This four-part article series addresses nationwide programs and initiatives developed to recruit and train skilled workers to help fill the construction industry’s labor shortage and workforce needs.
Construction employment is up and the unemployment rate is dropping. Yet even with these positive numbers the construction industry is still facing a real threat of worker shortage with the lack of skilled laborers entering the industry. Nationwide programs and initiatives are working to recruit, educate and train the next generation of construction workers.
Union apprenticeship & apprenticeship readiness programs
The North America’s Building Trades Union apprenticeship and workplace-based training provides individuals with an “earn while you learn” system. In addition to the benefit of learning on the job, individuals who complete the apprenticeship program have a nationally recognized credential. Plus, most apprenticeship programs have been assessed for college credit, which can be applied toward an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, says Tom Owens, Director — Marketing and Communications for North America’s Building Trades Unions.
These apprenticeship programs don’t just benefit the individuals participating, they also benefit the employers. According to Owens, return on investment has shown craft training can return as much as $3 to every $1 invested, which shows in improved safety, elimination of rework and increased productivity of the craft worker.
What’s great about apprenticeship programs is that they serve double duty. They help to educate the next generation of skilled workers while also helping employers fill open positions or workforce needs within their companies.
The North America’s Building Trades Unions’ apprenticeship program includes over 1,900 training centers across the United States and Canada. In an effort to make the union apprenticeship program available to even more possible construction industry employees, the participating unions are making efforts to work with state and local governments and community-based organizations on apprenticeship readiness programs, Owens says. These programs target underserved populations such as minorities, women and military veterans.
Apprenticeship readiness programs, which can be thought of like pre-apprenticeship programs, are designed to help candidates learn the necessary skills needed to apply for apprenticeship programs as well as help address the need for greater diversity in the construction industry workforce, says Art Lujan with the North America’s Building Trades Union. There are close to 75 North America Building Trade Union apprenticeship readiness programs around the country.
The Building Trades uses its own Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3) in the apprenticeship readiness programs. Recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor, MC3 is a comprehensive training program requiring 120 hours of course credits that provide the background, skills and knowledge needed for apprenticeship programs.
MC3 has nine chapters. Basic Math for Construction, Orientation and Industry Awareness, and Heritage of the American Worker are mandatory subjects along with some form of hands-on training. Two parts of the Diversity Awareness Chapter are also mandatory in the final curriculum.
The remaining five chapters are electives that can be added to a specific MC3 training program at the discretion of the local Building Trades Council and its community partners, Lujan says. Electives include first aid and CPR, OSHA construction safety training, blueprint reading, green construction, conflict resolution, and tools and materials.
While the MC3 curriculum only requires 120 hours, individual apprenticeship readiness programs may require additional hours.
According to Lujan, North America’s Building Trades Union hopes the apprenticeship readiness programs can help solve both short- and long-term industry needs. Short-term, the program is currently targeting candidates that can enter apprenticeship programs and the workforce immediately.
For the long-term, Lujan says the Building Trades Union hopes to get its core curriculum included in middle and high schools to provide students with an introduction to the construction industry and possibly even help them earn college credits. Lujan says there are currently 15 pilot programs in high schools across California, Minnesota, Ohio and Michigan.
The United States Department of Labor’s (DOL) registered apprenticeships offer both union and non-union employers a way to develop a highly skilled workforce and gives job seekers the opportunity to start a new career in a well-paying, high-demand occupation. Registered apprenticeships meet national standards for registration with the U.S. DOL or federally recognized State Apprenticeship Agencies.
The DOL’s apprenticeship program has been around for nearly 75 years and currently has 150,000 employers and labor management organizations participating. There are 400,000 registered apprentices nationwide in more than 1,000 occupations.
According to the DOL, apprenticeship programs are great for contractors’ businesses. Apprenticeships not only help recruit and develop a highly skilled workforce but can also provide opportunities for tax credits, reduce turnover costs and increase employee retention.
In an effort to help more Americans become apprentices, the DOL is offering up to $100 million in American Apprenticeship Grants. These grants will be used to develop and implement innovative, high-quality registered apprenticeship programs. Public-private partnerships between employers, business associations, joint labor-management organizations, labor organizations, training providers, community colleges, local and state governments, the workforce system, non-profits and faith-based organizations are encouraged to apply.
HBI PACT Program
HBI is the workforce development arm of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). HBI’s Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT) program is one of three U.S. Department of Labor-recognized pre-apprenticeship curricula and provides program graduates with an industry-recognized pre-apprenticeship credential.
The PACT program is designed to serve secondary and post-secondary students, veterans, underserved and court-involved youth, unemployed and displaced workers, and ex-offenders. The program teaches skills for employment in residential and light commercial construction careers.
Taught by journey-level instructors in a variety of building trades, the PACT program incorporates work-based learning with vocational and academic skills training, on-the-job training, employability and life skills, industry-focused job readiness, career counseling and job placement assistance.
Every PACT instructor is required to provide an opportunity for students to participate in a project/rehab of an existing building, new construction and/or a community service experience.