The commercial construction industry in the region has enjoyed many years of sustained growth and, though COVID-19 has thrown us a curveball, through this two things are certain. First, we’re busy today. Second, we’ll be busy tomorrow.
The good news is that, regardless of what the immediate future brings, organized labor and the contractors they work for don’t have to make the difficult decision of how or where to invest their recruitment and training dollars. Through the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/Building Industry Group & Skilled Trades Employment Program (WRTP/BIG STEP) and the local Joint Apprenticeship Training Programs, our industry has the ability to recruit locally, train to need, and place workers with contractors and their affiliated trades.
Nearly twenty years ago, WRTP and BIG STEP joined forces to more effectively prepare individuals for employment. The partnership’s preeminent building trade credential, Multi Craft Core Curriculum (MC3), combines OSHA, First Aid/CPR, Fall Protection, Scaffold User Safety, industry history, and construction-related math and blueprint reading with hands-on learning in a program that has become nationally recognized. The programs that WRTP/BIG STEP offers are primarily funded through the collective bargaining agreements and separate grants.
WRTP/BIG STEP’s orientation process includes testing to make sure everyone finds a career path for which they are best suited. Program coordinators cover the ins-and-outs of each trade and prepare candidates for the apprenticeship application process. If individuals need more preparation prior to finding an apprenticeship, they can work with a dedicated team of WTRP/BIG STEP tutors. This comprehensive approach has led to noticeably high retention rates for program participants.
“We value our partnership with industry,” said Matt Waltz, WRTP/BIG STEP chief operating officer. “Contractors and trades trust that our candidates are prepared and ready on day one.”
Once ready to make the leap, candidates apply to become an Apprentice with one of the local Joint Apprenticeship Training Committees (JATCs). Similar to WRTP/BIG STEP, JATCs also represent a joint investment by contractors and the trades and are funded through the collective bargaining agreements.
To ensure that every apprentice has the opportunity and resources to become a skilled journeyperson, the building and construction trades JATC’s implement rigorous in-class and hands-on curriculum. Each apprentice receives extensive trade-specific training from an experienced instructor. With this type of valuable education, they’re set up for a lifetime of success as a field professional and also as someone who can pass down their knowledge of the trade to the next generation.
WRTP/BIG STEP works with the JATCs to differentiate their training offerings, as well as to align with contractor and industry needs. This partnership creates a fluid transition for people who have gone through WRTP/BIG STEP in pursuit of their apprenticeship.
During these uncertain times, commercial construction remains a constant for the community and continues to be an economic driver. What’s changed internally is the way in which our industry recruits and prepares individuals for the work ahead. In response, WRTP/BIG STEP recently launched a Virtual Career Academy to continue to provide orientation, tutoring, Accuplacer testing, and other services. A huge advantage to this pivot is WRTP/BIG STEP’s ability to share its recruitment support services throughout the state, allowing it to reach a broader audience.
For decades now, the leaders in the building and construction trades industry have worked together and made significant investment in homegrown talent. For even longer, the Joint Apprenticeship Training Programs have been equipping men and women with the tools necessary for careers in construction. The challenges may be new, but the goals remain the same — meeting the needs of the industry today and tomorrow.