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 and the Construction Trades

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

Learn what it takes to get into the trades!

BIG STEP Services Include:

  • 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

BIG STEP Requirements:

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


In 1976, a consortium of representatives of the building trades founded Building Industry Group Skilled Trades Employment Program (BIG STEP), evolving from the efforts started in 1967 with Vince Toran and Project Leap. BIG STEP was formed in an attempt to increase the number of women, minorities, and younger workers employed in the building trades.

In 1992, the formation of Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP) was announced after the Commission on a Quality Workforce recommended the development of partnerships between business, labor, and government to renew the industrial base in the Milwaukee area.  WRTP continued to grow, receiving funds from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to develop a model program in manufacturing training.  In 2000, WRTP was awarded a demonstration grant from the United States Department of Labor to replicate the program in other sectors.

In 2002, WRTP and BIG STEP, both with their own highly successful histories, partnered to facilitate more effective coordination of employer-driven worker readiness to best ensure that individuals preparing for employment gained the skills and experiences that employers needed. WRTP became the fiscal agent for BIG STEP and BIG STEP became an industry driven funding source for WRTP with programming efficiencies achieved in both organizations.  In 2005, with support from Governor Jim Doyle, the partnership established the Center of Excellence (COE) for Skilled Trades & Industry and BIG STEP is an integral part of WRTP.

In 2014, WRTP and BIG STEP formally merged their Boards of Directors into one board as they continue to move towards becoming one organization.