The eighth annual National Apprenticeship Week is here. The weeklong celebration of industry, labor, equity, workforce and education highlights the importance of registered apprenticeship as a vital talent pipeline to address workforce challenges. National Apprenticeship Week runs from Nov. 14-18, 2022.

Workforce Challenges

Workforce challenges have become a common theme in most industries over the past few years, including the construction, glass, glazing and fenestration industries.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that the nation has over 10 million job openings but only around six million unemployed workers. According to U.S. Chamber of Commerce data, more than 30 million U.S. workers were unemployed during the pandemic. Since then, job openings have increased while unemployment has declined slowly.

The U.S. has more than three million fewer Americans participating in the labor force today compared to February 2020.

Automation as an Answer

A recent report by the Dodge Construction Network and Procore Technologies found that 90% of companies surveyed reported negative impacts due to labor shortages. They also say that an average of 33% of their current workforce is expected to retire in the next five years, which will worsen the situation. To account for this, companies are turning to technology adoption, offsite methods and jobsite automation.

Blue Star Glass, for instance, opened the first fully automated insulating glass facility in the U.S. The Dallas facility will house a minimal, yet sophisticated staff compared to traditional IGU lines.

“Operating a fully automated factory enables our staff to reinforce their focus on quality, planning and logistics coordination, which results in Blue Star being a more reliable partner,” says Blue Star president Alex Oanono.

Automation Means More Training

Alan DeMello, president of Ultrafab, says that while the supplier of sealing products to the fenestration industry has had better luck hiring recently, the turn to automation has made training more time-consuming and complicated.

“We can get the staff now, but you have to train them,” says DeMello. “The products that we do manufacture require a substantial amount of training. It takes a while to get someone trained to the point where they can run a manufacturing process independently. That’s what a lot of us are dealing with now. We’ve added the staff but now we have to train them to be proficient in the stuff that we need them to do.”

Labor Shortages Force Wages Up

Wages have increased considerably as a result of the continued labor shortages and the need to hire more skilled workers, according to a construction market survey by Turner & Townsend, a UK-based construction company. The report found that Europe’s wages increased by 22.4% to $65.8 an hour in 2022, compared to $44.40 an hour in 2019. North America has the highest average labor cost in the world at $68.40 an hour. That rate is expected to increase in 2023 due to worsening labor shortages.

Importance of National Apprenticeship Week

The persistence of labor challenges is what makes National Apprenticeship Week so crucial. The event recognizes how apprenticeships are important to develop the skills and knowledge needed to pursue a rewarding career, as well as to help employers build a workforce with the skills they need in the long term.

Supporters of apprenticeships use the week as an opportunity to host events, such as a webinar or virtual convening, publish a new apprenticeship-related resource or article or hold an apprentice graduation ceremony.

The key themes throughout this week include:

  • Monday, Nov. 14: Registered Apprenticeship in New and Emerging Industries
  • Tuesday, Nov. 15: Pre-Apprenticeship and Youth Apprenticeship
  • Wednesday, Nov. 16: Expanding Registered Apprenticeship to Underserved Populations
  • Thursday, Nov. 17: Women in Apprenticeship
  • Friday, Nov. 18: Public Service Apprenticeship and Veterans in Apprenticeship