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Terry McGowan (middle) accepts his award for Innovator of the Year.

Terry McGowan, President of the Wisconsin Operating Engineers, has been named Innovator of the Year on The Daily Reporter’s 2016 Newsmakers of the Year list thanks to his work with Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin (DCA) in creating the Wisconsin Operating Engineers pre-apprenticeship program. 

Laura Cataldo, a consultant for the Wisconsin Operating Engineers, nominated Terry for the award due to his dedication and innovation 

“Terry is hardworking,” Laura said. “He was able to understand that career and technical education in high schools is very limited. From an innovation standpoint he recognized industry needs and became a partner in Destinations Career Academy to provide an opportunity for people to learn.”  

After noticing a dire need for a program designed to attract youths to skilled trades, Terry began looking for a solution.


There is a growing need for young people in the skilled trades and a lot of students that want to work with their hands but unfortunately, too many schools have had to drop shop classes because of financial constraints,” Terry said. “Another problem has always been, how do we reach these students to let them know what is available to them? 

Terry solved this problem by partnering with DCA, Fox Valley Tech, and other Wisconsin technical colleges to create the Wisconsin Operating Engineers pre-apprenticeship program. The program provides students with hands-on experience and prepares them to enter apprenticeship training to become successful operating engineers in the construction industry. The program offered through DCA allows students to gain a head start on their career goals by earning college credits, technical and trade credentials, and workplace experience.  

By learning through DCA, these young students will know exactly what to expect while gaining knowledge of our craft before the pre-apprenticeship process even takes place,” Terry said. “Trades can now introduce students to their specific craft and the students can learn what is expected of them once they enter by experiencing the construction trades in a virtual setting. 

The knowledge gained by students opens them up to numerous job opportunities, including those at the Wisconsin Operating Engineers. 

“Its creating a great opportunity for children,” Laura said. “Aligning the curriculum with apprenticeship is creating opportunities for high school students to eventually transition into apprenticeship upon graduation from high school.” 

The award came as a surprise to Terry, who did not expect the nomination. He feels very humbled by the award and is grateful for the success of the program and his many supporters.   

“There were a lot of good people involved and a lot of problems to overcome to get to where we are right now and I am proud to be associated with each and every one of them,” Terry said. “I have surrounded myself with really good people who, along with myself, may have found an answer to a growing crisis in our industry, an industry I am passionate about and hopefully, this continues to expand. 

Hear more from Terry McGowan about Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin! 

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