February 2, 2009 by Joshua Wright
Research and Planning Specialist
Western Technical College
La Crosse, Wisconsin
Western Technical College has used a “Regional Scan and Program Demand” report produced by EMSI as an essential resource for planning for educational programs to support regional workforce needs. Before the customized report, information about occupations and industries in the college region in and around La Crosse, and in nearby Minnesota and Iowa, was not available in a format that was easily usable. The report gave answers Western could depend on; demographics, education levels, the region’s growing and most important industry sectors, manufacturing adding jobs in the region, health services sector expansion, and the transportation industry expansion. “I think the report pretty much put people on the same page, so we could get past some of the problems of not knowing enough about the numbers, and moving on to spending more time working toward educational support,” says Dick Seib, a research and planning specialist at the college. The region’s major manufacturers include Trane Inc., a worldwide heating and air conditioning system maker, the headquarters of Ashley Furniture Inc., – now reported to be the largest furniture manufacturer in the U.S. – and Organic Valley Inc., a large cooperative of organic family farms over 1,300 farms strong. All three play a vital role in the economic health of La Crosse and the rural communities surrounding the metro area of about 200,000 people. After dispersing the regional scan report and gathering other local intelligence, Western is exploring new ways to help local business and industry by adding and/or enhancing educational offerings that will support its star industries, help build complementary industries and utilize the rich resources of the area.