August 1st marked the 75th anniversary of the signing of the National Apprenticeship Act. At a ceremony in Washington D.C., the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) was recognized by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis for achievements in its apprenticeship program and honored with a 21st Century Trailblazer and Innovator Award.
Attendees included Sean McGarvey, president of AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department. While reflecting on 75 years of apprenticeship he looked to the future saying,
The challenge that stands before us today is to engage with industry leaders in order to achieve broader recognition and consensus on the utility, as well as the bottom-line benefits, that are associated with embracing the Registered Apprenticeship model.
LIUNA’s training program earned their stripes by adhering to and surpassing goals set by the Department of Labor. Those goals included:
Goal 1: Innovation and Access to New Industries: In 2011, LIUNA established the only registered Home Performance Laborer apprenticeship program in the energy efficiency, renewable energy, and environmental industries. Apprentices can acquire industry recognized certificates in Demolition/Deconstruction, Weatherization Installer/Technician and other specialized skills.
Goal 2: Post-Secondary Paths to Careers: LIUNA apprenticeship programs link education, training, and work to help individuals build careers with strong professional growth opportunities. Many have articulation agreements with community colleges, which award college credit for training and job experience obtained during apprenticeship. Relationships with vocational and charter schools facilitate apprenticeship entry and allow credit toward apprenticeship training. As LIUNA members, apprentice graduates can access advanced training in construction, environmental and energy efficiency leading to new career opportunities.
Goal 3: Diversity in Registered Apprenticeship: LIUNA actively recruits members and apprentices from disadvantaged and minority populations, including women, veterans, and ex-offenders. Among the construction trades, LIUNA’s apprenticeship programs have one of the highest percentages of minority participation. For example, in Southern California over 86% of apprentices are minorities and in NJ 55%. LIUNA apprenticeship programs also work with veterans groups to provide direct and advanced entry into apprenticeship through the Helmets to Hardhats program.
John LeConche, executive director of the LIUNA Training and Education Fund, spoke as well:
LIUNA’s selection as a Trailblazer emphasized inroads into the new residential energy efficiency industry, development of career pathways and increasing apprenticeship access for diverse populations.
We appreciate the opportunity to spread the word about the value of apprenticeship in building a skilled American workforce. Sometimes apprenticeship gets lost in the focus on post-secondary education; but the Trailblazer award highlights the importance of trade training as a direct path toward rewarding careers.