This week marks National Apprenticeship Week (Nov. 15-21). Innovative organizations around the United States continue using this age-old practice to tackle current employment challenges.
The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a construction industry trade association that represents more than 21,000 members nationwide. Michele Roberts-Bauer, president of the association’s Heart of America chapter, has seen an increase in apprenticeship applications from people affected by COVID-19.
“Apprenticeships remain an incredible opportunity to earn an education in a high-need field,” she said, “and allow people an opportunity to earn great wages while getting their education.”
A 2021 McKinsey global survey found that addressing the shortage of skilled workers has become a more pressing issue since the pandemic began. In fact, 69 percent of respondents said their organizations do more now to build skills among their workers than they did before the pandemic.
In the construction industry, demand for skilled, educated craft professionals has driven wage growth in recent years—a trend which continued throughout 2020 and 2021.
Benefits of the apprenticeship model
Apprenticeships are an important educational model, Roberts-Bauer explains, because construction workers get education and experience at the same time.
“They combine on-the-job experience with classroom-focused instruction, really creating the best of both worlds so folks are in the workforce,” Roberts-Bauer said.
“They don’t have to delay entering the workforce to get their full education. They can begin working while they’re learning and exit without the challenges and struggles of student loan debt.”
By cultivating relationships among students, educational organizations, and employers, apprenticeship programs allow students to graduate with both education and experience, while employers benefit from well-trained team members.
“It’s a really beautiful combination that helps create a winning environment for everybody involved,” Roberts-Bauer said.
If people are interested in transitioning to construction as a new career path, Roberts-Bauer recommends that they research programs available within their communities.
“There are multiple ways to achieve the American dream, and we don’t have to limit ourselves to one pathway,” she said.
Applicants should also have strong math and communication skills, she said, as well as reliable transportation to travel to different job sites, which move frequently.
“If you like physically doing something and then seeing the fruits of those labors, construction is a fantastic career path that offers a lot of incredible opportunities right now,” she said.
Roberts-Bauer also believes the skilled trades are experiencing renewed appreciation from the nation.
“The men and women of the skilled trades are building America,” she said. “Every building you walk into, everything you purchase, has come from somebody in the skilled trades and what they’ve created with their hands. And I think that there’s a resurgence of appreciation for that.”