Wauwatosa School District Recognized as Apprenticeship Ambassador


Nick Hughes

Tosa East Tech Ed teacher Craig Griffie receiving a plaque from Representative Vining recognizing the district as an Apprenticeship Ambassador.

Lucy Hildebrand, Editor

This past month, Wauwatosa East and the Wauwatosa School District was recognized as an Apprenticeship Ambassador. The Biden administration created this new initiative through the Department of Labor to strengthen, diversify, and generally improve the Registered Apprenticeship Program. Tosa East is one of only 3 high schools or school districts, and one of 207 institutions nationwide named ambassadors. This title will help create more opportunities for students at Tosa East looking to achieve a career in the trades. Mr. Craig Griffie, who applied on behalf of the school, says that graduates of East and West will “be bumped to the top of their [companies’] hiring lists because of the designations we have from the US Department of Labor and the WI Department of Workforce Development.” Tosa East is also one of two high schools in Wisconsin that is an official Certified Pre-Apprenticeship (CPA) program, recognized by the Department of Workforce Development. 

The rise of computer technology and education in the past fifty years put a bigger emphasis on high school students pursuing college educations rather than having a more even split with the trades. Shop class was also considered dangerous by some districts and a waste of short budgets. However, in recent years, there has been a push to reinvest in trade programs, and give all students a shot at success. Having higher level technical classes offered to students can raise their starting wage when they enter the workforce, because they already have qualifications. For example, Tosa East offers a zero hour class offered to juniors and seniors, “Industry Advisory”, where students can plan for starting a career in the trades right after high school. Local companies, like Mortensen and CG Schmidt, partner with the program, giving students the opportunities to learn directly and form relationships with industry professionals. The help that the program at East receives is instrumental to students’ learning, as Griffie states “The lesson of how to wire a switch or plumb a bathroom is always better received by students when we have someone with 15-20 years of experience coming to share their trade secrets instead of having me present it.” Last year, eight Tosa East graduates signed contracts for jobs in various trades, and four current seniors are working in apprenticeships to jumpstart their careers. Even students in introductory Tech Ed classes, like Intro to Woodworking and Construction, learn how working in the trades can earn comparable salaries to jobs that require college degrees. Giving students multiple career options opens up doors for students who may not learn in a traditional way, or prefer a hands-on job. In the future, Mr. Griffie hopes to keep the high quality of the program, continue to expand diversity, as people of color and women do not receive as many opportunities in the trades, and “be a template for other schools Tech Ed programs”.