VILLAGE OF PEWAUKEE - Every day, employers call Mike Shiels, the dean of applied technologies at Waukesha County Technical College, looking for people to hire.
And often, Shiels can't help them because there are not enough students enrolled in the school's trades programs to meet demand.
"We don't have enough students to go around,” Shiels said.
So naturally, Sheils was pretty excited when he learned that, out of all the technical colleges in the country, President Donald Trump would be visiting WCTC to learn more about the school's applied trades program.
Joining him at WCTC on the afternoon of June 13 were Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and Gov. Scott Walker.
“This was a great day for WCTC, and everyone here feels very honored that President Trump chose this location to come and learn more about the skilled trades and the people who are pursuing these types of career opportunities,” Sheils said Tuesday night after Trump's visit.
From about 4 to 5 p.m., Sheils and others met with the group to showcase the school's labs, classrooms and equipment. WCTC offers apprenticeship paths in 11 areas, such as tool and die making, machining and welding fabrication.
Sheils said programs at WCTC can take as little as one or two years to complete and save students a lot of money compared to a four-year college or university. He said the programs set students up for strong careers.
“They are good-paying jobs. There are great career paths within those jobs,” Sheils said. "You can be very successful with a one-year or two-year degree and get a very good-paying job and, at the same time, leave that one- or two-year program with minimal student loan debt.”
Trump expressed a need to get more students involved in trades programs because of the shortage in that sector of the labor market, Shiels said.
“He talked about the importance of those jobs in the U.S. economy," he said. “He talked about the need across the country and about the shortage of people going into manufacturing and skilled trade-related fields.”
Most classes went on as usual Tuesday afternoon, but parking lot entrances were closed as the presidential motorcade arrived at about 3:50 p.m. Some sections of the parking lot were closed again to traffic as the motorcade left about an hour later.
Traffic along Highway 16 and Interstate 94 experienced some delays because of the visit.
During his visit, Trump also spoke about health care at Mitchell International Airport and attended a fundraiser for Walker. Reporters for Now Media Group were denied media credentials to the events.
Outside the college
Eric Kinateder of Waukesha showed up to the event to protest Trump's education policies and his campaigning for Walker.
Accusing Trump of hypocrisy, Kinateder said the president's budget has called for cutting more than $150 million in federal funding to technical education programs, but yet he's promoting WCTC.
“It's kind of a mixed message. He's here to promote a program that he's cutting,” Kinateder said.
Kinateder wore a shirt that said, "My dog is smarter than the president," and a sign that said, "Mr. Trump, we don't need an apprentice in the White House."
The sign was meant to poke fun at the president campaigning for Walker despite Walker, during the primary elections, saying, "We don't need an apprentice in the White House."
First-year WCTC student Max Czechowski of Brookfield waited in front of the college Tuesday afternoon to watch the president's motorcade pass by. He said he is studying automation and was excited to see Trump tour WCTC.
"I think it's really kind of cool that President Trump is coming not only to Wisconsin, of all places, but to Waukesha County Technical College,” he said.
Czechowski graduated from Brookfield Central High School earlier this week, and he said his school did a good job of promoting WCTC and the trades. While in high school, Czechowski was dual-enrolled at WCTC and earned credit before graduation.
But he understands the need to get more students involved.
“There's a lot of opportunity and a lot of money to be made in the trades, and I think this is definitely a step in the right direction of trying to get people back to work and trying to get jobs out there," Czechowski said.
Shiels said he believes Trump walked away from the event having learned quite a bit about the school's programs and the trades industry.
“This was an incredible honor and privilege to host President Trump today,” Shiels said. "Having President Trump come to WCTC to talk about these issues and to see our students in our classrooms and labs working with our high-tech labs and equipment was also very impressive for him.”