Construction Trend Shows Rising Demand for Apprentices

As opportunities increase, unions and organizations that sponsor apprentice programs are looking to expand the candidate pool.

📅   Tue March 08, 2016 - West Edition


The Orange County Register is reporting that in Orange County, a construction boom and aging workforce is driving demand for apprentice electricians, plumbers and entry-level workers in other trades.
The Orange County Register is reporting that in Orange County, a construction boom and aging workforce is driving demand for apprentice electricians, plumbers and entry-level workers in other trades.

The Orange County Register is reporting that in Orange County, a construction boom and aging workforce is driving demand for apprentice electricians, plumbers and entry-level workers in other trades. Demand matches what's happening across the state and country as the economy improves and government agencies push apprenticeships as an alternative to college for training for middle-income jobs.

As opportunities increase, unions and organizations that sponsor apprentice programs are looking to expand the candidate pool, reaching out to career changers, military veterans and minorities, as well as to women, who've historically been underrepresented in the construction business.

Getting a college degree is often cited as the best path to financial security. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, college graduates ages 25 to 32 working full time earn 62 percent more than their peers with only a high school diploma.

But trade jobs can pay well, too. If an apprentice electrician completes classroom training, puts in five or more years and passes a state certification needed to become a journeyman, they make about $36 an hour, or close to a full-time wage of $75,000 a year, plus benefits and pension. Entry-level apprentices start at about $15 an hour, not including benefits.

On the upswing

California apprenticeships fell during the recession when corporate belt-tightening led to a drop in construction projects and higher unemployment. Total apprenticeships in the state declined to 52,763 in 2011 from 60,060 in 2010 before rebounding to 55,280 in 2013, according to the state Department of Industrial Relations.

Ron Miller, executive secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, thinks apprenticeships in the state have hit 60,000 again and continue to grow.

In Orange County, Local 441 hired about 100 apprentices last year and will equal that in 2016, said Richard Samaniego, the union's business manager.

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