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Summer jobs include peeks at careers

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CVTC instructor Steve Gutsch, left, shows Summer Youth Employment program participant Kenneth Burrell the readings on a device designed to determine the suitability of a location for solar energy panels. The jobs program includes an education component in which the youths are exposed to long-term career areas.

Eau Claire, WI – Lucas Nash of Chippewa Falls and Julian Fogeltanz of Menomonie would both like to work someday in an environmentally related field, so they took a special interest in some time spent at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in June.

On a bright, sunny day they were on the grass outside the CVTC Business Education Center setting up some equipment to determine the best location and angle for solar panels. The next day they were assembling some model windmills to see how wind energy can be converted to electricity.

The activities were part of summer jobs for the young men, who are taking part in the Workforce Resource Summer Youth Employment program. Administering funds from a federal grant, Workforce Resource hires young people from low-income families for summer jobs around the community. Part of the job includes attending classes at CVTC for a couple of weeks to explore long-term career options.

The career exploration segment focuses on four areas: blueprint reading, alternative energy, industrial mechanics and electromechanical engineering, according to Ginger Dutton, program coordinator from the Chippewa Falls Workforce Resource office.

“Our hope is for CVTC to provide some basic exploration in manufacturing,” Dutton said.

“The energy stuff is kind of cool,” said Fogeltanz, a Menomonie High School student. “At least we’re getting outside. My career path is going to be environmental. I’d like to be a DNR warden.”

“We were talking about different kinds of energy – fossil fuels, water, wind energy,” said Nash, who graduated from Chi-Hi in May. “It gives me something else to think about. I’m going to Fox Valley Technical College for Natural Resources Technician.”

Cody Henrichs of Menomonie found an area of his interest when he got a chance to work on one of CVTC’s high-tech welding simulators.  He’d like to be a welder someday.

“We’re going through geo-thermal, wind and solar – both solar PV (photovoltaic) and solar thermal. They get to do some hands-on, setting up solar panels and taking temperature readings,” said CVTC instructor Steve Gutsch, who taught the energy and blueprint reading classes.
The content touches on career areas like construction, HVAC and energy, Gutsch said. “It gives them some idea of what’s out there.”

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Summer Youth Employment program participants assemble model windmills that can generate electricity during an educational component of the program at CVTC recently.

Dutton said the program has been around for about 25 years, dating back to when Workforce Resource was known as the Private Industry Council (PIC). The program is funded through the federal Workforce Investment Act. Youth ages 14-21 qualify through family income guidelines.

Those selected kick off the program with a picnic an orientation in a park, and the first part of their summer employment involves the CVTC portion, which is handled like a job. Workers are to show up on time, apply themselves, and complete tasks they’re given.

“They are learning work maturity skills as well while at CVTC,” Dutton said.

After two weeks at CVTC, the group is split up into various work locations throughout the Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls and Menomonie areas. They work at both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Dutton noted Hope Gospel Mission’s Bargain Center as one location where program participants might work.

Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.