Blackhawk Technical College is expanding the use of a shared bank of paid time off to include vacation and personal leave after the college announced furloughs that would impact all full-time college staff. All full-time, non-faculty staff will be required to take one week (five days) of furlough. The staff furlough, impacting 119 staff members, is effective May 10 through June 30. Staff can elect to take the furlough days consecutively or one at a time.
The college will allow eligible employees to use earned vacation/personal time to maintain payroll during the furlough. The shared bank for vacation/personal time would help employees who do not have adequate earned leave time to cover these mandatory furlough days. This bank will also help fund part-time staff who are not fully able to perform their jobs remotely.
“I am proud of Blackhawk employees for coming up with a solution to help their colleagues. It is a creative way to retain our workforce and to help one another during this public health crisis,” said Tracy Pierner, President of Blackhawk Technical College.
The college currently has a sick bank where employees can choose to donate their sick time for use by other employees. This is beneficial in cases where employees have used their available leave and experience an illness or health condition that requires extended leave time. If an employee exhausts available sick leave, they can request additional sick leave provided they are a participant who donated to the bank. The expanded shared bank allows employees to donate unused vacation time that can be redirected to other employees impacted by the furlough or working remotely.
The furlough will impact everyone from the front lines to the executive leadership team. Pierner explained, “There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding this pandemic and how it will impact college enrollments in the future. As a technical college we will have a role in helping the workforce recover from this pandemic, and we must continue to be strategic with our resources to make sure that we are fiscally responsible and can continue delivering quality flexible education in a supportive environment.”
On March 18, the college closed to the public due to Governor Evers’ Safer-at-Home order. Since that time, the majority of instruction has moved online with only limited employees coming to Blackhawk’s Central Campus and all other employees working from home. This has posed a challenge for the College as some employees are not able to fully complete their work remotely. With the extension of the order and the continuation of the college closure to the public, the college leadership team and its District Board have worked diligently to maintain its workforce.
“We have considered many options, but we cannot continue to accommodate staffing levels at 100% while the college remains closed to the public. We are faced with unprecedented circumstances due to the pandemic and must make intentional short-term changes to help lessen our financial and operational impact,” continued Pierner.
The college remains hopeful about the future and its ability to retain its employees. While some higher education experts have predicted significant declines in college enrollments, Blackhawk is bucking that trend. Not only does Blackhawk offer many courses online they have also expanded their transfer course offerings for those students who want to stay closer to home. Enrollment for the summer was down 30% at the start of the pandemic. Today, that gap is only 7%.
College officials are monitoring enrollment closely and anticipate that the enrollment gap will continue to decrease. Fall enrollment for new Blackhawk students began on April 29. Despite the public health emergency, Blackhawk Admissions Team and Academic Advisors continue to help students start their educational journey. And, with most courses offered online, students can be safe at home and pursue a degree at Blackhawk.