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Wisconsin Building Trades Rip Walker Proposal to Nix Licensing Exams

April 23, 2017 
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Madison, WI - A proposal by Gov. Scott Walker to exempt journeyman plumbers, electricians, and sprinkler fitters from having to take an exam to get their license after they finish a state-approved apprenticeship program has drawn sharp criticism from construction unions and some contractors.

Eliminating the exams, a spokesperson for the state Department of Safety and Professional Services argued, “removes a barrier to work, allowing them to get into the workforce more quickly.” The exams are “just a way to judge everybody's competency,” responded Mike Biel, business agent and training coordinator at Sprinkler Fitters Local 183. Fire sprinklers only have “one chance to work,” he told WisPolitics.com. “If it's not installed correctly, there is no second chance, because people die, buildings burn.” The largely nonunion Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin trade group hasn’t taken a position, but some members interviewed by WisPolitics supported getting rid of the exams, while others opposed the idea. More than 85% of plumbers and sprinkler fitters who took the tests between 2014 and 2016 passed, but only 62% of the electricians did. Terry Hayden, business manager of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 434, said they weed out people who would be “installing things incorrectly."  Read more

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