LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- Apprenticeships are one way the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development is looking to grow the number of skilled workers.
An apprenticeship is usually between four and five years and it's a partnership between an employee, an employer, the state and a school to help a worker gain skills and ultimately a better job.
Wisconsin was actually the first state in the nation to have an apprentice program; it started more than a century ago in 1911. In 2012 the state had more than 9500 apprentices in training in more than 200 different occupations.
Trane company is one local company that utilizes the apprenticeship program.
"I've been here at Trane, it'll be 32 years this month, I was a production welder up to this point," said Dave Malin, an apprentice.
But now Dave Malin is a journeyman maintenance mechanic, a title he earned Tuesday after completing an apprenticeship with Trane Company and Western Technical college.
"I went to school for, we had 573 hours of schooling and over 8000 hours of on job training," Malin said. "All my school was paid for and my time in school was paid for."
But apprenticeships aren't just for veteran employees. In fact the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development is looking to fill the so-called skills gap by engaging younger members of the workforce.
"We're looking at almost a million people leaving the workforce in the next 8, 9, 10 years, and only a third of those might require a college degree but all of them virtually require some education beyond a high school skills," said Jonathan Barry, the Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. "So we really have a challenge on our hands to make sure that Wisconsin fills that pipeline with skilled workers, apprenticeship is a key part of it."
In his budget proposal Gov. Walker pledged permanent state funding for the program to supplement federal funds set to run out in 2014. The goal is to get more employers to add apprenticeship opportunities.
"One of the values is the employer, through apprenticeship, is able to hire a person who has experience, so that's a good deal," Barry said. "And then also these individuals who apprentice in the company, more often than not, have a loyalty to the company."
Malin says he'd recommend an apprenticeship to anyone, young or old, looking for a career.
"It definitely challenges you mentally and physically, so it kind of gives new life to working," Malin said. "So it's a good way of getting ahead."
The average annual wage in manufacturing occupations is more than $51,000, which is $10,000 more than the average state wage.
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