River States Hosts Wisconsin Governor to Discuss Technical Funding

Feb. 5, 2015
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker visited River States Truck and Trailer in La Crosse, Wis., to discuss his budget proposal and technical school funding.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker visited River States Truck and Trailer in La Crosse, Wis., to discuss his budget proposal and technical school funding.

His budget proposal includes a tuition freeze at UW and Wisconsin technical colleges, which he believes will help high need areas including diesel technicians, welding, machine fabricating, health care and information technology.   

Prior to addressing the crowd, Gov. Walker sat down with Joe Laux, President of River States Truck and Trailer; Darin Bishop, GM of the River States La Crosse location; and Steve Kemp, Service Manager of the River States La Crosse location, to discuss the low volume of students attending technical schools for the jobs that are needed.

“Right now we are seeing a tremendous need for diesel technicians, but there are just low numbers of students enrolled in these programs, and others are wait-listed because the programs don’t have enough instructors to get people through the programs,” Laux told Gov. Walker, “We have the immediate need for great students who have the ability to work with the high technology product lines that we operate in today.” 

Gov. Walker acknowledged the lag in the skills gap and applauded River States for investing in their own training program to help narrow this gap.  In the past 18 months, River States has invested $250,000 in technician training, setting up classes and hands-on training for students and technicians on electrical troubleshooting, automated transmissions, and GHG14 engines.  This investment includes their own in-house trainer and classroom.  

Laux, Bishop, Kemp and Gov. Walker also discussed how costly schools and technical training has gotten over the past few years and agreed that the Tuition freeze would help keep this cost stable for students so they can affordably gain the skills they need to succeed in these high demand jobs.  The average tuition cost to attend technical school for diesel technician in Wisconsin cost $18,000 in 2015, an increase of $13,000 in the past 15 years.

River States detailed their own diesel tech apprentice program with Gov. Walker that provides tuition assistance for diesel tech students, paying up to 75% of their tuition costs, as well as providing them a part-time job that gives them on-the-job career experience and offers a full-time position after the completion of their schooling.  These students are increasing their skills, knowledge and technical aptitude that branches off their school training which gives them a better skillset and River States a more skilled technician. 

Gov. Walker stated that Wisconsin needs to do a better job at connecting people with skillsets that are needed with the jobs that are open, and his proposed budget will make funds available to help get workers the skills that are needed to get a technical career and put more money in the Wisconsin Fast Forward program that helps at our technical colleges, apprenticeship and worker training programs.  Gov. Walker applauded River States on connecting with diesel technicians and training them so this skills gap is minimized when they enter the workforce.