Gateway Tech pushes to approve culinary apprenticeship program, partners with Aurora Health

Gateway Technical College is pushing to add a new apprenticeship opportunity for its students.

The Kenosha-based technical college is partnering with Aurora Health Care to add a culinary apprenticeship, a three-year program combining real world work with in-school courses.

Nicci Pagan, an apprenticeship coordinator with Gateway, said the college was approached recently by Aurora Health Care to create a program where students might gain employment and culinary coursework and the nonprofit health care system might gain trained employees.

“In the recent past, Milwaukee Area Technical College started the culinary apprenticeship in partnership with Aurora Health Care,” Pagan said. “Aurora reached out to us as well because they’re expanding. They approached us with what they’re currently doing in Milwaukee and asked us to duplicate it here in our Kenosha-Racine-Walworth area.”

The program still must be approved by Gateway’s board as well as the Wisconsin Technical College System, but Pagan said there’s no reason to expect it would be denied.

“Once we have that, we will implement it immediately,” Pagan said of the approval process. “We’re hoping it’ll be done in the fall semester.”

The individuals who partake in the apprenticeship will sign a contract where each person will work for about 32 hours each week, learn in class about eight hours a week and will receive a 40-hour paycheck every week for the combined work and school efforts.

“They’re being trained under skilled professionals while they’re working,” Pagan said of the usual apprenticeship programs. “Apprentices start off at 40-60% of a skilled professional’s wage at the beginning of their contract and making an entry level skilled professional’s wage at the completion of the apprenticeship contract with a wage progression built in.”

While Aurora Health Care is only looking to sponsor three apprenticeships, Pagan said Gateway is open to the idea of more potential employers who would want to sponsor apprentices. The best part for the employers is not just the additional employees but to mold the individuals to the company’s standard.

“(Employers) are growing their own workforce in the sense that it’s with their own skilled professionals on their own equipment in their own environment with their own culture,” Pagan said. “Apprentices are learning the skill trade, invested into this company and into this training as well as earning a wage while they’re getting a college education.”

Gateway has a number of other apprenticeships already in progress including barbers, cosmetology, construction, electrical, plumbing, machine repair, tool and die, and more. Pagan said the opportunity to earn a wage and learn in school is influential to many people.

“They’re in the classroom and yes, they’re getting the theory behind their trade. But they also benefit from learning from the skilled professionals in the workplace,” Pagan said. “And on top of that, they’re getting paid during the education as well as on the job and able to provide for themselves and their families as a contributing member of society.”

The program will be helpful to students at Gateway in that the apprentices will take existing classes which means either during or after the apprenticeship contract, students can continue with the classes and could receive the tech diploma if desired.

Bryan Geenan, Milwaukee Business Journal

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