The following article, "Tech college helps launch new career," was published on Tuesday, November 17, 2015 by the Post Crescent, Grace Ebert for Post Crescent Media:
Tech college helps launch new career
Dan Geiser knew that if he didn't go back to school, he wouldn't be able to keep up at work.
"I didn't know the amount of technology I wanted to know or needed to know," Geiser said. "I wanted to look for a highly technical degree."
Geiser worked as a carpenter for 20 years before deciding to further his education at Fox Valley Technical College. He now is eight weeks into his first semester studying automated manufacturing systems and manufacturing engineering technologies.
"I'm really enjoying it and things are progressing pretty well for me," Geiser said. "But it's a challenge."
He plans to finish his associate's degree in two years and then attend a four-year university to study engineering and earn his bachelor's degree. Eventually, Geiser hopes to develop the technologies used in woodworking and carpentry.
Janet Braun, applied engineering technology department chair, said she's seeing growing interest in manufacturing and engineering fields. Many FVTC students are like Geiser, returning to college to get a degree to advance their careers after being in the workforce for a number of years.
"Students get hands-on experience," Braun said. "So, they're immediately productive after graduation."
Braun said the college has reacted to the increasing need for technologically skilled employees in the workforce and has created accelerated degree programs and specialized classes to fit the needs of employers. She recently helped launch the manufacturing engineering technologies program, which Geiser is enrolled in, because she and other faculty members realized a need for the skills it teaches.
Through the program, students study manufacturing processes, automated manufacturing, computer-aided design and manufacturing, fixture and tooling design and mechanical and electrical system design. They also learn lean production principles, project management and engineering economic analysis.
Braun said these skills are in high demand.
In 2015, all 13 FVTC graduates who studied automated manufacturing systems were employed six months after graduation. In all technology programs across the college, 93 percent of graduates were employed in that same time period.
In the past year, 85 full-time positions in the Fox Valley region were open to graduates who studied automated manufacturing systems, while nearly 1,000 positions needed to be filled with graduates who have technology degrees.
Geiser is confident he'll be able to return to the workforce with skills that will make him employable anywhere when he finishes his degree at FVTC.
"I'm trying to build on what I already know," Geiser said. "I need to get back to the workforce. I really want to do well."