EAU CLAIRE – Cassie Blechinger’s future is arriving sooner than expected. She has dreams of becoming a nurse, but has been on the waiting list for the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) Nursing-Associate Degree program since last year. Now she will be able to start in the fall term next month, thanks to a state grant designed to get people off waiting lists and into the workforce faster.
In a visit to CVTC’s Health Education Center Friday, July 18, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced the intent to award more than $28 million in Wisconsin Fast Forward grants to all 16 colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). The grants will train more than 4,900 workers for in-demand jobs.
CVTC’s share of the grants will be $1,223,540.
“It’s for about 200 more students,” Walker said. “It’s about the students getting the training, not only for a job, but for a career.”
Blechinger, a 2005 Boyceville High School graduate, has been biding her time working as an EMT and in the phlebotomy lab at Mayo Health Systems, but she’s been anxious to get started on a new career, perhaps in pediatric nursing.
“I was scheduled to start the Nursing program in January 2015, Blechinger said. “Now I’ll be able to graduate months early and join the workforce.”
“Our administration has made worker training a top priority, allocating more than $135 million in new resources to equip Wisconsin workers with the skills needed to fill jobs that employers have available,” Walker said. “This substantial investment in the Wisconsin Technical College System will help our top-notch technical colleges build the capacity to train thousands of workers across the state with skills we know are in high demand by employers.”
“It is a vital part of CVTC’s mission to support the workforce needs of the region, and to do so we must constantly keep up with a changing economy,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker. “The additional funds will increase our ability to respond rapidly to the needs of both our graduates and the employers who want to hire them. Shorter waiting lists in high demand fields serve everyone’s interests.”
Most CVTC programs do not have waiting lists, and there are openings in the fall term for programs in some of the high demand fields. A complete list of the programs with waiting lists that will be positively affected by the grant will be determined by CVTC and the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), which will administer the grants. Capacity will be added in 100 programs throughout the WTCS system. Training programs cover key industry sectors such as manufacturing, health care, transportation, construction and architecture, and education.
“I think it’s great the waiting lists are going to be shorter,” said Blechinger.
“With this announcement, the State of Wisconsin is giving workers the chance to increase their skills and move into a new job or a better job,” said DWD Secretary Reggie Newson, who also attended Friday’s announcement.
A better job is what Nai Nou Her is hoping for. Her has been expecting to be on the waiting list in the Dental Hygienist program for three years, but now has hopes that the grant will help her move up.
“I just graduated from the Dental Assistant program,” Her said. “I might go to school part time while I’m waiting.” She’s working as a dental assistant, but becoming a hygienist will result in higher pay.
Technical colleges submitted initial lists of programs for grant consideration earlier this year. DWD developed processes to validate wait lists for grant eligibility purposes, evaluate each technical college’s funding request, make award decisions, and monitor taxpayers’ investment. Grant funds can be used for expenses such as course development, instructor wages and purchase of materials. Individual grant awards will be announced for each technical college over the next two weeks.
Funds for the grants were allocated in legislation Walker signed into law in March as part of his Blueprint for Prosperity initiative. The legislation allocated an additional $35.4 million in funds to the Wisconsin Fast Forward worker training program, with the funds for this grant being part of that.
Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.