News Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Daniel Wackershauser, Marketing Specialist
Phone: 608.822.2303
Mail: 1800 Bronson Blvd., Fennimore, WI 53809
Date of Release: March 5, 2020

Student employment enhanced at Southwest Tech

Fennimore -

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College officials are making student employment a focus of campus life. “Southwest Tech has committed to adding more student employment positions this year, and more importantly, adding value to each position we have,” said Sara Bahl, financial aid assistant/accounting bursar. “We have not only created new positions on campus but we also have more positions available per job. Eventually the vision is to be able to tie more new positions to specific programs on campus.”

There are a variety of employment opportunities for students at Southwest Tech. Those positions range from working as a fitness center attendant to a peer tutor or even working in the Knox Learning Center, among many others. There are nearly 80 student employees combined between student employment and work study positions on campus. “Student jobs have increased over the last five years,” said Bahl. “Particularly in the last year, when we employed 49 students in 2018-19, an increase of more than 60 percent this year.”

Forrest Thill, 24, Fennimore, Wisconsin, has a work study position in the IT academic area. He began his studies on campus in fall 2019 and expects to graduate in spring 2021 with an associate degree in the IT – Network Specialist program.

“A lot of the people I graduated with in ’13, they came here and they got pretty good jobs afterwards, so when I came back here, I decided that, well I’m going to finish college this time and I’m going to go for IT,” said Thill. “I love it.”

Thill works primarily in the IT Data Center and classroom areas. He builds server racks, runs wires, moves equipment, installs new parts on servers, and anything else that needs to be done. Recently, he removed and installed new routers, making sure they were all operating correctly. “It’s strange to think that most people think of IT people as hermits, but a lot of them are willing to help you do anything, really. If you have a question, someone is on a forum to answer it. I think that’s a huge misconception about IT people. We actually have to talk to people.”

When he was offered the work study opportunity on campus, Thill was thrilled. “I thought it was amazing,” he said. “This experience is going to help me find an employer. I actually have the hands-on experience.”

Karen Forseth, Platteville, Wisconsin, is working in the Financial Aid Office while studying at Southwest Tech. She plans to graduate in May with an associate degree in accounting. Forseth is a non-traditional student and her current experience on campus is her third. She previously earned an account clerk/secretarial degree after high school and in 2005 she earned a pharmacy technician degree. “I just love this place and I have seen a lot of changes since I first came in 1980,” she said.

Forseth was always drawn to numbers and is enjoying her time in the accounting program, in addition to her work in the Financial Aid Office, where she works up to 29 hours per week. She is usually on campus from 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday–Thursday, with a mix of classes and work. Her job responsibilities include assisting with financial aid disbursement, applying student payments, secretarial duties and other items as assigned. In the future she will be assisting students complete their FAFSA applications, taking payments over the telephone, and answering student questions.

Having had college experience, Forseth has advice for her peers and those who will soon be on campus. “Get to know everyone besides your classmates and instructors,” she said. “Put yourself out there, get to know people and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Shannon Harvey, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, enrolled in January 2018 and will graduate in May with an associate degree from the graphic and web design program. She initially earned a business management degree in 2013. “I had such a great time here before,” she said. “It drew me back here and to the graphic and web design program.”

Prior to returning to campus, Harvey was working as a graphic designer in the South. She was working on menus, various layouts and fliers. A majority of her time was spent using Microsoft Word and she had the desire to learn more advanced design software. She eventually moved back to Southwest Wisconsin and enrolled at Southwest Tech.

When she returned to campus, Harvey needed a part-time job and immediately contacted Bahl. She was matched with a position in the marketing department even before her first class began. At first, her job consisted of helping with promotional bags and baskets, contacting high school students for yearbook advertising, working on sponsorship items and ordering promotional supplies. As her expertise increased, as did her job responsibilities. “I have transitioned into working more with Sherry (Kane), a graphic designer,” said Harvey. “With that, I am doing a lot of designing. I’ve done social media ads, whole marketing campaigns, the spring and fall job fairs, Discover Southwest Tech and then I’m also doing Saturday at Southwest Tech. I also design monitor graphics that go up around campus. I design Snapchat filters for events on campus, Open House, graduation, and any other job requests that come through that the graphic designers can pass on.”

Harvey enjoys the flexibility of the position and being able to work during the summer and semester breaks. “I really like that I’m getting real life experiences,” she said. “We do a lot of projects in class and with the work study program I am getting to work with clients and am getting real feedback and am getting to understand the process a lot more.”

According to Bahl, the mission to increase student employment on campus has many benefits, and not least of which is the increased retention and graduation rates. She noted that those rates for students with on-campus jobs are consistently higher than those who do not work on campus. “We truly had an opportunity to improve these rates just by adding a bit more value to the student worker experience,” she said. “In order to do this we needed to be able to offer a competitive wage. A job-market analysis was done for each student employment position. With this information, we were able to confirm that an increase in wages for all positions was imperative. With the approval by the Executive Team to commit an additional $40,000 to student employment, we were able to increase the hourly rate of pay for students by 13-50 percent, depending on the specific position.”

College officials have also created a value-added job description for each student worker position. According to Bahl, most job descriptions have at least two tiers. Each tier includes essential duties and responsibilities, core ability development and sample resume statements. “Folding the core abilities into the job descriptions ensures that our students are developing the characteristics that are so key to student success regardless of the career or industry that they may be pursuing,” she said. “The core abilities for each tier are based on the essential duties and responsibilities of the corresponding tier. The new job descriptions also include quantitative and achievement, based resume statements that our students can essentially copy and paste into their resumes. This is a great tool to assist those students who are struggling with building their resume to showcase and highlight the knowledge and skills they gained through their employment at the college.

Bahl added that once the student is proficient with the tier 1 duties and responsibilities and are ready, they can move on to tier 2 – take on higher level tasks and increased accountability – and a wage increase.

Students can apply for a student employment position by going to and clicking on the application link.  This is a one-page application. Once a student fills out an online application, an email is sent to the financial aid office. From there, the job screening and placement process begins.

| Southwest Wisconsin Technical College is one of 16 institutions that comprise the Wisconsin Technical College System. Southwest Tech offers more than 60 programs in a wide variety of disciplines. Courses are offered on campus, online and in a blended format. The college provides apprenticeship, certificate, technical diploma, and associate degree programs that respond to district workforce needs and prepare student for family-sustaining jobs and career advancement. |

Posted in Information Technology, Southwest Tech Spotlight