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DSPS rule seeks to ease workload for high school electricians-in-training

State officials are taking steps to advance a policy tmeant to make it easier for high school students to train to become an electrician.

The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services is pursuing an administrative rule change that would waive a continuing-education requirement for students enrolled in an electrician youth apprenticeship program.

It’s the sort of policy change that state lawmakers had previously pursued with an unsuccessful bill introduced last Legislative session. That proposal, officially called Senate Bill 764, had won approval from a committee but failed to pass the state Assembly. After that legislative session expired, the DSPS worked with the bill author, Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, to carry out the policy administratively, said Marie Jolly, a spokeswoman for the senator.

“We know it was going to be a hail Mary to get (the bill) done,” Jolly said. “As soon as the bill failed, we worked with the department and they began pursuing the administrative rule-making process.”

Feyen introduced the proposal after meeting with Dan Shea, chief operating officer of Shea Electric, of Oshkosh. Shea suggested his company would have an easier time retaining high-school-age youth apprentices if those students had no need to juggle state continuing-education requirements with work, school and other obligations.

Electrician youth apprentices are now required to take 24 hours of continuing-education credits to enroll in their second year of the program. The requirement can make it hard for high school juniors taking part in the program to continue doing so in their senior year, the bill’s proponents argued. No other youth apprentice program has a similar 24-hour requirement.

At a public hearing before a state Senate committee in February, the proposal drew support from both state officials and  industry groups such as the National Electrical Contractors Association’s Wisconsin chapter. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development then expressed support for the proposal, contending it would make it “more likely” for youth apprentices to continue into a second year.

DSPS officials have also come out in favor of the bill.

“The purpose of the rule change was to relax the continuing education requirements for youth electrical apprentices,” Jen Garrett, a DSPS spokeswoman said in a statement. “The Registered Electrician License continuing education requirements are difficult for youth electrical apprentices to complete since most are in high school and lack flexibility in their schedules and with their responsibilities.”

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Friday.

About Nate Beck, [email protected]

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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