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What Vice President Harris's visit discussing apprenticeships means for workers

Political Reporter Charles Benson looks at the high-profile visit and what it means for workers.
Posted at 9:35 AM, Mar 07, 2024

A growing push to get more young people onto career paths that don't require a 4-year college degree.

It was the central idea behind Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to Madison on Wednesday, March 6., highlighting the Biden Administration's efforts to expand apprenticeship programs.

Izayah Rabell-Dahlberg is in one of the programs.

The 21-year-old calls Milwaukee home but is in Madison learning and working on how to be a plumber through a paid apprentice program.

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Izayah Rabell-Dahlberg, from Milwaukee, is a second-year apprentice learning to be a plumber.

"For me, college wasn't an option, said Rabell-Dahlberg, with this (apprenticeship) avenue there's not that much tuition that goes into it and I get paid a little bit to go to school."

The Vice President stopped by the Metro Transit bus barn being built in Madison with workers like Rabell-Dahlberg and others learning a trade skill.

The Biden administration says it has invested $200 million in grants for federal apprenticeship programs. Harris says it starts with a partnership between federal and local governments.

"This work that we see behind us is a function of that partnership, said Harris, on how we can get federal dollars out to local governments into local communities in ways that they then invest in the talent in the community."

The need for skilled control labor is great says Wade Axelson with Riley Construction.

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Wade Axelson, Supt at Riley Construction.

"We have some young people, obviously we need more young people to fill the gap that's coming," said Axelson.

He's overseeing the Madison construction project and says most trade apprenticeships can start at $20 or more an hour.

"There are great job opportunities no matter what trades you want to do," said Axelson. Wages are amazing."

Rabell-Dahlberg knows what it takes to be a plumber - it's in his DNA. Both his father and uncle are union plumbers.

"I like to do hands-on things, see the things that we build and it's there for years to come, said Rabell-Dahlberg. That's the enjoyment that I get out of it."