National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) is November 13 – 19, 2023. It’s the ninth annual nationwide celebration, created by the Office of Apprenticeship, 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. Take advantage of NAW and the resources offered because construction employers now more than ever need to embrace what apprenticeships can do for the future of the industry.
What is a Registered Apprenticeship?
Registered Apprenticeships are simply apprenticeship programs that are industry-vetted, approved and validated by the US Department of Labor (DOL) or a State Apprenticeship Agency. Apprenticeships help employers develop high-quality career paths for their workers. Registered Apprenticeships involve paid work experience, progressive wage increases, classroom instruction and portable, nationally recognized credentials.
How Apprenticeships can Help Construction
The construction industry has been struggling to fill positions with qualified candidates since before the pandemic. There are several reasons for this worker shortage:
- Baby Boomers, who made up a large number of construction employees, retired in mass during the pandemic and all Baby Boomers will be retired by 2030.
- Unemployment is at historic lows. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in October 2023 that unemployment rates were at 3.9%.
- The number of young people entering trades has been steadily decreasing for decades. In 2022, 60% of high school graduates, aged 16 to 24, were enrolled in colleges or universities, according to the BLA.
Apprenticeships can help rebuild the industry’s workforce with workers who are highly trained and motivated to develop a career in construction. Registered Apprenticeships are also a proven and industry-driven training model that improves diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) in the workplace. More and more construction employers are learning just what apprenticeships can do for the industry.
Thousands of employers in the construction industry across the US use the Registered Apprenticeship training model to recruit, train and retain workers with the right skills. According to Apprenticeship.gov, in 2022 there were more than 200,400 apprentices in the construction industry, a 77% increase in the last nine years.
Through Registered Apprenticeship, employers can:
- Recruit and develop a diverse and highly skilled workforce.
- Improve productivity, profitability, and the company’s bottom line.
- Create flexible, customized training options.
- Standardize training so all workers receive the same national, industry-endorsed training at all facilities.
- Reduce turnover and liability costs.
- Receive tax credits and employee tuition benefits in participating states.
Registered apprenticeships are available for a range of specialties:
- Operating Engineers and Equipment Operators
- Cement Masons
- Sheet Metal Workers
- Elevator Constructors
Registered Apprenticeships could be the perfect solution to the current worker shortage.
How to Learn More About Registered Apprenticeship Programs
The Office of Apprenticeship offers resources to help take advantage of the exposure National Apprenticeship Week gives to Registered Apprenticeship programs. These resources include:
- A NAW 2023 Planning Toolkit
- Guide to Hosting a Virtual Event
- NAW Promotion Toolkit
- NAW event mailers and flyers
- Word templates to issue a NAW proclamation
- Downloadable logos and fact sheets
The Office of Apprenticeship suggests construction employers partner with them or a respective state agency to access a nationwide network of expertise, customer service and support. But more can be done.
The Associated General Contractors of America suggests construction employers can also support Registered Apprenticeship programs by:
- Employing construction instructors. Just like is the case for many schools, apprenticeship programs are having a find time finding qualified instructors to hire. Firms can help by employing apprenticeship instructors to do some project work in addition to instruction. This will likely lead to better pay for the instructors and ensure that apprenticeship programs have sufficient capacity to produce needed workers.
- Creating a retirement pipeline through instruction. Due to the physical demands of the construction trades, some skilled craft workers may retire at an earlier age but are still interested in working. Recruiting these exiting workers to train the next generation of skilled workers for their trade is a way to identify instructors while providing a less physically demanding work option.
- Partnering with community or technical colleges. Community and technical colleges already have the infrastructure and capability to serve as registered apprenticeship programs. Firms and AGC chapters should consider partnering with these institutions to create registered apprenticeship training programs that could provide the workers needed for the growing number of projects with registered apprenticeship participation rates.
- Creating industry pre-apprenticeship programs. Firms and AGC chapters should consider establishing a broad focused construction pre-apprenticeship program. This program provides an exploration of construction and allows participants to determine what career path to follow after completing the program.
Apprenticeships are a great way to strengthen today’s construction workforce and ensure it stays strong in the future. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to learn more about how you can get involved in National Apprenticeship Week.