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NTC Antigo Campus Churning Out Highly Trained Wood Products Workers

(Click here to view this news article from WJFW-Channel 12)

Forced to memorize equations, rules, and quality standards, Josh Denter could feel his head spinning a bit.

“[Memorizing] tons, tons of stuff,” Denter said.

But the 41-year-old lumber quality control worker from a small community near Reedsburg embraces the mental challenge he faces in Antigo.

“It’s awesome,” Denter said.  “I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t have it.”

That “it” is a unique educational opportunity at Northcentral Technical College’s Antigo campus. The school carries a five-month course in partnership with the National Hardware Lumber Association taught at the Wood Technology Center of Excellence. The NHLA sets the industry standard, which is used nationwide.

“They’re traveling up here for this training because this is the only place they can get this training outside of Memphis, Tennessee,” said NTC wood products instructor Travis Allen.

Allen helped get NTC’s wood science program started in 2011. The program centers around a 28,000-square-foot facility with cutting-edge machines and technology.

This week’s course helps professionals like Denter become lumber inspectors, which is one of the highest-paying jobs in a mill.

“These folks will take those skills back to their companies and allow them to elevate or gain that next position in their mill,” Allen said.

In addition to the professional certification, Allen also teaches students skills that help fuel Wisconsin’s $25 billion lumber industry. NTC’s Antigo campus offers the only two-year associates degree for wood science in the nation.

Students who graduate NTC’s school-year programs could end up just south of town at Kretz Lumber on Highway G. Company president Troy Brown says the school is essentially a pipeline of talent with people ready to work.

“When it comes to operations, within a week [NTC graduates are already] up to speed,” Brown said.

Brown’s 88-year-old company was in on the ground floor for bringing NTC’s wood products campus to Antigo. He relies heavily on the school s quality education to maintain his workforce of 83 employees.

“There are 50 competitors to Kretz Lumber Company within 50 miles to where we’re standing right now… which makes NTC’s program that important to this industry,” Brown said.

Brown thinks that competition points to a strong but challenging future for the lumber industry. It’s an industry Josh Denter expects to make plenty of money in thanks to time spent learning from the best.

“Definitely a lot of hard work when you’re starting, but like I said, the opportunity is there,” Denter said.

Allen says Wisconsin has the most lumber-related jobs in the nation. The lumber industry employs 635 people in Langlade County alone.

Source: WJFW-Channel 12