INDUSTRY: Education consortium supports development effortsCreating the workforce employers needs is the goal behind a new consortium of educators working to help regional economic development efforts in northwestern Wisconsin.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Creating the workforce employers needs is the goal behind a new consortium of educators working to help regional economic development efforts in northwestern Wisconsin.
Northwest Wisconsin Educators for Regional Development — NorthWERD — was years in the making and was created to provide employers with a one-stop-shop to respond to the needs of regional developers and students. The group, which includes CESA 12, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College, Northland College, Northcentral Technical College, University of Wisconsin-Colleges, Extension and UW-Superior, and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.
The impetus for forming the cooperative relationship was the technical conference in Ashland a few years ago, said Bob Meyer, the group’s and WITC’s president.
He said while educational institutions are not focused on economic development efforts, they do play a role in ensuring developers can hire a trained workforce.
NorthWERD has outlined four focus areas that will help participating institutions be more responsive to economic development needs.
The consortium will focus on responding to regional and economic development needs, assessing research and gathering data to pinpoint economic development opportunities, provide career paths to help students succeed economically and offer academic advising and assessment for parents and students.
“Our graduates will create the workforce, if you will, to support the economy,” Meyer said. He said while there was a lot of interest in creating a regional economic development organization, and there has been success with Northwest Regional Planning Commission’s efforts to create Visions Northwest, NorthWERD is a compliment to the economic development effort.
The educational alliance isn’t the first of its kind in Wisconsin. NEW ERA, Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance is an alliance of 13 higher education colleges in the Fox Valley, Green Bay region stretching from Sheboygan northward to Marinette and the Menominee Nation.
The goal of the consortium is to figure out how to align educational programs to respond to the needs of workers and employers, and determine how the region’s educational institutions can better work together to provide those educational opportunities, whether through co-designing programs or simply making it easier for students to transfer credits among various institutions, Meyer said.
“It’s one thing to say we’re all from the same region, and it’s another thing to be able to call someone up to establish a conversation and a connection that will be productive for children and the workforce,” said Julianne Raymond, director of the Small Business Development Center at UWS.
It will also provide employers with the opportunity to work with multiple institutions to create educational programs that may require the expertise of more than one institution, Meyer said.
Organizations and individuals interested in discussing opportunities to work with NorthWERD can contact Meyer at (715) 468-2815 or Bob.Meyer@WITC.edu.