Superior’s institutions of higher education opened their doors to the state Friday, July 12.
Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Secretary-designee Kathy Blumenfeld and Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dawn Crim had a chance to tour the University of Wisconsin-Superior and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.
“We’ve learned what a phenomenal resource this is for the community here, and the great work that’s being done to help address our workforce shortages, how to get more students through a post-high school education system with an outcome – a degree – so that they get a job and get a job that’s matched with the needs of the community,” Blumenfeld said.
“The collaboration, both institutions understand the students that they serve and they’re trying to have the education needed for people to step right into careers,” Crim said. “They are working together to do it, and it’s nice the collaboration.
The secretary-designees are traveling around the state to learn more about Wisconsin’s educational system as they prepare to turn their focus from developing a budget to implementing it now that the states 2019-2021 biennial budget has been signed into law.
“It’s really exciting to have a historic $25 million investment in the technical colleges, and the commitment the governor has – this is a down payment on the future – we wanted to learn more," Blumenfeld said. “The flexibility of the funds to be able to be tailored to the needs of the community here is fantastic.”
During the tour at WITC, spokeswoman Jena Vogtman pointed out that the campus’s machine lab has automated machining tools and older, more mechanical-style equipment because not all of the manufacturers in the area have high-tech equipment and still need more hands-on skills.
“They’re able to deploy the funds in a way that meets their student population,” Crim said. “And that’s what’s important. When you think about the state of Wisconsin, the different technical colleges support different communities.”
As the secretary-designee for the Department of Financial Institutions, Blumenfeld said one of her focuses is the student debt crisis. She said she was impressed with some of the work being done with dual credits so students can enter the colleges and universities with credits, which reduces the amount of time spent in the institutions.
“The technical college and UWS both have great financial services advisers to help make better, informed decisions,” Blumenfeld said.
Crim said she was impressed with the mobile firefighting education offered by WITC in Superior.
“There was legislation around firefighter training that was passed, and it was wonderful to see they’re deployed … not just here but being able to go across the state and train firefighters, paid or volunteer, where they need it,” Crim said.
Both said they will be advocates in Madison for the higher education system in Superior.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to know we have advocates in Madison,” said Stephanie Erdmann, WITC-Superior administrator.