Gov. Evers Visits MATC to Celebrate Apprenticeship Week

Mark Feldmann,

November 21, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers experienced firsthand the educational and economic value and advantages of apprenticeships Nov. 19 while visiting Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Education Center at Walker’s Square.

To help MATC celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, Evers toured three programs that can lead to apprenticeships at the Education Center, observing classroom sessions and talking to instructors and students about their experiences.

During National Apprenticeship Week, industry, labor, equity, workforce, education and government leaders nationwide showcase how apprenticeships can boost the economy, improve racial and gender equity, and sustain underserved communities. 

Evers saw all those benefits on display at MATC. College leaders Dr. Vicki J. Martin, MATC president; Dr. Naydeen Gonzalez-De Jesus, executive vice president for student success; Becky Alsup, dean of the Manufacturing, Construction & Transportation Academic & Career Pathway; and Dr. Sadique Isahaku, dean of the General Education Academic & Career Pathway, visited the center with the governor.

Guided by David Polk, MATC’s director of apprenticeships, Evers and the others visited labs and classrooms for MATC’s appliance repair, bricklaying  and construction trades programs. 

MATC offers classroom instruction for 31 apprenticeships in varying fields.

“These students are in high demand right now,” Polk said. “They are learning the skills that employers need. Employers have a choice: They can have someone who has all the skills, or they can have someone who is starting out green.”

In the appliance repair lab, Evers observed Mike Cantrall diagnosing electric light bulb malfunctions with the support of MATC instructor James Rehm. “I worked in human resources for a number of years, but I found out pretty quickly I couldn’t sit behind a desk all day long,” said Cantrall, a Waukesha native who lives in West Allis. “This is a field that is struggling to find people, so I got into it and have just run with it.”

Appliance repair offers great job stability and a steady income, said Rehm, a 1978 MATC graduate who became an instructor about eight years ago. “There isn’t really a younger generation stepping up to replace the older generation of technicians. There’s a skills shortage,” Rehm said. “If you can commit to nine months in this program, you can come out with a job that pays $60,000 a year.”

In the bricklaying lab, Evers watched two students perfecting their masonry and mortar skills by stacking, securing and finishing a 3-foot-high brick wall. MATC offers a 16-week bricklaying technical diploma program. At the end of the training is a job with an average annual wage of $48,000; experienced masonry workers can earn up to $65,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Evers concluded his tour by visiting the carpentry lab, inspecting a full-size wood framed section of a house and examples of cabinetry worked on by Shayla Merriett.

“This program was a good fit for me,” Merriett explained to Evers. “It’s amazing how much I have learned and I can’t wait to get out there and put it to use.”

Apprenticeships combine hands-on training, technical classroom instruction and a paycheck. The training is received on-the-job where the employer teaches many of the occupational skills. The classroom instruction focuses on theoretical knowledge and hands-on learning opportunities pertaining to a specific occupation. 

“Every trade is looking for apprentices,” Kevin Kroll, MATC’s bricklaying instructor, told Evers. “These are fantastic opportunities for people looking for security and salary.”

In Wisconsin, there are 11,735 active apprentices in more than 1,000 programs. Another 2,290 new apprentices were added last year, according to the state Department of Workforce Development.

Evers proclaimed Nov. 15-21, 2021, as Registered Apprenticeship Week in the state. Wisconsin was the first state to pass a regulated apprenticeship law in 1911.

“Our state’s apprenticeship program remains one of the most robust in the United States to this day,” Evers said in his proclamation.