Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson Meets with Precision Plus Interns

Michael Reader

On Wednesday, July 15, 2015, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Reggie Newson visited Precision Plus of Elkhorn to learn about the company’s Youth Apprenticeship and Summer Internship Programs and tour the facility.

Governor Scott Walker appointed Secretary Newson to office in October of 2011. He leads the state agency and is charged with “building and strengthening Wisconsin’s workforce.”

Earlier in the year, while touring Elkhorn Area High School, Secretary Newson had heard about Precision Plus’ programs from Kyle Gorst—a youth apprentice. That conversation peaked his interest to the point of scheduling a visit to Precision Plus He sought to find out, firsthand, about the programs and the apprentice/intern experience.

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Fifteen out of the current sixteen Precision Plus summer interns greeted the secretary and led him on a guided tour of the facility. Later in the tour, he held a town hall meeting with fourteen of the interns to hear their stories of how they came to be with the company, and talk about their career intentions after graduation from college.

Secretary Newson also explained the role of his agency, key in connecting employers and skilled workers, and the efforts DWD undertakes to assist job seekers with disabilities, while overseeing Wisconsin’s Unemployment Insurance, Equal Rights and Worker’s Compensation programs.

Precision Plus welcomes local, state and federal legislators to visit its facility and to learn about the initiatives in place at the company to increase awareness of 21st century manufacturing.

For more information, please contact Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training via phone or email.

Barry Butters Invited to Speak at the 2015 Youth Apprenticeship Forum on April 23 in Wisconsin Dells

Michael Reader

On Thursday, April 23, 2015, Scott Fromader, Youth Education Consultant for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), the Division of Employment and Training (DET) , the Bureau of Workforce Training (BWT), and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), led a state-wide “Youth Apprenticeship (YA)” Conference in Wisconsin Dells, to address strategic plans for Wisconsin’s talent development that include youth apprenticeships as a catalyst for the success of this endeavor.

Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus, was asked to be a panelist during the conference.

Wisconsin’s workforce, education and economic development partners have intentionally aligned strategies and resources to address the labor shortage and skills gaps. Collaborative workforce models such as YA and registered apprenticeship can be scaled, expanded and “bridged” to build sustainable local talent pipelines for employers and skilled employment opportunities for students and job seekers. Demand driven models like Wiscosin Fast Forward and the Blueprint for Prosperity have funded almost 20,000 training opportunities for students, job seekers and incumbent workers to gain market-relevant skill sets and employment opportunities. Let’s set a vision for what the YA practitioners in WI can do to leverage the capabilities of collaborative networks and successful workforce models.

The day-long conference covered a myriad of topics which, in one way or another, affect the development of successful youth apprenticeship programs in the State of Wisconsin.

Jim Chiolino, DWD Equal Rights Division, Labor Standards Bureau Director, Joy M. Gander, CPCU, ARM, Principal, Gander Consulting Group, LLC, and Joseph Moreth, DWD, Workers Compensation Division, Bureau of Insurance Programs Director, addressed child labor law, insurance and workers’ compensation impacts and implications. The session’s moderator was Amy Phillips.

Ann Westrich, Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) Education Director, Career Prep/YA/K-12/Articulation, spoke about existing and upcoming articulation agreements with Wisconsin’s technical colleges, or the ability to earn transferable college credits while completing a youth apprenticeship certification. Cathy Crary was the moderator.

Karen Morgan, DWD-DET, Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards (BAS) Director and Jamie Bernthal, DWD YA Program Coordinator, talked about strategies for placing youth in registered apprenticeship programs.

Robin Kroyer-Kubicek, Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Career Pathways Education Consultant, addressed youth apprenticeships, work-based learning, certification and academic and career planning as discussed with DPI.

Scott Fromader, DWD-DET, BWT, WIA Youth Education Consultant, explained both the Workforce Investment Act and the Workforce Innovate and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Youth Programs in detail. The moderator for this session was Phil Koenig.

Phil Koenig served again as moderator for the session on how social media impacts the world of workforce programs. The session’s panelists were Andre Small, DWD-DET, BJS, Business Service Section Chief, Meghan Spranger, DWD Office of the Secretary, Communications Specialist Advisor, and George (Dom) Tervalon, DWD-DET, BJS, Employer Consultant Specialist.

Shelly Harkins, DWD-DET, Office of Skills Development Program Outreach, Barry R. Butters, Director of Education & Training, Precision Plus, Elkhorn, WI, Tania Kilpatrick, Career and Technical Education Coordinator and YA Regional Coordinator, CESA 6, Jill Preissner, YA Regional Coordinator Sheboygan Area YA Consortium, Cyndy Sandberg, YA Alternate Regional Coordinator, SC WDB YA Consortium & YA Coordinator, Jefferson County YA Consortium, Kristine Niehus, Director, Human Resources at CL&D Graphics, and Paul Liethen, School District of West Salem, Technology Education were panelists for the program entitled “Wisconsin Fast Forward: A Blueprint for Prosperity Through Education and Business Partnership Collaborations.” The core message centered on collaborative efforts between school districts, technical collages and businesses to “provide high school pupils with industry-recognized certifications in high-demand fields,” and how DWD’s programs bring it all together. The moderators were Cathy Crary and Lori Uttech-Hanson.

Lisa Perkofski, DWD-DET, BAS, Apprenticeship Training Representatives, Area #8: Outagamie, Waupaca, Waushara, and Winnebago counties and Ben Stahlecker, DWD-DET, BAS, Apprenticeship Training Representative, Area #4: Adams, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Oneida, Portage, Price, Taylor, Vilas, and Wood counties, led the workshop entitled “Registered Apprenticeship: A Strategic Advantage for Today’s Workforce,” or anticipating industry needs by having apprenticeships programs available for students in advance. Jamie Bernthal was the moderator.

Meredith Dressel, DWD-DVR, Bureau of Consumer Services, Deputy Director, provided an overview of DVR services, including “initiatives to promote employment opportunities for youth with disabilities.” The session was entitled “Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Transition Youth Initiative and promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) Grant. The moderator was Scott Fromader.

Cathy Crary, DWD-DET, BWT, Youth and At-Risk Programs Section Chief, Tom Martin, Southwest WI YA Regional Coordinator, Cyndy Sandberg, South Central WI YA Alternate Regional Coordinator and Jefferson County YA Coordinator, discussed YA program budget, legislative, policy and administration updates.

Finally, facilitators Jamie Bernthal and Amy Phillips, DWD YA Program coordinators, led a discussion giving YA consortiums an opportunity to highlight best practices and exchange ideas.

Participants left with valuable takeaways to implement.

STEM Education Event at Advanced Manufacturing Center on April 22, 2015 Features Elkhorn Area School District PLTW Students and Teachers, State Legislators and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch

Michael Reader

In fall of 2014, Project Lead The Way (PLTW) announced a pilot program with a curriculum specifically designed for elementary school children, to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics arts (STEM). PLTW has had a solid record for rigorous and comprehensive curricula available to children from middle school through high school. Elkhorn Area School District was an early adopter of the elementary grades pilot program, the PLTW Launch Curriculum, which gives students an opportunity to explore and apply STEM sciences early on.

Dr. Joshua Schultz, Affiliate Director of PLTW at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), extended an invitation to Elkhorn Area School District PLTW students, as well as teachers and administrators, to participate in a Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development event and reception at the Advanced Manufacturing Center in Milton, WI on April 22, 2015, to celebrate the district’s accomplishments and receive a special recognition. Also invited were State of Wisconsin legislators, PLTW officials, Barry Butters from Precision Plus, and Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.

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As planned, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was at hand to hand the special recognitions. So were William White, Vice President, Project Lead The Way Midwest Region, Jason Tadlock, District Administrator for the Elkhorn Area School District and Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus

Students included Cullen Gahart (3rd Grade), Matthew Prokes (4th Grade), Natalie Petersen (5th Grade), Lesly Rodriguez (6th Grade), Gwen Nicholas (6th Grade), Wendy Remeeus (6th Grade), Elizabeth Wallace (11th Grade, Justice Bachtell (12th Grade), J.P. Griswold (12th Grade) and Kathryn Lieffrig (12th Grade). Teachers present were Eryca Card, Linda Frankenberg, Alex Hutson, Barry Butters and Jerry Iserloth. Jason Tadlock and Chris Trottier represented the administrators.

Teachers and administrators were asked to talk about their STEM initiatives, and to showcase their efforts to support education, their students, and reiterate the importance of STEM education policy decisions in Wisconsin. In addition, students from the Elkhorn Area School District displayed their projects and shared the value and lessons learned through their PLTW coursework.

The agenda included a continental breakfast, introductions and welcome by Tania Kilpatrick, CESA 6, an overview of PLTW in the Midwest Region by William White, presentations by Jason Tadlock, Barry Butters, Eryca Card and students, and by Thor Misko, Vice President of Development at PLTW. Dr. Joshua Schultz closed the program with final remarks about the event and the program.

And thank you, Elkhorn Area School District, for the shout out on their Facebook Page!


Feeding the Employee Pipeline: WCEDA Panel Discussion on Efforts to Create a Viable Workforce for the Future

Michael Reader

A panel discussion entitled “Feeding the Employee Pipeline,” was organized and presented by the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at the Geneva National Golf Club.

The purpose of this panel presentation was to bring together educators and industry leaders to better understand the present shortage of a skilled workforce and its future implication, to learn about the solutions and initiatives currently in place that address that shortage, and find out how collaborative efforts are essential for creating a viable workforce. Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus, was invited to be a panelist.

Derek D’Auria , Executive Director of WCEDA, moderated the discussion. In his introduction, D’Auria referred to data collected for a Harvard University study, which indicate that 33% of jobs in the future (as early as 2018) will require a 4-year degree, 57% will require a technical skill, and 10% of jobs will be able to be filled with unskilled employees. He also pointed out that currently in Wisconsin, 65% of all high school graduates set off go to a 4-year college after high school graduation, but that only 25% earn a bachelor ‘s degree, leaving the rest typically with a lot of debt, and resorting to part-time jobs.

First to address the audience was Karen Burns, Manager of the Walworth County Job Center. Burns summarized all the programs that are available at this agency—from learning interviewing soft skills, to working on resumes, to lining up candidates with programs, to working in conjunction with Gateway Technical College and employers.

The second speaker was Dennis Winters, Chief Economist, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Winters presented several slides showing a growing disparity between jobs and the workforce, and the implications, should the situation remain status quo. He contrasted the job seeker position from 50 or 60 years ago, with the one from today, by saying “You can’t expect now to finish high school and run a machine: understand technology, run it, and don’t break it!”

Winters also spoke about the “Wisconsin Fast Forward” program, a blueprint for prosperity, based on employer-need base training. He emphasized the importance of postsecondary training and continuous improvement, and concluded with the following statement: “Education and training must be part of your lifestyle for the rest of your life.”

Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus., was the first panelist to speak. He pointed out that a manufacturing company can expand their brick and mortar and get new equipment, but without people to run it, the expansion is senseless. Given this situation, Mike Reader, President and Owner of the company, hired Butters to build an awareness campaign to make this happen. As an example, Precision Plus has established internship and youth apprenticeship programs, actively participates in several career and technical education (CTE) committees at the high school and college level, and has sponsored industry field trips for students. Butters also teaches an engineering design and development (EDD) course through Elkhorn Area High School and regularly engages with other companies to encourage their involvement.

The next panelist was JoAnne Pella, Career Advisor of Elkhorn Area High School (EAHS). Pella outlined the programs that are in place at the school, such as co-ops, career panels, that will guarantee that all students be exposed to academic career pathway guidance. By mandate, all students will have to have gone through career guidance. She pointed out, however, these initiatives have been long in place at EAHS, and each added option only enhances their existing program. Pella also talked about a career advisor consortium, held at Gateway Technical College, where advisors from several high schools in the area meet once a month to review their programs and exchange ideas.

Debbie Davidson, Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development at Gateway Technical College, talked about the initiatives in place at the school that address the needs of employers in the area. She particularly talked about their CNC Boot Camp program, which has been offered to adults for several years, but to entering high school seniors just for the last three years, with great success. Students go to school during the summer for six weeks. Then, during the fall semester, they attend school in the morning and Gateway in the afternoon. In the spring, they split their day by attending school and participating in a paid internship at a local manufacturing facility. At the end of the program, students not only have a high school diploma, but also a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt, a Manufacturing Skills Standard Council (MSSC) Safety Certification, 15 Gateway school credits, and six months work experience to put on their resume.

Davidson mentioned that through a collaborative effort, which included Precision Plus, the CNC Boot Camp will be offered at the school’s Elkhorn Campus as of July of 2015.

Kevin Paluch, Vice President of the Geneva National Golf Resort, addressed the shortage of properly trained hospitality/culinary arts employees. Due to the nature and the location of the business, the company generally hires a short-term workforce that may not be best prepared to provide a superior experience for their clients. He also alluded to an earnings threshold that will determine whether the younger generation (less than 25 years of age) chooses to work or stay at home. The incentive to go beyond that threshold depends on their qualifications and ability to perform hospitality and culinary jobs properly. Paluch reiterated the need for schools to expand on this type of training.

Rich Gruber, Vice President of Mercy Health System spoke about what his group has done to address the skills shortage. In an entity that employs about 6,500 people, there are regularly 1,500 jobs to open, and these include a range of occupations, from health care to plumbing to food service. Proactively, the organization has established several programs within the system, such as a residency program for primary care physicians, and certified nurse assistant (CNA) program that works with local high schools and colleges. This year alone, Mercy Health System will have graduated over 900 CNAs.

Gruber also spoke about options for junior high and high school students: “The earlier they are exposed to career choices, the better,” he suggested. Schools must be able to provide tools to explore different careers as early as 6th or 7th grade. “Capturing inquisitive minds is essential,” he added. Gruber made clear, however, this could not happen without collaboration and constant conversation with schools at all levels, as well as with fellow health systems, and observed solutions need to be fueled by creativity and outside-the-box thinking by all the partners involved.

Bob Kopykdlowsi , Principal of Badger High School, then addressed the perception issue experienced by many parents and the community at large. He stated that convincing parents that a 4-year degree may not be the only career path available for their students, presented a hurdle, and he suggested that typically the community does not recognize alternate career paths as viable. His school offers many options for children to explore career opportunities.

Tristan Steiner, a senior at Badger High School, spoke about his experience from a student-perspective. Tristan has always been interested in math and science, but did not know how to apply his interest to a career choice he would not regret later. Beginning in his sophomore year, Tristan was able to get a taste of different careers options by taking targeted classes, which eventually led him to realize that he would like to become an electrical engineer with a focus in renewable energy sources. Tristan also had the opportunity be an intern at Precision Plus, where he was able to experience a number of aspects of the business. Being able to study the design of parts and programs for machines, confirmed the choice he made was valid.

The program then opened up to questions and comments that explored topics such as externships–or teachers going into the field to experience the environment, the importance of schools having advisory committees to drive their curricula, the advantages of going to a 2-year college before joining a 4-year institution, and changing the mindset of the community.

A video of the entire presentation is available below: