Major cuts to tech colleges will slow job creation

Wisconsin’s job creators count on Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) graduates to meet their employment needs, but this will be increasingly challenging under the proposed State Budget.
Technical colleges, such as Blackhawk Technical College, have always served an important role as local economies rebound from recession. In fact, statewide enrollment is up 40 percent over the past decade alone.

The proposed state budget bill (AB 40 and SB 27) would cut state support for technical colleges by 30 percent ($36 million annually) and impose a strict freeze on local revenue for technical colleges. This is the largest proportional state support cut for all forms of public education and local government. It will inhibit responsiveness to job creators.

Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges, including Blackhawk Technical College, understand the State is facing a major deficit. However, the state budget sets priorities and can make job creation a much more powerful priority by better helping technical colleges help job creators and those seeking great new jobs.

While state support for technical colleges has remained essentially flat for more than 10 years, enrollment increases have eroded the state’s investment behind each technical college student. This erosion will be greatly accelerated under the proposed state budget. Wisconsinites, and especially Wisconsin’s job creators, need their technical colleges to remain strong and responsive. This does not require a larger state budget. It requires only that the state legislature recognize the priority we must all place on jobs.
Wisconsin’s residents have been affected by layoffs accompanying the most current recession and it’s the technical colleges that offer the services to prepare dislocated workers for re-entry into family-supporting careers.

Whether a major employer seeks to add jobs or, worse, faces layoffs or closing, a technical college will respond rapidly. This responsiveness is threatened by a strict new revenue local freeze, especially on top of a 30 percent cut in state support. A major benefit of Wisconsin’s business climate is the education and training the technical colleges provide employers. It’s what makes the technical colleges unique. This ability to quickly respond to the immediate needs of business expansions or start-ups is in jeopardy with these fiscal restrictions.

Technical colleges are too closely tied to business interests to ignore the impact of these proposed cuts and how they will affect job and economic recovery. Mark Tyler, CEO of OEM Fabricators, Woodville, and WTCS Board member, recently implored the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance to tie the funding of technical colleges to expected outcomes. “In business, toward the end of the budgeting and the setting of goals and objectives, there is a point where you pause and look for opportunities to stretch goals and identify goals that simply cannot fail. Then you compare the budget to the goals and verify that they are strategically aligned. I would suggest that the creation of 250,000 jobs be that goal that can’t fail.”

Legislators must not take these restrictive policies lightly if they want to assist job creators like Mark Tyler. If job creation is a state priority, then the technical colleges need to be as well.