The Value Of Apprenticeships In The Construction Industry

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According to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 80% of construction firms are planning to hire more workers in 2015 with only 7% expected to reduce headcounts. This could be challenging since AGC also reported that 87% of companies have reported having difficulties filling positions, especially skilled craft workers. Expect to see a big push for funding apprenticeship programs to entice more workers to the construction industry. Construction companies would be smart to either team up with local community colleges to host programs or start programs of their own.

Apprentices typically start at half the salary of journey workers and receive pay increases as they learn to complete more difficult tasks.   Industry requirements determine the time spent in an apprenticeship but will typically range from two to five years. Apprenticeship programs provide incentives to workers that reduce absenteeism and turnover due to guaranteed increased wages as they gain experience through the program.

What are the benefits of a construction company getting involved with an apprenticeship program?

  • A tested method to improve employee productivity
  • Ability to attract more highly qualified applicants because they typically offer competitive entry-level wages
  • Companies have input and oversight on what apprentices learn through on-the-job training and related classroom education

Watson Electric Construction based in Wilson, NC operates a four-year program under the Standards of Apprenticeship and is registered with the North Carolina, Virginia and U.S. Departments of Labor.  Watson requires apprentices to complete 8,000 hours of on the job training as well as additional hours of instruction ranging from 620 hours to 642.5 hours, depending on the trade. The program allows for pay increases for every 1,000 hours of completed training.

The benefits of an apprenticeship program also extend to the construction equipment market.   Equipment manufacturer Caterpillar sponsors the largest apprenticeship program in North Carolina.  Caterpillar Welding Youth Apprenticeship Program is held at Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) in Sanford, NC.   As apprentices, the students study related coursework in the classroom, followed by hands-on training throughout the school year. The summer following, the apprentices work part-time at Caterpillar’s Building Construction Products Sanford facility.

Upon completion of the program, successful graduates will have earned a Welding Certificate from CCCC, as well as a certificate from the North Carolina Department of Labor indicating completion of the youth apprenticeship portion of the program. Students will also have completed the 80-hour Caterpillar Accelerated Training program, earned credited hours towards the adult apprenticeship and will have gained real-world experience working part-time at Caterpillar for two years.

“This program is a win-win for Caterpillar and the community. It helps to prepare young people for a successful career in the trades,” said Annette Atkins, Sanford training consultant, who has worked diligently to develop the curriculum for both cohorts of apprentices.

With an expected increase in construction activity, an investment into apprenticeship programs provides companies with the opportunity to have a team of skilled workers ready to work. Whether you’re a business looking to improve the quality of your workforce or an individual looking to improve your job opportunities, apprenticeship programs are preparing the construction industry for a successful future.

This article was initially published in the Spring issue of our new online publication, Construction Data Quarterly. You can find it and lots more great content here.

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