The Apprenticeship Ratio measure, authored by State Senator Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and State Representative Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield), is before the State Assembly for a vote today. The Senate author, Senator Chris Kapenga, took time to explain the bill on WISN’s Jay Weber Show today.

“We always talk about the shortage of workers, but the trades, there’s a significant shortage,” Kapenga said. “Not only in the number of people coming into the trades, but also, when you get into the companies, especially the smaller ones, they’re have a hard time filling the spots, even if people step forward. “

The measure, backed by ABC, would eliminate the DWD requirements and allow an across-the-board, one-to-one requirement and, thereby allow apprenticeship trainers to employ more apprentices at any given time. Currently, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development allows for a one-to-one ratio, but only for the first apprentice. DWD requires two or more journey workers for a second apprentice in many trades, which strictly limits those contractors interested in developing more skilled workers.

For example, if you want one painter apprentice, you need one skilled worker to oversee them.  But, if you want to bring on four painters, you need 12 skilled workers to oversee them. Laborer is two skilled for one apprentice until you get ten apprentices, at which point it jumps to 22 skilled workers and thereafter five more skilled workers per each additional apprentice

“If you look into it, we found one of the bottle necks is people coming into the trades,” Kapenga said. “You have to have the skilled labor in place in order to do a lot of the contracts, but when you’ve got, for instance, ironwork, you are limited. If you have four experts, okay, I can only hire one newby into the industry. That’s a significant problem,” Kapenga added.

Wisconsin’s ratios are much more stringent than many states that allow for one-to-one or even two or three apprentices to one journey worker, in some cases. Last year, Michigan’s Legislature changed its ratio for electrical apprentices from one apprentice per journeywork to three apprentices per journey worker.

Weber stated it must be an old union requirement. Kapenga responded, “It’s protectionism. If you can limit the number of new people coming in, the demand becomes higher and you’ve got this artificial supply and demand curve going on that generally favors the people that are already in,” Kapenga said. “That’s definitely not the free market concept.”