Jayne Rowe, an information technology instructor at Northcentral Technical College, teaches a class. NTC received a $6.2 million federal grant it will use to expand IT training programs.
The higher education and job training provided by Northcentral Technical College is crucial to the region's economy. This has been true for decades, but the experience of the last five years, when NTC's training programs for workers who lost their jobs in the recession kicked into high gear, has only reinforced it.
There still is a need for welders and machinists and manufacturing workers. But "technical" education today does not mean what it meant 50 years ago. Manufacturing and related fields are themselves being transformed by new technologies - and in need of workers who can adapt with them. It's part of a larger transformation that has touched virtually every sector of the economy.
The news Wednesday that NTC has received a three-year, $6.2 million federal grant to expand its information-technology training programs is a big deal. It will help fill a real hole in the local economy and better position us for future growth.
The college plans to use the grant to attract more than 300 new students for programs that train them to be prepared to use the IT tools that are now common in health care, manufacturing and, of course, computer companies. But the grant funding will do much more than that. NTC will direct and train 15 other technical colleges, said the school's president, Lori Weyers, to create a larger plan that can help Wisconsin better prepare its workforce.
"The number of IT jobs opening here will continue to grow every year," Jim Frings, president of Kronenwetter's G3 Industries, told Daily Herald Media on Wednesday, referring to his own growing company. Anecdotal evidence and economic forecasts both show that the same is true for many other employers.
One of Wausau's biggest economic success stories in recent years was the opening of Collaborative Consulting, the IT firm that located in the Dudley Tower downtown and has brought with it dozens of good jobs. The growth of the IT sector is self-evident, and the results are all around us.
In short, it's a key sector, and IT skills are key to moremworkers with each passing year. Training them is a need that the new federal grant and the hard work and smart planning at NTC will help north central Wisconsin address.