Union Training Programs
Labor unions, particularly unions affiliated with Building and Construction
Trades Council, are made up of skilled and highly trained people working
together to solve problems, build stronger workplaces, and give working
families a real voice. Unions give workers a voice on the job about safety,
security, pay, benefits—and about the best ways to get the work done.
Unionized employers benefit greatly from the experience, training and high skill
levels of the union members in their workforce.
The unions of the Building and Construction Trades Council have always been
in the forefront of apprenticeship and training, spending hundreds of millions of
dollars each year to ensure that their members are the safest and best
qualified workforce in the construc¬tion industry. A number of recent studies
have demonstrated that it is union appren¬ticeship programs that enroll and
graduate the vast majority of apprentices in the construction industry.
An apprenticeship is a training program that produces highly skilled workers by
combining on-the-job training with related classroom instruction. There are
currently 37,000 registered apprenticeship programs in the United States.
Apprentices in labor/management-sponsored programs incur no costs for their
training. In fact, they earn while they learn.
Apprenticeship programs vary in length. Apprenticeship programs run by a non-
union contractor may take as little as one year. However, Building and
Construction Trades Union-sponsored programs generally take three to five
years to complete. The level of training and education is much more extensive
in the union-sponsored programs, producing workers with significantly higher
skill levels and expertise.
The unions affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council provide
the highest quality apprentice and journey worker training anywhere in the
world. The apprentice¬ship and training programs of the building trades unions
are administered by local joint apprenticeship and training committees (JATCs),
made up of representatives from the local union and from unionized industry
These local training trust funds spend over $500 million annually on training
and operate over 2,000 training centers across North America. More than
180,000 appren¬tices and tens of thousands of journey-level workers receive
quality training each year at these state-of-the-art facilities.
Through apprenticeship programs, new entrants to the industry receive
supervised training on the job and related theoretical instruction under the
tutelage of master craftworkers who are members of the building trades unions.
Apprentices are employed and receive wages while training on-the-job, and the
cost of the related instruction is paid for by the sponsoring JATC.
Minimum qualifications, application and selection procedures, training content,
wage progressions and completion requirements are determined by the
apprenticeship programs of each affiliated union. All programs encourage
women and minorities to apply.
The apprenticeship programs of the building and construction unions operate
under standards registered and certified by the Employment & Training
Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, or by a state apprenticeship agency.
The Department of Labor estimates that each apprentice receives an
education benefit worth from $40,000 to $150,000 – at no cost to the taxpayers
or to the individual.
The most important benefit of an apprenticeship, however, is the skills that an
apprentice possesses upon completion of his or her apprenticeship. On the
jobsite, they receive hands-on training under the mentorship of a certified
journeyperson. In the classroom, they receive – free of cost – an education that
provides them with the technical theory and applied skills that, in many cases,
can be counted as college credit.
Labor-management apprenticeship programs are constantly offering new
courses to past and current apprentices and modify their curricula to keep
pace with changing technology. For example, in the electrical field, advances in
fiber optics have caused the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to
continue to educate their members for years after their apprenticeship training
has ended. Changes in technology also force labor-management
apprenticeship programs to update their training programs on a continual basis.
In the building and construction trades unions, training opportunities do not end
upon completion of apprenticeship. All building trades unions and JATCs offer
free skill improvement and skill upgrading to ensure their members have
access to continuous learning opportunities. These programs are designed to
broaden, diversify and update the skills of union members.
|Union Training Programs Produce the Most Highly
Skilled Workers in the Construction Industry