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Bills boost technical education

Governor Scott Walker signs two bills into law at the CVTC Manufacturing Education Center December 10. The bills create a scholarship program for high school students demonstrating excellence in technical education courses, and create incentives for K-12 school districts to develop programs that provide graduates with industry-approved technical certificates. Joining Walker in the photo are CVTC students and staff.

Governor Scott Walker signed two bills into law Tuesday aimed at increasing the number of students who graduate ready to enter the workforce.

The bills signed at a ceremony at the Chippewa Valley Technical College Manufacturing Education Center in Eau Claire create a scholarship program for students who demonstrate excellence in technical education, and create incentives for K-12 school districts to graduate students with industry-approved technical certificates.

“Many employers are still facing a shortage of skilled labor, while too many of our neighbors are still unemployed or underemployed,” Governor Walker said. “Our emphasis on workforce development looks to find a solution to both situations.”

“These bills are a positive for the K-12 system, they are a positive for the technical college system, and they are a positive for the business community. I call that a win-win-win,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker.

Act 59 provides incentive grants to school districts that promote career and technical education programs. On an annual basis, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will work with the Department of Workforce Development and the Wisconsin Technical College System to identify industry sectors that are facing workforce shortages including shortages of adequately trained, entry-level workers.

For every pupil who completes an approved, industry-recognized certification program, the DPI will award grants of $1,000 per pupil to school districts. Grants will be available beginning in the 2014–15 school year.

“This will be a great incentive for K-12 systems to create programs or expand programs, or to work with the technical college system on dual-credit programs,” Barker said.

Act 60 awards scholarships in conjunction with the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB) to students of excellence who are enrolled fulltime at a technical college. Between one and six scholarships will be available at each school, depending on the number of students. HEAB will fund $1,125 of the scholarship with a matching contribution from the technical college.

“We have historically provided scholarships for some of the top students in the state, and we want to continue to do that,” Walker said. “But we want to provide an equal incentive to some of our students with outstanding technical skills. We want our best and brightest not only in our universities, but in our technical colleges.”

Barker added that the bills help business and industry as well as students, and he thanked Walker for his confidence in the K-12 and technical college systems.