Edvest 529 Celebrates National Apprenticeship Week from November 13-19

published November 9, 2023

The week of November 13-19, 2023, is National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), a nationwide celebration where employers, industry associations, labor organizations, community-based organizations, workforce partners, education providers, and government leaders host events to showcase the successes and value of Registered Apprenticeships.

Many students in Wisconsin and across the nation are now opting to attend colleges specializing in career training and technical education, reversing a longstanding trend toward enrolling in a traditional four-year college. And, according to 2021 data from the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of registered apprentices has increased 64% since 2012. Why this shift? Recognizing the nation’s heightened demand for skilled-workers coupled with a desire to reduce their reliance on student loans, an increasing number of students are choosing career-connected pathways, including registered apprenticeships.1

While one of the main benefits of apprenticeship programs is that apprentices get hands-on training and education while earning a wage, there are still costs associated with enrollment and completion. Thanks to the passage of the 2019 Secure (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement) Act, qualified costs associated with apprenticeship programs — such as fees, textbooks, supplies, and equipment like required trade tools — can be paid for with funds saved in a Wisconsin 529 plan – Edvest 529 or Tomorrow’s Scholar – so long as the apprenticeship is certified and registered with the Secretary of Labor’s National Apprenticeships Act.

To highlight the connections between apprenticeship programs in Wisconsin and career opportunities, Wisconsin’s 529 College Savings Program spoke with industry and education representatives from Hoppe Tree Service and Gateway Technical College. The conversation revealed that students in the state have no shortage of education and career training pathways available to help prepare them for a wide variety of well-paying, skilled jobs in Wisconsin.

Deep Roots & Bright Future for Wisconsin Apprenticeship Programs

Three men installing wires in an electrical box
Gateway Technical College Construction Electrical Apprentice

The purpose of an apprenticeship is to develop individuals into skilled trades people ready to join the workforce with the experience and certifications that employers need. An apprenticeship program includes supervised, structured, on-the-job training along with classroom-based learning where workers are educated in both the practical and theoretical aspects of a skilled occupation. Wisconsin's technical colleges work closely with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to provide related instruction for most apprenticeship programs in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Technical College system reports that the annual median salary for individuals who completed an apprenticeship after receiving their apprentice-related instruction at a Wisconsin technical college, is $84,238, making it easy to see why participation has increased about 17% over the past five years.2

Nicci Pagan, Apprenticeship Coordinator at Gateway Technical College, shared that while there are more apprenticeship programs than ever before, many students and families are still not aware of how these programs work, the costs associated with them, and the many types of jobs that can be secured after completion. Speaking from her own personal experience, Pagan shared that she wished she was more aware of apprenticeship programs when she herself was a student and a single mother. “An apprenticeship program would have been a fabulous solution for me to get my education while also earning a wage.” She made it her mission to educate as many people as possible in the state about the benefits of apprenticeship programs. “They are a great opportunity for individuals who don’t want to give up education to have a skill, but need to be able to work as well,” said Pagan.

State-sponsored apprenticeship training has played a vital role in preparing Wisconsin’s skilled workforce since 1911. In fact, Gateway Technical College laid the foundation for formal career training in the nation when they began offering classes on November 3, 1911, then as the Racine Continuation School, as the first publicly funded technical college in the United States. “Apprenticeship programs are specifically designed to meet the needs of employers, so I think in the next five years, we're going to continue to expand the trades in which we have apprenticeships in,” Pagan stated. “We’ll continue to expand and meet the needs of local businesses and employers as well as the apprentices themselves, as they're learning and growing.”

Apprenticeships Benefit Companies & Workers

According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Wisconsin employers annually train approximately 10,000 registered apprentices in about 200 occupations - from construction and manufacturing to healthcare and information technology, and much more.

One such employer in Wisconsin is Hoppe Tree Service, a family-owned, Milwaukee-area company that has been providing full-service, quality tree care to Southeastern Wisconsin since 1972. Their current owner, August Hoppe, talked with the Wisconsin College Savings Program about how his company works with apprentices to build out their skilled workforce.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a degree in forestry, Hoppe returned to work for the company established by his father and grandfather before eventually taking over ownership in 2014. Over the years, the small family business has grown and adapted to meet the ever-changing needs of clients, and now performs a diverse range of services, including tree and shrub pruning, removal, planting, and plant health care programs to keep trees healthy.

To keep up with evolving client needs, Hoppe realized that the company needed to find different ways to recruit, train, and retain their employees. Many of their tree crew professionals became certified arborists through the training that takes place in the Arborist Apprenticeship program. “Apprenticeships are a great way to help individuals who are interested in a career path but don’t yet have the skills and training, because they created a systematic training approach that’s consistent,” said Hoppe.

Three men, including one holding a bright yellow notebook labeled 'Arborist', standing in front of a Hoppe Tree Service truck
From left to right; an apprenticeship training representative from Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards, Forrest Waller (arborist apprentice) and August Hoppe president of Hoppe Tree Service.

As the current co-chair of the Wisconsin Arborist Apprenticeship Advisory Committee, Hoppe helped create the nation's first arborist apprenticeship program. “We have a national presence and a local presence, and we've built the Arborist Apprenticeship Program from the ground up in Wisconsin. It's been exciting to see it become what it is – going from zero to about 70 apprentices in a short period of time, it's really fun and rewarding to witness.”

Wisconsin’s 529 College Savings Plans Support a Varity of Education & Training Pathways

When asked about advice for how families can help their students prepare for what comes after high school, Hoppe Tree Service owner August Hoppe says it’s important to keep an open mind, listen to your children, talk about what excites them, and help them cultivate their passions into a career. “It could mean they pursue a four-year degree, or it may mean going through an apprenticeship program,” said Hoppe. “There are so many different pathways to a career now and apprenticeship it is a good opportunity for people to start their careers early, not have huge amounts of college debt, and hit the ground running with a four-year head start on somebody else.”

Normal costs associated with a registered apprenticeship program include tuition, books required for the course of instruction, and specialized, often pricy, required trade tools. Thankfully, Wisconsin families can utilize funds saved in an Edvest 529 plan to cover these costs for apprenticeship programs registered with the U.S. Secretary of Labor.

In explaining how a 529 plan could support workers completing the Arborist Apprenticeship Program, Hoppe says “if you had Edvest savings, it could be used to buy the saddle and different climbing equipment needed to become an arborist. These pieces of equipment cost between $500-$600 and are required to successfully complete the program.”

Edvest 529 accounts can be opened by parents, grandparents, or almost anyone who wants to encourage a student to pursue post-secondary education and career training. The Wisconsin College Savings Program knows that higher education takes many forms, that’s why it’s Edvest 529 can be used for education and career training after high school from accredited four-year universities, community colleges, trade, technical, or vocational schools, and registered apprenticeships.

Gateway Technical College’s Apprenticeship Coordinator Nicci Pagan shared that “being able to use an Edvest 529 account to help pay for program costs is a helpful option that allows an apprentice to afford not only their tuition and fees, but also the tools, the uniforms, the things they need for all of the on-the-job training as well.”

This National Apprenticeship Week, learn more about the skilled tradespeople who help make the Wisconsin economy strong, and encourage a young person to explore post-secondary education options that include Registered Apprenticeships. Saving for future education and career training has never been more rewarding.


Withdrawals for registered apprenticeship programs can be withdrawn free from federal and Wisconsin income tax. If you are not a Wisconsin taxpayer, these withdrawals may include recapture of tax deduction, state income tax as well as penalties. You should talk to a qualified professional about how tax provisions affect your circumstances.

To learn more about Wisconsin's Edvest 529 College Savings Plan, its investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses see the Plan Description at Edvest.com. Read it carefully. Investments in the plan are neither insured nor guaranteed and there is the risk of investment loss. Check with your home state to learn if it offers tax or other benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, or protection from creditors for investing in its own 529 plan. If the funds aren't used for qualified higher education expenses, a federal 10% penalty tax on earnings (as well as federal and state income taxes) may apply. Consult your legal or tax professional for tax advice. TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC, Member FINRA, distributor and underwriter for the Edvest 529 College Savings Plan.


  1. 1U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration Registered Apprenticeship National Results Fiscal Year 2021
  2. 2Wisconsin Technical College System’s Apprenticeship Completion: Employment and Salary Data for 2020-21 Apprentices Report


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