Higher Education Opportunities in the Fox Cities

Rohrkaste_MikeBY Mike Rohrkast

I’m happy to write my first article for Scene Newspaper as state assembly representative for the 55th District. It’s critically important for representatives throughout government to be in constant contact with members of the local community. I encourage constituents throughout the district to contact my office if you have questions or concerns about what is happening in Madison. Today I would like to discuss the great higher education opportunities we have here in the Fox Cities and how they can help close the skills gap we currently have in Wisconsin.

Recently, students from all over the state came to Madison for the Wisconsin Technical College Systems symposium, which is held in the Capitol rotunda and showcases the work of technical college students across the state. The projects were impressive, and many veteran legislators said that these projects and studies get better year after year. As I walked through the rotunda, I couldn’t help but be humbled by the hard work of these students and the positive impact they were making on their community and state.

During this event, I met with a small group of students from Fox Valley Technical College to discuss their experiences. From my work history in the area I have long been impressed with FVTC, but this group of students blew me away. Not only were they incredibly professional, they also had each done impressive work at FVTC.

One of the students recently came back to school to be trained in management and learn how to successfully run a small business, all while being a single mom and working two part-time jobs. Another student was pursing a career in information technology, an area that has many job openings in Wisconsin. I am convinced this student will be a great employee, possessing the right skills that many local businesses will be eager to hire after graduation.

fvtc_logoFVTC offers many options to its students. From welding programs to jobs in public safety, this school excels at providing its students with a solid education at a reasonable price and with state of the art training facilities. In fact, FVTC recently opened its brand new public safety facility, which will allow the school to become a national leader in public safety training. I was lucky enough to receive a tour and it is truly a first-class facility. These kinds of investments are what make FVTC such a great local option for students.

UW-Fox Valley in Menasha is another great college option for kids graduating from high school in the Fox Cities. Like FVTC, UW-Fox Valley offers attractive alternatives to a four-year degree. Many of their students are from the local community and often stay here after they graduate. Both schools are able to tailor their courses and majors for businesses in the area, and work with local employers to train students in high demand fields. A perfect example is Miller Electric Manufacturing Co., which has offered scholarships to students at UW-Fox Valley to study robotics or engineering. This partnership promotes educational opportunities for students who choose UW-Fox Valley over other schools, and provides Miller with future employees.

Another example at UW-Fox Valley is its collaboration with the state’s four-year UW-Platteville campus. Students at UW-Fox Valley can earn a bachelor’s degree in either mechanical or electrical engineering from UW-Platteville, while taking their classes here in Menasha. These are the kind of partnerships our state needs to be promoting: students who go to local schools like UW-Fox Valley and FVTC and are being trained to enter the workforce, here in the Fox Valley.

Currently, the state’s jobs website lists over 75,000 available jobs and I believe that FVTC and UW-Fox Valley are in a unique position to fill many of those openings because of their quality staff and close ties to the local business community. These schools, and others in the region are able to prepare students for job openings right here at home and that is essential to a strong local economy.

These two schools can give people a great local start with their education, with a better price tag, and they can then transfer to four-year colleges throughout Wisconsin. The Fox Cities offers exceptional options for all students – both recent graduates and returning adults – to receive a tailor-made education and one that will help them enter a career field that allows them to be successful. Let’s continue to look locally for higher education options and emphasize the great choices graduates have to further their education close to home.

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