To meet today’s resurgent demand for new housing as well as the construction labor to build it, apprenticeship programs are filling the gap where employees are scarce. During the housing crash, many experienced workers left the construction industry for jobs elsewhere. Even though available work is now steadily returning to the industry due to the economic recovery, many of those departed employees are not.
Exacerbating this problem, recruitment and training functions of large construction firms were among the first cuts to be made when cost-cutting became necessary. The infrastructure formerly in place to attract qualified construction labor to the industry hasn’t been reestablished. To deal with this new reality, many firms and licensed contractors are enacting apprenticeship programs.
Typically, these programs offer an entry level introduction to trades within the industry, including plumbing, electrical, ironwork and basic construction framing. After the introductory phase, prospective employees can choose to undertake an apprenticeship in a chosen trade.
Matched with a participating employer solicited from among local construction companies and contractors, the apprentices begin a regimen of on-the-job training at a worksite while also taking a few hours of night school courses on relevant subjects. Apprentices receive a full-time wage for all hours.
An example of the apprenticeship programs designed to address construction labor shortages is the
Community Hub for Opportunities in Construction Employment program in the Washington, D.C. and Maryland area. Sponsored by the North American Building Trades’ Unions, the program reaches out to 18- to 24-year-old unemployed youths and takes on 25 apprentices annually.
C.H.O.I.C.E. works jointly with community agencies to identify and appeal to the individuals who are most likely to be successful in an apprenticeship and career in construction labor. While prerequisites aren’t yet standardized, the program strives to keep the initial, entry-level requirements doable for a wide variety of candidates to allow each to grow into the position for which they’re best suited and at a pace that supports their individual abilities.
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