Apprenticeships in Western Iowakylecoogler
Western Iowa Technical Community College (WITCC) in Sioux City has been improving the futures of their students and area businesses since the college was first organized as a vocational-technical school in 1966. Since inception they’ve continued to launch innovative programs and provided training opportunities to hundreds of area employees. One of their recent additions is the Registered Apprenticeship program, first started in 2012. For this apprenticeship issue, we caught up with WITCC Apprenticeship Coordinator, Jim Bergenske, to share information about their program and what makes it a success.
Can you provide a brief history of apprenticeship program at WITCC?
Western Iowa Tech Community College (WITCC) has written Standards of Apprenticeship which have been approved through the Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship (DOL/OA) in fields such as Electro-Mechanical Technician, Electrician, HVAC, Plumbing, Residential Carpentry, and Welding. WITCC started their apprenticeship program by offering a hybrid HVAC Apprenticeship program approximately four years ago. WITCC made the change two years ago, from hybrid to a classroom environment. This change has increased enrollment and expanded apprentices’ skillsets.
Currently WITCC has responded to communities needs to develop more apprenticeship programs. WITCC is in its second year of a plumbing apprenticeship program and this fall will launch an electrical apprenticeship program. We currently have 33 apprentices enrolled between our Electrical, HVAC, Plumbing apprenticeship programs.
You mention you initially offered a hybrid program. Can you share a bit more on how you structure your programs now?
WITCC’s apprenticeship programs are time-based, incorporating both face-to-face classrooms and hands-on labs. Classroom is a better learning environment compared to online. Most apprentices are kinetic learners; helping them learn through hands-on-activities improve their skillset making them more of an asset to their company.
WITCC is a lead sponsor, meaning you provide and maintain the apprenticeship programs for several area businesses with registered apprenticeship programs. How does this benefit these employers?
Being a lead apprenticeship sponsor who is able to conduct and facilitate registered programs approved by the DOL/OA, is extremely beneficial for an Iowa business. There may be financial assistance in the form of training grants for apprenticeship programs, as well as funds through Iowa Legislature 15B program.
You likely work closely with DOL/OA, as only RA programs that meet their specific requirements are eligible for the Iowa training grants. As a federal agency with layered requirements, how are they to work with?
I have a great working relationship with the DOL/OA. I directly work with Richard Madden from the Office of Apprenticeship to address questions or concerns.
How do you recruit your apprentices (Iowa Workforce, local employers, high school or college students, etc.)?
By visiting local and outlying businesses, I am kept informed of opportunities influencing WITCC’s apprenticeship opportunities. I have also found visiting the local supply/distributing companies who sell parts and materials to different trades help advertise our apprenticeship efforts. Having a career day on WITCC’s campus for students helps to inform the younger demographic of apprenticeship opportunities.
Jim Bergenski, Apprenticeship Coordinator, Western Iowa Tech Community College