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According to an analysis from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, in 2021 alone, construction companies will need to hire 430,000 more workers than they employed in 2020. Finding enough skilled construction tradespeople isn’t a new problem—the shortage of trained workers has plagued the industry for years. But construction offers many people what they’re looking for in a career: a well-paying job with growth opportunities that doesn’t require a college degree. So how does someone start working in a trade? Apprenticeships offer an ideal opportunity for those interested in construction; they can earn while they learn a trade from senior leaders and have a job waiting for them once the apprenticeship is completed.

While apprenticeships vary, depending on the trade, the majority are four- to five-year programs that combine classroom learning and hands-on training in the field. Part of the appeal of an apprenticeship is participants “earn while they learn,” being paid for their work as they perfect their craft. As apprentices work through their program, they work their way up through different levels, which increases their rate of pay. The earning potential for an apprentice who has completed a program and achieved full journeymen status is anywhere from $75 thousand to $100 thousand per year. The requirements to become an apprentice are fairly straightforward: a basic level of math aptitude and reading comprehension, a background check and a drug test.

Once in an apprenticeship, participants learn from senior members in the field who mentor them through the program and teach them the skills they’ll need to succeed. This learning is a two-way street though, as younger apprentices tend to teach older workers about new technology. Construction is becoming more reliant on technology, making it an ideal option for younger generations. Modular construction, prefabrication, and mass 3D printing are just some of the technologies being employed on construction sites today that young apprentices will be learning and using.

One of the main challenges in getting people interested in apprenticeships is demonstrating how this viable alternative to college can immediately result in a job. Most people have been told they need to attend college if they want to have a well-paying job. However, student loan debt is causing many to rethink the college route and look for other options. Some people are simply not interested in college, but want a career that allows them to make a decent living.

Apprenticeships offer these individuals learning, mentoring and education on the jobsite, all while being paid. Also, it is not uncommon for those who have attended college or earned a degree to come into apprenticeships afterwards, either because they couldn’t find work in their field of study or because they’re interested in construction work. Veterans in particular excel in apprenticeship programs.

Many prospective apprentices are concerned that once they complete their training, they’ll spend their entire life working on a jobsite. But there’s a lot of upward mobility that younger generations can achieve after learning a trade. Apprenticeships offer a career path to more skilled work, including eventually becoming superintendents, project managers, estimators and even business owners

For those interested in a construction apprenticeship, there are several options for how to start. If there is a local company where they are interested in working, they can reach out to see if the company can assist in placing them in a program. Or, they can contact a local apprenticeship school in their area to see what is offered. Most employers understand the value of apprenticeship programs and are ready to invest in training. Many training centers and apprenticeship programs are jointly managed and overseen by employers and construction associations working together to train the future industry workforce.

One thing an apprentice can typically count on is having a job after they complete their program. Once an apprentice has reached journeyman status, often the company they’ve been working with will hire them as a full-time employee with benefits.

The construction industry needs apprentices to fill the workforce gap now and in the coming years. Apprenticeship programs offer people the opportunity to learn a new trade from experienced tradespeople, while being paid, and with a job almost guaranteed when they are done. Apprenticeships are a vital part of the industry and are needed now more than ever.

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