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Blazing new trails to the trades

Over the past year, members of the Rural Wisconsin Initiative have been working on legislation to blaze new, easier-to-travel trails into the trades.

Romaine Quinn, a Republican from Barron, represents Wisconsin's 75th Assembly District.

Romaine Quinn, a Republican from Barron, represents Wisconsin’s 75th Assembly District.

For years, students have been told that the only way to find a meaningful, family-supporting career is to go to college and enter a white-collar profession. But this simply isn’t the case for many students. In Barron County, for example, employers are struggling to find people to fill empty positions – positions that pay well and have benefits.

When students are able to fully explore their own interests with the help of supportive family and school staff, they are able to maximize their own potential and find the best fit for themselves. The Rural Wisconsin Initiative is working to change the conversation in Madison and ensure that all career choices are respected.

In December, we testified on three bills of particular interest to the construction industry. These bills would give schools tax breaks to support increasing their training opportunities in the trades, ensure that students can deduct the cost of apprenticeship tuition from their taxes, and expand student access to apprenticeship programs.

State Rep. Bob Kulp, a Republican from Stratford, is one of the chief proponents of Assembly Bill 729, which he described to the Committee on Local Government as “an incentive to include more technical and vocational education.” Schools now have limits on how much money they can raise using community referendums.

AB 729 would give schools an exemption to this revenue cap when they put in new equipment to provide students with training in activities related to workforce development. These activities could include everything from using welding units and HVAC-repair units to doing work related to auto repairs and health cares. In order to qualify for the exemption, schools would have to have the support of a local chamber of commerce and the executive director of a regional workforce-development board.

As Rep. Kulp pointed out, these criteria will serve “as an incentive to have schools and industry working together much more closely. Too often in the past, industry, community, and our K-12 schools have been on different trains of thought.”

Representative Rob Stafsholt, a Republican from New Richmond, is the main sponsor of Assembly Bill 734, which would ensure that anyone who pays tuition for an apprenticeship program could deduct the money from their income taxes. Rep. Stafsholt told the Committee on Workforce Development that apprenticeships are “the gateway to many family sustaining careers across the state, particularly in rural Wisconsin. People participating in educational apprenticeship programs should be eligible for the same tax deductions that students in other types of education receive.”

Finally, I brought forward Assembly Bill 745. This bill would give high school seniors who are on track to graduate the ability to join adult apprenticeship programs. These apprenticeships often require rigorous classroom work in addition to practical job training.

Students who enroll in this option will be affirmed in their choice of career. As some of their peers are taking classes at local colleges or taking advanced-placement courses at school, students interested in the trades will have an advanced option that honors their choices as well. Finally, this gives students who choose to go into the trades a means of attaining a higher salary sooner, since they will be able to go through an apprenticeship faster and start collecting a full journeyman’s salary. Helping young people step into a stable and rewarding career will also make them more likely to become contributing members of society.

One theme came up through all of our testimony: By bringing schools, communities, and the business community closer together, we are building networks of support that let students make the choices that suit them best. It is time to confirm that all work has merit, worth and dignity. This package of bills is a step in that direction.


  1. Good work! Thank you for thinking of those kids who are not “wired” for 4-year college. My son is a bright, energetic kid, but 4-year college doesn’t interest him. He likes working with his hands and thinks in a more mechanical way. It’s demoralizing for him to attend his career planning sessions with his school advisor only to be pushed about why he doesn’t want to pursue a 4-year college degree. He’s left thinking he’s “less than” because he doesn’t want to attend a university, but rather wants to attend technical school or join the military. As his mother, I just want him to be happy and if working in the trades makes him happy, I’m all for it. If you can get this moving with this package, cheers to you!

  2. Our school likely will have a fundraiser by the kids selling pizza,cookies,ect to raise money for school supplies.I see most schools around here had to raise taxes to help the schools out.The cuts on our education did not help the kids with needs around our state.We never had problems like this for our state to get the money for our kids that are SPECIAL NEEDS.Not mental health.I hope you realize you can’t blame our schools for what you say is mental health is eating up all the money which is very little anyway.Teachers are hard to come by.Great ones are rare.As a tax payer they should start off making more than our Rep.make.I hope you understand that most people in politics lie and care for only their party.I see you bragging about some company wanting to spend millions from California but no one is bragging about some factory coming to Barron County and spending millions.

  3. Is that true you passed a law taken money from our public school taxes and a portion goes to Private schools?A person wrote in the Rice Lake paper 2 weeks ago.Why don’t you write back?Is their any trueth to any of this?Maybe ask the questions in the papers.

  4. did you or not slip in a law to have part of our taxes that should be going to public schools but a portion is going to private schools?Why did you brag about a company that wants to spend millions on our elections from Calif?

  5. I was watching a TV show about our roads and we rank 49th in the nation on roads.Last in the midwest.We are at 32% compared to IOWA at 57%.Now this was a public and it talked about the Debt.we are in.They also talked about profit we made and debt.Wis.made a profit if you only count cash paid out.But we were 1.7billion in debt.from credit.3rd worse in the US.The people in our offices are going to break this state.Please people ,watch these shows about Wis.

  6. Abevigotasshartstainedtightywhiteies

    Your kids are indoctrinated in public schools from kindergarten on, the push for college is designed to continue the brainwashing at your your kids and societies expense. The greatest benefactors are the colleges and the “educators.” America is left with generations of educated idiots deep in debt, largely unemployable and bitterly entitled. Right on que come the socialists to play into the zombies with promises of free this and that, forgive college debt, free health care ……. wake up people steer your kids toward a career path with a future and vote to MAGA.

  7. As our Rep.Do you support the teachers union?As our Rep.Did a portion of the broadband go to private area instead of public.Do you support our public schools or private?As our Rep.did you pass a law to have some of our taxes go to private schools?As our Rep.did you slash $20million from the DNR and pass a law for any age can hunt?Which means a 2 year old can hunt bear.Without hunters safety course.Anyone born pass 1973 needs to go through it.It’s the law.As our Rep.did you and one of your friends change the wording so mining in Wis.would be easier after lifting EPA laws/You have not answered any of these Romain?

  8. What is the deal with the GOP sign ?kneel to God?SO if you don’t vote for the Republican party, god will hate you?When did god and politics go hand in hand?Keep church and state out of voting.

  9. You have not returned anything Romaine!!!!Your GOP stuff i got in the mail said you created high paying jobs.Can you tell me where?I have not seen anything around that has opened here.If you lose will you get a job at this great paying place.How much is GREAT PAYING?You forgot where you came from Romaine.

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