Apprenticeship ratio bills prompt spread of misinformation

By John Schulze & Kyle Schwarm

Every legislative session, thousands of ideas are introduced, and Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin's government affairs team does its level best to keep an eye on all of them. Some, like the recently passed Foxconn incentives, gets significant attention. Others, like Assembly Bill 73 that makes cheese Wisconsin’s new official dairy product, do not. Recently Senate Bill 411 and AB 508 were introduced in the legislature, and unfortunately both are attracting more heat than light, but not on the reduction of journey person to apprenticeship ratio as you might expect.

The heat comes in the form of misinformation about the legislation circulated by another contractor association. The wrong information is that the legislation eliminates the requirement that a plumbing apprenticeship last five years by establishing a minimum of one year. This is simply wrong. 

This legislation is not an effort to reduce the length of the Plumbing Apprenticeship. What it does is place the length of the Plumbing Apprenticeship, and other uniform guidelines, in the hands of the State Plumbing Apprenticeship Advisory Committee, which would make recommendations to the State Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards. This is no different than virtually all other apprenticeship programs, such as HVAC and electrical.

Current language in Statutes precludes the State Plumbing Apprenticeship Advisory Committee from setting the standard of the term length. Sponsors, such as ABC, do not set the length of apprenticeship in any trade. Instead, the State trade committees set uniform guidelines, including length, for most apprenticeship programs, but not plumbing.  This bill would provide consistencies which allow the Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards to set the lengths of all construction apprenticeships, including plumbing. 

It is totally inconceivable that the Bureau would drop the length of the plumbing apprenticeship. As long as the plumbing industry representatives on the State Plumbing Apprenticeship and Advisory Committee are in agreement that a five-year plumbing apprenticeship program is good for the industry, this term will not change. Just to set the record straight, ABC of Wisconsin supports a five-year program for the Plumbing Apprenticeship. Now, let's get back to debating the merits of the bills.