A Dual Credit Day celebration Tuesday at Lomira High School brought together, from left, Jim Wessing, president of Kondex Corporation, Mike Freidrick, Kondex vice president of human resources, Sheila Ruhland, president of Moraine Park Technical College, and Tony Evers, State Superintendent of public schools. / Patrick Flood/The Reporter Media
Lomira high school seniors, from left: Jessica Hartman, Maria Rodriguez and Casey Nickel, show off their Dual Credit bracelets with Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System before the start of Dual credit day celebrations at Lomira high school. / Patrick Flood/The Reporter Media
LOMIRA — Education leaders from throughout the state gathered at Lomira High School Tuesday to celebrate opportunity.
Students in bright red shirts with a “Dual Credit” logo talked of how they benefit from earning college credits in the high school’s state-of-the art technology lab. Made possible by a partnership between the school district, business community and Moraine Park Technical College, the lab equipped with 10 welding machine is being lauded as the means to the future.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who once served as head of the neighboring Oakfield School District, spoke to a large crowd about the need to fill a growing skills gap in Wisconsin and the nation.
For years manufacturers have reported a significant difference between the talent they need to keep growing their businesses and what they can actually find. According to the Manufacturing Institute, shortages in skilled production jobs — machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors and technicians — are taking a toll on their ability to expand operations, drive innovation and improve productivity.
“A bachelor’s degree is only one way to a career and, frankly, most kids don’t take that path,” Evers said. “Embracing a shared vision of education with the K-12 system, high education and the business community means sharing ownership of the future — and it’s the right thing to do.”
With an estimated 65 percent of available jobs over the next 10 years requiring skills provided by technical education, the state’s economy depends on students being college- and career-ready upon high school graduation.
Ahead of its time
Back in 1986, students at Lomira High school began taking dual-credits classes that award both high school and technical college credit at the same time through a partnership with MPTC. Not long after the Lomira pilot program, Ripon, Green Lake and Slinger high schools followed suit.
Today, 27 years later, thousands of students have earned college credits through this career prep program.
“It’s put me ahead of the game,” said senior Josh Adelmeyer, who’s taken dual-credit offerings of welding, metal fabrication and Microsoft word. He plans to continue his education at MPTC.
“Welding has become a lot more popular at the school with the new equipment and intro to college math is a great course; it’s really going to help me, ” Adelmeyer said.
Lomira’s technology lab that opened this year offers 10 welding stations to help train students to fill jobs that are available in the industry. Of the $125,000 cost, only about $20,000 was paid for by the school district, said technology educataion instructor John Marx. Much of it came from area businesses, with Kondex Corp. as a key contributor. Labor was also provided by area volunteers and businesses.
“This is a celebration of many things — good teachers, the education system, the community and business. What’s being done here can be done anywhere in the state,” he said.
Participation has doubled
Approximately 161 students are enrolled in Lomira’s technology education program, with about 70 of them taking one of the three offered welding courses. Dual credits can be taken at no cost to the students.
Over the past five years participation in dual credits has doubled, with more than 21,000 high school students across the state currently taking advantage of opportunities developed with their local technical colleges.
John (Jack) Shanahan, who retired as MPTC president in 2004 after 25 years at the college, was instrumental in developing the concept of a dual-credit program. He said that in 1979 the hottest course at the technical college was one on microwave cooking, and staff talked about what kind of calculators to place on desks.
“We were truly a vocational school with few degrees. Then one day I made a visit to Mercury Marine and they asked if we offered any computer-aided manufacturing course. We began to change our way of thinking about job skills and opening doors,” he said.
Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System said her top priority is addressing the Wisconsin skills gap.
She read a proclamation from Gov. Scott Walker naming April 30 as “Dual Credit Day” in Wisconsin and said this kind of job training of young students is critical for the next generation.
“It takes a lot of work to create these kinds of partnerships and see it through to the end. When it does happen, it’s magic,” she said.
Sharon Roznik can be reached at email@example.com or (920) 907-7936.