Expanding Apprenticeship Programs Could Help Improve the Job Market

Apprenticeships work for the glazing industry and other specialty trades, and researches from Harvard Business School and Burning Glass Technologies have identified what makes them work, and how they can be implemented across other sectors. Room to Grow: Identifying New Frontiers for Apprenticeships, a study conducted by both groups, suggests that the U.S. can expand apprenticeships from the 27 industries that currently offer such programs, including glazing, to a total of 74 industries.

The report examined 23 million job postings to identify occupations with characteristics similar to existing apprenticeships. Requiring a narrow set of specialized skills without heavy licensing, having largely stable work-forces and consistently paying a living wage are the three necessary characteristics for a successful apprenticeship program, according to the study.

Glazing and the 26 other occupations using apprenticeships have a higher union membership rate than the national average of 10.7 percent in 2016. They are also roles with relatively low rates of worker mobility, with 47 per-cent of workers remaining in the same occupation for more than five years.

According to Anton Ruesing, director of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Finishing Trades Institute (FTI), the apprentice-ship model is one that works well for contract glaziers.

“A registered apprenticeship program is key to preparing workers to compete in a global 21st-century economy because the system keeps pace with advancing technologies and innovations in the glazing industry,” he says. “The IUPAT glazier curriculum is regularly updated to ensure that it is aligned with today’s glazing industry standards, which includes the handling and use of new technology and materials.”

Ruesing says they are working to further increase the number of people applying for apprenticeships by getting the word out to the younger generation.

“The opportunity to be an apprentice and earn while you learn in a trade like glazing, one that is going to provide for a personally and professionally successful career, must be advertised to more young men and women, and not just by the IUPAT and the rest of the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU). Word of these opportunities needs to come from our education system, starting from elementary school up through high school,” says Ruesing.

One way apprenticeships programs are promoted to the younger generation is through the Finishing Trades Institute’s Vocational Internship Program (VIP), which provides high school students a pathway into FTI’s apprentice programs. VIP provides professional and technical instruction, and prepares students for academic, construction and life skills challenges. FTI was recently awarded a $445,000 grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) to expand the program.

VIP is a once-a-week, career-education program that provides high school juniors and seniors with professional and technical instruction in preparation for apprenticeships as industrial workers. The grant will allow FTI to double the size of the program to serve 120 students annually, and to extend enrollment to a variety of district, charter and private schools. The VIP will also transition from a once-a-week event to an immersive experience for high school seniors four days a week.

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