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Northwood Tech receives $9.8M grant for mobile training, housing

The college has teamed up with developer Impact Seven to construct three multi-family housing units that will include on-site job accelerators.

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From left, Dan Miller, associate dean, Workforce and Community Development; John Will, president of Northwood Technical College; Jeanne Germain, dean of Career Prep, Manufacturing, and Apprenticeships; Dori Marty, director, Grants/Resource Development; Gov. Tony Evers; Liz Pizzi, associate dean, Workforce and Community Development; Rose Cibulka, associate dean, Academic Affairs; Jennifer Schultz, Institutional Effectiveness Technician; Missy Hughes, WEDC Secretary and CEO; and Brett Gerber, president and CEO of Impact Seven pose for a photo after the governor announced Northwood Tech was awarded a Workforce Innovation Grant.
Mandy Dietrich / Northwood Technical College
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SUPERIOR — An initiative to bring job training to small communities served by Northwood Technical College is gaining state and local support.

Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday, June 21, that Northwood Tech would receive up to $9.8 million in Workforce Innovation Grant funding to support its Home Opportunity and Mobile Education Solutions initiative.

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Gov. Tony Evers addresses the crowd gathered Tuesday, June 21, in the HUB at Northwood Technical College's Rice Lake campus. Evers announced Northwood Tech would receive up to $9.8 million from Workforce Innovation Grant to supports Home Opportunity and Mobile Education Solutions.
Mandy Dietrich / Northwood Technical College

The grant program supports long-term solutions to the state’s workforce challenges, Evers said.

“We’re working to build the workforce of tomorrow and address our state’s long-standing workforce challenges by investing in retaining and recruiting our talented workers, making sure our kids have skills and apprenticeship opportunities, and reducing barriers to Wisconsinites who want to join our workforce,” Evers said.

Housing developer Impact Seven and Northwood Tech teamed up to build three multi-family housing units that will include workforce accelerators for on-site job training, said John Will, president of Northwood Tech.

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Impact Seven will establish a workforce housing fund to reduce risk on the housing projects. Northwood Technical College will acquire mobile training equipment, which will add to its portfolio of moveable, hands-on education options. HOMES will provide affordable housing options and educational assets to serve communities for decades to come, officials said.

Where those housing units will be built hasn’t been determined, but they are likely to be built in communities in Northwestern Wisconsin that don't have a Northwood Tech campus and where there is a need for housing, Will said.

“Many communities have a shortage of quality housing,” Will said. “We’ll try to identify communities where housing is a barrier … we’ll be able to fund three of those projects over the next three years.”

The buildings will be owned by Impact Seven, and Northwood Tech will have an agreement that allows the college to use them for training. Community rooms in the buildings will double as classroom space and Northwood Tech can set up their mobile labs outside for training.

“We have a mobile construction training program, and we just got a grant for a mobile welding trailer, and with this grant we got a significant amount of money to purchase mobile advanced manufacturing equipment,” Will said.

Cenovus Energy Superior Refinery contributed $50,000 to help pay the remaining costs for the new mobile welding lab.

The mobile training labs allow Northwood Tech to take educational opportunities to communities in the region where access to one of Northwood Tech’s campuses and outreach centers can be a challenge. Northwood Tech has campuses in Ashland, New Richmond, Rice Lake and Superior; outreach centers in Hayward, Ladysmith and Balsam Lake; and a health education center in Shell Lake. It serves Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Douglas, Iron, Polk, Rusk, St. Croix, Sawyer and Washburn counties.

“We hope that a lot of the people who are going to get training live right in the unit,” Will said. “We think we might create a model not only to help with training issues that exist in our region, but also a solution to some of the housing issues that exist in our region. We hope these three projects are very successful so that it creates a new way to think about housing and training.”

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Will said as a practical matter, if the technical college were to go into a small community and build a training center for one set of skills, that would flood the market with people with that skill set. Mobile training, however, allows Northwood Tech to train for a variety of skills on a revolving basis.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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