ago is not enough for today’s job market. It did not give me the skills I need for my current job. Over the years I have taken classes at my local technical college to learn new computer applications. Recently, I completed a certificate in Social Media. To keep up with changing technology and the changing economy, you need to learn new things.

If I were to do it again I would urge my children to consider all educational options, and choose careers with realistic futures and lower debt.

Holidays offer time to reflect and explore career choices

Sure there will be family gatherings, football games to watch and shopping this weekend. However, you might also have some time to consider your future and explore your career choices. Even if you have a job, do you have a career? Is it a job you love? Or are you thinking there might be something better out there for you?

After listening to advice from uncles, aunts and grandparents, take some time to think about what you want. What kind of work would you find rewarding? Do you prefer working with your hands or with your mind? Are you a team player or a lone wolf? Use this Career Interest Questionnaire to identify which career clusters might be a good fit for you and careers you may find most fulfilling.

It’s really simple and won’t take much time. You’ll receive the results quickly. Then you can start digging deeper to learn what education or training you need to pursue those careers. Our website will help you with information about career programs, emerging careers, flexible learning options and types of degrees and diplomas.

You’ll find videos showing what is involved in different careers, possible occupations related to degrees and diplomas and what you can expect to earn in that field. The site will also show you the Wisconsin technical colleges that offer the occupational programs you are investigating.

Start the New Year with a new career goal or by following this Six Step Process to begin your future career.


Helping your children make career choices

After hearing a piece on NPR about the MasterChef Junior finale last Friday evening and finding myself home alone, I decided to check out the show. I had not watched previous episodes so I was totally amazed as I watched the two finalists choose ingredients and prepare their three-course meals. These middle schoolers are truly masters.

So I wondered, would their parents force them to go to a large university to study business, engineering or psychology? These kids were obviously passionate about food and cooking. They are already well on their way to success as chefs.

While your child may not be an expert at cooking, perhaps there is some other passion or talent they haven’t discovered that could lead to a successful career. Many kids have career aspirations limited by media images of superheroes, supermodels, rock stars, detectives, or professional athletes. Others admire their teachers and want to be like them.

Two boys explore robotics using Lego building blocks.

Youngsters explore robotics at a Nicolet College summer camp.

A recent post in Education Week (EW) pointed out that students are choosing majors that don’t match their interests and strengths. Survey results of students who take the ACT indicate only 36 percent of students choose a major that is a good fit. Why is this? Are they choosing a career in which they think they will make lots of money or make their parents proud? Or are they just not aware of all the career options open to them?

According to the EW post, Steve Kappler, vice president for career and college readiness with ACT, says the results show the need for more career counseling at an earlier age.

What does your child do in his or her spare time? What books do they read? What clubs are they in? Does your son like to tinker with things? Is your daughter fascinated with the stars?

Turn off the TV and allow kids time alone to pursue whatever they want. What would they do? Watch and observe. Ask questions about their interests. Think of ways to encourage them to explore. Have them take a Career Interest Survey to find out what career area they may like.

Yes, some youngsters will make good CEOs, doctors, engineers or lawyers. But what about the kids who are going to be happy and successful in refrigeration, cosmetology, web design or police science? Don’t make the mistake of forcing them to pursue a bachelor’s degree in some other field. Help your child identify interests and strengths and point them to whatever education they need to make a career with those.

Start the process early to avoid costly changes in higher education choices. Students who start out with one career in mind and find it was the wrong choice for them waste time and money going down the wrong path.

Did you change your mind about the career you wanted? What helped you decide?


Four job skills kids can learn at home

With four children, my parents had quite a team of helpers around our home. A chart on the refrigerator told us what our jobs were for the week: setting the table, clearing the table, putting dishes in the dishwasher or sweeping the floor. There was even a step stool so my youngest brother could reach the sink. On Saturday mornings, we all had to clean our rooms and the bathrooms. There were weeds to be pulled and clothes to hang on the clothesline. Someone had to feed the cat. Of course we didn’t like it, but looking back I am thankful for the experience and for what I learned from it.

Girl putting glasses in dishwasher.

Even before they are the legal age to have jobs, children can learn job skills by working at home. You are your child’s first boss. Skills you can teach them include:

  1. Following instructions. When you ask your child to do a job, you must first demonstrate your expectations; show them the tools to use and how to use them. Clean the tub with cleanser and a sponge. For the toilet, squirt the cleaning solution, let it work and then brush, etc. Later they will learn how to work a cash register, deep fryer, computer or machine tool.
  2. Time management. Some jobs take more time than others. If the lawn needs to be mowed and there is a baseball game at 5 p.m. That only leaves two hours between school and the game in which to mow the lawn. Cleaning the bathroom takes more than five minutes. Don’t procrastinate and don’t race through your work.
  3. Delayed gratification. It’s a good practice to have kids clean their rooms before they can play with their friends or go to the swimming pool. You can reward them with small amounts of money after the chores are done.
  4. Team work. Some jobs are so big they require the whole family, like raking leaves in the yard. For a family meal the table must be set first, dishes cleared before they can be washed.

There is a sense of accomplishment when the job is done. Children who work in the home gain confidence and increased self-esteem since they play a role and contribute to the family. Be sure to praise your child for a job well done. For young children, stickers on the chore chart work well. Of course, there could be a monetary reward too.

If you give your child a chore you are really doing them a favor. When you reward them after a job well done, they learn the value of money and how to earn it. They might complain loudly now, but they will probably thank you later.

What chores did you have when you were young?

Tech college students eligible for scholarships too

At age 38, Jeannette Eauslin of Wausau was laid off from her job of 10 years because of the economy; she was out of work and wondering what to do next. She decided to prepare for a new career by enrolling in the radiography program at Northcentral Technical College. But with no job she needed financial help to make that education possible.

Cash for College graphic of tree with dollar signs growing on it.That help came in the form of a scholarship through the NTC Foundation. “I would not have been able to go back to school without the scholarship,” Jeannette said. “It’s the difference between me being in school and not being in school. It’s my future.”

Each year thousands of students attending Wisconsin’s technical colleges receive scholarships to help cover tuition, technical and professional equipment, textbooks, transportation and childcare. All of Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges have foundations that administer scholarship funds donated by individuals, businesses, industry and professional groups, as well as federal funds. The scholarships are need-based and merit-based, program specific and general student support. Students of every age benefit and even part-time students may be eligible for this type of funding.

For example last year two Fox Valley Technical College students received scholarships from the Collision Repair Education Foundation. Melissa Schuerman received $5,000 and Ryan Seefeldt received $2,000.

S.C. Johnson Company donated $100,000 to Gateway Technical College for up to five $1,000 scholarships each year in any associate degree program. Gateway’s foundation awards more than 150 scholarships annually to high school seniors and continuing education students ranging from $250 to $2,000.

Moraine Park Technical College obtained a grant through the National Science Foundation to provide 30 scholarships annually to students in 13 science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) programs. The awards range from $500 to $10,000. STEM scholars also have access to special enrichment opportunities.

Recently more than 240 Chippewa Valley Technical College students were awarded $130,000 in scholarships. These students represented a variety of programs of study including electromechanical technology, radiography, physical therapist assistant, criminal justice, IT-network specialist and dental hygienist.

Visit your local technical college website or call the Financial Aid office to find out more about scholarships available to you.  It could open the door to your future.

What’s life like with only a high school diploma? Scary!

While a high school diploma is something to celebrate, it is not the ticket to self-supporting jobs it once was. A bachelor’s degree no longer guarantees full employment either. Only 21 percent of all jobs in the U.S. require a bachelor’s degree or higher.

For young people with only a high school diploma, life is scary. Not only are wages low, employment is hard to attain and not as stable as for those with more education.

A recent study by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce shows between 2000 and 2012 employment for young adults with no education past high school fell from 66 percent to 53 percent.  Earnings for 26- to 30-year-olds with a high school diploma went from $27,500 to $24,200 during that period.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 8.3 percent of people with a high school diploma were unemployed in 2012. Those who were employed had median weekly earnings of $652.

In contrast, nine out of 10 graduates of Wisconsin’s technical colleges are employed within six months with a median salary of $32,600. Median hourly wages for associate degree holders in the state are $17.90 for those with occupational degrees and $17.79 for academic degrees.

For those who pursue college credentials the future looks bright. In the next decade, two-thirds of all jobs in the U.S. will require some form of college credential.

Congratulations high school graduates, but don’t stop there. Investigate the opportunities at your local technical college. You will find programs that don’t require a huge investment of time or money that lead to employment and future advancement possibilities.

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