News Release

Published on Friday, March 23, 2012

The importance of community collaboration is evident in the recent development of welding training that will meet the needs of several local organizations, including two manufacturing companies, Black River Falls High School, the Jackson County Treatment Court, the Community Corrections Employment Program, and Western Technical College. What began as separate discussions has evolved into a pilot program to help a group of job-seekers get the training needed to fill job vacancies in Jackson County.

“Simultaneous conversations between community partners have really helped piece together a great program,” said Patti Balacek, director of Western’s Business and Industry Services division. “For us, it started when the high school principal brought up the challenges they had with continuing to offer welding training, and we wanted to see what we could do to help.”

“The Black River Falls School District is dedicated to career and technical education and preparation. We have been aware of the need to strengthen our partnerships with community businesses and agencies, especially after a number of years of budget reductions that have caused shortages; especially in the area of welding and metal work courses,” said Principal Tom Chambers.

At the same time, Jackson County Treatment Court was working with the local Community Corrections Employment Program (CCEP) to find employment opportunities for Treatment Court participants. While investigating the needs of local employers, Jackson County Judge Thomas E. Lister and the CCEP discovered multiple job opportunities for trained welders in the area.

Building a new welding lab would take a substantial investment at a time when funding is tight. But, using the welding lab already in place at the high school seemed like a great solution for everyone. And, a concern over the condition of the current welding equipment was eliminated when local manufacturers, Nelson Industries and D & S Manufacturing, offered to help upgrade the facilities.

“This institute has the potential to enhance the facilities for all of our students, while providing a top-notch learning environment for many other individuals in our community. It's truly a partnership that benefits a broad range of people by helping to fill worker needs right here at home and putting people into well-paying career track jobs,” said Chambers.

“The first class of eight trainees, includes seven participants from both the Jackson County Treatment Court and the Ho-Chunk Nation Healing to Wellness Court,” said Judge Lister. “We are extremely excited about the opportunity to address the key component needed for their recovery.”

Training begins in April and will consist of basic welding, blueprint reading, and math. Those who complete the training will be prepared for an entry level job, or they can transfer the four college credits earned to Western’s full welding program.

“There are so many beneficiaries in this project,” agreed Balacek. “It’s just another example of how, by pooling resources, we can weather the financial hardships that so many of us are facing. It’s like the old stone soup fable … if everyone contributes one ingredient, together we can have a feast.”