By Chris Vetter
The efforts of Wisconsin technical colleges are a major reason the state continues to recover from the economic recession that plagued the U.S. in recent years, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said Monday.
"They've played an incredibly important role in helping our recovery," Baldwin said after a tour of the Chippewa Valley Technical College campus in Chippewa Falls. "For a displaced worker in their 40s, it's daunting to think about going back to school. But they have a support team here cheering them on."
Baldwin met with students in the Bridges to Health Care program, many of whom returned to school after losing their jobs. Baldwin said she is impressed with the coordination of worker-oriented programs in the CVTC building in which students take classes or visit the job center to find out about openings.
"I heard a lot of positive feedback from students who have been displaced and are getting the help they need here," she said.
Baldwin said many students take just one or two semesters of programs and re-enter the job market without necessarily obtaining a technical degree. She said a technical college might consider that a failure because they want students to get a degree, but the school did its job by successfully getting someone back into the workforce.
"We've got to find a way to measure that," she said.
CVTC President Bruce Barker said he's encouraged Baldwin took time to visit the CVTC campus.
"As technical colleges, we still need help from Madison and Washington," Barker said. "It's nice to know that Sen. Baldwin is up to date on the issues and here to help us."
In addition to touring the technical college, Baldwin stopped in downtown Chippewa Falls to see the redevelopment at the intersection of Highway 124 and River Street. The intersection is being turned into a roundabout and will be home to a new $4.5 million two-story building that will house the Short Elliott Hendrickson engineering firm.
Baldwin said the project represents a quality private-public partnership that will enhance that part of the city.
"It will be a very visually attractive gateway to the city," she said of the project.
Congress is on break right now, but Baldwin said that addressing the situation in Egypt will immediately be on the table when lawmakers return. She praised President Obama for canceling a joint military exercise with Egypt that was scheduled for September.
"We have to send a strong message that their crackdown on peaceful protesters is not tolerable," she said.