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Prototype Solutions Counts on CVTC Alumni for Quality Mitch Harmston knows from experience what Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Machine Tooling Technics program can do with the raw material of a student. That’s why Harmston, the CNC supervisor at Prototype Solutions Group (PSG) in Menomonie, trusts the skillsets of CVTC alumni when joining his team. Nine of the 11 CNC (computer numerical controlled) programmer/machinists at PSG are CVTC Machine Tooling Technics alumni. “When I went through the program a decade ago, I didn’t have much machining experience at all,” Harmston said. “But the curriculum they had even then made me a very well-prepared machinist. I was able to take any job that was thrown at me.” That kind of flexibility is important at PSG, which is anything but a high-volume shop. PSG specializes in “oneoff” projects for products still in development or low volume, short-run productions. Most often the work is highly detailed with fast turnaround times. A lot of different projects get thrown at the machinists, and they have to turn it around fast. “High quantities for us are five to ten parts, and you don’t get a lot of repeats,” Harmston said. “So you get something different every day.” “I had never touched machining equipment in my life before the program,” said Katie Running of Eau Claire, a May 2017 CVTC graduate hired by PSG. “I thought the program was going to be a lot harder than it was.” Running met Harmston at a CVTC career fair and passed up a couple of other offers to work for PSG. She has no
regrets on her career choice. “With the type of work here, it’s something different every day,” she said. “It’s basically like the fourth semester of the program every day, and that was my favorite part.” “I knew absolutely nothing when I started,” said Grant Phillips of Colfax, who just finished the program in March 2018. “But it was very easy to catch on.” Phillips likes the variety of his work at PSG, and how it challenges all his skills. “I like being able to use my programming ability here,” he said. Ben Brazeau is a 2011 CVTC graduate, a product of ElevaStrum High School’s famed technical education program and its in-school Cardinal Manufacturing business. “I had a lot of manual machining experience in high school, but at CVTC we moved on to the CNC stuff.” Brazeau had a part-time machinist job, but found out about PSG when his CVTC class took a tour. He later applied for a position with the company, and years later is still satisfied in his role. “Making visual models and stuff is kind of fun, and a lot of the equipment we get to work on is pretty cool,” Brazeau said. “The employees within the CNC department are responsible for programming and machining their own parts. This gives a sense of accomplishment to see a project all the way through.” “It takes the repetitiveness out of it, and there’s a nice mix of sitting down at the computer and working in the shop,” Brazeau said. It’s clear CVTC Machine Tooling Technics graduates enjoy working at PSG as much as the company likes hiring them. “Our kind of work is really attractive to potential employees,”Harmston said.
Prototype Solutions Group in Menomonie employs nine CVTC Machine Tooling Technics graduates, including, from left, Grant Phillips, Katie Running and Ben Brazeau. At right, Phillips works on a CNC machine.
CHIPPEWA VALLEY TECHNICAL COLLEGE ALUMNI NEWSLETTER
THE BUSINESS OF BUSES & BEVERAGES CVTC Entrepreneur Boards the Tour Bus Business
It’s not unusual for recent Chippewa Valley Technical College graduates to be looking for ways to build their resumes. Few are as bold about it as Brandon Felce, who started a business to show that he knows how to market a business. Felce started Bus Bros. Tour Co. with long-time friend Tyler Koxlien. The craft brewery and winery bus tour company takes groups of people to two or three stops to enjoy locally made beverages and, basically, party with their friends. Felce noted bachelorette parties are a big part of their customer base. But that’s not really where Felce and Koxlien are headed with this. “Our real goal is to have a marketing company,” said Felce, a 2014 graduate of CVTC’s Marketing Communications program. “Having Bus Bros. is a way to become our own first clients.” A 2012 Eleva-Strum High School graduate, Felce chose CVTC as an inexpensive and faster route to a college education, and Marketing Communications was a good fit for him. “Back in high school, Tyler and I were doing a lot of side projects,” Felce said. “Even in elementary school, Tyler wrote, illustrated and sold comics. We had a YouTube channel in high school, and we sold apparel.” After his CVTC graduation, Felce worked for Swisher Cigars, and now is with Farner Bocken, a food service products distributor. “The idea for Bus Bros. came to me when I was out with some friends,” said Felce, who enjoys visiting local microbreweries himself. “We wanted to taste the craft beers and go to a couple of locations. I did some research and found a bus tour was a successful service in other places like Minneapolis.” Koxlien used his artistic ability to design the logos and overall company image. They got a loan and bought a bus, and shortly after the launch of the business, got another bus and entered the La Crosse market. “There’s talk of getting a third bus, because everyone wants to book a Saturday, and we’ve had to turn people away,”
SPRING 2018 | CVTC.EDU/ALUMNI
Felce said. The business has grown since its launch in June 2017. They have two drivers in Eau Claire and one in La Crosse, and the owners fill in when needed. Felce and Koxlien are equal partners who share in the management duties. Felce says his CVTC education plays no small part in their success. “It’s had a tremendous impact,” he said. “Every detail of this business I went over in school. We even had a separate course on social media at CVTC, which was ahead of its time on that.” Of course, they are handling their own marketing in efforts to show they can. “We love working on ads and getting in front of the camera,” Felce said. “We’re shooting our first TV commercial soon.” And maybe someday they’ll be shooting commercials for clients of their marketing company.
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When computers started to break into the local business scene in a big way in the 1980s, it was a Chippewa Valley Technical College graduate who led the way. Now that visionary has been named CVTC 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award winner. Imagineering Computer Consultants founder Mel Jahnke was presented with the award April 12 at the CVTC Alumni Association’s annual Spring Gala. Also honored at the event was the Cardinal FG plant in Menomonie as CVTC’s Proven Business Partner. Cathy Mallett, a 2011 Physical Therapist Assistant graduate, and Melissa Wilson, a 2007 Marketing graduate and 2008 Organizational Leadership graduate, were named Outstanding Recent Alumni. Jahnke, the CVTC Electronics Technology program’s outstanding student in 1981, founded Imagineering in 1988, and the company became the go-to company for businesses taking the leap into computerization. Jahnke sold the company in 2006, but recently returned to the computer consulting business with the founding of R.O.I. Technology Consulting. Jahnke serves on the advisory committee for the CVTC IT-Network Specialist program that he helped develop in
DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI PROVEN BUSINESS PARTNER OUTSTANDING RECENT ALUMNI ALUMNI ASSOCIATION SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS
the 1990s, and served three terms on the CVTC Foundation Board. The CVTC Computer Repair Center has been named after him. In the community, he has been an Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce member for 25 years, was chairman of the South Barstow Business Improvement District for 15 years, and served on the Downtown Eau Claire Inc. board. Cardinal FG, a subsidiary of Cardinal Glass Industries, is a leader in the development of residential glass for windows and doors. The 550,000-sq.-ft. Menomonie plant with about 225 employees produces over 200,000 tons of glass a year. Working with CVTC’s Business & Industry Services division, Cardinal FG has provided training for employees in a variety of subjects, has had B&I Services perform mock OSHA inspections, and recently had several employees take OSHA 10-and 30-hour courses. Through CVTC training programs, Cardinal FG has allowed production workers to become much-needed maintenance staff. Wilson is a manager in CVTC’s Marketing and Recruitment Department and last year started a skin care products business called Melnaturel, which was named the New Business of the Year in 2017 by Western Dairyland. Mallett is a physical therapist assistant for HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital and a volunteer hockey head coach who has been active with the Altoona Youth Hockey Association for 10 years.
Mel Jahnke, R.O.I. Technology Consulting Cardinal FG
Julie Furst-Bowe and Mel Jahnke
From left to right: President Bruce Barker, Cardinal FG Plant Manager Wayne McAtee, and Foundation Director Dr. Aliesha Crowe
Mel Wilson, CVTC & Melnaturel Cathy Mallett, Sacred Heart Hospital Amanda Favret Emmaline Heitzig Alexandra Laehn Amber Matz Mitchell Owen William Ramirez Dakota Watton
CHIPPEWA VALLEY TECHNICAL COLLEGE ALUMNI NEWSLETTER Margo Keys and Mel Wilson
Cathy Mallet and Margo Keys
WELCOME TO THE FAMILY
Alumni Association Engages New CVTC Graduates The ranks of Chippewa Valley Technical College alumni grew by 682 in May, with graduations of students from the Eau Claire and River Falls campuses, and the CVTC Alumni Association was there to congratulate and welcome them! The Alumni Association had something for the graduates both before and during the commencement ceremonies. The graduates were invited to join the Gold Coin Society. During lineup for the graduation ceremony, graduates were given $1 gold coins from the CVTC Alumni Association Recent Alumni Committee. To join the Gold Coin Society, the graduates only needed to drop their coins into the Gold Coin bucket as they entered the arena. Giving back that gold coin represents the graduate’s first philanthropic gift as a CVTC alumnus. The new alumni remain a member of the CVTC Alumni Association Gold Coin Society when they make a gift—regardless of size—each year after graduating. At the 10 year anniversary of graduation, the Alumni Association will hold a party to celebrate! The Alumni Association was among the first to congratulate the graduates. As the graduates left the stage after receiving their diplomas, they were presented with congratulatory cards and CVTC alumni window clings. The Alumni Association engaged the families of the graduates too! Before the ceremonies, the Alumni Association sold flowers to family members and friends to present to their graduates after the ceremony.
IN THE NAME OF THE FUTURE
ADDITION AND REMODELING AT RIVER FALLS CAMPUS
Alumni Association Makes Gift to River Falls Project Understanding the importance of supporting CVTC throughout its 11-county district, the CVTC Alumni Association is contributing to the construction of a 7,700-square-foot addition and remodeling of 4,700 square feet at the River Falls Campus. The Alumni Association board recently voted unanimously to pledge $10,000 from the Alumni Association fund to support the project, with a naming opportunity on the reception area. The addition and remodeling will allow CVTC to further address the workforce needs on the western side of the district. The project has received strong support from the community. As a CVTC alumnus, we invite you to show your support by making a gift today that will directly impact future CVTC alumni.
MAKE YOUR SAFE & SECURE GIFT TODAY! BE SURE TO SPECIFY “RIVER FALLS PROJECT.” SPRINGwww.cvtc.edu/Foundation 2018 | CVTC.EDU/ALUMNI
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CVTC Alumni Association
620 W. Clairemont Avenue Eau Claire, WI 54701 715-831-7299 firstname.lastname@example.org cvtc.edu/Alumni