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National Center Helps Stakeholders Grow Construction Workforce with Resources for Strengthening Participation of Women in Apprenticeship

Working simultaneously with unions, contractors, women, and students, the  National Center for Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment is helping the construction industry grow the skilled workforce it needs by incorporating and retaining more women. One way the center is doing this is by bringing registered apprenticeship to bear as a proven strategy to grow and retain talent, according to Jayne Vellinga, Executive Director of Chicago Women in Trades, the parent organization of the center.

By providing evidence-based strategies and practical applications, the center supports employers in their efforts to build and implement apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs and then provides ongoing support to ensure that more women successfully complete their apprenticeships and launch long-term careers in their trade.

Midwest stakeholders including registered apprenticeship sponsors, training providers, and workforce development professionals can benefit first hand from the center’s expertise by participating in the upcoming Building Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment: An Institute for Practitioners and Employers, which will be held Friday, October 13, 2017 before the start of the Women Build Nations conference in Chicago.

The multi-pronged approach taken by the center is a reflection of several factors influencing the availability of skilled laborers today.

“If I’m a contractor, I want to find some women that I’m going to cultivate and treat like an integral part of my workforce so when I bid on a project that has a female hiring goal, I already have a great skilled person that I know produces for me,” said Vellinga.

Bringing women into these careers is good for the employers but it’s also an issue of equity, according to Vellinga. In construction jobs, which have been traditionally held by male workers, a new employee with a high school diploma and no work experience will enter the field at nearly $20 per hour. In five years, that person could earn nearly $50 per hour. By contrast, roles with similar educational requirements in traditionally female jobs, such as Nurse’s Assistant, will enter the workforce at around $12 per hour and only increase their earning potential by a few dollars in five years.

A couple of years ago, the center received a Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to set up a technical assistance center for the Midwest. The center was one of three grantees spanning the county. With this grant, the center has begun to expand their reach and bring technical assistance across the region.

The center works with their national partners, primarily unions, to develop technical assistance plans, provide training, help decipher regulations, and develop best practices and case studies. They provide employers assistance on issues as varied as recruitment and retention to domestic violence.

“It’s also about career choice,” explains Vellinga. “Not every woman is a nurturer. Not every woman without a college degree wants to work with children or old people or be a waitress. Women have wide range of interests whether they’ve had an opportunity to go to college or not. It’s important to have that level of career choice and the earning power that goes with jobs that have been traditionally male.”

In 2016, the center received an additional grant from the Department of Labor targeting equity partners. The center was named the lead agency for a consortium of 10 organizations around the country. This consortium includes virtually every funded tradeswoman organization in the country and works with the national Registered Apprenticeship program. The consortium assists apprenticeship program sponsors with their equal employment opportunity planning. They provide tools, guidance, technical assistance, training, and other services in support of building equity for women in apprenticeship. Today, women make up only 15% of all apprenticeships, and in the construction field, the numbers are much worse at just 3% nationwide.

An improving economy and projected workforce shortages are helping to spur momentum for women in trades. Vellinga also points out that certain incentive programs work exceptionally well to motivate positive hiring practices. The Illinois Tollway system, for example, offers earned credit to contractors who bid on construction projects for each woman or minority that is hired. What makes this program especially beneficial is that it also awards credit for retaining these employees. “So, if you’ve done a good job with your workforce, you don’t necessarily have to be the lowest bidder to be successful in getting a contract,” said Vellinga. “What I like about this system is that it rewards you for what you’ve done, not just what you say you’re going to do.”

In her 17 years at Chicago Women in Trades, Vellinga has seen significant improvement in the work environment for women in construction. As an example, she tells about one of the plumber’s unions she works with in the Chicago area. Just four years ago, this group had just two women in their apprenticeship program. However, with a change in mindset among the union’s leadership, they started bringing more women into the program. Today, they have 32 women in their apprenticeship program and are also supporting a robust mentorship program.

“Last year, for the first time in this local’s history, they sent women as delegates to the union association convention. And not just one woman, but three,” said Vellinga.  “These numbers are going to make the difference. You can’t ignore, refuse to train or create an untenable work environment for an important percentage of your workforce.”

For more information on the center or on the Women Build Nations conference, contact Jayne Vellinga by email at jvellinga@cwit2.org.

Exponential Growth in Registered Apprenticeship in Transportation Fueled by Accelerator Activity and Industry Commitment

Registered apprenticeship programs are growing to meet the demands of the transportation sector. A powerful tool for companies to develop the talent they need to fill positions, apprenticeship is being adopted to address workforce gaps in a growing array of occupations. The U.S. Department of Labor funds intermediaries such as FASTPORT and TransPORTs to develop registered apprenticeship programs and expand the number of apprentices for employers in the transportation and logistics industry.

“I am currently working with a large supply chain exporter with 60 branches in the U.S. Their vice president reached out to us because he wants to use apprenticeship to build his workforce,” said Barbara Murray, TransPORTs Apprenticeship and Partnership Development Expert. “He said there are great supply chain programs out there and named a couple of universities. But, then he said the graduates of those programs have great theoretical knowledge but they don’t have any work experience so they really still can’t go to work.” Plus, Murray pointed out, it is at this point that new graduates often discover that the job is not a good fit.

Combine the career readiness that apprenticeship provides with the astoundingly high retention rates of 87-93% of employees who complete apprenticeship programs, and it is clear why more companies are turning to groups like TransPORTs and FASTPORTS, for assistance in getting new programs up and running for an increasing number of occupations.

Resources such as videos and the new SMART Maritime and Transportation Career Pathways and Occupations Toolkit are available to help spread the word about the growing number of maritime occupations available through registered apprenticeship.

“My role has been changing the face of what apprenticeship is. Those professional careers can all be done with apprenticeship. The only way to do that is have people understand what apprenticeship is,” said Murray. “There are so many open positions right now where the people applying don’t have the needed skills. There’s a mismatch. More can be done than just taking classes and sitting in a classroom. Actually taking relevant classes that are matched to the work that you’re doing; that’s the difference.”

Truck drivers are an in-demand group and accordingly, this was one of the earliest national training standards program developed.
“We now have nine national employer companies sponsoring registered apprenticeship programs. Through these there are currently 814 apprentices operating on the national standards with a truck driving apprenticeship,” said Dave Harrison, Executive Director of National Apprenticeship at FASTPORT.

One of the key boosts to apprenticeship has been the advent of national apprenticeship standards, which facilitate the expansion of programs across states and make it easier to replicate programs.

“In 2014 an idea was born and some of us in the industry started actually writing what is called the National Standard of Apprenticeship, even before anything was passed in legislation. We just believed it was going to happen,” said Harrison. “It’s just been since the middle of 2015 that we started getting engagement on national strategies. So, if you look at it, it’s not very old.”

Truck drivers and diesel mechanics are some of the most in-demand employees being developed through apprenticeship today.

But there has been a lot of growth in a short time. Since the beginning, Harrison points out the truck driver segment has experienced the greatest growth, because that’s the biggest area of need. Moving forward, other related occupations are beginning to catch up. These include occupations like diesel mechanic and fleet manager. FASTPORT currently has programs for eight occupations in this area.

Over the next two years, Harrison predicts explosive growth in apprentices joining programs for freight broker or cargo broker and related occupations. These occupations are increasingly important to the world economy “because they integrate everything, air, land, and sea,” said Harrison.

In maritime, employers around our nation’s ports have diverse workforce needs and the new occupations being pursued for apprenticeship reflect this diversity. “The hot jobs include electro-mechanical, welder, HVAC, crane operator, logistics associate, freight forwarder, and, most recently, graphic designer,” said Murray.

Currently in process, FASTPORT is working to co-sponsor a new registered apprenticeship program with the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) to launch programs for freight brokers. With over 1700 employers as part of their association, this TIA program will quickly rival truck driver programs in terms of enrolled apprentices.

Harrison sites partnerships with industry as the driving factor for apprenticeship program successes. It is the industry connections which helps guide the best practices for reaching employers. One of the key activities they do is host accelerator events, often as part of national trade conferences. FASTPORT will be attending the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, August 24-26. “This is a great event and I would encourage anyone interested in apprenticeship and the transportation industry to attend,” said Harrison.

“A lot of what we do is make it simpler and quicker for companies,” said Murray. She cites the U.S. Department of Labor’s commitment to the ApprenticeshipUSA program with contributing to their success by adding more people but not more administrative layers. “We have more people, more opportunities to work face-to-face with companies and turn their programs around more quickly,” she said.

To learn more about starting an apprenticeship program, contact Dave Harrison at dave.harrison@fastport.com or Barbara Murray at brmurray77@gmail.com.

Designed for Generation Z, Online Pre-Apprenticeship Offers Wisconsin Students a Fast Track to High-Demand Careers

In recognition of the importance of workforce issues to Wisconsin’s contractors, Wisconsin Operating Engineers partnered with Destinations Career Academy to develop the Operating Engineers Pre-Apprenticeship Program. This program prepares students for registered apprenticeship while still in high school. Hosted through the McFarland School district in south-central Wisconsin, this program is available through course options to students throughout the state.

Transcripts of Apprenticeship Webinar and Call Available

The transcript of the MTWC webinar, “Why all the momentum for Registered Apprenticeships? What are they?” held December 8th is now available for download on the MTWC website. Here, you can also view the recording of the webinar as well as download the presentation slides and other helpful resource materials.

After the webinar, a follow-up call was scheduled to allow more time to ask questions of the panel of experts about registered apprenticeship programs. The transcript of this call is also available on the website.

Events

Building Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment: An Institute for Practitioners and Employers

Women Build Nations will host the pre-conference Practitioner Institute Friday, October 13th 2017. This professional development event is for industry stakeholders, including registered apprenticeship sponsors, pre-apprenticeship training providers, workforce development professionals, and employers to learn effective strategies, resources and best practice models for building women’s participation and increasing their retention in the construction industry.

Though held in conjunction with Women Build Nations, this is a separate event with a registration fee of $125, including breakfast and lunch.

Women Build Nations

WOMEN BUILD NATIONS returns to Chicago, in the heart of the south loop’s historic McCormick Place neighborhood – minutes from the vibrant downtown scene. With over 1,000 rooms reserved, an extended vendor hall area and meeting space connected to the largest convention center in North America, this conference promises to be the largest ever convening of tradeswomen and their allies.

WOMEN BUILD NATIONS is for women of all ages and all skill levels who work, or aspire to work, in the construction trades. Whether you are a pre-apprentice or a seasoned journeyperson, this conference provides a unique opportunity to learn from and connect with tradeswomen from around the country and the world.

WOMEN BUILD NATIONS speaks to every tradeswoman’s needs, offering workshops and plenary sessions facilitated by tradeswomen and featuring union leaders, apprenticeship coordinators, contractors and elected officials. Workshop tracks include, but are not limited to, Recruitment & Retention; Leadership Development; Policy/Politics and Beyond the Tools.