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Tony Evers, Governor
Caleb Frostman, Secretary

Department of Workforce Development
Secretary's Office

201 E. Washington Avenue
P.O. Box 7946
Madison, WI 53707-7946
Telephone: (608) 266-3131
Fax: (608) 266-1784
Email: sec@dwd.wisconsin.gov

Friday, Feb 28, 2020
CONTACT: DWD Communications, 608-266-2722
On the Web: http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/news/
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A Well-Rounded Workforce

By Secretary Caleb Frostman

Earlier this month, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in a study tour throughout Germany to learn more about the country's apprenticeship program. Germany has been a world leader in vocational training for hundreds of years, and Wisconsin's own apprenticeship program is largely based on Germany's dual model ("dual" pairing paid on-the-job training with classroom instruction).

The timing of the trip could not have been more perfect with February being proclaimed as "Careers and Technical Education" month by Governor Evers. Technical education, including through apprenticeship programming, is crucial to building a well-rounded workforce and for filling the talent pipeline for all industries.

Throughout the week, our contingent visited educational institutions, private industry, chambers of commerce, and union offices, learning about the subtle, and not-so-subtle, differences between our two models and theories on economic and workforce development.

The travel group is working on a white paper with official findings and suggestions, so I won't steal any thunder here, except to highlight three high-level takeaways:

First, I was struck by the societal reverence for the apprenticeship program and the wide acceptance of its viability for providing strong quality of life career options. Granted, Germany has a 500-year head start on us from a reputational standpoint, but parents, students, and educators alike have a firm understanding of the opportunities through a dual vocational training program like apprenticeship. Due to its long track record of demonstrated success delivering in-demand training and family-sustaining wages, many Germans see apprenticeship as a top option, not a distant second choice from a 4-year university education.

Also instructive was the widespread respect for all stakeholders in the workforce arena: Industry, education, government, and labor. All four of these groups had equal input in the process of designing, implementing, and improving programming to strengthen the country's economy. Irrespective of political winds or point in the economic cycle, the greater group understands and respects the perspective, input, and needs of all economic participants in finding consensus on apprenticeship programming.

Finally, the German apprenticeship model is not just a workforce development tool in their country, but also a method of building a better society. There is attention paid to soft skill development, interpersonal skills, communication skills, among other aptitudes beyond the trade itself to build a broadly educated, high-functioning society.

I sincerely thank our German hosts for the opportunity to learn from a master (or "meister" in German apprenticeship lingo), as well as setting an example for a comprehensive vision for workforce and economic development. In Wisconsin, we are excited to incorporate new best practices to bolster our already high-performing apprenticeship programs.

With a fresh perspective on a centuries-old workforce development tool, DWD and its partners will continue to strengthen apprenticeship, and in the process encourage more equal career consideration across the spectrum, including fields requiring technical education.