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State Rep. Loren Oldenburg Guest Column: Expanding opportunities in apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship

State Representatives Loren Oldenburg (R-Viroqua) and Warren Petryk (R-Eau Claire)

State Representative Loren Oldenburg

During this legislative session, our primary focus has been on passing impactful legislation to ensure that our local businesses thrive by having access to necessary talent. In collaboration with Senator Dan Feyen, we proudly introduced Assembly Bill 779 and Senate Bill 747 during National Apprenticeship Week. These bills aim to enhance our state’s youth and registered apprenticeship programs, which are recognized as among the best in the country. They provide a unique opportunity for students and workers to combine classroom learning with hands-on field experience, all while earning a wage.

The success of apprenticeships has been evident, prompting continued legislative investment in this effective skill training model. Wisconsin achieved an all-time high participation mark last year with 16,384 enrolled registered apprentices. Moreover, the youth apprenticeship program is on a growth trajectory, with nearly 600 youth actively participating in both of our Assembly districts alone. To sustain and build upon this positive momentum, we collaborated closely with industry trade groups to encourage increased participation in these vital training opportunities through the introduction of these bills.

State Representative Warren Petryk

To begin, we expanded the state’s Apprenticeship Completion Award Program (ACAP) to encourage more adults to participate. Students will be able to have their training costs such as travel, books, and needed on-the-job tools covered by a state grant under this proposal. In addition, anyone enrolled in an apprenticeship program is now eligible for a new $500 income tax credit in the year they complete their training.

Next, we are all aware of the impact that the current labor shortage is having on the construction of our states’ critical infrastructure. We are developing a new Youth Apprenticeship Completion Award program, similar to the ACAP program for students who participate in architecture and construction occupations, to encourage them to consider a career in building our future. In addition, students who graduate from high school with an industry-recognized construction credential will be eligible for a $500 bonus as well.

Lastly, we concentrated on lowering the costs of schooling in the trades by accelerating the pathways for people interested in these careers. Our bill ensures that high school students who complete an apprenticeship course approved by the Technical College System Board while in school receive technical college credit for that course. This will allow students to be properly credited for their efforts.

These investments in our workforce are critical if we want to retain our talent and keep them in our wonderful state. If you want to learn more about our state’s youth apprenticeship or registered apprenticeship programs, go to https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/apprenticeship/ or contact your local school district or job center.

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