Ron talks jobs, tours technical high school in Kenosha

Kenosha News
By: Daniel Gaitan
October 23, 2015

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson familiarized himself with LakeView Technology Academy during a walk-through with local business and education leaders Friday afternoon.

Principal Bill Hittman led Wisconson’s Republican senator around classrooms, workshops and labs. Johnson said he appreciates the school’s commitment to training students with “life skills” for careers in manufacturing and technology.

“We keep telling our kids, ‘You’ve got to get a four-year degree,’” Johnson said. “That’s great, but it’s not the best thing for everybody. One of my drum beats was, we have to stop denigrating the trades. … There are great careers in manufacturing; consider that.”

Johnson said that during his time as senator, he has yet to visit a Wisconsin manufacturing plant that can hire enough people. “We have a worker gap, partly, not entirely, partly because we tell our kids to get a four-year degree,” he said. “That’s got to change.”

Prior to his election to the Senate, Johnson was chief executive officer of Pacur, an Oshkosh-based polyester and plastics company. He hopes LakeView graduates who choose not to attend a four-year university “start working” in a plant or fine-tune their skills at two-year technical colleges.

Sometimes the “smart one” is the individual who chooses to forego college loans in favor of starting a career after high school, Johnson said.

LakeView students earn the equivalent of one year of technical college credits and one semester of college of engineering credits upon graduation. The speciality high school was founded in 1997.

“Anytime you can bring the leaders in Washington to a Kenosha Unified School to see what we’re doing is awesome,” said Beth Ormseth, assistant superintendent of secondary school leadership, after the meeting. “Students who are juniors and seniors are taking classes from college professors and they’re graduating with more college credits than some of our traditional schools.”

The hour-and-a-half tour also allowed teachers to showcase some of their favorite projects. Electronics teacher Eric Sutkay got to show-off his students’ electric guitars.

“It’s very exciting to have him come here and support the school,” Sutkay said. “I know that he supports manufacturing and the kids are excited about that.”

Senior Zach Hensgen, who hopes to attend an in-state school to become a mechanical engineer, was excited to show Johnson the school’s technology and robots.

“I hope they’re impressed by what we do,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing.”