Courses focus on employment opportunities
By Ben Rodgers
A new report from Fox Valley Technical College shows that graduates don’t have to wait long to find employment in their fields.
The recently released 2017 FVTC Graduate Employment Report shows 93 percent employment after six months for graduates of the five programs offered at the school’s Waupaca Regional Center.
“As long as we are successful with targeting our coursework with needs of the community, we find our graduates are employable and meet the needs of the area,” said Paul Shrode, director of regional center operations for FVTC in Waupaca and Wautoma.
The Waupaca campus offers a combination of five degrees or diplomas: Farm Business and Production Management, Business Management, Medical Assistant, Nursing Assistant and Management Development.
“We look for ways to meet the needs of the local work environment, to meet the needs of employers and address some of the concerns of the area,” Shrode said.
Farm Business and Production Management, a one-year technical diploma, is tops when it comes to finding employment with 100 percent of those surveyed finding work.
“Agriculture is important to surrounding communities,” Shrode said. “We try very hard to support the ag community with coursework that is relevant to them.”
Business Management, a two-year associate’s degree, had 96 percent finding jobs after they left school.
The degree is aimed more toward people who want to work in small business.
Medical Assistant, another two-year associate’s degree, comes in third with 94 percent employed.
“We find there’s a high demand for medical assistants and nursing assistants in a variety of settings,” Shrode said.
Nursing Assistant, a one-year technical diploma, follows closely with 91 percent employment.
Because of the opportunities provided by the Wisconsin Veterans’ Home in King and other long-term care facilities, this is the most popular offering at the Waupaca campus, according to Shrode.
Management Develop, a two-year associate’s degree, rounds out the list at 83 percent.
This degree is geared more toward manufacturing and line management.
“We are finding more and more the associate’s degree, the technical skills operation is most important for a majority of jobs,” Shrode said. “We believe what we offer is important as well, and we find people with bachelor’s degrees or even master’s degrees are coming back to us because they need to sharpen their skills in particular areas.”
In the area, the FVTC does a good job of placing graduates, according to Dave Thiel, executive director of the Waupaca County Economic Development Corporation.
“Our economy is much more in tune with technical college degrees than it is with four-year college degrees,” Thiel said.
That’s because of the types of industries in the county.
“If you look at who we are, we’re basically manufacturing and agriculture, that’s where most of the money comes into the county from,” Theil said. “So we’re not a high-tech industry, not that we don’t have technology going on in those industries, we have a lot of technology going on in those industries, but they don’t necessarily have a lot of jobs geared toward computer science degrees or MBAs, or any other traditional job you might think of in a white collar world.”
But even with the help of recent FVTC graduates, there is still a workforce problem in Waupaca County.
Young people are leaving the area and the population is aging. Couple that with the expansion of jobs created to service the aging population and there is a shortfall of workers across the board.
“This is a challenge we are facing here with no answer and no simple solution,” Thiel said. “It’s about the county banding together here and using all the assets they have to develop the economy as much as they can.”
He said part of the issue is there is a stigma regarding a four-year degree. What may have been true years ago isn’t necessarily true today.
“We have that ingrained in us by my generation because of our parents,” Theil said. “I’m in the boomer generation. My parents didn’t go to school, they said ‘you have to get an education, that’s the way to success’ and it was to a degree. It set you apart from others… Now because the economy got expanded greatly by the boomers they are a lot of available jobs for people coming in.”