Industry Services 

Our mission is to enhance the ability of industry to recruit and develop a diverse, qualified workforce in the construction, manufacturing, and emerging sectors of the regional economy. WRTP | BIG STEP is a workforce development intermediary with an innovative nationally recognized model that is industry led, worker centered, and community focused.

Traditional job training programs focus only on the supply of labor available to industry, ignoring the timely and specific nature of industry’s workforce needs. WRTP | BIG STEP’s strategies and training programs are driven, developed, and conducted based on employer and industry demand. Our model is built on strong, collaborative relationships with industry partners, specifically quality employers that provide family-supporting wages and strong benefits. Our services:

  • Recruit and assess job-ready candidates from a wide range of community-based referral programs
  • Prepare qualified candidates for recruitment and advancement opportunities
  • Offer nationally-renowned employment readiness training opportunities designed by industry
  • Provide placement and retention services that link career- and apprenticeship-ready candidates to the trades and other opportunities

Certified Apprenticeship Program

WRTP | BIG STEP is recognized by the State of Wisconsin Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards as a Certified Pre-Apprenticeship Program. This certification recognizes our high quality, industry-led training programs that give participants the skills they need to enter and succeed in a Registered Apprenticeship.

Industrial Manufacturing Technician

IMT is an innovative new hybrid apprenticeship program that combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction and creates a new pathway to family-sustaining careers in manufacturing. With a flexible curriculum based on specific employers’ needs, IMT workers for employers ranging from metal to food production. IMT opens new doors for non-traditional apprentices and journey workers to enter high-paying career in manufacturing. Most of all, IMT helps keep industry innovative and competitive in today’s global market. Click here to visit the official IMT Apprenticeship website.

IMTs set up, test, calibrate, operate, and control manufacturing machinery and equipment using a variety of electrical, electronic, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, and computer technologies. Manufacturers seek entry-level workers with skills in: inspection, repair, mathematics, quality assurance and control, preventive maintenance, blueprint and schematic reading, inventory management, equipment testing, and good manufacturing processes. The IMT Registered Apprenticeship focuses on increasing the pipeline of highly qualified and diverse individuals prepared to enter middle- and high-skilled occupations within the growing manufacturing sector. It is a 3,000-hour apprenticeship that trains entry-level workers for IMT positions and promotes their career advancement and standing in higher-skilled apprenticeships. WRTP | BIG STEP provides direct services to employers and apprentices and serves as a clearinghouse, offering e-libraries that aggregate best practices in apprenticeship design and implementation, providing access to information and resources, and offering technical assistance to industry stakeholders.

First Graduating Class: Bermo Inc.

“At a small ceremony at the Circle Pine headquarters of BERMO incorporated 4 of 5 graduates of the Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) Apprentice program beamed with pride. BERMO, Inc is a, “premium manufacturer of metal components.” Click here to read article.

Learn More About Innovation In Apprenticeship

This report from the Center On Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) provides the story of the innovation in apprenticeship that is the IMT Apprenticeship. As the paper illustrates, IMT is remaking apprenticeship for the new and rapidly evolving industrial sector.

Check Out Our Story About Manufacturing

>Manufacturing in the Midwest continues to evolve. Firms increasingly rely on highly specialized and flexible processes, deploying new technology that redefines workers’ jobs and the skills needed for them. In Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership WRTP | BIG STEP has spearheaded the creation of a new registered apprenticeship in response to these dynamic forces. Industrial Manufacturing Technicians (IMT) are now working and being trained at firms across the upper Midwest. The success of this apprenticeship derives directly from the WRTP | BIG STEP’s long-standing and deep relationships with manufacturing firms and labor unions built over the course of two decades. The success also owes to the long tradition of apprenticeship in Wisconsin and the ways this project has built from the existing model. This paper offers the story of this apprenticeship innovation which is remaking apprenticeship for the new and rapidly evolving manufacturing sector.

The IMT is the product of long-standing collaboration of labor and management leaders in Milwaukee’s manufacturing sector. Founded more than two decades ago, the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (now called WRTP | BIG STEP), has worked directly with industry leaders to build training, modernization, staff recruitment and development strategies to answer the pressing needs of area manufacturers. WRTP | BIG STEP staff bring years of manufacturing experience and expertise and rely on information and insight gathered annually on industry needs. The annual industry needs assessment directly engages manufacturing leaders to identify emerging issues and strategize on solutions to industry trends. WRTP | BIG STEP developed the IMT in response to issues identified in that process. In 2011, staff at the partnership realized that they were hearing consistently about a need for skills inside plants throughout their network. Inside plants, the job titles were inconsistent, but the skills needed were consistent. Over the course of more than a year of meetings, staff worked with industry leaders to hone in on the issue and to carefully identify the skills needed. This process helped industry leaders realize that, despite greater flexible specialization inside firms, the skills in short supply were similar across firms. As the shared skill need became better defined, WRTP | BIG STEP began to see ways that apprenticeship – with its applied model of learning – could be the answer to industry needs.


Cassandra Patterson: IMT Success Story

As part of the Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) Apprenticeship’s first graduating class, Cassandra Patterson shares her experience with the program and how it is helping her advance in her career. The IMT Registered Apprenticeship focuses on increasing the pipeline of highly qualified and diverse individuals prepared to enter middle- and high-skilled occupations within the growing manufacturing sector. It is a 3,000-hour apprenticeship that trains entry-level workers for IMT positions and promotes their career advancement and standing in higher-skilled apprenticeships. WRTP | BIG STEP provides direct services to employers and apprentices and serves as a clearinghouse, offering e-libraries that aggregate best practices in apprenticeship design and implementation, providing access to information and resources, and offering technical assistance to industry stakeholders.

Manufacturing Overview 

WRTP | BIG STEP is dedicated to strengthening the manufacturing sector of the regional economy while expanding access to family-sustaining careers and developing a more diverse, qualified workforce. By starting with the industry’s most urgent workforce needs and challenges, WRTP | BIG STEP carries out effective recruitment and training opportunities to connect industry with diverse and skilled workers.


WRTP| BIG STEP partners with employers to host recruitment events for individuals to connect them directly to career opportunities. Follow our Facebook page to learn about upcoming recruitment events.


After having serious trouble recruiting machinists to meet their local contracts, HB Performance Systems approached WRTP | BIG STEP to help avoid outsourcing the work. We were able to design a recruitment and training program that met HB’s recruitment needs with over 100 individuals beginning manufacturing careers. They continue to train and hire WRTP | BIG STEP participants through custom entry-level manufacturing skills training’s to meet the company’s real-time workforce needs. “By working collaboratively with WRTP/BIG STEP, we were able to train individuals with the skills needed for the positions. This is a very valuable program.” – Lou Ann Koval, HB Performance Systems.


Jeff Smith, President of United Steelworkers Local 3740, understands the importance of the IMT Apprenticeship in preparing the next generation of skilled workers to meet the challenges of the competitive global economy. He confirms that “IMT apprentices are gaining the skills and experience they need to excel in their positions and move into higher paying careers.” If you are starting a career in manufacturing or are looking to upgrade your skills, WRTP | BIG STEP has opportunities for you to get the skills you need to advance in your career.

Construction Industry 

The construction industry has many great pathways to family-sustaining careers. According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, jobs in construction offer an average entry-level wage of $15.93, and experienced workers earn $31.97 per hour on average. With such high wages and low entry-level skill requirements, careers in construction provide a great opportunity to earn higher wages, support a family, and attain a better overall quality of life. Since 1976, BIG STEP has been dedicated to increasing the number of women and minorities employed in the construction industry while helping employers  meet their workforce needs. BIG STEP partnered with the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP) in 2002 to facilitate even better apprenticeship- and career-readiness training opportunities. WRTP | BIG STEP’s strong, collaborative relationships with industry leaders make our mission possible. By working directly with employers, labor leaders, and industry associations, WRTP | BIG STEP offers a variety of services to help develop a more diverse, qualified, and dependable workforce – now and into the future.

The Residential Preference Program

The Residential Preference Program (RPP) helps City of Milwaukee residents gain access to employment opportunities related to various publicly-financed construction projects within the City of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD). To learn more about the RPP Certification and its qualifications, contact us today.

Trans Road Building Programs

The Road Building Certificate program is an intensive, non-paid 130-160 hour road construction
preparation program geared towards preparing individuals to meet the workforce needs of contractors*
on specific DOT projects. The program includes the National Building Trades Multi-Craft Core (MC3) training
and certification. To learn more about the TrANS Certificate Program and its qualifications, please see flyer for details.

Skilled Trade Opportunities 

Interested in pursuing opportunities in construction but don’t know what career pathway is right for you? The skilled trades offer many great career opportunities, and Registered Apprenticeships provide the pathways into family-sustaining careers. With the help of WRTP | BIG STEP, you can learn how to be successful in apprenticeship programs for the career of your choice.

Apprenticeship Readiness Programs

WRTP | BIG STEP has a dedicated team of tutors who are here to help you reach your career goals. We offer individualized curriculum and small group tutoring to improve your academic skills and succeed in the apprenticeship application and testing process. And through our industry-led model, we work with hundreds of employers to offer training opportunities that prepare you for success in the career of your choice.

Training Programs & Certifications

WRTP | BIG STEP works directly with hundreds of employers and unions to develop training programs that meet regional workforce needs. We have the unique ability to satisfy the specific and timely needs of the construction industry, and our courses are customized based on employer and project needs. These courses include valuable industry-recognized certifications. Courses are developed and facilitated in partnership with labor and contractors. Some industry-led courses include:

  • Entry Level Construction Skills (ELCS)

  • Road Building Skills (TrANS)

  • Asbestos Awareness, Lead Abatement, Lead Renovation

  • Residential Preference Program (RPP) Certification

  • Communities In Need (COIN) Certification

  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

Skilled Trades

WRTP | BIG STEP works closely with the construction trades Joint Apprenticeship Training Committees to develop and administer certification and training programs that place participants on the pathway to apprenticeships and a successful career in the trade of their choice. Skilled Trades include:


Boilermakers erect and maintain various types of pressure vessels, and perform some of the following skills: welding, burning, heavy and high rigging, and layout work. A Boilermaker works primarily in plants that are considered heavy industrial. Steel mills, power generation plants for utilities (fossil fuel and nuclear), chemical plants, refineries, and paper mills are just a few of the industries that Boilermakers and their contractors service. Watch Boilermaker Video


Bricklayers’ and allied craftworkers’ skills range from bricklaying, plastering, tile laying, terrazzo and marble work, cleaning, pointing and restoration of older buildings, and of course, laying bricks. The apprenticeship program lasts for three years with on-the-job training and classroom work. Watch Bricklayer Video | Watch Tile Laying Video


Carpentry apprenticeships include the following trades: Carpenter, Cabinet Maker, Floor Coverer, Lather, Millwright and Piledriver. Their programs are four-years long, require both day and night school classes totaling over 750 hours, and a minimum of 5,800 hours of on-the-job training. Watch Carpenter Video |  Watch Floor Coverer Video | Watch Millwright Video | Watch Piledriver Video


Cement masons main work is to finish concrete surfaces ranging from small to large projects where as many as 10-50 cement masons and helpers mix, place (pour) and finish concrete in structures. Watch Cement Mason Video


Electrical apprenticeships provide a diversified training program over a five-year period that includes 1,100 hours of classroom training and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. Watch Electrician Video


Glaziers manufacture and install the frames and curtain wall that hold glass. They also install all forms of glass, from mirrors in bathrooms to the exterior of glass skyscrapers and everything in between. Watch Glazier Video


Heat and frost insulators perform thermal insulation application, and offer a four-year apprenticeship program. Watch Insulator Video


Iron workers erect structural steel, place reinforcement bars in concrete construction, move machinery, rig and erect equipment, and install miscellaneous fabricated building materials to name a few of their skill sets. Watch Iron Worker Video


Laborers are often the first trade on a project and the last ones to leave. The job requires you to have physical strength, reading and math skills and good problem-solving abilities. Watch Laborers Video


Operating engineers operate what is generally referred to as heavy equipment such as cranes, dozers, scrapers, loaders, motor graders, tractor loader backhoes, crawlers, and pavers to name just a few. Watch Operating Engineer Video


Plasterers must successfully be able to perform the following upon completion of their apprenticeship: Two coat, thin coat, stucco, EIFS and taping drywall. Watch Plasterer Video


Painters, paperhangers and drywall finishers put the finishing touches on new construction and remodeling. They apply paints, special coatings, color, wall coverings, and tape and finishes to previously hung gypsum wall board. Watch Painter Video


Plumbers work in residential areas such as homes, apartment buildings, health-care facilities, and in commercial and industrial facilities. Watch Plumber Video


Roofers and waterproofers work outdoors in all kinds of weather and heights. Their skills range from applying hot built-up and singly-ply roofing; installing shingle, tile and slate roofs; waterproofing foundations and plazas; and lining ponds and tanks. Watch Roofer Video


Sheet metal workers are typically employed in the Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) industry where they fabricate, install and maintain HVAC systems. They can also be employed in specialty areas including kitchen equipment, sign work and sheet metal decking and siding to name a few. Watch Sheet Metal Video


Sprinklerfitters are pipe fitters specializing in fire protection, and they install fire projection systems. They install, repair and maintain all types of fixed piping fire-protection systems. Watch Sprinklerfitter Video


Steamfitters and refrigeration fitters install and service state-of-the art heating, refrigeration, and air conditioning equipment along with related piping and energy management and pneumatic control systems for residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Watch Steamfitter Video

Emerging Sectors


WRTP | BIG STEP is dedicated to meeting the utility sector’s growing workforce needs by preparing diverse, qualified workers for success in apprenticeships and family-sustaining jobs. With an aging workforce and major ongoing and upcoming construction projects, demand for skilled workers in the utility sector is dramatically increasing.


Last year, WRTP | BIG STEP partnered with We Energies and United Steel Workers Local 2006 to design and implement a specialized training class for seasonal natural gas inspectors. Combining classroom instruction with intensive field work, the 8-week course ensures that students receive the latest and most relevant knowledge and skills from industry experts to meet job requirements and be prepared to advance in the industry. The program is designed so that individuals who successfully complete the training have opportunities to find jobs that pay a starting wage of over $20 per hour. In February 2016, the first class of seasonal natural gas inspector trainees graduated and most were hired immediately by We Energies.


BIG STEP (Building Industry Group Skilled Trades Employment Program) is an apprenticeship readiness tutoring and training program dedicated to helping community residents prepare for and succeed in careers in the construction trades.


BIG STEP has partnered with the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP) to form WRTP/BIG STEP, located in Milwaukee at the Center of Excellence at 3841 W. Wisconsin Avenue. WRTP | BIG STEP also serves South Central Wisconsin, South Eastern Wisconsin, and Minnesota.


BIG STEP works closely with the construction trades’ Joint Apprenticeship Training Committees to develop programs that help participants prepare for apprenticeships in the trade of their choice. Participating Construction Trades Include:

  • Boilermakers
  • Bricklayers
  • Carpenters
  • Cement Masons
  • Electricians
  • Elevator Constructors
  • Glaziers
  • Heat and Frost Insulators
  • Iron Workers
  • Laborers
  • Operating Engineers
  • Painters
  • Plasterers
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers
  • Sheet Metal Workers
  • Sprinkler Fitters
  • Steam Fitters


  • Recruitment of qualified individuals for apprenticeship training and careers
  • Assessment of individual needs and strengths
  • Development of a plan of action to help participants receive employment
  • Providing test tutoring and other preparatory services (day and evening classes)
  • Placing participants in on-the-job-training programs leading to construction-related apprenticeships
  • Arranging necessary classroom training to prepare and place participants into higher paying employment opportunities
  • Providing case management services to assist candidates in becoming apprentices and/or retaining construction-related employment


  • 18 years old
  • High school diploma | GED | HSED
  • Must be physically fit, with a generally good medical history
  • Valid driver’s license

Greater Milwaukee 

The Center of Excellence for the Skilled Trades and Industry is located at 3841 W. Wisconsin Ave. To partner with us in manufacturing, construction, or emerging sectors call (414) 342-9787

Southeast Wisconsin 

WRTP | BIG STEP is now serving Racine and Kenosha. Partner by calling (414) 342-9787

South Central Wisconsin 

To learn more about partnering in construction in the Madison area, contact Bill Clingan at (608) 255-0155

St. Paul Minnesota

Find out more about WRTP | BIG STEP and its work in Minnesota by contacting Jerome Balsimo at (651) 335-2896.

Looking For Something  Different 

WRTP | BIG STEP is industry-led, worker-centered and community-focused. Our mission is to enhance the ability of private sector organizations to recruit and develop a more diverse, qualified workforce in construction, manufacturing and emerging sectors of the regional economy. Click below to view our additional services.


Our mission is to enhance the ability of industry to recruit and develop a diverse, qualified workforce in the construction, manufacturing, and emerging sectors of the regional economy.



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WRTP/BIG STEP offers a model of youth career development that is closely linked to industry demands and gives young people access to high quality work experience.

Industry Led & Worker Centered

By being industry led, worker centered, and community focused, WRTP/BIG STEP helps under-employed, under-served, and under-represented individuals succeed in well-paying careers while exceeding industry’s workforce needs.