Western Tech commemorates new apprenticeship center

Local News

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – A brand-new facility is being designated for students learning trades through western technical college.

First News at Nine’s Alex Loroff has details.

Western Technical College is making a significant investment into the future of its apprenticeship program.

President Roger Stanford says Western purchased a former grocery store building at 2860 21st Place S. to use as a temporary facility during a campus remodel.

The building was then repurposed to better serve students who are learning a trade through Western.

“We didn’t want to shortchange where we were going to place our apprenticeship [program], and we would’ve been to be moving it back to the other campus, we were opening a K-12 center,” Stanford recalled. “We put together a place now that’s a world-class learning environment.”

The $3.5 million Apprenticeship and Industry Training Center aims to address a workforce shortage which is being felt across the state.

“The retiring of baby boomers, slow population growth, and little migration into the state have presented a labor quantity challenge for Wisconsin and our employers,” said Amy Pechacek with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Apprenticeships have played an important role in developing the state’s workforce…a strategy that Western wants to continue in the Coulee Region.

“In 1911, Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to pass an apprenticeship law, so we were the leaders in that, and we continue to be the leaders in it,” Western Tech Dean of Integrated Technologies Joshua Gamer said. “Now today, Western is showing you how we’re leading locally.”

Western offers apprenticeships in plumbing, electrical, and maintenance work, which can all be completed while earning first-hand experience on the job.

“The student gets to make a really good living, and then they start apprenticeship, and they make a great living as that continues on,” Stanford explained. “That’s the real win of this type of learning, it’s an earn and learn opportunity.”

Stanford is optimistic about the future of apprenticeship, saying area employers are very satisfied with the employees that come through the program.

In La Crosse, Alex Loroff, First News at Nine.

Every two weeks, students spend one day learning on campus in-between working as an apprentice.

Most apprenticeship training programs typically last three to six years.

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