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March 16, 2021
In early 2020, life was good for 40-year old Cale Greig. He was making decent money bartending, enjoying life in Wausau with his wife and his nine-year old son, and recently welcomed his second son, Callum, into the world. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit Wisconsin.
Cale soon found himself applying for unemployment benefits because of his significantly reduced work hours, and he felt the mounting pressure of making his mortgage and paying the bills. Soon he was dipping into the family's savings, something he had worked so hard to build up, and he knew that he needed a change.
"I wanted to find a job opportunity where I could earn my own way and not take any handouts," Cale said. "More importantly, I wanted to be able to provide for my own family."
After learning that local auto body shop Olson Auto Body & Paint was hiring, Cale took his first step toward a new career. He landed a job at Olson as an entry-level technician, and soon found out more opportunity was around the corner
"They told me there was going to be a class coming up that would help grow my skills and get me a jumpstart into the field," he said.
Cale is now part of a hands-on training program offered by the Wisconsin Automotive & Truck Education Association (WATEA) in partnership with Northcentral Technical College (NTC). The new program is funded through DWD's Wisconsin Fast Forward initiative, which awarded a $101,720 grant to WATEA in February. As program partners, Olson Auto Body and Brickner’s of Wausau have donated space and equipment to host the program at their facilities, and multiple other auto body-affiliated businesses are providing shop tours, discounted tools, and even new jobs for trainees during the program.
"While I did graduate with a diploma in auto collision and refinishing, that was back in 2006," Cale said. "The technology in the auto industry has changed a lot in the last 15 years, and that's why I'm so thankful for the Wisconsin Fast Forward program. It gives me an opportunity to learn while on the job."
Students like Cale will earn an Auto Collision Fundamentals Certificate and eight credits through NTC and will also be able to earn an industry-recognized credential through a program known as I-CAR. Students will also have an opportunity to continue their training this fall by enrolling in an advanced-level certificate program. The first semester of this two-semester program is also funded through a Wisconsin Fast Forward grant.
"These grants offer a path to well-paying jobs by providing new, transferable skills," said DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. "Wisconsin Fast Forward helps fund effective training for people who are out of work and for people who have jobs but want to advance in their industries."
Through the Wisconsin Fast Forward program and with the support of his employer, Cale is working full-time while also getting the focused, formal training that will enable him to grow his skills (and paycheck).
"I am so thankful, not only for my employer, Kent Olson, but also thankful for the Fast Forward program because it gives me the training opportunity to increase my skills so that I can earn more and be more valuable to my employer."
Find out more about DWD's Wisconsin Fast Forward grants at wisconsinfastforward.com.