Phil Hauck's TEC Blog

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NWTC is an Important and Dynamic Example

My TEC III member, Jeff Rafn, who has headed Northeast Wisconsin Technical College since 1997, is a leading advocate explaining why technical education is a public investment “must,” which he did to a St. Norbert CEO Breakfast & Strategy audience earlier today.
He has several mission-based principles that he uses to motivate and guide his institution’s efforts, like …
•  “Every time a student leaves the college before finishing the Associates Degree is probably condemning him or her to a life in poverty.”  Corollary:  “It’s our objective to increase the likelihood that the person will complete the Degree.  We do that through delivering learning where they want it, when they want it, and how they want it."
•  “A high school diploma is no longer sufficient to assure a job that will support a family.”
•  “We watch very carefully to see how fast our graduates get jobs, in what fields, and what they pay.”  That’s so we make sure we are providing training where businesses need skills.

Persuasive Statistics
He has some persuasive 2013 statistics that support the technical/community college need:
•  Unemployment, which was in the 7% range nationally, was only 4% for people with community college Associate degrees, and 3.4% for people with college Bachelor’s degrees.
•  Starting salaries were actually significantly higher for Associate Degree graduates with specific skills that for students graduating from 4-year colleges … by a lot.  (Obviously, college graduates catch up over time.)

Get Them Interested In High School
“We are starting a program with the Green Bay high schools with the objective of having every high school graduate already having 15 technical college credits.  We work with high school instructors to help them meet our requirements.  As a student develops the credits, they are introduced to the value of getting the Associates Degree and specific skill training.  It’s an important way to capture students where there interests are, especially when traditional learning isn’t their thing.”
Why is this important?  Because with 10,000 Boomers turning 65 every day and beginning the process of leaving the workforce, there is a significant reduction in employable people occurring, especially in Wisconsin.  The current 65% of the population of working age will shrink to 55% in 20 years.  That’s fewer people to do the work that will support an aged population, so preparing people for the best paying jobs is critical.  Fortunately, Wisconsin ranks high in developing manufacturing jobs, largely supported by export purchases from other countries.

A Few Specifics
Among the novel approaches to creating successful learning that yields successful students:
•  Each student must take College 101, a course that preps them for learning success.
•  A coaching program for students who must improve their reading and writing, yielding significantly better results.
•  A “Bridge” program that puts at-risk students together in small groups to learn a specific skill, while also improving vocabulary.  One example I’ve heard of is an electrical skills class of 13 very diverse, poor background teens who under other situations would be competitive.  The instructor helps them with new words and collaborative “working together” as they focus on learning the electrical skills.  Result:  Over time, they’ve become a “tribe” supporting each other.
•  Reverse the traditional approach of teaching subject matter in class, and doing hands-on/workshop/review outside of class.  Instead, expose them to the content through assignments, and use class time to work together to imbed the learning.

The school’s mantra:  Dream!  Learn it!  Live it!”

1 comment:

  1. Phil, I agree with his focus on Community Colleges. We initiated this program in TN this past year...but we have figured out how to fund it without raising taxes. The President first announced this initiative while visiting Knoxville a couple of weeks ago... Our governor (Republican) started this effort while Mayor of Knoxville several years ago. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave