News

Western Highlights Apprenticeships as Part of Statewide Spotlight

Apprenticeship

LA CROSSE, Wis., Sept. 27, 2016 – The Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) office recognizes September as Trades and Apprenticeship month as part of the WTCS Spotlight Opportunities.

Apprenticeships in high-skill, high-tech fields were recently touted as the “ticket to the middle class” by the U. S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. And, last year, the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted accelerating growth in jobs that require on-the-job apprenticeship training.

Many occupations in Industrial Technologies fields require an apprenticeship. But, many people are unsure what an apprenticeship entails and how to go about signing up for a training program.

Apprenticeship is a state-registered, formal training program that emphasizes on-the-job training under the supervision of a qualified tradesperson, as well as classroom instruction at a technical or community college like Western Technical College. It is governed by the Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards (BAS) in cooperation with the local Joint Apprenticeship Committee (JAC).

“Apprenticeship provides industry specific training that meets current and future needs,” said Bob Marconi, associate dean of the Integrated Technology Division at Western. “The apprenticeship program differs from traditional technical college programs because the apprentice is earning while they are learning. This results in a ‘win – win’ , employers have a pipeline of skilled workers and apprentices have great earning potential and greater job security. Western partners with the Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards and industry by delivering the related instruction.”

Most apprenticeship training programs are three to six years in length. Apprentices are paid on a progressive wage scale beginning from 40 percent to 65 percent of the journeyman's rate, depending on the specific trade.

Western offers apprentice training for the following occupations:

  • Electrician
  • Industrial Electrician
  • Mechanic and Millwright
  • Metal Fabricator
  • Plumbing
  • Steamfitter
  • Tool and Die/Machinist
  • Injection Mold Set-Up

“State law requires that all active apprentices are employed under a Wisconsin state apprenticeship contract to attend paid related instruction classes at Western,” said industrial electrician instructor Dave Thurston. “Therefore enrollment is entirely dependent on trade employer demand for labor and their willingness to train apprentices. There has been an uptick in La Crosse area construction projects in recent years, mainly for schools, healthcare, and power plant updating, which has led to increased apprentice demand.”

Thurston also notes, “Retirements of older workers are reducing available workers, pressuring employers to start new apprentices; this has been particularly true with industrial trades. Apprenticeship enrollment is strictly demand based so it is difficult to predict if the current trend will continue.”

To find out more information on apprenticeship through Western, please contact Kathleen Sullivan at the Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards (BAS), 608-785-9176.