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Training & Education

Resource rich

By Lauren Duensing

Graduates of Fox Valley Technical College help to address a regional shortage of skilled welders and metal fabricators

May 2016 - A skilled workforce helps build strong communities. Through its programs and outreach, Fox Valley Technical College serves about 45,000 students a year.

FVTC offers  one- and two-year welding and metal fabrication programs and training in machine tool technology. The school’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, houses the latest welding and fabrication tools, says Chris Jossart, manager-media relations. With support from Miller Electric Mfg. Co., “the AMTC is designed to address a regional skills shortage for welders and metal fabricators.”

Working together

When considering whether to build or relocate to a particular area, companies look for a skilled, adaptable workforce that can step in and fill jobs. FVTC ensures students receive the training that matches employers’ needs by engaging in “collective conversations about the skills needed for employment” with its advisory committee and other organizations, says Andy Rinke, associate dean, Manufacturing & Agriculture Technologies division. 

The committee comprises representatives of such companies as Miller Electric, Pierce Manufacturing, Oshkosh Corp., Muza Metals, Jay Manufacturing and Lapham-Hickey Steel, Rinke says. A partnership with the American Welding Society allows FVTC’s staff to participate in events and ongoing professional development training. The college also works with the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association through its Nuts Bolts & Thingamajigs foundation. Such partnerships influence curriculum and puts equipment in students’ hands. “We have 96 welding booths between two locations and will soon have 16 fully automated robotic arc welding cells, in addition to CNC press brakes from Amada and Cincinnati, Cincinnati CNC shears, Omax CNC waterjets and Mazak lasers at each of our two welding facilities in both Appleton and Oshkosh,” Rinke says. 

Educating entrepreneurs

FVTC radiates a “strong culture of entrepreneurism,” Jossart says. The college’s nationally renowned Venture Center allows students in a degree program to add entrepreneur training as a certificate, and many students who complete Venture Center training have gone on to start their own businesses, he says. 

FVTC’s success in launching small businesses through the Venture Center generated an additional collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms to create a Fabrication Laboratory. 

“During many entrepreneur training sessions, Venture Center officials realized a need for product development resources for its trainees to make the small-business ownership experience even more comprehensive and attainable,” Jossart says. 

FVTC operates two Fab Labs. One  provides early-stage prototype development services and STEM initiatives. The second, tied to the college’s Mechanical Design Technology program, features projects for community organizations that combine prototyping applications and CAD design, Jossart notes. 

Spreading awareness

Technical education is a “constantly evolving and changing landscape,” says Mary Hansen, director of K12 partnerships at FVTC. “It’s important to help those who are advocates for middle and high school students to understand all the post-secondary options available.”

It’s especially important to engage parents in the career planning process so they know what options for post-secondary education are available. “Parents who see the only road to success being through a four-year university often have not had the opportunity to see the state-of-the art facilities offered at a technical college and the high job placement that could propel their child into a career—faster and with less debt,” she says.

According to Jossart, FVTC’s current college-wide graduate employment rate is 94 percent, and six of 10 of its academic programs have 100 percent graduate employment. The transportation programs have a 98 percent graduate employment rate, and the manufacturing programs stand at 97 percent.

Such numbers reflect hard work by FVTC’s faculty and staff, who “passionately advocate for the success of their students. They are like personal cheerleaders full of life skills to share, in addition to technical knowledge,” Jossart says.

“Since the majority of our faculty members come straight from industry, they are well versed in building and managing holistic, professional relationships and well connected to colleagues,” he continues. “That continuous wheel of sharing resources and keeping in touch with field experts builds a human network of connectedness for students, instructors, staff members and the community at large.” FFJ

Sources

  • Fox Valley Technical College
    Appleton, Wisconsin
    phone: 800/735-3882
    www.fvtc.edu
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