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Wisconsin Students, Educators Experience Operating Engineer Career Path at Externship Day


Day of hands-on learning helps prepare students to enter one of the state's fastest-growing industries

The Wisconsin Operating Engineers (IUOE Local 139) today hosted an Externship Day at the OE 139 Joseph Goetz Training Center in Coloma, WI, where high school students, parents, educators, administrators and counselors gained insight into one of Wisconsin’s most in-demand industries.

During the hands-on event, attendees had the opportunity to work with heavy equipment simulators, tour the 400-acre facility and hear firsthand from apprentices and contractors during a panel discussion.

“Opening students’ eyes to career pathways that might not immediately involve college is becoming increasingly important, given the high cost of postsecondary education and a growing demand for skilled workers,” said Nicholaus Sutherland, head of school at Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin (WIDCA). “Especially for students who don’t see themselves pursuing a four-year degree right out of high school, Externship Day is an excellent way to get an in-depth look at a promising alternative.”

Interested students can start completing coursework required by Wisconsin Operating Engineers while still enrolled in high school through a partnership with WIDCA. By completing required courses through WIDCA, participating students can get a significant jumpstart on their life after high school.

In addition to seeing what an operating engineer’s day-to-day might look like, attendees also learned what technical skills are required – and how they can get them through the Destinations Career Academy’s Pre-Apprenticeship Program, Local 139 and Fox Valley Technical College.

“The Wisconsin Operating Engineers are committed to meeting the industry’s need for a skilled workforce. Our partnership with WIDCA to provide online pre-apprenticeship courses, and the bi-annual Externship Day are two examples of this commitment to workforce development,” says Terry McGowan, President/Business Manager of the IUOE Local 139. “Our members take great pride in the investment they have made in the Coloma Training Center, and many volunteered today, side-by-side with our signatory contractors, to share this exciting career pathway with high school students.”

Technology is now a large part of our everyday lives, and its popularity has led to a substantial increase in the number of high-paying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs like those featured at Externship Day. Ninety-three out of 100 STEM jobs pay more than the national average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and federal and state politicians are giving these positions particular attention as they look for new ways to activate their local economies.

As policymakers point out, as our local and national needs continue to change, so must our approach to education.

“From my first day in the State Assembly nine years ago, one of my top priorities has been finding ways to connect students to the academic and employment resources they need,” said Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa). “I am proud to be an advocate for WIDCA, the Local 139 Training Center, and other organizations that strive to improve employability for Wisconsin residents.”

“Programs like these have been quintessential in helping to close the employment gap we have in Wisconsin,” said State Senator and Education Chair, Luther Olsen (R-Ripon). “It’s great to see groups like WIDCA and Local 139 invest in the state’s future workforce and provide the kind of hands-on experience our students deserve.”

About Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin

Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin (WIDCA) is the state’s first online career and technical education-focused school. The Operating Engineers’ Pre-Apprenticeship Program offered through WIDCA is a collaborative effort of Wisconsin Operating Engineers (IUOE Local 139) that is supported by the International Union of Operating Engineers National Training Fund. To learn more about the program and how your community can offer this exciting opportunity, visit www.buildingwisconsintogether.com. To learn more about WIDCA, visit widca.k12.com or connect with the school on Facebook.

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