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Bill would put more money into apprenticeship grants

By: Nate Beck, [email protected]//October 18, 2019//

Bill would put more money into apprenticeship grants

By: Nate Beck, [email protected]//October 18, 2019//

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A bill that would put more money into a grant program for apprentices will be up for a vote before a state senate committee next week.

Senate Bill 44 would direct $100,000 a year to Tools of the Trade, a privately funded program meant to help people undergoing apprenticeship training pay for tools, clothing and other materials needed in the construction trades. The nonprofit group Ascendium Education Philanthropy has administered the program since 2013. Every year, it distributes about $200,000 worth of grants.

SB 44 would add state money to the mix, allowing apprentices to apply for $1,000 grants.

“This would be the state finally being a partner and putting additional funding into the existing program to ensure that you don’t have other applicants in need,” said state Sen. Sen. Andre Jacque, a Republican from De Pere and the author of the bill.

The bill is similar to one that was introduced in the Legislature’s previous session. It won unanimous approval in the state Assembly but wasn’t taken up in the Senate. The bill got a public hearing last spring and will be before the Senate Committee on Local Government, Small Business, Tourism and Workforce Development on Wednesday.

Jacque said the Tools of the Trade program has proved effective. Among people who have received the grants, 96% have gone on to complete their apprenticeships, a rate he said is “unheard of.”

In 2017, about 265 applicants applied for Tools of the Trade, and grants were awarded to 200 apprentices. Nearly 320 people applied for the program last year.

A proposed amendment to SB 44, if adopted, would increase the amount of the individual grants from $1,000 to $1,500 and stipulate that state grant money could only go to people who are actually enrolled in an apprenticeship. It would also limit the grants to people who make less than three times the federal poverty rate — which is about $37,000.

The proposal is among several put forward this legislative session to bolster trades programs. Another such bill, one that would give thousands of apprentices and companies a tax break on their tuition payments, received a public hearing before a Senate committee in early October.

There were more than 13,000 apprentices in the state last year. Under current law, some forms of tuition are tax-deductible, but not money paid for apprenticeships.

Jacque, also the author of the tax-break bill, said he’s reasonably hopeful both bills will make it through the Legislature this session.

“Certainly they are bills that I’m very supportive and of I know a number of my colleges are as well,” he said. “It’s something that we should be able to. They should deserve very strong consideration.”


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