Tourism and Tech Colleges: The Fun EssentialsFriday, October 3, 2014 - Press Release
When I take my two girls to the Wisconsin Dells for a rare Kleefisch family getaway, I'm usually not talking to them about the newest laser-guided welding equipment at a nearby technical college. And when I’m touring a tech college to see the fabrication lab and talk manufacturing, Dells hotels seem pretty distant.
But in reality tourism and tech colleges are closely aligned. Wisconsin’s tourism industry needs strong technical colleges (as does the rest of our economy), and our tech college grads would do well to pursue careers in our globally renowned and growing tourism industry. These two themes—tourism and tech colleges—are connecting tonight for an event at Madison College, and I’m excited to see leaders from these two great Wisconsin institutions working together for the good of our state.
After all, our tourism industry is a core engine for our economy, generating $17.5 billion in economic impact in 2013. That’s up 18 percent from 2010, as we saw more than 100 million visits to our state’s lakes, fairs, museums, golf courses, and other tourism destinations. In fact, about one in 13 jobs in Wisconsin stem from tourism, generating $4.6 billion in personal income. (Those funny “Airplane” ads you’ve probably seen on TV are really working!)
Tourism’s importance is especially evident here in Dane County, which saw more than $1 billion in direct visitor spending in 2013. That’s a 7.45 percent increase from last year, and it supports 20,000 Dane County jobs.
Many of those jobs are filled by graduates from Madison College and our state’s fifteen other technical colleges. In fact, Wisconsin’s tech colleges offer twenty hospitality-related programs like Hotel & Restaurant Management, Meeting & Event Management, Culinary Arts, and Golf Course Management. Some of these graduates will even go on to help expand our tourism and hospitality industry as they start their own restaurants and venues.
The Walker-Kleefisch Administration is making major investments in our technical colleges because we know that they’re producing graduates for the jobs our state offers in manufacturing, construction, and tourism and hospitality. We recently put $28 million into technical colleges through our “Blueprint for Prosperity” to add classes in high-need fields, like the Food Production program at Lakeshore Technical College, which helps train future restaurant managers. That builds on the funds included in our 2013-15 budget, including $5 million in additional state support and flexibility over an additional $22 million in worker training dollars. As our workforce changes over generationally, our tech colleges should have the capacity and career options to support Wisconsin’s economy moving forward.
Tourism and tech colleges may not go together at first blush, but I’m glad to see new partnerships emerging as both industry and education appreciate the strength that comes from collaboration. With these last few weeks of warm weather, let’s support our friends, neighbors, and tech college grads by getting out and enjoying Wisconsin as the Midwest’s number one destination for fun!