NWTC: 110 years and still shaping the future


By Heather Graves

NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – Over the past 110 years, thousands of students have turned to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) to give them a head start in launching their careers in the skilled trades.

“These are the people you need every day,” said NWTC Chairman Dr. Jeffrey Rafn. “Your neighbors work in your community. If I go to the dentist, who do I spend the most time with? I spend it with the dental hygienist – the dental hygienists who have been here. Or if I need a car repaired, who will fix it? Well, those are the people we educated. Or if my furnace isn’t working properly or my air conditioning isn’t working, who’s going to take care of it? These are the students we educated and trained. And frankly, almost all the police and firefighters, we educated them.

It’s an institution, Rafn said, with strong roots in the region that has continually adapted to meet the needs of its students – whose ages range from high school graduates to retirement.

“Our average age is 27,” he said. “I would say probably about 40% of them are within two or three years of leaving high school, but the rest of them are in that kind of 25 to 35 year olds. And of course we have people up to 55, 60 years old. , and 65. So we serve a wide range of people.

where it all started

Beginning in 1912, the City of Green Bay and Marinette vocational schools offered courses in machine shop, carpentry, printing, bookkeeping, shorthand, typing, mechanical drafting, sewing, and of commercial work, as well as standard courses in reading, writing and mathematics for young pupils.

“We started out as a middle school that was really focused on meeting the needs of, I would say, 16-17 year olds who weren’t in high school – maybe they graduated in eighth grade, c was pretty common,” Rafn said. . “Because we are above all an agrarian, dairy community, etc. The idea was to give these children, these young people, skills that would allow them to earn a living.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the city’s vocational schools provided job training for the unemployed during the Great Depression.

The city’s first vocational schools of Green Bay (1912), Marinette (1912), and Sturgeon Bay (1941) combined in the late 1960s to form the Northeast Wisconsin Technical Institute, serving part or all of nine counties as the Northeast Wisconsin Technical Institute.

Green Bay’s was originally housed in the current Green Bay School District building on Broadway.

This name was changed in the late 1980s to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Since that time, NWTC has continued to develop its programs, services, technology and buildings.

The college introduced a mascot in 2017, an eagle which was later named Newton, updated its logo and other branding in 2019, and recently entered into a transfer partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay which offers students a seamless path to further their education. .

“My son, who is a doctor, started out as an emergency medical technician and he got that degree from technical college,” Rafn said.

student success

Rafn said one of the things that community/technical colleges, like NWTC, continually strive for is success for all students.

“One of the things that community colleges and technical schools like ours insist on is that no matter what your background is, no matter how well or badly you did in school, no matter what mistakes what you have done or the right decisions you have made – you can come here and we will do everything in our power to make sure you succeed and our concern is that if you don’t succeed or you leave, we don’t ask not how the student screwed up, but rather, what could we have done differently to make this person successful?”

Rafn said everyone on campus — be it a faculty member, administrator or maintenance worker — always talks about student success.

“We really take that to heart,” he said. “You know, it was, and maybe in some places it still is, but it’s ‘We’ll give you the opportunity, but you, as a student, have to take advantage of it. , and if you fail, you fail. That is not the position we take here. We take the position that ‘I don’t know what’s been in your past, but I do know one thing, you made at least one good decision, you decided to come to the NWTC. So now, let’s make sure we take advantage of this good decision.

Rafn said technical colleges are inexpensive alternatives for higher education.

“There’s no place you can go to get a higher education cheaper than a two-year community college,” he said.

Rafn said about 3,500 students graduate each year from NWTC with some kind of degree.

“About 2,000 of them graduate in two years,” he said. “The others get a one-year degree.”

Rafn said that for the first time since 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the college was able to hold its in-person graduation ceremonies this spring.

“We were really looking forward to this,” he said.

Continuous progress

Over time, Rafn said he believes changes in education at NWTC will focus on how it is delivered.

“A lot of students work, so it’s ‘How can I study, work and often raise a family at the same time?'” he said. “So one of the most difficult things is probably to ask, ‘How can we provide education in a way that they can follow it?’ I think what you will see is that students are taking their education in smaller and smaller chunks.

Rafn said he also thinks the way NWTC delivers education is going to be somewhat different.

“I think you’re going to see a lot more hybrid offerings — where students can be online, synchronously or asynchronously,” he said. “It saves them time, saves them money, in terms of transportation, and they still have that interaction.”

Although Rafn said it is also a balancing act, as many NWTC courses are part of competency-based programs, which require hands-on work.

“Our education requires you to actually do it and be practical,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but frankly, I’d rather the electrician who was sent to my house had actually wired something, and not just talked about it. Or the person who cleans my teeth, I hope they have experience in cleaning teeth. So, with hybrid mode, they can do some of it at home, but for the rest, they have to come to class to do all the required lab work and hands-on work. It’s about finding the right balance and giving students the flexibility to do so. And of course we want to make sure they do just as well.

Rafn said it was one of the silver linings of the pandemic.

“Our goal was to make taking classes, classes, or even parts of classes online as good as being here, and we were able to achieve that,” he said. “So those are the kinds of things that I think you’ll see as we go down the road.”


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