Apprenticeships still deliver the American Dream


Every year students struggle to decide what step to take towards their career after high school. Students want to go into a field that will allow them to live the American Dream - the ability to buy a home, a new car, and start a family of their own. Parents likewise want their children to be able to have a better start than they themselves did but often struggle to figure out how to finance the endeavor. College tuitions continue to skyrocket year after year- what if there was a way to gain work and life experience, learn a guaranteed employable skill, and simultaneously earn a family-sustaining wage with little to no debt?  I believe there is, and the solution is an apprenticeship. Below are 3 reasons that you should not dismiss apprenticeship and a career in construction.

First, I would like to start out by saying the I am not suggesting that all people should not go to college. Rather, I propose that a career in the construction industry should be an option that is considered as an equal.  Apprenticeship has been around in one form or another since the inception of careers. Some of the notable founders of America such as Benjamin Franklin took part in apprenticeship.

It is one of the most proven ways to learn a trade, skill, or profession. In many states here in the U.S., it is the only path to licensure in certain professions.  It is also one of the few ways you earn your way to a successful career with little to no education-related debt.

  1. With a current 500,000 worker shortage in the construction industry, all crafts are in high demand. This demand is going to continue to expand as the worker shortage is expected to increase to 1.2 million or larger by 2020. The large number of baby boomers that will retire from construction and increased infrastructure spending coming out of Washington DC will also continue the job growth. For every $1M extra in infrastructure spent, America will create 6.7 to 7.1 new construction jobs.1 This will allow the trained skilled worker to work anywhere in the U.S. they choose.
  2. According to the US Department of Labor, 91% of students are able to complete their training while working and earning money and also earn credit for their hours worked in their craft.2 The same study indicates those students are still working for that same employer 9 months after completion. 95% of these students graduate with no debt related to their education and are making wages of 40-60K per year, depending on their craft and location. This is in comparison to just 66% of 2018 college grads having a job according to a recent study from the Economic Policy Institute 3.
  3. As the national spending on construction rises, the industry will need more supervisors, estimators, job site management, and construction companies. This industry is a great place to get your experience and start your own business. If you choose an apprenticeship program with industry recognized credentials, you can go anywhere and be recognized as a professional.

To quote Winston Churchill, "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps the end of the beginning.” A career in construction through apprenticeship does not have to be the end of the road. After completion of an apprenticeship program, some students decide to go on and get two or four-year degrees in management, engineering, or other field specialties. They have a head start both financially and with practical knowledge to put their learning to work for them.

Over the past one and a half years as the CEO of the ABC Cumberland Valley Chapter in Hagerstown, Maryland, I have witnessed several success stories that have formed my views. The most notable is a 24-year-old graduate that came back two years after completion to let us know how he was doing. He had purchased a home with significant acreage, a new truck, and was starting a family. This is something that took me into my 30's to pull off.

There are many of these stories around the US. This industry doesn't care about your gender, sexual orientation, religion, labor affiliation, or political affiliation. If you are willing to work hard, the construction industry will reward you.

In conclusion, if you would like to start a career in a field that will allow you to grow and start earning a good wage immediately, you should start to look into all of the possibilities that are available through the construction field. There is nothing more satisfying in life than seeing a project of any kind through to completion; construction professionals do this on a regular basis. The construction professionals of America are building our future with their minds and hands!