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Federal grant to boost manufacturing training at Nicolet


Oct. 9,2012
Nicolet College has landed a second substantial grant to further develop its manufacturing training program, this one worth more than $550,000 and coming from the federal government.

"Manufacturing is vital to economic vitality of the Northwoods," said Nicolet College President Elizabeth Burmaster. "This additional funding will allow Nicolet to create the premier manufacturing training center in the region. This will benefit area residents seeking the skills necessary to secure good paying jobs and area manufacturers who depend on talented workers to make their operations efficient, productive, and profitable."

The funds, distributed over three years, will come from the U.S. Department of Labor's Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative, a $2 billion, four-year initiative that promotes skill development and employment opportunities across the nation in manufacturing and health care.

Nicolet will use the money to purchase advanced manufacturing training equipment and hire an instructor to teach students how to use the equipment and an advisor to keep them on track academically and guide them through the job search process. In July, Nicolet was awarded a $750,000 state grant from the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation to build on the recently-created Industrial Maintenance Fundamentals Certificate and provide tuition assistance to students.

The goal now is to develop a sequence of college credentials that ladder from the certificate to a one-year technical diploma and ultimately a two-year manufacturing maintenance associate degree. Classes for the certificate start Oct. 15. "The classes are almost full but there are a few seats left for anyone interested in starting the program," said Brigitte Parsons, dean of Trade and Industry at Nicolet. She noted that the next round of classes will begin at the start of Spring Semester, Wednesday, Jan. 23.

A recent wage survey by the Grow North Regional Economic Development Corporation found that manufacturing maintenance jobs in the Northwoods today pay an average of about $35,000 a year.

In both grant applications, strong support from area manufacturers was instrumental in making a successful bid, Parsons explained. Private sector support for the federal grant application came from the Grow North Economic Development Corporation. "None of this would have been possible without the hard work and commitment from Grow North and its manufacturing members," she said, noting that many helped Nicolet develop the curriculum so that the skills taught in the labs and classrooms are an exact match to those needed in the workplace.

Recent state studies have found that "middle-skill" occupations, or those positions that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree, represent 50 percent of Wisconsin's workforce needs, with advanced manufacturing occupations among the fastest growing. Meanwhile, only 39 percent of Wisconsin residents between the ages of 25 and 64 meet these education criteria.

For more information about manufacturing training opportunities at Nicolet, contact the college at (715) 365-4493, 1-800-544-3039, ext. 4493; TDD (715) 365-4448, or by email at