Building a Solid Future in Wisconsin

By Laura Kocum

Something special is happening in Wisconsin. There is a growing excitement and respect for the skilled trades, and for open shop construction. ABC of Wisconsin has already exceeded 1,000 members in 2024. This is a record-breaking achievement and speaks to a renewed interest in the trades.

Nationally, there has been more discussion about the importance of skilled trades. Locally, contractors are recognizing the benefits of working together to further the industry. Some of ABC’s newest members tell us they joined the association to make connections with other contractors, to have a united voice advocating for their work and to have access to ongoing training. ABC course enrollment doubled in 2023 and continues to grow. In addition, new members join to gain access to apprenticeship programs. They recognize the need to grow the workforce during a well-documented worker shortage.

The growth in membership is encouraging, but there may also be good news for the worker shortage. “Gen Z” is showing a renewed interest in the skilled trades. Coined “The Toolbelt Generation,” by Mike Rowe, The Wall Street Journal and others, this population is moving away from college debt and towards a family sustaining wage in construction. ABC of Wisconsin’s apprenticeship program is no exception. More than 2,100 apprentices are currently participating in programs designed for one of 12 skilled trades. Nearly 1000 additional applications have already come in for this fall’s cohort (deadline is July 15).

At a recent banquet for ABC graduates, we asked them why they decided to pursue a trade career. Several opted to enroll in the apprenticeship program after already earning a four-year bachelor’s degree. Jennifer Conardy, an electrical graduate, is one example. “I think things are changing economically and culturally and there is more value being placed on these skills you can acquire through an apprenticeship,” she said.

Others saw trades as an opportunity to support a family quickly and build a future. “I’m a single mom,” said Melody Norris, a sheet metal graduate who formerly worked as a chef. “I needed more time with my family and I decided to choose the trades. It’s a Monday through Friday job. It’s solid. It pays very well. I make double what I used to make in the kitchen.”

ABC of Wisconsin celebrates the increased attention to the value of a career in construction. With an increased membership, increased apprenticeships, and demand for skilled labor, we are building a solid future in Wisconsin!

Recommended Articles
Chapter News


ABC-Wisconsin Reminds RNC Attendees that Project Labor Agreements are a Bad Deal
Safety (blog)


First Aid Skills for Every Jobsite
Articles & Papers


Managing Heat Safely