September 21, 2023

🔒 New presidents of Waukesha County and Gateway technical faculties are gearing up for development

In January, Waukesha County Technical School in Pewaukee started a year-long celebration of its one centesimal anniversary. 

The blue and gold festivities – together with the reintroduction of “Ollie” the owl mascot – marked a milestone within the faculty’s historical past, mentioned Wealthy Barnhouse, who joined WCTC as president in 2020. However it additionally means he’s simply getting began. 

“I’ve to make choices which might be going to be impactful years from now,” Barnhouse mentioned. “Meaning we will’t take shortcuts at present. Let’s look to the horizon – the place are we going, and the way are we going to get there?”

Tasked with fortifying the college’s basis to succeed properly into its second century, Barnhouse is main new applications and partnerships aimed toward workforce growth in Wisconsin. 

Ritu Raju

And he isn’t alone. Ritu Raju, new president of Kenosha-based Gateway Technical School, has launched into an identical journey. 

“All of us collectively are stronger than every of us alone,” Raju mentioned. “It’s great to speak to your colleagues and understand that, on the finish of the day, all of us have the identical mission.”

Lacing up the steel-toed boots 

Two years into his time period as president of WCTC, Barnhouse remains to be pinching himself. 

“It’s actually been a dream come true to be right here,” he mentioned. 

However sarcastically, Barnhouse by no means envisioned pursuing a profession in training, he mentioned. Moderately, with an undergraduate diploma in train physiology, he initially aspired to work with Olympic athletes. 

“My purpose in faculty was to get out of college and by no means, ever return,” Barnhouse mentioned with amusing. 

In a coincidence, a ardour for sports activities led him to an assistant director of operations place at Rice College, an elite personal college in Houston, the place he dealt with scholar athletics and recreation. There, the place Barnhouse says he was “in all probability in over his head” with a workforce of 30 to 40 below him, he had a realization. 

“There’s this entire ecosystem inside a school that’s form of like operating a big firm or a metropolis,” he mentioned. “After I was at Rice, I simply needed to get deeper into the establishment, out of athletics and into the middle.” 

Whereas checking out his administrative chops in scholar affairs and enrollment administration at varied two- and four-year faculty settings, Barnhouse stored a watchful eye on Waukesha County Technical School.  

“All people all the time talked about WCTC, as a result of the whole lot they did was sturdy, first-rate and with excellent high quality. I bear in mind being actually impressed,” Barnhouse mentioned. “All the universities within the Wisconsin Technical School System are excellent, however I believed that if I ever had the possibility to come back to WCTC, I’d take that chance.”  

That chance got here in 2020, when Barnhouse was chosen from a pool of 60 candidates to be the subsequent president of WCTC, a second that vindicated his ardour for technical faculties, he mentioned. 

“That is about giving individuals the chance to go wherever, to get into any area, whether or not they wish to be a diesel mechanic or examine literature. That’s fairly superior, as a result of that’s the way you give individuals selections, and that’s how you alter lives,” Barnhouse mentioned. “I actually felt, fairly actually, that that is the place taxpayer {dollars} have a direct affect in the local people, the area and the state.”

‘Get on the store ground’

All through his first 18 months as president of WCTC, Barnhouse hung out out and in of producing vegetation, again places of work and foundries, he mentioned. 

“I used to be visiting two locations every week,” he mentioned. “I stored a pair of steel-toed sneakers within the trunk of my Jeep, so I might get on any plant ground at any time.”

The explanation for these visits was twofold, he defined. In the beginning is to offer the very best total training to the long run workforce of Wisconsin. Along with that’s ensuring that taxpayers get the absolute best worth for each greenback they put into the general public neighborhood faculty. 

“The one strategy to accomplish that is to achieve out to space employers and see what their wants are for the long run – to get on the store ground,” Barnhouse mentioned.  “We have to construct applications particularly for employers.” 

That’s what Barnhouse found when he walked into Eaton Corp.’s facility in Waukesha. After that assembly, Barnhouse and his workforce created a distinct segment bootcamp to coach college students for specialised manufacturing roles in coil winding, which he mentioned are in excessive demand. 

Additionally completed below Barnhouse’s management was the launch of the Excelerate program in 2022, which grants highschool college students the power to attend WCTC full time throughout their junior and senior years. College students within the Excelerate program can then graduate highschool with an affiliate diploma and, from there, can immediately enter the workforce or enroll in a four-year faculty as a junior. 

“It cuts off two years of faculty debt and is little to no price for the coed as a result of the district is basically paying for the scholars to come back right here,” Barnhouse mentioned.  

However past new partnerships and applications, to Barnhouse, the guts of the job isn’t even listed on its description. 

“My most necessary position is to encourage individuals, on daily basis, in each dialog,” Barnhouse mentioned, including that he discovered that lesson early on in his greater training profession. “There was a scholar that got here into my workplace 15 years in the past, and he was actually struggling. He mentioned, ‘I’ve no help. All people’s working towards me, and I don’t belong wherever.’ Effectively, we had a extremely good dialog, and my parting phrases to him had been, ‘It doesn’t matter what scenario you end up in, you are able to do this.’ These are the 4 strongest phrases on the planet.” 

‘I’ve by no means forgotten my roots’

Additionally acclimating to the Wisconsin Technical School System is Ritu Raju, who bested lots of of candidates in a nationwide search to be named president of Gateway Technical School in October, assuming the position in early January. 

“I’m nonetheless solely 9 weeks into the job, so I’m nonetheless studying, however I’m so touched by the generosity of individuals and their willingness to assist,” mentioned Raju, who has 18 years of expertise in greater training with a give attention to workforce growth. 

That generosity and willingness to assist has not solely come from inside Gateway, which started in 1911 as America’s first publicly funded technical faculty, but in addition from neighboring establishments reminiscent of WCTC, Raju mentioned. 

“The Wisconsin technical faculty system is an area the place we will work collectively and in addition be capable to differentiate ourselves,” Raju mentioned. “That’s a beautiful system, as a result of it permits us to assume on the biggest state stage.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s diploma from the College of Houston-Downtown, Raju went on to obtain a grasp’s in English from Sam Houston State College and a Ph.D. in technical communication and rhetoric from Texas Tech.

In her first few months at Gateway, Raju has resumed the position of a scholar, receiving classes from every division chair to higher perceive their educational niches. 

“I’ve all the time been a servant chief,” Raju mentioned, describing her type as “moral, agile and strategic.” “I come from very humble beginnings. I’ve by no means forgotten my roots, and I’m by no means hesitant to say that.”

What that appears like in apply is working to dismantle obstacles that college students expertise all through their training journeys, reminiscent of meals insecurity and monetary pressures, Raju mentioned. 

“Our technical faculty college students usually have households, jobs and civic obligations whereas making an attempt to finish their training,” Raju mentioned. “We had our scholarship lunch final month, and I made positive that I visited with each single scholarship recipient that got here to the luncheon. Their tales are so inspiring.”

“Each time I put up on LinkedIn, I exploit the hashtag #GatewayProud,” Raju continued. “I’m so pleased to say that I’ve used that hashtag so many instances.”

As she settles in full-time to her position, Raju mentioned what she is most wanting ahead to is attending her first Gateway commencement.

“I all the time cry at commencement,” Raju mentioned. “I feel that second makes me perceive the transformative energy of training. Larger training, and notably the neighborhood faculty and technical house, is a ministry. There’s all the time one thing you’re going to be pondering of. What do we have to do? Who else do we have to serve? And I discover that to be extraordinarily satisfying, and intensely humbling.”