30. Apprenticeships and Occupational Training in Construction
An apprenticeship offers a well-established career path in the construction industry.1 According to the Federal Apprenticeship Data, of the 202,817 active apprentices (including registered, suspended, and reinstated) in fiscal year 2016, 144,583 were in construction, accounting for more than 70% of the total in all industries (excluding military).2,3
The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (ETA) establishes quality standards for apprenticeship programs through a federal registration system—ApprenticeshipUSA.4 A registered program can last anywhere from one to six years, though most are four years in length. Registered programs must offer both on-the-job training and formal classroom instruction, and can be sponsored either jointly by a labor-management committee or independently by non-union contractors. Joint labor-management programs are major providers of the training for construction workers. Such programs are established at the national, state, and local levels. In 2016, joint programs accounted for the largest share of apprenticeship programs in Hawaii (81.6%), and at least 60% of programs in Nevada, Delaware, Montana, California, and Louisiana (chart 30a). Overall, 70.9% of apprentices in construction were enrolled in joint labor-management programs.
Apprenticeship registrations tend to coincide with economic cycles. The overall number of new apprentices in construction was highest at 74,164 (55,372 union and 18,792 non-union) in 2007 during the construction boom, plunged to 35,551 (22,783 union and 12,768 non-union) in 2010 due to the recession, and rebounded to 57,306 in 2016 (40,640 union and 16,666 non-union) with the economic recovery (chart 30b). Despite economic cycle variations, union programs consistently had higher apprenticeship enrollments over time.
Hispanic apprenticeships experienced more losses and gains than the entire construction industry during the recession and recovery (chart 30c). Overall, new registrations in construction fell 44.3% from 2007 to 2012, but new registrations for Hispanics (union and non-union combined) fell 62.5% over the same time period. Between 2012 and 2016, construction registration experienced a 38.8% increase, while the gain among Hispanics was 66.0%. In 2016, among all new registrations in construction, 17.3% were identified as Hispanic; and black and other minorities who were non-Hispanic accounted for 6.5% and 4.5%, respectively (chart 30d). However, information on ethnicity was not available for more than a quarter (26.4%) of the construction registrations.
Among construction occupations, the electrician trade has the highest number of active apprentices, followed by plumbers and carpenters (chart 30e). Different occupational requirements may influence this variation. Generally, employer-only programs are concentrated in a few occupations, whereas joint apprenticeship training programs cover a wider variety of occupations. For example, structural iron and steel as well as operating engineer registrations are almost exclusively in joint labor-management programs. Unionization may partially contribute to the differences in apprenticeships among construction occupations (see page 12).
The earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship model helps workers to enter a career path and meet employers’ needs for skilled labor. However, women’s enrollment in registered construction apprenticeship programs has been consistently low.5 In 2016, less than 3% (1,672) of the enrollments in construction apprenticeships were women; the proportion of women was even smaller (1.5%; 258) in non-union programs (chart 30f). Women are also less likely than men to complete apprenticeships. A national analysis found that 70% of women registrants in federal carpenter apprenticeship programs in a one-year period were canceled, compared to 53% of men registrants.6 Studies have pointed to barriers unique to women such as difficulty finding childcare, instances of sexual harassment, discrimination, and other individual and institutional obstacles (e.g., work culture in a male-majority industry).6,7 Enforcing federal regulations regarding equal employment, improving outreach and recruitment to women and other underrepresented groups regarding apprenticeship opportunities, and reducing barriers for women and other vulnerable worker groups to apprenticeship and employment, are all essential to combat such disparities in the construction industry.6-9
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1. Wolf M. 2016. Apprenticeship: A path to good jobs in construction. U.S. Department of Labor Blog. https://blog.dol.gov/2016/08/23/apprenticeship-a-path-to-good-jobs-in-construction/ (Accessed October 2016).
2. U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. 2016. ApprenticeshipUSA: Data and statistics. https://www.doleta.gov/oa/data_statistics.cfm (Accessed January 2017).
3. This number only includes RAPIDS data (see the note section) and therefore does not capture the total number of active apprentices nationwide.
4. U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship. Apprenticeship. https://www.dol.gov/featured/apprenticeship (Accessed January 2017).
5. U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. 2016. ApprenticeshipUSA Fact Sheet: Women in apprenticeship. https://www.doleta.gov/oa/eeo/pdf/Women_Fact_Sheet.pdf (Accessed January 2017).
6. Helmer M, Altstadt D. 2013. Apprenticeship: Completion and cancellation in the building trades. https://www.ceacisp.org/news/apprenticeship-completion-and-cancellation-building-trades (Accessed January 2017).
7. U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. 2016. ApprenticeshipUSA Fact Sheet: Access to registered apprenticeship – a proven path to in-demand skills and the middle class. https://www.doleta.gov/oa/eeo/pdf/EEO_Rule_Overview_Fact_Sheet.pdf (Accessed January 2017).
8. Moir S, Thomson M, Kelleher C. 2011. Unfinished business: Building equality for women in the construction trades. Labor Resource Center Publications. http://scholarworks.umb.edu/lrc_pubs/5 (Accessed February 2017).
9. U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. 2016. Apprenticeship programs; equal employment opportunity (29 CFR parts 29 and 30). https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-12-19/pdf/2016-29910.pdf#page=83 (Accessed January 2017).
U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Apprenticeship uses a combination of individual records and aggregate state reports to calculate national totals as depicted on this page. The Registered Apprenticeship Partners Information Management Data System (RAPIDS) captures individual record data from 25 Office of Apprenticeship states and 9 of the 27 State Apprenticeship Agency (SAA) states/territories. For SAA states that manage their data outside of RAPIDS, information is provided in the aggregate to the DOL on a quarterly basis.
All charts – U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. Contact: Alexander Jordan.