As both the Representative for Wisconsin’s 75th Assembly District and the executive director of the Barron County Economic Development Corporation, one of my top priorities is to ensure that employers across Wisconsin – and northwestern Wisconsin in particular – have access to a qualified workforce. Hundreds of good-paying, family-supporting jobs go unfilled in our region because employers are unable to connect with prospective employees who have the necessary skills. This shortfall affects everyone and prevents our communities from realizing their full potential.
Fortunately, Wisconsin is blessed with a robust technical college system, and many of our K-12 districts also provide excellent career and technical education programs. What many people – particularly students in our middle and high schools – do not realize is that four-year colleges and universities are only one option of many after they graduate from high school. The Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) provides a wealth of learning opportunities that prepare motivated students to enter a number of lucrative careers.
For example, Wisconsin’s technical colleges grant 28,000 credentials each year, and the median annual salary for a WTCS graduate with an associate’s degree is over $45,000. For graduates of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, which covers most of the 75th District, the average is over $47,000. The statewide median salary for WTCS students who complete apprenticeships is $81,000! These figures demonstrate the importance that employers attach to a technical education. As Dr. Morna Foy, the WTCS president, has said, “Career & Technical Education creates economic vitality for individuals, employers and communities throughout Wisconsin.”
February is Career and Technical Education Month, an excellent opportunity to remind our students about the lifelong rewards a technical education can offer, and I hope to use my professional experience and my position on several economic development committees in the Assembly to expand the opportunities to our students.