Article originally published in the Waushara Argus.
Work hard. Play hard. That’s been the simple recipe of success for 23-year-old Paul Markowski, a 2012 graduate of Wautoma High School and current steamfitter apprentice for CR Meyer in Oshkosh.
Rather than gravitate to the debt-filled route of pursuing a four-year college degree and its related complexities on how to stand out in a crowded job market, Markowski’s career pathway was as simple as get in, get out, and get on with life. “I started taking welding classes in high school with the help of Fox Valley Tech,” he recalls. “That experience made me realize I wanted to work in construction or in the trades.”
For several years Fox Valley Technical College has played an integral role in exposing Wautoma High students to careers in metal fabrication and welding, and the demands aren’t going away. There are currently 26 full-time job postings listed per month for welders in east central Wisconsin, according the college’s most recent Graduate Employment Research Report.
With an average yearly starting salary eclipsing $40,000 for graduates of FVTC’s two-year welding program, it’s no wonder the college’s dual credit partnership with Wautoma High has been successful. Students can either opt to hit the workforce right away or apply their dual credits toward a one- or two-year FVTC degree.
For Markowski, he took a semester of welding during his junior and senior years behind FVTC’s current Wautoma Regional Center in the CAPsell building. Those classes, taught by way of accredited curriculum through FVTC, led Paul to earning a welding certificate and an apprenticeship. Within a year he was hired at CR Meyer.
“One of the great things about my career is seeing a project through from start to finish,” says Markowski. “Piping systems, for example, are quite intricate. They’re unsung champions behind any functional building, keeping people warm and helping maintain applications ranging from water to electricity to air comfort, and more.”
The excitement behind the availability of college credits for local high school students has prompted further interest in the Wautoma region. Under the direction of FVTC Welding Instructor Jessie Lloyd, the recent birth of a new welding academy for adults adds an extra dimension to a viable career advancement platform for community members in the region.
In addition, several Wautoma High students have earned awards in regional SkillsUSA competitions in categories like welding sculpture, for instance. The annual competitions demonstrate another simple way to engage young learners in something that sparks their creativity. There’s that word again: simple, as noted by Paul Markowski and his quick ticket to success.
Now enjoying his fourth year of a five-year steamfitter apprenticeship program, Markowski’s still rubbing elbows with FVTC. “I got started in life with Fox Valley Tech and continue learning new skills through the school as part of my apprenticeship,” he adds. “A new Fox Valley Tech center in Wautoma should serve as a solid resource for people to discover their passion.”
It’s evident the FVTC-Wautoma High School dual credit accord is poised to grow thanks to the college’s investment in a new regional center. Area high school students and anyone looking for a career can hit the workforce faster with less college debt, while bringing a little simplicity into their lives.
FVTC in Wautoma
2018 marks 40 years of a Fox Valley Technical College regional center in Wautoma. Here’s a snapshot of the new state-of-the-art center, scheduled to open in time for the fall semester in 2018:
- Location is the Wautoma High School campus. Construction to begin in spring with the facility to house the Wautoma Area School District office and Workforce Development Job Center.
- Approximately 12,000 square feet
- Features a nursing lab and adjacent classroom, industrial bay, and welding lab.
- Expanded offerings are planned for CNA, industrial maintenance, and truck driving
- All classrooms will be set up for Blackboard Collaborate. Two of the four classrooms are computer furnished, and all space will be designed for flexible learning.