The construction industry has been struggling with a skilled labor shortage for quite a while now. It’s not always easy to find good news on the topic, but here’s some: There are few industries better poised to create its own workforce than construction.
One reason is apprenticeships. Because of the hands-on nature of construction work, a mentor teaching an apprentice how to complete job tasks is a clear and feasible path to building tomorrow’s workforce.
Consider the benefits
There are various ways that construction companies can benefit from a well-planned apprenticeship program. For starters, apprentices receive customized training that results in highly skilled employees trained to your needs and project types. On-the-job learning from an assigned mentor, combined with related technical instruction, increases productivity and knowledge transfer.
What’s more, employees who have undergone apprenticeships are highly likely to remain loyal to the company, lessening hiring costs. A participating company can gain a reputation as an employer that’s willing to invest in its employees. Meanwhile, a focus on safety training can reduce workers’ compensation costs.
Certified apprenticeship programs offer a systematic approach to training that ensures employees can produce at the highest skill levels required for the jobs they fill. In doing so, the program provides a stable and predictable pipeline for the development of qualified workers.
As for the employees, chances are they won’t want to participate in an apprenticeship program unless they can see it as benefiting them directly. A well-developed program offers participants the opportunity to qualify for paying jobs, and provides the training needed to command higher wages.
One way to differentiate your apprenticeship program from others is to register with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Doing so will place it within a network of registered apprenticeships that offers access to additional expertise and support. Your graduates will receive a national, industry-recognized credential, while your construction business may qualify for tax breaks at the state and/or federal level.
To get off to a good start, the DOL recommends addressing key questions such as: Do we already have employees who could participate in an apprenticeship program? How will our business change in the future and which skill sets will we most likely lack? Ideally, your program will focus on the specific types of skilled workers who will be in shortest supply in years to come.
The agency also recommends looking for various partners with whom you might collaborate. Partner organizations can help you design a program, provide some of the educational resources and assist in finding the apprentices themselves.
These may include other construction businesses or related companies (such as an engineering or design firm), industry or professional associations, and labor organizations. It’s also critical to make your presence known with educational institutions (for example, community colleges) and public agencies (such as police and fire departments).
Test the waters
You can learn more about registering your apprenticeship program with the DOL at https://www.apprenticeship.gov/registered-apprenticeship-program. But even if you don’t go all-out and create a registered program, just testing the waters with a well-chosen apprenticeship can get the ball rolling — for both your construction company and the industry.