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High school students to earn college IT credits under UW-Oshkosh pilot program

Governor Scott Walker joined UW System leaders to introduce a pilot program that allows high school students to earn college credits toward an IT degree. (Photo Credit: WLUK)

NEENAH, Wis. (WLUK) -- Business leaders throughout our region say they're having a difficult time finding qualified workers to fill information technology positions.

Gov. Scott Walker and University of Wisconsin System leaders unveiled a plan Thursday afternoon to try to change that.

For the next three years, UW-Oshkosh will test a pilot program called 1+3. It will allow students to earn 30 or more UW System credits toward a computer science or information systems degree before they graduate high school.

“Businesses are clamoring for talent right now, just clamoring for it,” said Ray Cross, the president of the UW System.

Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance projects businesses in our region will need to fill 3,000 IT jobs between now and 2021.

“JJ Keller alone employs over 200 people in the IT field and we're constantly searching for IT talent,” said Rustin Keller, the COO of JJ Keller & Associates.

Walker says the new program will help fill the positions.

“This is a huge jump start to get more people into the pipeline as quickly as possible,” said Walker. “That's important because that means more jobs, higher demand, higher wages, better careers right here in the state of Wisconsin.”

In its first year, the new program will only be offered at Neenah, Fond du Lac, Middleton, Oshkosh West and Oshkosh North high schools. Teachers must be trained and certified to teach the college level courses.

“A lot of juniors and seniors, once we start to look into colleges, you don't realize how expensive it is and it's now taking kids four or five years to complete a degree and the opportunity to be out in three is kind of like mind-blowing,” said Gabby Mullally, a junior at Neenah High School.

If all goes well, the goal is to expand the program to other parts of the state and other career fields in the future.

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