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How to beat the workforce opportunity equation: Apprenticeships in the skilled trades

  • Joanna
  • May 1, 2017

How to beat the workforce opportunity equation: Apprenticeships in the skilled trades

At its most fundamental level, workforce opportunity is an equation based on available hours and people to work those hours.

When the ratio of hours to workers is low, workforce opportunity is low. And when the ratio is high, workforce opportunity is high.

And right now in Michigan the ratio is very high.

In the region around Lansing, for instance, at least 105 million construction and skilled craftsman hours are expected to be available in the next two years — and that doesn’t include several large federally sponsored projects or any residential construction. And that’s to say nothing of the rest of the state, where experts say the construction outlook is exceptionally bright: Nearly three-quarters of construction firms are expected to expand their hiring this year.

Yet in Michigan, as is the case throughout the nation, the existing skilled trades workforce is aging, and pending retirements are creating a deep concern over the ability to match hours and workers.

That’s why one recent report concludes that Michigan needs to re-orientate its career pipeline through more skilled trades apprentice training opportunities. Such career pathways aren’t just a ticket to a good job, but also a route to the middle class for individuals who come from lower-wage-earning families. That’s because apprentices can begin earning wages while training — and graduate from apprenticeships into solid middle-class jobs with high wage growth potential and worker demand.

While the vast majority of apprenticeships are accessible to individuals with a high school diploma alone, young men and women who want to take advantage of apprenticeship training do need to be able to differentiate themselves from their peers. Viable candidates should have access to transportation, solid math and reading skills, and a strong work ethic — all attributes that are emphasized and certified in a new skilled trades credentialing program Graduation Alliance offers in partnership with Associated Builders and Contractors in Michigan.