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Focus Magazine | Fall 2013

What’s Now: Education for a New Economy

What’s Now: Education for a New Economy

Fall 2013

Nov 19, 2013

An early jump on a career defines success for one high school student.

Local manufacturers continue to struggle when it comes to filling positions that require a high level of technical skills. To address this need, Fox Valley Technical College is developing fresh initiatives with businesses and K-12 school districts to encourage younger learners to jump into careers in advanced manufacturing.

This concept is not new to FVTC, but the direction of today’s economy is ushering a stronger sense of urgency in matching skilled workers with businesses that need their talents. “Our JumpStart program, for example, gives students interested in specific trades professional skills and college credit for courses they can take in high school,” says Mary Hansen, director of K-12 partnerships at FVTC.

Ryan Geiger is just one example of how starting early in the skilled trades can be a great strategy. Through the JumpStart program, the 20-year-old Brillion native has already completed nearly two years of his machine tool apprenticeship while working full-time as a tool and die maker at Ariens Company. 

Geiger describes his current experience as ‘surreal.’ “Sometimes I can’t believe that I’m doing all these things at such a young age. I take great pride when I see a part that I’ve actually made from a piece of equipment.” By the time he’s 22, Geiger will be a journeyman machinist. “I love what I’m doing, and I have a much greater start to a career than my four-year college friends,” he says. “Plus, my parents are happy with this decision.”

The program has also been a success at Appleton West High School, where JumpStart students are taking dual credit courses in FVTC’s Machine Tool Technology program. “We’re now working with Neenah High School as well to develop an auto technician program under the same model,” says Hansen. 

Getting Technical at Appleton West

40 students will pilot the new Appleton Technical Academy at West High to prepare for careers in manufacturing. Appleton West High School Principal Greg Hartjes is leading the launch of the Appleton Technical Academy, a charter school dedicated to the development of technical education skills for today’s manufacturing careers. 

The pilot project is coming together thanks to partnerships between Fox Valley Technical College and area businesses like Miller Electric Mfg. Co., Eagle Supply & Plastics, Inc., Fox Valley Tool & Die, and A to Z Machine Company.

“We’ll open with 40 students,” Hartjes says. “The school will be open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, with the senior year to include internships at area businesses. The initial curriculum will include trade skills focusing on welding, machine tool, and electro-mechanical careers.”