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We’ve heard the tired whine far too often.

It goes something like this: Colleges and universities operate in an ivory tower. They don’t teach real-world skills that translate into jobs for their students. They don’t understand how business works and what business needs.

That may make a dandy sound bite, but it just doesn’t fit the reality in La Crosse.

In fact, university collaboration has been the standard for years in our region.

In 2000, the Health Science Center opened in La Crosse, a 168,555-square-foot, six-level structure that houses research labs and lecture halls for students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Western Technical College. The Health Science Center includes partners from health care and K-12 in our region, among others.

It’s a wonderful collaboration and a great example of accomplishing more together.

The latest collaborative effort by higher education in our area is a wonderful example of a forward-thinking partnership that will build the local workforce for years to come.

Western and Viterbo University have agreed to team up to provide a streamlined, local pathway for creating more engineers.

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Roger Stanford

Stanford

And, as Western President Roger Stanford says: “Employers are screaming for engineers.”

It’s clear that the students who are educated in our region are more likely to stay in our region to work as engineers.

Here’s how the new partnership will work: A student will start at Western and take 64 credits of curriculum designed to support engineering — calculus, analytic geometry, physics, chemistry, along with engineering courses and some liberal arts programs.

The program will utilize Western’s beautiful Integrated Technology Center, a two-year-old facility that was built with taxpayer support for the college’s investment in workforce development.

Here’s the best part: All of those credits will transfer from Western to Viterbo.

“This transfer agreement with Viterbo positions us to meet the needs of employers in the region and provide more opportunities for our students,” Stanford said.

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Glena Temple

Temple

By 2022, Viterbo will produce its first crop of bachelor’s recipients who will be prepared as engineers. As Viterbo President Glena Temple says: “Our goal is making engineering as affordable and as accessible as possible.”

That wouldn’t have happened with just one higher-education institution.

It took two.

It took a history of collaboration and a focus on what’s best for our developing region.

Our workforce is aging, and we need innovative ideas for answering the challenge.

Our college and universities will play a key role — and our businesses must be innovative, too.

Businesses need to provide more internships and work experience. They also need to help students feel more at home here and demonstrated that this is a great place to live and work.

As Temple said when the engineering partnership was announced recently: “We have many successful partnerships and educational pathways with Western, and this partnership signals our ongoing commitment to collaboration that benefits our students and the community.”

Our community is stronger because of that commitment and collaboration.

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