Two decades ago, The Idaho Associated General Contractors offered a full range of apprenticeship opportunities – from heavy equipment operator to general laborer and several trades in between. But during the Great Recession, these efforts were mothballed.
With the amazing growth in Idaho’s economy has come a new interest in apprenticeships. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the Idaho AGC found a role in identifying possible future apprentices and helping them to get started at the earliest steps. That’s where the “We Build Idaho Career Launcher” pre-apprenticeship program comes in.
The Career Launcher equips participants with both the basic knowledge and practical skills they need to explore various career pathways in the construction industry. The program also includes training in the communication, technical and safety skills required to work on a construction job site.
Idaho AGC CEO Wayne Hammon recently sat down with the Idaho Business Review to discuss the program.
What’s a pre-apprenticeship?
A pre-apprenticeship is an introductory course taught at the most basic level. Its goal is to help those who may be interested in a career in construction “dip their toes into the pool” and test the water before committing to a full-time apprenticeship. Most of those who participate in the pre-apprenticeship are already working, and some are working two jobs. They want the opportunity to explore the trades at a basic level before signing up for a whole new way of life.
How does the program work?
The program is a partnership between the Idaho Workforce Development Council, the Idaho AGC, the state’s network of Workforce Development Centers, which are located at the community colleges across the entire state, and private industry. The Idaho AGC directs the program and makes sure that all the partners are working together. We’re also responsible for promoting the program to potential participants. The community colleges handle the enrollment and the instruction using curriculum developed by all the partners working together. Individual contractors from across the state, both large and small, work with the instructors to provide the hands-on experience that supplements the classroom training. Contractors also interview the graduates to see if they are ready to start work in construction.
Do participants earn college credit?
These are non-credit courses being offered by the community colleges. Unlike full-time apprenticeship programs where participants train all day and are paid a wage, these are part-time courses offered a few nights a week. Participants learn enough basic skills to expose them to the many trades that work together on a construction site. They also receive safety training and graduate with an OSHO 10-Hour certification along with a certificate of training from the Idaho AGC and Idaho Workforce Development Council. From there, each participant decides what type of work they would like to do. Some graduates have enrolled in full-time apprenticeship programs. Others have finished the course and gone to work for contractors and are receiving training through their in-house programs. A few have determined that they aren’t ready for a construction-related career and have returned to their old jobs.
When are the next courses going to be offered?
Both the College of Western Idaho and the College of Southern Idaho held successful courses this past spring and are planning additional offerings for this fall (late 2019) and winter (early 2020). We are working with the other community colleges to see if they too would like to participate in the next round of courses.
Is the “Career Launcher” the only pre-apprenticeship program offered by the Idaho AGC?
We’re excited to be working with the Idaho Department of Corrections to help them identify how an apprenticeship program might work for their people who may be eligible for work release. And in north Idaho, The Idaho AGC is working with the team at the Kootenai Technical Education Campus (KTECH) and our sister AGC chapter in Spokane to offer a pre-apprenticeship program for high school students this summer. While most construction-related work is limited to those over the age of 18, the “lemon heads” program allows students as young as 16 to participate.
To help keep the student safe, each participant is given a bright yellow hard hat so that everyone on the job site can easily identify them as an under-age apprentice. The term ‘lemon heads’ just grew naturally from the hardhats.
Any chance we will see lemon heads elsewhere?
Yes. The program is already successful in Washington, and if all goes well at KTECH this summer, we are hoping to offer it statewide in 2020. Doing so will require partnering with local school districts and private contractors in their region. The Idaho AGC will take care of coordinating all that, and we’re busy now looking for schools who might want to participate.
How does someone get involved in the Idaho AGC programs?
We would love to hear from contractors, school officials, instructors, parents or anyone looking to get involved. Visit webuildidaho.org or contact Kaycee Cron at the AGC office in Boise.