Blackhawk Technical College receives more than $400,000 from state grant

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Nick Crow
Thursday, August 7, 2014

JANESVILLE--Blackhawk Technical College has received a $419,524 state grant aimed at reducing waiting lists for enrollment in high-demand fields.

Blackhawk Tech will use the grant to bolster its sections in computer numeric control and welding, President Tom Eckert said. Both programs are set to expand this fall at the new Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in Milton.

"This grant was originally put together to bring down technical college waiting lists," Eckert said. "We were successful in two of the four things we asked for. That's what it's about."

Eckert said the grant will be used to add  sections to both programs as soon as this fall. The CNC program is a two-year program, while the welding program is for one year, he said. Wisconsin technical colleges received a total of $28 million statewide as a part of the grant, Eckert said.

"There's waiting lists in both of those, so this will be dollars used to train new students," Eckert said.

Although the school is grateful for the grant, it is not large enough nor will it last long enough to negate the college's need for $4 million in additional operational funding that it is seeking through referendum Aug. 12.

"It's a drop in the bucket," Eckert said. "It's helpful, but what we're looking for with the referendum is long-term support to make improvements."

Welding instructor Mark Prosser said demand is so high for his program that it's all but guaranteed students will find jobs once they graduate.

"Right now, across the country, especially in this area, the demand for welders is astronomical," Prosser said. "This grant is wonderful because we can add more sections. More sections of higher level classes are what a lot of companies around here need."

The program's expansion at the new Advanced Manufacturing Training Center is good for the community as a whole, Prosser said.

"Our main objective is to serve the community and get as many people as we can a good education and good jobs," Prosser said.

Prosser said the average age of welders is 56. Training the next generation now is vitally important, he said.

"We're trying to replace seasoned journeymen with entry-level welders," Prosser said. "All that costs money. This grant will go a long way to help us with that."

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