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For Immediate Release:  February 26, 2013
Contact:   Conor Smyth, 608-266-2991, conor.smyth@wtcsystem.edu


Technical college event addresses Wisconsin’s skills gap

         MADISON – Education and training experts from all 16 Wisconsin technical colleges convened this week in Madison with workforce and economic development partners from across the state and nation for a two-day event. The event highlights best practices in addressing Wisconsin’s skills gap.

         In her opening remarks, Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) president Morna Foy recognized her team for gathering the System-level group of technical colleges and partners, who have been working with employers to create Career Pathways in high-demand sectors. These pathways help address the skills gap by expanding the pool of skilled workers for Wisconsin’s employers by providing educational credentials and lifelong learning opportunities for individuals.

         "Our colleges are unique in their ability to partner with employers to establish and refine education and training needs," Foy said. "This event is about continuous improvement and leveraging our ability to highlight the most promising, replicable aspects of our work," Foy added.

         The event drew about 200 attendees, largely consisting of academic deans and other representatives from the 16 technical colleges, as well as System-level experts in program design and student supports. Also in attendance were leaders from the Department of Workforce Development, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), several local Workforce Development Boards, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and national policy groups. In addition to career pathways, topics included best practices in assessing prior learning, introducing performance funding, leveraging federal grants to further state goals, and fostering entrepreneurship.

         DWD Secretary Reggie Newson said, "As one of the states selected for the Shifting Gears initiative, Wisconsin is among the top states to demonstrate the greatest results since the Joyce Foundation's funding for the Career Pathways effort began in 2007. Under Governor Walker's comprehensive workforce development agenda, Wisconsin is poised to continue setting an example for other states by leveraging successful collaborations with the technical college system and many other workforce partners across the state."

         WEDC Chief Operating Officer Ryan Murray, who spoke to the group said, "The number one natural resource in the world is people. We don’t have as many people as some countries, and our workers can’t always compete with the low-wage jobs often found overseas. We have no choice but to train our workers to be the best in the world in order to remain globally competitive. Wisconsin has always led the nation in the reputation of our workforce, and through the work of this key partnership we will continue to lead and grow."

         Julie Strawn, a senior fellow at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a Washington, D.C.-based policy and research organization focused on education and work, praised the group’s results in addressing Wisconsin’s workforce needs. "The progress you’ve made is huge," Strawn said. "Wisconsin is a national leader in developing career pathways that address employers’ skills needs."

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About the System:
The Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) offers more than 300 programs awarding two-year associate degrees, one- and two-year technical diplomas and short-term technical diplomas and certificates. In addition, the System is the major provider of customized training and technical assistance to Wisconsin’s business and industry community. Nearly 370,000 individuals access the technical colleges for education and training each year.