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Gov. Walker visits New Richmond to talk about education

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Gov. Walker greets members of the audience. (Raymond T. Rivard photograph)2 / 4
Gov. Walker addresses those who attended his address at WITC Monday, Jan. 25. (Raymond T. Rivard photograph)3 / 4
St. Croix Economic Development Corporation Director Bill Rubin (left) spends a few moments with the governor. (Raymond T. Rivard photograph)4 / 4

Gov. Scott Walker stopped by the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, New Richmond campus, Monday afternoon to tout changes he is proposing the state make in education today and in the future.

Walker spoke to a crowd consisting of students, WITC staff and school administrators from New Richmond, Somerset, St. Croix Central and Osceola.

His 20-minute speech began with the positives the state in experiencing: a low unemployment rate -- the lowest in the state since 2001 -- which sees more people working than at any other point in the past 20 years.

However, as he explained, the challenge, when he took office in 2010 was jobs. Six years later, it’s finding quality talent for those jobs.

“What we are hearing from businesses,” Walker said, “are job positions are available, but we can’t fill them.” 

Two initiatives to help, which he talked about in last week’s State of the State Address, are dual enrollment and academic and career planning.

Dual enrollment allows students to take post-secondary classes while in high school, which will count as a high school credit and a college credit.

Taking college credits early, Walker opined, will help with student loan debt.

“The best way to manage student loan debt is to keep it manageable in the first place,” he said. “Getting credits early is a huge advantage.”

During the State of the State, Walker announced an additional $3 million that would be invested in dual enrollment programs through Wisconsin Fast Forward to expand it statewide. 

Academic and career planning, the governor said, will allow students to discover their specific talents, skills and goals. This fall, he said, it will be put to a pilot program for 25 schools across the state, with the long-term goal of making it statewide. 

The program could start as early as the sixth grade, he said.

“It’s so, so important to reinvest in making sure we’ve got an ample supply of well-trained, well-prepared, well-educated, bright, exciting new talent to enter the workforce,” Walker said.

Walker also said  the amount of broadband grant funds are being tripled so everyone in the state, especially in the rural areas, can be connected to high-speed Internet. The benefits would be beneficial for everyone, he said.

Finally, he said the goal is “to gear up for the workforce needs for the 21st century.” Any savings from future general funds will be applied toward public education.

“We need to invest in ways that are relevant for the student and employees,” he said.

New Richmond was the third stop Walker made on Monday after previous destinations in New Berlin High School and the Southwest Wisconsin Technical College at Fennimore. The stops are all part of the Working for Wisconsin: State of the State Tour.