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Oct 1, 201312:37 PMVan Lines

with Joe Vanden Plas

The case against college

(page 1 of 2)

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Rebecca Blank, UW-Madison’s new chancellor, might want to have my head examined (she’ll have to get in line), but given the debt load accumulated by today’s collegians, perhaps some of her students should consider a blue-collar life.

Outside of manufacturing and construction, many are unaware of Wisconsin’s longstanding apprenticeship program. State government has relied on intermittent federal money to fund it, but lawmakers recently decided to replace that with $1.8 million in permanent state general-purpose revenue. That allocation, combined with the federal government’s wise decision to allow more flexibility in how states run their programs, has resulted in more of an employer-based focus. Some programs train people for jobs that may not exist, but nobody becomes an apprentice unless there is an actual job opening that requires training.

Perhaps the best part is that apprentices earn while they learn. According to Reggie Newson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Wisconsin apprentices earn an average of $161,000 during their training period. That beats having $100,000 or more in student loan debt, with limited job prospects in a slow-growth economy. “The employer is paying for the training, equipment, and resources the apprentice needs, and they earn a family-supporting wage,” Newson says.

Wisconsin employers are familiar with the term “skills gap,” which impacts those who have job openings but can’t find the right skill sets to fill them. The state has developed a variety of new workforce strategies to build the skills base of its population, but apprenticeship is its longest-running technical training program — 100 years long. 

The program’s long-term benefits are illustrated by Alex Urbanchek, the owner of Urban Manufacturing in Pewaukee. In the 1950s, Urbanchek served as a machinist apprentice in his native Hungary. When he moved to the United States, he began working as a machine operator, and he eventually opened his own machine shop in the 1970s. Urbanchek hired his first apprentice in 1982, and he has been hiring them ever since.


Old to new | New to old
Oct 5, 2013 10:39 am
 Posted by  LLMcIsaac

Xyte's research and U.S. Army/Navy Recruiter Study has proven that individuals should align their innate abilities with a career. They need to discover whether they fit best using their body, hands, words, or mind in what they do for a job/career because it affects their happiness and productivity for their employer. Only the "Body" and "Hand" behavioral sets (cognofiles) are the happiest and most productive in bllue-collar jobs. Advising students that are qualified for high learning to taken an entry level job is wrong.

Xyte has created a 28 question, online tool called Xyting Insight for determining the way the brain processes information which results in predictive behaviors. If you want to discover the natural strengths you were born and what position you would enjoy, email me for a passcode,

Oct 31, 2013 06:28 pm
 Posted by  Linda Abbott

Great post, Joe and I agree with your observation on college and the value of apprenticeship programs. I believe there is a new paradigm in the U.S. and it is this: the days of a four-year university degree being a guarantee to landing a good job and living happily ever after are over. Many students can get higher-paying jobs with a one- or two-year degree in medical technology, manufacturing or other emerging fields. It’s going to take some time for this to take root … there are strong societal forces that still define success as a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

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