Construction Apprenticeship Programs and COVID-19: Challenges and How the Industry is Adapting

Apprenticeship programs have seen a boom across different industries in the last five years. The US Department of Labor reveals that more than 252,000 individuals have entered apprenticeships in 2019, which represents 128% growth since 2009. In fact, more than 12,000 apprenticeship programs were created during the preceding five-year period.

With the new COVID-19 regulations, industries, including construction, need to get creative in executing their apprenticeship programs. In-person learning and experience have definitely become difficult to maintain as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the United States.

To adapt, educators and employers are now finding ways to execute the program and be able to abide by health and safety guidelines. Most educators have turned to digital platforms to do so. Traditional employee learning programs did the same, with employers conducting training via webinars, e-learning and others.


How Apprenticeship Programs Help Businesses

Apprenticeships provide the businesses with a selection of skilled workforce. Through registered apprenticeship, employers can effectively build a team of skilled and talented employees who already have gained industry credentials. Students who have participated and completed apprenticeship programs automatically have more experience as compared to those who haven’t. They have greater problem-solving ability, which requires little to no on-site supervision from employers.

Apprenticeship program also helps companies reduce turnover rates and improve employee retention. According to studies, 94% of apprentices pursue employment after completing an apprenticeship. This also reduces the costs needed for ads and recruitment costs since this program already fosters an inclusive culture of job-seekers willing to learn and work.

As for students and new professionals, apprenticeships create an industry-driven and high-quality career pathway. Employers are able to develop and prepare their future workforce. In return, apprentices are provided with paid work experience and guaranteed wage increases as they develop new skills. Statistics show that those who complete a registered apprenticeship have an average annual salary of $70,000.

Apprenticeship programs are also flexible and less demanding for students. Learners are allowed to work and learn at the same time which eases the transition from school to career. There is no multi-year period where they need to focus on learning before getting compensation. 

On-site learning helps learners gain workplace-relevant skills and at the same time gain academic credit towards a college degree. 


Growing Successful Partnerships

The relationship between employers and educational institutions also play a role in the success of apprenticeship programs. Unfortunately, more often than not, there’s always a disconnect between the two.

Employers and educators should collaborate. Employers should make it clear what positions are open and skill sets they need. And traditional classroom education can’t provide all of the context apprentices need to grow in their profession. To improve success in program development, both sides need to enlist intermediaries like workforce boards, nonprofits, or industry associations.

Beyond establishing such partnerships, employers also need to make sure that pathways to apprenticeships are available for all workers.

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