In today’s landscape of skilled worker shortages, finding qualified candidates has become much more complicated than posting an ad online and waiting for a response. It’s time to think outside the box to fill your company’s needs.
To address the ongoing need for a highly skilled workforce, companies have been turning to apprenticeship programs. Since the creation of the first Registered Apprenticeship system in Wisconsin in 1911, apprenticeships have been providing companies: a steady pipeline of workers with customized skills; increased retention; a rise in productivity; and a return on investment. In fact, for every dollar a company spends training apprentices, it earns earn $1.50 back.
To design specialized apprenticeship programs, employers have been forming collaborative partnerships with Wisconsin’s technical colleges. One such company, ABC of Wisconsin, has partnered with the Wisconsin Technical College System for over 30 years to prepare individuals for the construction industry through craft training and the association’s apprenticeship program. “Employers have a credential source to train their apprentices with the technical colleges from the state,” says Kelly Tourdot, VP of Associated Builders & Contractors of Wisconsin, Inc.
As the largest single sponsor of apprentices in the state, ABC has approximately 1,300 apprenticeships in 12 different construction trades. With apprenticeship programs in place, says Tourdot, “Employers benefit by providing a strong career path for their employees, which is also a great recruitment tool.”
Continued growth of apprenticeships
In recent years there has been an increased commitment from the federal government with an unprecedented influx of funding to create new apprenticeship opportunities and expand existing programs. Recognizing apprenticeship as an effective career and talent development strategy for Wisconsin, state leaders have also taken significant steps.
Since 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has been awarded three U.S. Department of Labor Apprenticeship USA grants to help employers and workers achieve their apprenticeship goals:
- $5 million Wisconsin Apprenticeship Growth and Enhancement Strategies (WAGE$) grant to train 1,000 new apprentices and up-skill 542 incumbent workers by expanding programs in three sectors: advanced manufacturing, health care and information technology
- $200,000 State Accelerator Grant to support and expand apprenticeship opportunities into new sectors of the economy
- $1.5 million grant to develop 427 new apprenticeships in the biotech and financial services industries and expand construction industry apprenticeships for traditionally underrepresented populations, such as women and minorities
With nearly two-thirds of all jobs expected to require some form of post-secondary education or training by 2020, apprenticeship programs will be essential for economic growth, both nationally and locally. “Apprenticeship training allows for the consumer to reap a benefit in having a skilled workforce to perform the work in their community,” says Tourdot.
“Too often, we hear the criticisms of employers who rely too heavily on taxpayers to fund the training of their workers,” she adds. “While that may be true in some instances, it could never be said about employers who train through apprenticeship because of the significant investments in both on-the-job training and classroom education. Apprenticeship trainers make these investments because they are good investments. It’s worth it.”
Expanding into new territories
Apprenticeships, long-common in skilled trades like construction and manufacturing, are expanding into service industries including financial, IT and health care. Over 1,000 occupations are now recognized by the State of Wisconsin as apprenticeable with new ones added as industries and technologies change.
Tourdot, along with many other advocates, strongly encourage companies to consider apprenticeship programs as a way to train workers. “Many employers have seen the quality and quantity of their work improved greatly by a strongly trained workforce,” Tourdot explains. “Apprenticeship adds a positive reputation and career pathway for a skilled workforce.”
To learn more about apprenticeship programs, a helpful resource is the U.S. Department of Labor’s QuickStart Toolkit
. Then, once you’re ready to become registered to train apprentices, contact Wisconsin's Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards (BAS