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Spotlights and News: IT
Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) is committed to bettering communities through its commitment to service learning. WCTC defines service learning as a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities.
A key benefit to WCTC’s Network Specialist educational pathway is the embedding of service learning projects throughout the Network Enterprise Administrator pathway. Each semester includes a mandatory project with a local non-profit organization to provide students with real-world experience in support, networking and security. These projects are incorporated into portfolios that highlight students’ experience and technology proficiencies, which can be beneficial during the job search. In an economy where employers often look beyond entry-level workers, these students have a distinct advantage of four semesters of experience with live, industry projects.
By engaging in service learning, students strengthen the local community by lending their technical and professional skills. In turn, they gain practical, experiential knowledge, which is critical for success in today’s local, national and global marketplace.
In the past two semesters, WCTC’s INTERFACE participants completed nine different service learning projects; another eight projects are underway for the summer. Some WCTC projects have included device deployment, Information Technology needs assessments and network infrastructure projects. These projects have been building a great reputation for students in the community, with two students offered temporary employment and one student offered full-time employment through a community partner. Additionally, all partners share students’ work with their boards.
What our students are saying about Service Learning:
- “I have done quite a bit of soul-searching about what this act of extending myself beyond my normal identity and community means to me and for me. I learned that I enjoyed a greater sense of purpose, worthiness, happiness and hopefulness as a result of empathetically participating in a broader family. I have found myself desiring more experiences that connect me to other people and to goals and purposes bigger than myself. I uncovered that I do have a passion for helping others achieve big goals.” –WCTC INTERFACE student
What our partners are saying about Service Learning:
- “The service learning team used logic-based questioning to determine the initial problem that needed solving. Once on site, the team asked further questions to continue to clarify the problem. From there, they stayed focused on resolving our issues in a timely and efficient manner. The project was completed beyond our expectations. We appreciated the professionalism, timeliness and completeness of their work.” – WCTC community partner
- “We were very fortunate to form a partnership through WCTC’s IT service learning program. Not only were their students eager to learn, they were very flexible with their time, understanding that our IT installations needed to be implemented after hours and on weekends.” – WCTC community partner
- “I have been so thoroughly pleased with our partnership with WCTC service learning groups. They have truly heard our stories and had just the right students to pair up with us and meet our organization’s specific needs. The students have been professional, talented, well researched, focused and active problem solvers, and have repeatedly impressed me with their skills to effectively communicate foreign concepts to someone with a very limited understanding of technology. The groups have also offered needs assessments and helped us to successfully implement new technology and tactics to improve general office productivity.” – WCTC community partner
WCTC’s IT program students are proud to be a part of the College’s service learning effort. On average, college wide, WCTC students complete more than 39,000 service learning hours per year through a variety of programs.
We all know that creating a great program is important, but so is connecting with community partners and potential students to make them aware of the opportunity. And that’s just what Anne Lemke, Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC) TAACCCT 3 and 4 Grant Manager, has been doing.
While sharing information about programs and services available at MPTC with a Forward Service Job Club, Anne met Andy Bond. Andy has since been accepted into the Spring 2016 Mobile Apps for iOS and Android Certificates cohort at MPTC.
“I’m very excited to have made it into the program.” Andy wrote. “Also I wanted to thank you for coming to speak at our job club a few weeks ago. I would never have known about this opportunity otherwise. This program will make a huge difference in my life. I intend to make the most of it!”
This collaborative relationship is good for workforce partners and the larger community as well.
“I really love what Fond du Lac has going for it with MPTC’s presence here,” said Ross DeRosier, Forward Service Corporation-Account Representative. “Since starting my role in Fond du Lac last April, I’ve witnessed a strong, and truly collaborative, relationship between your college, the community at large and your students. Thanks for your passion and collaboration. MPTC has fantastic opportunities for folks who want to make the commitment to themselves to change their direction, and lives.”
MPTC will continue providing programs that provide students the opportunity to earn the credentials they need to land a well-paying job in an in-demand field.
Seven students completed the Advanced Industrial Process Control certificate on December 18, 2016, becoming the first group from Mid-State Technical College to complete the grant-funded certificate. Sara Altmann, Joshua Dhein, Jordan Djumadi, Austin Lewandowski, Christopher Panko, Sean Schanes and Nicholas Tomsyck were all honored at a recognition luncheon at Mid-State Technical College’s Wisconsin Rapids Campus. The 12-credit certificate program ran from January 2015 to December 2015.
Instructors with significant experience in the field use hands-on training on state-of-the-art equipment to teach about automation processes common to food, chemical, paper and other industries. Students learn how to reduce time on maintenance and troubleshooting, strengthen computer network and proprietary control system skills, increase production and decrease downtime. The certificate offers course times that are
employer-friendly, and students complete it in one year or less.
Development of this certificate was 100% funded by a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration in the amount of $894,000.
Individuals and companies wishing to learn more about the Advanced Industrial Process Control certificate should contact Jessica Planer, Grant & Project Coordinator, at 715.422.5405.
The Basic Computer Skills Course, a free and interactive Massive Open Online Course, is now available worldwide.
Created as part of the INTERFACE grant, a $23.1 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant project from the U.S. Department of Labor, this course is designed to provide hands-on training to Trade Adjustment Act-eligible dislocated workers, Veterans and other adult learners looking to improve their information technology (IT) and computer skills.
The course was created in modules, making it easy to customize for varied participants and settings. Instructors and students have the ability to complete one, some or all modules, depending on the needs of the student. The basic computer operations and IT skills gained through this course will help learners successfully navigate Wisconsin Technical Colleges, complete electronic employment applications and more.
The Basic Computer Skills Course is available to Wisconsin Technical College System colleges, learning centers, job centers and virtually anyone anywhere with internet access. By January 18, 2016, it had already received over 17,266 total page views.
Robert Keown, Executive Director of Georgia Virtual Technical Connection at the Technical College System of Georgia, saw the course at www.wisc-online.org. Wisc-online is a repository of high-quality educational learning materials developed by subject matter experts from the Wisconsin Technical College System and Fox Valley Technical College’s Learning Innovations team, and available at no cost to learners and educators.
“We are interested in reviewing this course to see if it would be a fit for our basic skills training,” Keown said. “It addresses universal or standard competencies, and, as a peer reviewed product, we expect the quality to be high. Why reinvent the wheel if there is already something created that we can adapt for use within our college system?”
Heather Nilsen is an Employment and Training Specialist with the Department of Workforce Development, Bureau of Job Service – Milwaukee. She works collaboratively on the TAACCCT INTERFACE Grant with the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board. Nilsen and other staff have worked with many job seekers in Job Service Resource Rooms across Wisconsin. The majority of these job seekers have limited computer skills, so staff focus on providing basic instruction to help them with their job search or other employment-related tasks. This can include creating an email address, registering on job sites, performing a job search, submitting online job applications or word processing and emailing resumes.
“After previewing the INTERFACE Basic Skills Computer Course, I found the lessons and course material to be right on the mark and at a pace that would not overwhelm a new or inexperienced computer user,” Nilsen said. “This program helps solve a significant, long-term workforce training need by helping job seekers increase their computer skills.”
Each course module addresses at least one IT competency. Digital learning objects, including videos and activities, are specifically designed to promote learning through hands-on interaction. Topics include how to operate computing devices, navigate operating systems, input data, create documents, use email, manage files, use the internet and social media, access learning management systems, navigate college information systems and safely manage personal data.
The Basic Computer Skills Course is available at no charge via WWW.WISC-ONLINE.COM, where students can track their progress and earn educational badges for lesson completion. If students are not taking the course online they can still email their progress and results to their instructor. The course – in full or in part – can also be downloaded from WWW.SKILLSCOMMONS.ORG and Wisc-Online.com, and delivered through any college learning management system. An “unplugged” version of the course is also available at SkillsCommons.org for use where there is limited internet access.
Throughout the month of January 2016, colleges within the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) held #TechEffect:IT events and demonstrations in collaboration with public K-12 schools and private industry. These events, targeted to current and prospective Information Technology (IT) students, celebrated the diversity of IT careers and the demand for skilled employees in the field.
Madison Area Technical College, for example, held an event on January 27, 2016 which featured demonstrations of computer hardware, iPhone and Android applications and web programming projects, an Advanced Networking Lab including wireless and voice over IP phone systems security, as well as tours of classrooms and network facilities. Invited guests included legislators, employers, members of the District Board of Trustees, Madison College Foundation, IT advisory boards and other community leaders.
Click the image below to learn more about the #TechEffect:IT initiative.
Lance Matysik was in good, close company when he was laid off from his job at Hutchinson Technology Incorporated (HTI) in Eau Claire. His mother, Anita, was laid off at the same time, and his sister, Lindsey, was involved in a 2013 layoff.
All three were eligible for help through the Trade Adjustment Act and found their way to Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC). Lindsey is finishing her degree in Human Resources and Anita is studying in the Executive Assistant program. Lance found a home in the Information Technology-Software Developer program and the new IT-Mobile Developer program.
CVTC has offered an IT-Software Developer program at their Eau Claire campus for some time. In September of 2013, they were able to expand the program to their River Falls campus, add a Mobile Software Development program to their IT offerings and equip computer labs at the Eau Claire and River Falls campuses, all thanks to a $1.15 million U.S. Department of Labor grant. The grant money came from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program and is part of a $23.1 million grant award shared by all 16 colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System.
For Matysik, the grant provided the opportunity to pursue an education he always wanted.
“I was going to go to CVTC in 2008, but I ended up going to work instead,” said Lance. “The layoff in 2014 gave me the perfect opportunity. IT-Software Developer is one of the programs with the grant program, and I had some hobby background in it. I figured, why not turn a hobby into a career?”
Lance is taking some extra classes for certification in both the Software Developer and Mobile Developer tracks. He plans to graduate in the summer of 2016.
IT-Software Developer Program at River Falls Campus
Students in the River Falls area are happy to have the IT-Software Developer program available close to home.
At the River Falls campus this semester, Instructor Eric Wackwitz is teaching students Programming Fundamentals and sometimes has them working on code by writing on a whiteboard. That may seem like a low-tech way to study a high-tech subject, but going old school gives Wackwitz a chance to glance around the room and see how everyone is doing.
“Learning the language of computers is a first step,” said Wackwitz. “It’s a different way to communicate and learning the computer’s language can be a challenge.”
But it’s a challenge the students in Wackwitz’s class at CVTC’s River Falls Campus are anxious to take up.
“You want the students to have a whole toolbox of basic skills,” said Julie McFadden, grant administrator and CVTC IT-Software Developer instructor. “We’re giving them skills that are common to all software, and we build on that in the Mobile Developer program.”
It’s working for Bryce Fuchs and Alex Bye, 2015 graduates of River Falls High.
“I’ve always been into computers and games and stuff like that,” Fuchs said. “When I heard about the software developer program, I looked into it.”
Fuchs wants to complete his certifications in both the software developer and mobile developer tracks.
“I took a college class here (at CVTC) in the summer, and I found I really liked it,” said Bye. “I liked the coding, and I like the programming.”
Bye said he did a little programming in high school and some on his own at home, but now he’s getting into it at deeper and more exciting levels.
“We’re learning more than coding,” Bye said. “We’re learning the components of computers, each layer of it, like what each specific part of the hard drive will do. I’ve learned so much about my own computer.”
McFadden said many of the students at both Eau Claire and River Falls pursue both the software developer and mobile developer tracks. The programs are structured so a student can achieve an associate degree with technical diplomas in each of the tracks, or they can just complete the technical diplomas in one or both tracks.
Alan Gabe wears many hats: Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) alumnus, previous student senate president, firefighter, first responder and systems administrator to name a few.
Dedicated to serving his community, Alan seems to effortlessly intertwine his passions into his everyday life. In his case that could mean working toward the betterment of WITC as the student senate president, volunteering as a firefighter in his hometown or applying his knowledge and passion for computers at local technology leader, Sanmina.
Alan was one of the fortunate souls in the world who discovered his calling in the third grade. As he became more computer-savvy throughout high school, he earned the respect of his teachers for his computer proficiency. After graduating high school, Alan weighed his options of going to a four-year school versus WITC; he found that WITC was the better option.
“I chose WITC because they offer a diverse computer program with a lot of additional offerings that other schools just don’t have,” he said.
Alan was admitted to the Information Technology – Systems Administration Specialist Associate Degree program at the technical college and wasted no time getting involved in the WITC community.
“From the very beginning of my career at WITC until the very end I was involved in extracurricular activities,” he said. “My most notable activity was being student senate president. What a wonderful experience!”
It was this experience in the student senate that Alan believes did absolute wonders for him.
“Apart from making great connections at school, it looked really good on my resume that I was involved in other things than just my core classwork,” said Alan.
Alan’s courses and extracurricular activities prepared him for those soft skills that so many employers are looking for.
“My class advisor always made it a point to try and include soft skills that you just don’t learn anywhere else,” he said. “When you’re a systems administrator, you really need to have strong communication skills with end users as well as other people in your own department.”
Along with soft skills, Alan’s classes focused on preparing students for the real world. These classes taught students how to write a resume, interview for a job, search for a job and obtain 40 hours of on-the-job experience.
Alan believes it was this on-the-job experience that helped him land his current role. He is proud to have obtained a career not only in his chosen field, but in his hometown of Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. A systems administrator at Sanmina, he is one of two full-time Information Technology personnel. He has a wide range of duties which include managing all plant servers, supporting 200 workstations on the production floor, managing the VoIP PBX System and more.
“I really enjoy everything about my job,” said Alan. “Anyone can vouch for me when I say that nothing is easy in the computer world. You have to diagnose a problem before you can even find a solution to the problem. Regardless, you have to stick with it and never give up on something if it is truly your passion.”
Throughout January of 2016 the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) is celebrating Information Technology (IT) careers with #TechEffectIT . Click the image below to learn more about high demand careers in the IT field, and the cutting edge training offered through Wisconsin Technical Colleges for those entering or advancing in the IT field.
Heather Nilsen is an Employment and Training Specialist with the Department of Workforce Development, Bureau Job Service – Milwaukee working collaboratively on the TAACCCT3 INTERFACE Grant with the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board. Heather is the Outreach Specialist for Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) and wears many other hats as well, all designed to strengthen partnerships.
As a liaison for the U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT 3 INTERFACE Grant Project through MATC, Heather provides outreach and recruits prospective students interested in the information technology (IT) industry. She has helped build relationships with more than 50 businesses as a result of her recruitment and outreach strategies and raised awareness of the family-sustaining careers available in the IT field.
Additionally, Heather has been working as a Business Services Representative Employment & Training Specialist for the Department of Workforce Development for the last six years. She reaches an extensive range of employers in various industries and provides consulting on talent sourcing strategies, networking, government services and incentives that help businesses reach their full workforce potential.
To make things even more interesting, Heather is a part of the MATC INTERFACE project and Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (MAWIB), but is housed at the Milwaukee Help-in-Re-Employment (HIRE) Center, one of the partner agencies within MAWIB, and where the Dislocated Worker program is offered. It took a while, but now people have a better understanding of her duties and where to find her.
What Heather likes most about her role is developing the referral process that was created through the TAACCCT3 INTERFACE grant. She also enjoys participating in the collaboration of community organizations. One collaboration group she has been a part of since the beginning is called “Collabor8.” Collabor8 is a group of about 20 individuals representing various workforce organizations throughout Milwaukee. These organizations include Veterans Services, HIRE Center, M-7, Dislocated Worker Program, Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/Big Step and many more. They meet biweekly to share information and provide updates from each of their organizations. By doing this they are able to leverage resources, reduce duplication of efforts and respond to workforce needs more efficiently.
Heather has seen firsthand the benefit of groups like Collabor8.
“Everyone is on the same page and is able to address issues quicker than before,” Heather states. “Groups like this break down the silos. It takes a while to build up trust, but the end result is worth the investment. They also help centralize and bring together all community stakeholders; it’s almost an ‘in person’ LinkedIn.”
Heather believes that having a single point of contact really strengthened partnerships. She says, “Because of the TAACCCT grant and the creation of this position, MATC and MAWIB have been working together a lot more, and that is great for the college, students and employers.”
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) held its first ever Information Technology (IT) Internship Fair on November 2, 2015 in the Corporate Conference Center on the Green Bay Campus. Seventeen employers and over 55 IT students and instructors participated in the event.
The goal of the IT Internship Fair was to develop IT internship opportunities that will provide relevant work experience and potentially lead to full time, permanent positions upon graduation. The event was sponsored by the INTERFACE Project, a Department of Labor TAACCCT grant funded program.
Internships are an important way to enhance classroom learning and gain real world experience. They also allow students the opportunity to beef up their portfolio or resume and make valuable industry contacts that can be essential to landing the ideal job upon graduation.
Our NWTC students were very pleased with the employers and the quality of internships they are offering. One student had this to say, “Congratulations on the really nice IT internship fair. It was very helpful to get to know the employers in the region, some of which are doing really exciting work.”
Companies were eager to meet with our NWTC students, commenting that they were well-prepared and professional. The Internship Fair provided an opportunity for students to learn more about employers in Northeast Wisconsin who are seeking well-qualified IT professionals, while showcasing NWTC’s talented students. As a result of the IT Internship Fair, 10 students had internship leads to pursue and three have already been hired!
NWTC plans to continue hosting the IT Internship Fair as a yearly event and expects employer and student participation to continue to grow.