A bill being circulated by state lawmakers would revive a plan to send information about apprenticeships to recent college dropouts, a step aimed at curtailing the state’s persistent shortage of qualified construction workers.
The bill — called the Second Start Act — would direct the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to circulate apprenticeship information to University of Wisconsin System students who leave college without graduating.
It’s the third attempt to pass such a proposal after similar bills were introduced in 2015 and 2017 only to fail to make their way through the Legislature. Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, is the author of the latest version of the bill, which is still being circulated to let other sponsors sign on. His support for the legislation comes after his introduction of a similar proposal in 2017 and after the introduction of the first version of the legislation in 2015 by Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, and former Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac.
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has previously estimated the bill could put apprenticeship information in the hands of 13,000 of people who were enrolled in two- and four-year UW schools but left without graduating.
The latest bill includes changes meant to bring the legislation in compliance with federal law. Among other things, the new language stipulates that only the DWD can distribute apprenticeship information, a step intended to keep the proposal from running afoul of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that protects the privacy of student records.
A spokesperson for Feyen said groups that are trying to advertise their apprenticeship programs can ask DWD to circulate information on their behalf.
The new bill being circulated also includes a sunset provision that would bring the policy to an end should lawmakers not reauthorize it within four years.
A previous fiscal estimate for the 2017 version of the legislation found the proposed policies wouldn’t be particularly costly to carry out. The Department of Workforce Development would initially have to spend $6,000 to set up a website, then about $60,000 a year to circulate brochures and pay needed staff employees. It would cost about $2.40 per student to mail apprenticeship information and run an associated web page, according to previous estimates.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau hasn’t yet provided a revised analysis of the measure, according to Feyen’s office. Follow @natebeck9