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Don’t wait for the government to bring you skilled workers

kyle-schwarmApprenticeships have been receiving extensive news coverage lately.

Most recently, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to encourage “more affordable pathways to secure high-paying jobs by promoting apprenticeships and effective workforce development programs.” The president announced the order by saying we need to, “celebrate the dignity of work and the greatness of the American worker.”

Although few details have been provided on what new programs the government could provide for apprenticeships, the administration deserves credit for calling attention to this excellent opportunity. The details are being left to Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta to settle. The hope now is that more employers will embrace apprenticeships and that new programs will be established. In a recent poll on, 67 percent of the respondents said they believe this initiative will be successful.

It’s a wonderful initiative, but one that’s fraught with uncertainty. Contractors in need of skilled workers should simply embrace apprenticeships – with or without an executive order. Government can only do so much and opportunities for construction apprenticeships already exist.

Apprenticeships are a simple means of passing down trade knowledge. It’s a system that works. The ancient Egyptians trained apprentices. The American patriot Paul Revere was a silversmith apprentice and, at the tender age of 12, Benjamin Franklin was a printing apprentice. Throughout the centuries, apprenticeships have flourished as a means of training new recruits to the crafts and trades.

One reason apprenticeships have stood the test of time is that they have adapted and changed with society. Apprenticeships are no longer dead ends offering no opportunities for advancement or continuing education. They are instead part of a path that leads to many good things, including supervisory roles, entrepreneurship, an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree and even construction management. Apprentices earn above-average incomes, often out-earning four-year college graduates. With little or no debt after graduation, anyone who has completed an apprenticeship will an excellent opportunity for immediate advancement in life.

With every apprenticeship, there must be someone willing and able to teach a trade and someone willing and able to learn.

Here’s why all contractors should consider becoming an approved apprenticeship trainer:


Someone who is properly trained in a technique or skill can outperform someone who has not been trained or has little on-the-job training. Downtime is minimized because of this greater degree of competency.


Long-term training programs like apprenticeships typically have more value and are viewed as leading to a career. In general, those who are in “jobs” tend to move to other jobs. Those who are in “careers” tend to stay put.


Apprenticeship training tends to give participants pride in their trade and the quality of their work. Also, companies that offer apprenticeships often attract better applicants.

According to research from the American Society for Training and Development, companies that spend $1,500 or more per employee, per year, tend to have income that is 218 percent higher per employee than those with less comprehensive training. Their profit margins similarly tend to be 24 percent higher.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s hope it’s not the government. Every year at this time, new trainers are signing up to help the latest crop of apprentices get into the trades. If you’ve ever had thoughts about becoming a trainer yourself, now is the time. Call the Associated Builders and Contractors.

There is no way to tell if the president’s executive order will pay dividends to our country over time, but it’s a good bet that becoming an approved apprenticeship trainer will pay dividends for your construction firm.

Kyle Schwarm is the marketing and communications director at the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin.

About Kyle Schwarm