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Employer Partnerships Help Students and Employers
By Sara Mackey, Marketing Communications Specialist
Statewide Marketing Consortium of the Wisconsin Technical College System

Wisconsin’s Technical College System was originally founded in 1911 with a focus on workforce development. Additionally, it was intended to serve as an affordable resource for postsecondary education and skills development for the purpose of working in an industrial, trade, business or technology career.

So, the concept of partnering with employers goes back to the founding mission. Of course, in 1911, career preparation included working in jobs like blacksmith, in a millinery (hat making), early nursing careers, iron workers, and many careers replaced in many cases by automation or rendered unnecessary by newer technology.

One of the early careers, nursing, is still one of the most important and in-demand careers and hardly recognizable today compared to how it started. What has kept the Wisconsin Technical College System relevant all these 110+ years is the strong ties to employers who rely on the technical colleges to foresee industrial and technical changes and remain nimble enough to react to those changes. This responsive nature of education and technology allows employers to focus on their core business objectives, maintaining safety, productivity, profitability and all the characteristics that keep it competitive and successful in business.

Some of our state’s largest and most well-known employers have credited the technical colleges’ long-term partnerships as one of its keys to success. Examples include Johnson Controls, Rockwell Automation, Oshkosh, Harley-Davidson and many more. A representative from Generac has said of its partnership with the local technical college, “As a result of lean training, Generac has realized approximately $3 million in savings in 2020 and projects a savings of approximately $2 million in 2021.”

Today’s partnerships are borne out in various ways. A company might engage in a college’s contract training division to bring employees to the college campus for technology training or skills development. The same training division might send faculty to the company campus for on-site training related to equipment, providing customer service skills, safety training, or a plethora of training options.

Another strong connection to employers is through the advisory committees that help open communications. These committees provide feedback to a new or existing program development team and its faculty that benefit from learning the specific needs or concerns of local employers. The insight gained through these committees might also help to develop free-standing programs, untied to a specific company or branded training objectives.

One of the more innovative partnerships, established in 2020, demonstrates a proactive growth culture at Ariens Company. They engaged faculty from Fox Valley Technical College who offer a variety of courses to help employees develop skills over and above their current position, encouraging growth within the company. This real-time investment in their workforce not only illustrates a strong commitment to their employees, but it positions the faculty to gain intimate working knowledge of the technology and skills needed to further develop current and future employees. A current welding employee with aspirations to become a supervisor is learning on the job with the employer’s help paying tuition and fees to develop the employee into that future supervisor.
Each of the 16 technical colleges has a robust employer services department with creative ways of developing employees. If your company has a particular training need or wants to discuss options to invest in the workforce, visit https://www.wtcsystem.edu/workforce-solutions/.

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