GRAND CHUTE, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) — Matt Bishop is happy to show off the new classrooms taking shape at Fox Valley Technical College.

The school is expanding to accommodate expanded apprenticeship programs designed to build the area’s workforce.

“We’ve got residential training space, commercial training space. Large wire pulling, large conduit bending space for all those items we didn’t have before,” he said. “We’re going to have a blend of everything we had as a wish list.” 

The expanded building is expected to open by mid-August and comes at a time where there is sharp demand for skilled electricians and trades people. Despite a massive bump in unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic, companies are still seeking — and hiring — people with sought-after skills.

“The business reality is we need skilled labor. Period. There’s a huge demand for the skilled labor, there always has been,” said Paul Breister, the electrical manager at Quad in Lomira. “It’s a trade that gets passed down. You’ve got people who are in this 30 plus years and there are a lot of retirements coming up so how do you get that experience passed down? That’s where the trades come in. We need the schools like Fox Valley Tech.”

Apprenticeships give employers a way to help grow the skill sets of their employees. For employees, the programs allow them to work while attending schools — often times finishing programs without massive amounts — or any — student debt.

For young people, usually high school students, the programs also offer a hands-on experience that can guide them in a career choice. It’s also a way for area businesses to develop a future workforce.

“It’s a good way for them to experience what the trade is at that age,” said Scott Martin of Suburban Electric in Appleton. “ They get a chance to see if it’s something they want to do. And let’s be honest, at that age - 16 to 18 years old - who knows what you’re going to actually end up doing, but this is a good way to figure out if that’s something you want to do.”