Apprenticeship imagePEWAUKEE -- Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) reports a big jump in construction apprenticeship programs as a result of the apprenticeship ratio changes that went into effect this year.

In a recent news post, the college announced record enrollments in the School of Applied Technologies, which operates many different types of apprenticeships, including the ABC construction trades.  According to the announcement, "Participation in Plumbing and Electrical apprenticeships also increased – an enrollment jump of about 30 percent -- thanks to legislative changes to the apprenticeship ratio bill."

This is occurring during a time of high employment, which is unusual. Enrollments at technical colleges typically have an inverse reaction to economic performance. Normally, when the economy is strong, enrollments are down because jobs that don't require skills are more plentiful. WCTC calls this a "bit of a paradigm shift."

Assembly Bill 508, signed by Gov. Walker on March 28, eliminated convoluted Department of Workforce Development rules that restricted construction employers from being able to train as many apprentices as needed.

The new law, which was pushed by Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) of Wisconsin, prevents DWD from requiring that more than one journeyman be assigned to oversee the work of a single apprentice.  The new measure simply allows for more apprentices to be hired because fewer journey workers are required. 

The change emulates other states – such as Iowa, Utah, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska – in allowing 1-to-1 ratios. The federal government also routinely approves 1-to-1 ratios for its apprenticeship programs and Michigan allows three electrical apprentices to be supervised by one skilled worker.