UW-Stout partners with DWD to offer ‘train the trainer’ apprenticeship program

The university says it’s a first of its kind program and partnership in Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin-Stout campus
This aerial photo shows the University of Wisconsin-Stout campus. Photo Courtesy of UW-Stout

This fall, the University of Wisconsin-Stout launched a first of its kind apprenticeship program in partnership with the state Department of Workforce Development.

UW-Stout is offering a “train the trainer” apprenticeship program, officially known as the Workforce Development Specialist Certificate program, that teaches students about employment and training solutions that serve both companies and employees. 

The college says it’s the first four-year university to collaborate with Wisconsin Apprenticeship in the program’s 100-plus year history.

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“We are excited to partner with UW-Stout on this new opportunity,” DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek said in a statement. “This is an example of how Wisconsin Apprenticeship applies innovation to meet workforce needs after more than a century.”

Assistant Professor Kelly Droege is a UW-Stout alumni and leads the apprenticeship program. She said it was developed based on her work in the private sector before joining the university in a teaching role.

She said the business world is where she learned the importance of both apprenticeship programs, and the role trainers play in helping ensure new hires remain with an organization.

“Most people fall into a training role — they don’t necessarily do it on purpose,” Droege said. “They are skilled in a particular area, and someone says to them, ‘Hey, you’d be a great trainer.’”

The three-class online program teaches students how to design, develop, implement, and evaluate training and development programs. Droege said the program allows participants to “earn as they learn.”

During the fall semester, Droege said the program had 12 students, most of whom are a little older than traditional college students and are sponsored by their employers to participate in the program.

“What this program does is really give these people that are already working in these roles (the) skills that they’re missing,” she said. “Or (it) improves upon the skills that they already have the knowledge and the skills to really improve the performance overall of the organization.”

One of those students is Amy Mustafa, a human resources business partner at Tamarack Health in Hayward. Mustafa is working toward her bachelor’s degree while working and said the apprenticeship program was a great way to combine her studies with her job.

“It’s really hands-on and project driven, so you’re really getting (to) experience how you would use stuff in the real world as opposed to reading and taking a test,” she said. “That part of it was really cool.”

As someone already working in HR, Mustafa said the apprenticeship program has helped explain why human resources employees do things the way they do.

“Sometimes when you’re learning stuff, if you can’t apply it to real life, it’s kind of boring, and you kind of dread it, whereas this was more real life stuff I can see myself doing,” she said.

One of the things Mustafa is most looking forward to about the train the trainer program is the third course, where she will be doing a project with her employer to implement a new applicant tracking system. Mustafa said she’s going to be one of the leads on the project in terms of training and implementation.

“I’m going to be setting myself up to really help the organization,” she said. “Not only am I furthering myself and bettering myself in the end, (but) I’m going to help my employer be better too. And it’s going to help me grow in my career.”