A Solid Foundation: Key Capacities of Construction Pre-Apprenticeship Programs
Author(s): Helmer, Matt; Blair, Amy; and Gerber, Allison.
Organizational Author(s): Workforce Strategies Initiative, a program of the Aspen Institute
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Resource Availability: Publicly available
Makes recommendations to policymakers and investors about how to structure pre-apprenticeship programs to help low-income adults enter and advance in the construction industry and to train a skilled workforce that meets the needs of employers, based on findings from site visits to four promising programs.
“Construction jobs provide low-income adults opportunities to enter the middle class. However, the path to quality construction jobs, including apprenticeships, is often difficult for those unfamiliar with the industry. While some workers struggle to build the skills, experience and knowledge necessary to enter and advance in a construction career, industry representatives…must diversify and improve the skills of their workforce to meet current demand....
In many labor markets, construction pre-apprenticeship training programs – which train people for entry-level construction jobs and are often led by community-based organizations, community colleges, local government, industry groups, [and] unions…grapple with these challenges. [From 2009 to 2012, the authors] studied how construction pre-apprenticeship programs connect low-income adults to construction careers and help construction employers find [a] diverse, skilled workforce.…During [the authors’] most recent research, [they] conducted site visits to pre-apprenticeship programs in Baltimore, [Maryland]; Milwaukee, [Wisconsin]; Portland, [Oregon]; and Hartford, [Connecticut], to better understand how these…programs relate to and partner with industry and other public and private stakeholders in their regional economies” (p.iv).
The four programs were selected because the authors believe them to be unique among other pre-apprenticeship programs in having “connections to broader networks of construction employers in their regional labor market” (p.5), based on prior research. This prior research includes a “nationwide survey of construction pre-apprenticeship programs” in 2009 and telephone interviews with leaders of programs that reported higher than average placement rates for “hard-to-serve populations” (p.5).
“In this paper, [the authors].…describe the construction industry using…data about the four cities where [they] conducted in-depth site visits….From there, [they] discuss the types of challenges that construction workers face in the industry….[and] the types of outcomes that pre-apprenticeship programs target for their participants….The report then describes how the four profiled programs…build industry networks and knowledge to inform their work as well as how industry perceives the value of pre-apprenticeship programs’ services….[The report] conclude[s] with recommendations…about how to better build and support pre-apprenticeship efforts” (p.4).(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)
Major Findings & Recommendations
“Key findings about pre-apprenticeship programs from this research include:
• The programs help new workers navigate employment in the industry. Programs help workers move from job to job in order to advance in the industry and prepare them for periods of unemployment in a seasonal and cyclical industry....
• Programs consider a variety of outcomes for their participants, including placement into Registered Apprenticeship, other construction-related jobs and additional construction training, as well as non-construction-related jobs and education programs.…Apprenticeship offers workers paid on-the-job learning, academic instruction, advanced skills that reflect their sponsoring employers’ specific needs….But, it is only one of several outcomes considered by pre-apprenticeship programs because apprenticeship is not a good fit for all workers and the number of apprenticeship slots is very small, relative to overall employment.
• Successful programs build and maintain vast industry networks….
• Program staff members with construction industry expertise or experience help build these relationships and help ensure that the screening, assessment, training and supports provided to participants align with industry needs” (p.iv).
“[The authors’] site visits also illuminated a number of issues that programs face, including performance measurements that are out of alignment with program strategies, labor market and industry conditions, as well as worker and business needs. Resources to build industry relationships and staff expertise are not widely available, and programs face challenges providing long-term supports to workers.…To help more construction pre-apprenticeship programs overcome these challenges, [the authors] suggest the following…:
• Set performance measures that account for programs’ overall goals, participant and industry needs, and labor market realities….
• Consider the unique aspects and context of the construction industry when setting performance measures for pre-apprenticeship programs....
• Support programs’ efforts to build industry networks and to develop and retain staff with a deep understanding of the construction sector.
• Provide programs with resources to implement long-term participant engagement strategies to help ensure workers are attaching to the labor market and advancing in their careers.
• Continue to build knowledge about challenges to apprenticeship retention and solutions” (p.iv-v).