‘Not a job, a career’

National Apprenticeship Week celebrated with events in Marshalltown

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“I don’t find us to be middle-skill; we’re pretty highly-trained people.”

That’s what Alliant Energy gas mechanic and journeyman Anthony Waldron thinks of those with careers in the utilities industry; he is one of many students who have found success through an apprenticeship program.

Waldron and fellow Alliant Energy journeyman Guillermo Martínez, a line mechanic, spoke at two events Tuesday centered on the benefits of starting a career through an apprenticeship.

“Talk about some great wages out of the training program,” said Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg on a visit to the Alliant Energy IPL Technical Training Center, the site of one of Tuesday’s National Apprenticeship Week events. “Not only do you walk out with low or no student debt, but you’ve got a darn good job after that.”

He praised Alliant for partnering with community colleges, like Marshalltown Community College, and for seeking military veterans as employees. Gregg toured the training center as staff shared information on the company’s apprenticeship program and the equipment and safety training students receive.

“There are places all over the state that are dealing with this skilled workforce problem,” Gregg said, adding “… the companies that take ownership of their workforce future are the ones that seem to be successful.”

Alliant training specialist Lori Wildman shared apprenticeship program information with Gregg at the training center Tuesday; she also presented at an apprenticeship open house for prospective students and their parents at the Marshalltown Public Library that evening.

“When you come to us as an apprentice, you’re an employee,” she said. “This isn’t volunteer, this isn’t an internship, you come to us as an employee and you’re going to continue to earn while you learn.”

Marshalltown Schools Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte spoke about apprenticeships at the library event as well.

“There’s a ton of excitement about the opportunities that have been and are going to be promoted, as far as apprenticeships, throughout the country,” he said. “We know that four-year college degrees are not for everyone; we also know that there’s a ton of great jobs out there that are available for people that do registered apprenticeships or do technical programs.”

Schutte said the district is developing a college and career readiness dashboard to help students understand indicators they need to meet to prepare to pursue work after graduation.

Describing the company’s apprenticeship as “not a job, a career,” Wildman said the starting wage for an apprentice at Alliant is around $60,000, not including overtime pay.

Waldron, Martínez and Wildman said those looking into an apprenticeship program need to be willing to communicate, be on-time, have a good work ethic and be committed. Martínez graduated from Marshalltown Learning Academy and went to MCC, while Waldron got an associate’s degree before entering Alliant’s apprenticeship program.

“It’s dangerous, and there’s science involved, there’s math involved; I’ve got to do algebra on a daily basis, I’ve got to figure out geometry, angles,” Waldron said. “We’re a brotherhood, and we do push our guys to be better.”

Martínez said the hard work in the apprenticeship is worth it.

“It’s a commitment, a responsibility, but in the end it pays off,” he said. “It’s a good job, a great career.”

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com