November 17

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Apprenticeship Week in the Construction Industry

By Robert Salvador

November 17, 2021


This week, November 15-21, is National Apprenticeship Week, a very important time for the construction industry to think about the future of our workforce. 

In March 2021 it was projected that construction companies will need to hire 430,000 more workers than they employed in 2020, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The data also revealed that every $1 billion in extra construction spending generates an average of at least 5,700 construction jobs.

Where will the new workers come from?

There are a number of efforts happening to entice young people, as well as persons looking to change careers, to consider a career in construction.  One major factor that sets construction careers apart is that the barrier to entry is low, in most cases you can begin a job in construction without a college degree. Apprenticeship is one of the most popular gateways.  

If you take a moment to do a Google search for apprenticeship jobs, you will find too many results to count.

From a construction business owner's perspective, apprenticeship has proven to be a good investment. Economic return on investment (ROI) has shown that employers gain $3 to every $1 that is invested; accounted for by improved safety, elimination of rework, and increased productivity of the worker.   Apprenticeship programs can be integrated into an organization’s current training and human resource strategy and the control of administration enables contractors and  organizations to modify training in real time to better fit the needs of the business at that time. 

What is in it for the apprentice?

For the person looking to start a career,  apprenticeship is a “earn while you learn” system that offers the chance to learn, hands on, from the best trained construction workers in the country. Apprenticeship can lead to a nationally recognized credential that they can take anywhere and offers good pay and benefits to support the worker and their family. Most apprenticeship programs have been assessed for college credit, which participants can apply toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. It’s worth mentioning that people that complete an apprenticeship earn substantially more over a career than the average two-year college degree.

What are the opportunities?

According to apprenticeship.gov there are many high paying, secure opportunities to build a career in construction that start with apprenticeship.

Electrician

  • To become an electrician, Most prospects start as apprentices and work as they go through a trade or technical school. 
  • The average salary of an electrician is $55,190 a year, but the top 10 percent earned over $94,620, according to the report by the BLS.

Plumber

  • The average plumber makes $53,910 annually.
  • A four to five-year apprenticeship is all that’s needed to become a plumber. 
  • Most states do require a plumber to have a license to practice the trade with at least 2 years of on-the-job experience.

Sheet Metal Worker

  • Sheet metal workers learn their trade in different technical and vocational programs along with apprenticeship. They take courses and programs that teach welding and other sheet metal fabrication knowledge.
  • Sheet metal workers have some of the highest salaries across blue-collar industries, earning an average of $48,460. In 2018, the highest-earning 10 percent earned over $86,200.

Carpenter

  • There are two main paths to becoming a carpenter: through an apprenticeship with on-the-job training. Trade schools typically last two years and can be completed in-person or online.
  • The average Carpenter salary in the United States is $57,958 as of October 29, 2021, but the range typically falls between $50,049 and $66,793. 

Equipment Operator

  • There isn’t a single path to becoming a heavy equipment operator. Many workers learn how to operate equipment on the job. Others learn through an apprenticeship or through vocational schools.
  • The average Heavy Equipment Operator salary in the United States is $66,614 as of October 29, 2021, but the range typically falls between $55,694 and $75,581. 

Mason

  • Entry-level masons can enter the field after high school, but they can also go through an apprenticeship program offered by a technical school, college or through a union.
  • Brick and block masons earned an average of $53,150 per year as of May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Glazier

  • Apprenticeship programs are the most common way of becoming a glazier. 
  • The average pay for a glazier is $43,550 with the highest-paid individuals earning $81,950 or a little under double the industry average.

Elevator Installation/ Repair

  • Elevator installers start out as apprentices in a 4-year program designed to help them learn the trade.
  • The average wage for an elevator installer and repairer was $79,780 in May 2018, but salaries can vary depending on what industry an individual installer works in. 

Many workers that start out in apprenticeship programs set their sights on eventually becoming construction managers.  This is a very feasible path that allows a person  to make a living while learning their trade and advancing their career of choice.  When you consider the on the job experience tied with additional career training, the potential for very skilled managers becomes a reality.

  • Managers are in very high demand and  the average salary of a construction manager is $93,370.
  • Construction managers will generally make the highest salary in the industry due to the responsibilities that are expected of them
  • Typically, construction managers start off in an entry-level position in the construction field and move their way up. Many attend trade schools.

Trade Schools and Changing Perception

Trade schools have long struggled to gain recognition as a worthy alternative to four-year colleges, but the pandemic and other factors are changing perceptions, with one-third of Americans now viewing trade school as a more favorable option than college. 

  • 33 percent of Americans now think trade school is a better option than college.
  • Trade schools come with less debt.
  • A trade school will generally put you into your career much faster than college.

The schools differ greatly in how much they cost. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the cost for four years of college can be anywhere from $80,000 to $160,000. By contrast, the average cost for a vocational program is around $33,000. Because trade school costs so much less than college, it can be a good option for students who lack financial resources. Trade schools also mean much less student loan debt!

Trade School are Jobs More Secure than People Know

Historically, unemployment has been lowest among those with the most education but that isn’t always the case.

The construction field, in particular, is in the midst of a huge rebound that will require a growing labor force. Between May 2020 and August 2020, unemployment in the construction field dropped from 12.7 percent to 7.6 percent, and in that same time, more than 200,000 jobs were added.

Perceptions about trade school are changing, with many now recognizing an alternative path to a well-paying, stable job with less student loan debt. 

Technology is Going to Play a Major Factor

The labor shortage is causing owners, general contractors and other trades to consider labor saving methods. Technology in methods, machinery and systems are all becoming more prevalent in the construction office and on the jobsite.

  • A reduction in labor supply encouraged builders to adopt more labor-saving technology faster than usual.
  • Improvement in the scheduling and logistics of building materials delivery.
  • Increased use of prefabrication and modularization.
  • BIM, Smart Contracts and BlockChain will be increasingly in use

Why DigiBuild?

DigiBuild is a blockchain-enabled construction project management platform. Our customers manage workflows such as procurement, budgets, schedules, contracts, and payments. DigiBuild allows for collaboration across 50+ disparate construction stakeholders – all on a single platform. 

We are the first to merge our construction management expertise with blockchain technology to create the world’s most revolutionary technology bringing risk management and visibility to your projects.

Through verifiable collaboration, we eliminate risk, disputes, save time and create a healthier and happier global construction industry. 

Robert Salvador

About The Author

Rob Salvador is the visionary driving force behind DigiBuild, an experienced builder, project manager and construction technologist. Since the age of 10, Rob has witnessed what it was like, firsthand for his Dad struggling to run his construction company. He eventually started his own construction company and those experiences and the lack of change over that time span led to his mission of creating a better way to operate construction projects and the construction community. Rob’s passion and previous cryptocurrency startup experiences are what led to him becoming a blockchain expert. In 2017 he had his ‘aha moment’ and the idea of 'how to' apply blockchain to construction took form and DigiBuild was born.

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