National Apprenticeship Week is a nationwide celebration of registered apprenticeships. Apprenticeships play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the construction industry, as they provide hands-on training and education to aspiring construction professionals. These programs allow individuals to develop and hone their skills, setting them on a path to a rewarding career. Apprenticeships also play a crucial role in renewing our economy, increasing racial and gender equality, and supplying a channel of high quality jobs. This week, EDA is excited to spotlight the history and importance of apprenticeship programs that allow us to develop talent within our industry.
An apprenticeship allows individuals to receive technical training, practical experience, and compensation while competing actual work. Through these programs, apprentices learn practical skills to perform a particular trade, occupation, or profession. Apprentices work for a sponsor, who may be a single employer or a business-union collaboration, and are paid during their training. The qualifications required to become an apprentice vary by program, but in most cases include being at least 18 years old and possessing a high school diploma or GED equivalent. While some apprentices begin their work immediately after high school, others begin programs later in life when looking to change careers. A formal apprenticeship usually takes about four to five years to complete, although that time can vary based on employer or occupation. There are two different types of training given to apprentices who take part in a program that is approved by the US Department of Labor: on-the-job and off-the-job training.
On-the-job training focuses on developing workers' skills through structured work settings. Under the supervision of an experienced mentor, apprentices gain hands-on experience in their chosen field. Apprentices in this training are constantly learning by observing, participating, and gradually taking on greater duties as they progress. The goal is to deliver practical, real-world experience. Apprentices are exposed to actual tasks and obligations that they may face in the future.
Off-the-job training is a classroom based learning approach. This can include classroom training, workshops, or formal educational programs, often conducted by educational institutions or training providers. This type of training primarily focuses on building a strong foundation of knowledge that can be applied on the job. Apprentices are required to spend at least 20% of their working hours completing off-the-job training, which they are compensated for.
History of Apprenticeship Programs
The apprenticeship system dates back thousands of years. In fact, there are written accounts from over 4,000 years ago that reference artisans teaching their crafts to the youth. English and other European migrant laborers were sent over to the first American colonies to aid in the development of a new civilization while passing on their trades. The Industrial Revolution played a big role in changing the apprenticeship system due to advancements in technology and machinery.
Specifically in the US, the 1920s saw more organizations in the construction industry spearhead initiatives to establish a consistent, nationwide apprenticeship system where all workers would have more rights, better compensation, and equal skills. The National Apprenticeship Act did not become a legally binding document until the Fitzgerald Act was passed in 1937. The Fitzgerald Act set the precedent for the federal government-supported apprentice program that exists today. Reforms have expanded opportunities for various socioeconomic categories over time, resulting in improved benefits.
Benefits of Apprenticeships
The development of skills is one of the most important takeaways from participating in an apprenticeship program. Individuals receive the knowledge and skills required for a successful career through structured and hands-on learning experiences offered by apprenticeships. Through the hands-on style of learning, apprenticeships provide essential skills in addition to promoting problem-solving and critical thinking, two important abilities to have in this dynamic industry.
Another benefit of apprenticeships is that most of the education needed is done on the job. This is especially helpful, as individuals are paid while learning the skills and qualifications needed for long-term employment in their industry. This provides apprentices with equitable income to cover bills and start a self-supporting life. Apprentices are also rewarded for their progress as they move through the program; as their skills improve, their salary does as well.
Finally, apprenticeships are frequently followed by long-term employment. Employers usually hire their apprentices following program completion, providing participants with a clear career path. If that is not the case, apprentices will still have the skills and a network of contacts to more easily find employment. Regardless, apprentices gain experience and knowledge that is transferable to different employment opportunities and companies.
National Apprenticeship Week serves as a reminder of the enormous contribution apprenticeship programs provide to our society. As industries continue to evolve, the demand for a highly qualified workforce is at an all-time high, and apprenticeships play a crucial role in addressing this demand. As we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, don't forget to recognize and appreciate these programs for all the work they do in shaping our world.