For the City Times
Apprenticeship Programs have brought success to employers and employees in Central Wisconsin.
The term apprentice is often closely tied to specific industries like plumbing and electrical. What people often do not realize is that the term apprentice can apply to any industry where one person works for another in order to learn a trade including careers in healthcare, IT, advanced manufacturing, transportation and energy.
The ApprenticeshipUSA network includes more than 150,000 employers in more than 1,000 occupations.
According to Mid-State Technical College’s website (www.mstc.edu), an apprenticeship is an earn-while-you-learn training program from three to six years in length. Apprentices work on-the-job in their trade under the supervision of qualified journeymen while receiving related classroom instruction at a college like Mid-State.
Last week was National Apprenticeship Week, a celebration of apprenticeship and the many real-world benefits that it presents to apprentices, business and industry, and communities. The ApprenticeshipUSA system has trained millions of apprentices over the last 75 years, many of them right here in central Wisconsin including people like Adam Skrzeczkoski and Mark Haferman.
Skrzeczkoski, a 2012 graduate of Spencer High School, chose to serve a higher calling and enlisted in the United States Army. Following a deployment to Afghanistan and nearing the end of three years as an infantryman, Skrzeczkoski was accepted into the 18-week Veterans In Piping (VIP) program at Fort Campbell where he earned three United Association pipe welding certifications.
After being honorably discharged from the Army, Skrzeczkoski moved back to his hometown of Spencer in September 2015. With his military experience and VIP program training in his back pocket, Skrzeczkoski reached out to UA Local 434 about a UA Steamfitter Apprenticeship. Soon, he was scheduled for an interview with Tweet/Garot Mechanical, Inc. in Wisconsin Rapids, an interview that led to his acceptance into Mid-State Technical College’s Steamfitter Apprenticeship program.
His military training proved invaluable as he sought to transition back into the workforce. Respect, discipline, communication skills, teamwork and leadership all related seamlessly to his new opportunity as an apprentice, and Tweet/Garot Mechanical Piping Manager Scott Bentley says he is proud to have Skrzeczkoski on his team.
“Adam is a very respectful and professional young man,” said Bentley. “He has a great attitude, sincere desire to learn, and is an important part of our success at Tweet/Garot Mechanical.”
Haferman traveled a much different path to a Mid-State Technical College apprenticeship. A couple of years following graduation from Lincoln High School, Haferman landed on the doorstep of Mid-State, where he enrolled in the college’s Industrial Mechanical Technician program in 2000. He graduated in 2002 and soon found employment. However, Haferman wanted a career working in the trades.
By 2006, Haferman had relocated to Madison where he started an ABC plumbing apprenticeship. He was excited for the opportunity to shift his career in the new direction, completing his plumbing apprenticeship in 2011. It’s just that living and working in Madison was not for him.
A return to Wisconsin Rapids was met with immediate opportunity as Haferman was fortunate to secure a new job through a second apprenticeship. His career had come full circle, as he had returned to Mid-State where he was accepted into the college’s UA Steamfitter – Service Apprenticeship with Tweet/Garot Mechanical.
Bentley says Haferman’s unique background of schooling and exposure to different types of employment made for a perfect fit as a well-rounded Steamfitter – Service Apprentice. In just four-and-a-half years of employment, Haferman has done work in the health care, power generation, paper, and food industries and has experience working with large commercial buildings. He has troubleshooted and repaired anything from a half-ton mini split unit to a 1,000-ton chiller system.
“Mark’s diverse training, communication skills, and technical expertise will make him a valuable UA Journeyman, not only to Tweet/Garot Mechanical, but to the entire industry,” said Bentley.
Apprenticeship changed these two lives, but it is equally beneficial to the employer. Through apprenticeship, businesses like Tweet/Garot Mechanical generally see improvement in productivity and profitability, as well as standardized training, reduced turnover and tax credits. In fact, even taxpayers benefit from apprenticeship, as every dollar invested in apprenticeship programs returns $27.
There is much more opportunity to grow the apprenticeship system. While the U.S. has about 375,000 apprentices, Germany has about 1.8 million apprentices working with 500,000 employers. That opportunity that exists in apprenticeship led to a White House initiative to double the number of registered apprenticeship programs in the U.S. in the next five years.
Businesses who are already familiar with apprenticeship continue to see the value in it. Mid-State Technical College has worked with these businesses and others to grow apprenticeship opportunities in the area. There is incentive for apprentices as well, as the average starting wage for an apprenticeship graduate is more than $50,000, and apprentices will earn an average of $300,000 more over their lifetime than their non-apprentice peers.
Locally, a wide variety of apprenticeships are currently offered through Mid-State Technical College. People can apply for any of the following: Carpenter Apprenticeship, Electric Metering Technician, Electrician, Heavy Equipment Operator, Ironworker, Maintenance Mechanic/Millwright, Plumber Apprenticeship, Steamfitter Apprenticeship, and Steamfitter – Service Apprenticeship. Steamfitter is currently Mid-State’s most popular apprenticeship program. However, in order to get into an apprenticeship training program, one generally needs to find a job first.
“Talk to employers whose businesses involve your chosen trade,” said Mid-State Technical College Associate Dean Ron Zillmer. “If you are interested in the industrial and service trades, you should apply to the prospective employer. If you are interested in the construction trades, you should apply to the local joint apprenticeship committee.”
“National Apprenticeship Week is broad recognition of the value that we have already seen at the local level,” said Zillmer. “Apprenticeships truly do play a vital role in the wellbeing and vitality of our workforce, employers, and communities of central Wisconsin.”
Individuals and companies with questions about apprenticeship are invited to contact Zillmer at 715.422.5375 or visit www.mstc.edu/apprenticeships.