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This week, on behalf of UW Oshkosh and a host of strategic partners, I was thrilled to announce the launch of a new academic program that will quickly develop and drive new information technology professionals into the New North region’s workforce.

Through a partnership with the NEW IT Alliance, the leadership and financial support of UW System, and an evolving collaboration with UW-Green Bay and the regional UW Colleges, UW Oshkosh unveiled a 3-year pilot program that allows future IT professionals to complete a full year of college while in high school.

It doesn’t take long to see the wins for students, families, businesses and our broader economy.

We call it a “1+3 program” given its innovative structure. This IT-focused initiative moves some of the college experience into students’ high school years. Frankly, it is a peek into the future. And it simply would not be launching without the support of President Cross, the UW System Board of Regents and Governor Walker, who joined us for the program’s unveiling at the Bemis Innovation Center in Neenah on June 1. We are grateful for the trust, confidence and partnership of so many leaders as we worked to build and launch this new program.

NEW IT Alliance co-founder Kathi Seifert, Governor Walker and UW System President Ray Cross join me following the June 1 press conference.

Through UW Oshkosh’s extensive, 42-year-old dual enrollment program known as the Cooperative Academic Partnership Program—or CAPP—students in more than 100 high schools throughout Wisconsin have long been able to complete college credits while still in high school. This reduces their time to degree and provides Wisconsin’s workforce with much needed talent faster.

The 1+3 program builds on the success, structure and reputation of CAPP. It will develop and drive talent, knowledge, skill and creativity into and through a pipeline specifically designed to answer the workforce call for specialized talent and leadership in the IT field. Businesses in our region have already lined up to offer financial support, internships and job opportunities. They see rapid ROI.

I also have the privilege of serving as the chair of the Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance, or NEW ERA. This consortium of 12 four-year and two-year institutions and technical colleges in the New North has had success in developing a responsive engineering technology degree program in partnership with regional manufacturers. We have every confidence that NEW ERA partners will, in time, follow their already successful game plan and once again serve as natural partners to help expand this 1+3 program.

This region and this state need this new IT academic program and path to thrive. A constellation of strong, strategic partners are ready to support it. It is a program ready to respond. And, of course, it’s a big advancement in college affordability.

Ultimately, it is the result of listening to needs—the needs of families and the needs of regional workforce leaders. They rely on UW Oshkosh and higher education as a driver of economic prosperity and quality of life to keep the New North and Wisconsin vibrant and growing. We are proud to answer their call.