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Apprenticeship Totals Expected to Top 60K in CA for the First Time Since the Recession

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An article in the Orange County Register has highlighted the growing number of apprenticeships in California.  The trend is being spurred by a perfect storm of construction needs and an aging workforce.  A push from state and federal agencies to promote apprenticeship programs as an alternative to a four-year degree has had an impact as well. 

The increase in opportunities has allowed unions to diversify their ranks and reach out to former military veterans, minorities, and women who hope to launch careers in the skilled trades.  

In California, an electrician apprentice can expect to earn $36 an hour when they achieve journeyman status. That is close to $75,000 a year with benefits and a pension.  As apprentices they earn $15 an hour.  With debt going increasingly out of fashion, apprenticeships are becoming more attractive to young people. OC Register breaks down the numbers:

California apprenticeships fell during the recession when corporate belt-tightening led to a drop in construction projects and higher unemployment. Total apprenticeships in the state declined to 52,763 in 2011 from 60,060 in 2010 before rebounding to 55,280 in 2013, according to the state Department of Industrial Relations.

Ron Miller, executive secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, thinks apprenticeships in the state have hit 60,000 again and continue to grow.

In Orange County, Local 441 hired about 100 apprentices last year and will equal that in 2016, said Richard Samaniego, the union’s business manager.

The OC Register also focused on Jean-Andrew Mikesell, a 32-year-old retired Marine reservist who recently began his construction career through the Helmets to Hardhats program.  After being laid off from his job in the telecom industry, Mikesell wanted the stability of a union electrician job:

“Having been in the military, I can see the compatibility. There’s a lot of structure, doing things by the book, and a huge emphasis on safety.”

Much like the military, he sees union apprenticeship as another chance to prove himself and improve his life.

“I look at this as a stepping stone.  I have to pay my dues, but once I get through and I’m a journeyman, it’s such a broad and vast field. Because of my college degree, I could be a contractor. There’s tons of work on the office side of things.”


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