KENOSHA (WITI) -- Want to get paid to go to school? With an apprenticeship -- you can do just that! Through an apprenticeship, an individual has access to on-the-job training and related classroom instruction. A participating employer teaches the skills of the trade on the job. The classroom instruction is theoretical and practical knowledge pertaining to the given trade. It's an option more and more students in Wisconsin are taking -- with the growing need for skilled manufacturing workers in the state.
"The student works 32 hours a week and goes to class eight hours a week, but they're paid for 40 hours a week," Debbie Davidson with Gateway Technical College said.
In a nutshell, that's how an apprenticeship works. Students get hands-on and in-classroom training in a service, construction or industrial field. Typically, the programs run anywhere from three to five years.
"Apprenticeship is really unique in that you start with an employer with a need and match them with an individual to go through the training," Davidson said.
Officials with Gateway Technical College say the demand for apprenticeship opportunities has grown, as has the number of students enrolling in programs at the school.
"In 2012, we had a total of 49 apprentices. Then, a year later, we had 80 apprentices. Now we have 140," Davidson said.
"We've already started plans on four brand new programs coming up and we know that we're going to be doubling our numbers within a very short time," Wisconsin Apprentice Training Representative Sandy Briezman said.
So what's driving the renewed interest in apprenticeships? We're told it's a skills gap, fueled at least in part by soon-to-retire workers.
"The skills gap that we're seeing now is what was projected even before the downturn in 2009 because people were planning to retire at that point. They stayed a little bit longer, but they kept aging, so now we're seeing people are actually at that point of retirement and companies are seeing that we need to fill that gap -- and before our people leave and retire how can we utilize them to train that next generation of worker?" Davidson said.
Davidson says the late 90s were really kind of the high point for apprenticeship programs.
The Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards says statewide, there were more than 15,000 apprentices in 2001. By 2012, they had dropped to about 9,700.
CLICK HERE to learn more about apprenticeships via the Department of Workforce Development.
CLICK HERE to learn more about apprenticeships via Gateway Technical College's website.