Skilled workers learn theory, hone skills in Apprenticeship program
Nicolet apprenticeship programs provide high-end skills training for rewarding careers
COURTESY NICOLET COLLEGE
In high school, Joe Dorion took every shop class he could.
“I’ve always liked building things, working with my hands, so it was a real natural fit for me,” said Dorion.
That inclination, along with the skills he learned, created a smooth pathway for him to enter the trades, specifically plumbing, after graduating from Rhinelander High School in 2006.
But it didn’t take long for Dorion to realize there was a lot left to learn.
In 2008, with the support of his employer, he enrolled in Nicolet College’s Plumbing Apprenticeship program.
“Looking back on it, that was one of the best moves I’ve ever made,” he said. “It opened the door to so much and gave me the chance to have a good-paying career.”
Over the years, countless students just like Dorion have received the high-end skills training offered through Nicolet apprenticeship programs and graduated with the coveted journeyman status in their specific trade.
“That’s the seal of approval and one that employers look for when hiring workers,” said Jeff Labs, Nicolet Dean of Trade, Industry and Apprenticeships.
Currently, Nicolet offers five different apprenticeship programs. Along with Plumbing, these include Carpentry, Electrical Instrumentation, Pipefitting, and Technical Studies.
Each is based on a partnership between the employer, the college, and the apprentice, who works for the employer.
Apprentices typically work full-time and attend classes at Nicolet one or two days a week, for which they are paid their regular working wage.
“This way they learn the theory of a specific trade in the classroom and then apply what they learned when they’re working on the job,” Labs explained. “The result is apprentices acquire great skill sets that they’ll have for a lifetime. The sponsoring employers get highly trained employees who will contribute to the success of their companies.”
Statewide, apprenticeships are one of the fastest growing segments in the Wisconsin Technical College System. Enrollment is up 31 percent in the past three years with more than 6,000 apprentices honing their skills at the state’s 16 technical colleges.
“Along with creating great opportunities for individuals to have well-paying careers, these apprenticeship programs make a very significant contribution to the skilled workforce in the state,” Labs said. “They help companies be productive, efficient, and profitable. It’s a program where everybody wins.”
Dorion received his journeyman’s status on 2014. He strongly recommends Nicolet’s apprenticeship program for anyone interested in a career in the trades.
“You learn so much and it’s such a great way to take your skills to the next level,” he said. “It’s really an investment in yourself that pays off for many years.”