Legislators of both parties say they’re open to the governor’s call for tripling the state spending on apprenticeship programs next year. The idea has drawn support from union groups as well. Representative Jerry Kearns, a Democrat from Keokuk, is a member of the United Steelworkers Union.
“I happen to be a product of an apprenticeship program, a joint union/company agreement, so I’m certainly sold on those, “Kearns says. “I think it’s a great way to go.”
At the end of the 1960s, just after Kearns left the Air Force, he entered an apprenticeship program to become a certified electrician.
“It was 8000 hours, a four year program and at that time we ued ICS – International Correspondence Schools — for our learning experience — book learning, as they called it,” Kearns says, “but you learn most from being on the floor, working with journeymen, you know — skilled tradesmen.”
Apprenticeship programs provide the kind of “hands-on” training needed in high-skilled manufacturing jobs, according to Kearns.
“You’re still going to need the basics,” Kearns says. “You’re going to need some background…formulas or whatever you might use in your particular trade, but actually working with another person who’s been a master or who’s been through the program themself is the best.”
Kearns worked for 38 years as an industrial electrician at a plant in Keokuk that makes automobile components and for 20 years he was president of the facility’s local union.
The governor’s budget proposal for next year — just released yesterday — calls for spending $3 million in state tax money on apprenticeship programs.