WRTP | BIG STEP stands for Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP) & Building Industry Group Skilled Trade Employment Program (BIG STEP). With a mission of enhancing the ability of companies to recruit, develop and retain a more diverse, qualified workforce, this national organization is an industry-recognized workforce development tool.
On November 15, 2021, WRTP | BIG STEP held an Apprenticeship in the Trades Roundtable event. C.D. Smith Construction Carpentry Apprentice Austin Ferch was one of the guest speakers featured on a panel of apprentices in the building trades from across Wisconsin. We captured the answers to his discussion questions and documented them in our own interview. You can find the Q & A below.
What made you pursue this industry? What was your pathway into an apprenticeship?
When I was a senior in high school, like most kids, I needed to earn money. My uncle knew a project manager at C.D. Smith Construction. I applied for a job online and was hired as a laborer. I worked on weekends and after school. My job assignment was to watch and learn as I worked as a mason tender, mixing concrete, stacking brick, hauling, cleaning, sweeping and whatever else was assigned. I performed many necessary and sometimes not-so-fun tasks that exposed me to many elements of a construction job, the trades, and the skilled labor needed to complete a build.
What are valuable skills in the trades? How can someone prepare for an apprenticeship?
Construction was a good fit for me. I like the outdoors and working with my hands. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishing something daily. There is a camaraderie among the union, the laborers, apprentice workers, journeymen and associated trade workers that are most of the time cohesive and positive. I knew this was a good fit for me and I wanted to earn more and learn more. My work ethic is to show up early and work hard. Do a job well and take constructive feedback and incorporate that in my learning. I was noticed by the superintendent because of my efforts and capabilities and offered an apprenticeship in construction.
Do you have any advice or words of wisdom? Is there a message you would like to send to anyone considering an apprenticeship in the trades?
I respect those who work in the trades. I am proud of what I do, and it takes many hands to complete a project. I have worked on multi-family housing units, manufacturing facilities, elementary schools, and mixed-use and industrial ventures. My advice to someone interested in the construction trades is to be open to what is available. There are many aspects and careers to consider. Get on a jobsite and experience it. You will soon see there is no one set way or plan, and even the best-made plans need to be adjusted. You need to pivot and be innovative. Everyone has something to bring to the job. No two project managers or superintendents are the same. Work hard. Set yourself apart with your skills and talents and, most of all, have a "get it done right" attitude.
Date: November 23, 2021 | Author: Molly Haack
In combination with programs like WRTP | BIG STEP, schools and the business community can effectively develop mutually beneficial Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that build a stronger tomorrow by training students today. K-12 Academic and Career Planning is an avenue for bringing awareness to construction and skilled trade career pathways.
The Fond du Lac High School ACE Academy was born from confronting the realities of the workforce. C.D. Smith helped to transform Fond du Lac High School's construction curriculum into a flagship operation housed in the 6,000 square foot facility you see today. Enrollment in the program continues to grow as ACE Academy graduates find employment with the very businesses that instructed them in the classroom.
The opportunities in the construction trades are so great, that The Daily Reporter recently published multiple articles in a matter of a few days. One was about current and future apprenticeship deductions and tuition tax breaks, and the other was about the wages and benefits of union apprenticeship grads rivaling those earned by college graduates. The article was titled, Report: Apprentices earn as much as college grads and is linked here.
"At C.D. Smith, we seek the best and brightest through our support of skilled trade career pathways, workforce development programs and apprenticeships. Clearly there is pride, fulfillment and healthy compensation in a career in the trades. By collaborating with programs like WRTP | BIG STEP and ACE Academy, we're able to share the great potential and variety of growth opportunities in the construction trades. You can write your own ticket!" -Terry Owens, Vice President of Field Operations at C.D. Smith Construction
Through a proactive safety program, strict standards and our “Think Safe. Work Safe.” campaign, we have built a solid culture where safety is our number one priority day in and day out.
C.D. Smith supports many local organizations through sponsorship programs and monetary donations in our community and in the communities with which we work. In the past 10 years, we have donated over $4 million to businesses and organizations throughout the state of Wisconsin, from small community clubs to large non-profit organizations.
Building community is the foundation of our organization. By supporting community initiatives, economic growth and development, we feel privileged to help ensure our team members have solid places to live, work, volunteer, serve and play.
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