Apprentices to showcase talent at competition


Jan. 20, 2016

Nate Manecke of Cameron works on his cold-formed steel framing Tuesday afternoon at Moraine Park Technical College in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News

The public is invited to watch as those skilled in carpentry, HVAC, electrical, plumbing and heat and frost insulating participate in Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Wisconsin Apprentice Skill Competition. They will also compete in a written competition.

Elizabeth Roddy is the recruitment and training coordinator with Madison-based ABC.

She said there is a “huge worker shortage” in the construction industry and the event allows apprentices to share their talents. It is also designed to get the public interested in the trades. Construction workers are a necessity to have the roads and buildings we use everyday, she said.

“We need to encourage our young to be proud of their work,” Roddy said.

Charlie Vine of Fond du Lac (in the background) moves a piece of steel as he and others work on cold form steel framing Tuesday afternoon at Moraine Park Technical College in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Gary Roehrig of New Holstein is an instructor with ABC of Wisconsin Apprenticeship Program at Moraine Park Technical College and agrees there is a shortage.

“The good news is we are starting to see increasing numbers,” he said. The economy was doing really well, but as it began falling in 2007 so did the number of people interested in construction. “We pretty much lost a whole generation of workers.”

Tuesday he worked with apprentices from across Wisconsin at the West Bend campus, including the winner of last year’s Wisconsin ABC competition, Charlie Vine of Fond du Lac.

He was a third-year apprentice at the time and after winning in Wisconsin he took fourth place at the national competition in Florida.

Vine got into the trades because he didn’t know what he wanted to do after high school but he knew he didn’t want to spend money to go to college without having a goal. He’s satisfied with his decision to take up the trades.

“It’s a job where you can dig a hole in the ground and end up being the owner of a company,” he said. However, “I don’t want to swing a hammer for the rest of my life.”

He’d like to be a site supervisor or project manager.

David Petersen of Manitowoc is also in Roehring’s class. The master plumber is one of the older students at age 29. He decided to get in the program as a change of career and just likes learning, he said. “The more you know, the better,” Petersen said.

A few students in Roehrig’s class have family members who are in the construction industry and found it appealing, including Clinton Johnson, 23, Kansasville. “My dad was always in it and I’m learning a lot,” he said while constructing a wall section.

Apprentice Skill Competition includes a four-hour morning competition that counts as 75 percent of a competitor’s score and a two-hour written exam that makes up the other 25 percent.

“It’s stressful,” Roehrig said of the challenge. The real-life job can also be stressful, so the competition is a valuable event.

“That’s part of becoming a good tradesperson is to show what they can do,” he said.

ABC of Wisconsin has nearly 1,000 people in its apprenticeship program, and competitors represent six Wisconsin technical colleges and about 20 construction companies, according to a news release.

The public can watch the hands-on competition for free 8 a.m.-noon. There is a cost to take part in a construction teamwork training session, lunch and an awards ceremony.

Congressman Glenn Grothman and Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Deputy Secretary Georgia Maxwell will be at the event.

Winners will represent Wisconsin in the National Craft Championships in Florida in March.

Visit ABC’s website for information.

Reach Editor Jennifer McBride at