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Why a Union Apprenticeship

There are many advantages in becoming a Union Apprentice.  You will become a member of a Local Union, which is comprised of a group of workers in your trade that as a unit negotiates a contract with employers.  This contract establishes working conditions, wages, and hours of work, fringe benefits and education opportunities.  Your Local Union is part of a National Organization, which contributes support, direction, guidance and continuity to your Local Union and other Local Unions in the United States and Canada.

Your wages throughout your career will be based on industry standards and the cost of living.  The advantage of collective bargaining is you do not have to negotiate your wage as an individual and you are not required to renegotiate your wage if you change employers.  As an apprentice, you will receive specified increases as you advance through the apprentice program.  The pay rates for apprentices are usually an increasing percentage of the journeyman wage.

The collective bargaining agreement will contain a fringe benefit package that includes such necessities as medical and pension plans, life insurance and educational benefits.  The cost of these benefit packages are not deducted from your wages, they are in addition to your wages.  A very important advantage of working under a collective bargaining agreement is that the benefit package is part of that agreement and if you change employers, providing you are employed by another  signatory contractor, your benefits will continue without a lapse due to being vested into a different plan.

As a union apprentice, you have the advantage of established working conditions governing your assigned tasks.  You are not solely dependent on government agencies to assure a safe work place.  You have union representation that can investigate unsafe conditions and most important, give immediate advice and support.  Your employer is required to supply specific safety equipment and you will receive safety training.  Your hours of work are restricted to designated periods of time or you must be compensated at a premium rate for variations of the work hours.  You will have established holidays and if required to work, you will be paid at a premium rate.

Union apprenticeship programs have a long record of established comprehensive apprentice training.  The programs are designed to teach the apprentice all phases of the craft necessary to become a qualified, versatile worker who is able to perform all tasks of the specific trade.  There is no tuition cost for the training.  The classes are taught by qualified journeymen with practical job site experience.  The apprentice instructors usually are participating in or have completed special training to become a qualified instructor of the craft.  The union programs use text books that are nationally recognized and include practical applications and information that is used throughout the United States and Canada.  The related training is arranged in a specific order to maintain continuity with job site progress and other related training classes.  Upon completion of apprenticeship, there are additional classes offered to assure that the journeyman is trained in the latest technology and can obtain or renew certifications and qualifications that are frequently required in the construction industry.

Upon completion of the apprentice program union members may relocate to other Local Unions in other locations in the United States and have the same protection as offered at the original local.

In addition to employment and training benefits, union apprenticeship programs offer various social benefits.  Acquaintances made both at work or training class will evolve into long lasting friendships.  You will share support with others facing the same everyday life situations at work, school, home or your community.  You may attend picnics, dances and other social function with other trades people and their families.  As a union member, you may participate in civic activities with other trades people.  Unions are active and major contributors to such benevolent functions as blood donor drives; collections for diabetes; leukemia and etc; and making repairs or contributing labor to make repairs for needy persons.  Members are also active in establishing political policy that protects the needs of working class people.

Finally, as a union apprentice, you are represented by a committee comprised of trustees from both labor and management with the authority to oversee your progress in the apprentice program.   In addition, you have full time union officers to aid and represent you to assure safe and fair working conditions and when necessary, help you obtain compensation in cases of unemployment or job site injury.

In summary, as a union apprentice, you will be compensated fairly for your labor with the ability to improve your skills and advance in the industry.  You will be given the courtesy and respect that every qualified, dependable, industrious worker deserves.  You will be able to provide your family with decent food, shelter, education and health care.

For over 100 years, North America's Building Trades Unions and its signatory contractors have funded and operated a skilled craft apprenticeship system that is the envy of the world.

Apprenticeship and workplace-based training is an “earn while you learn” system that o?ers young people the chance to learn from the best trained construction workers in North America. When they complete their apprenticeship, they also have a portable, nationally recognized credential that they can take anywhere in the country, one that comes with good pay and bene?ts that will support them and their families.

An additional important feature is that most apprenticeship programs have  been assessed for college credit, which participants can apply toward  an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.  To be sure, apprenticeship is the “other four-year degree.”

Apprenticeship programs have also proven to provide a greater return for employers.  Economic return on investment (ROI) has shown that employers gain a return for craft training of as much as $3 to every $1 that is invested; accounted for by improved safety, elimination of rework, and increased productivity of the craft worker. Similarly, those completing an apprenticeship earn substantially more over a career than the average two-year college degree graduate.

The joint administration of apprenticeship and training enables contractors and craft organizations to develop and modify training in real time, in order to better ?t the needs of the industry at any given time.

Similarly, training and education curricula are developed in a manner that is career centered, and in keeping with the needs of a lifetime career, rather than narrowly suited to a single employer’s immediate needs.

The apprenticeship infrastructure of North America's Building Trades Unions, which today encompasses over 1,900 training centers across the United States and Canada, and which is privately funded through collectively bargained contributions that exceed $1.3 billion per year, o?ers young men and women the chance to work and further their education, without the burden of student loans.

No other sector of the North American construction industry operates such a comprehensive and successful training approach; and no other industry in North America has a comparable system in place.

Apprenticeship training is a remarkably successful model when supported broadly by employers, and we feel it should be available to more American construction workers.  That is why today our unions are making concerted e?orts to work with state and local government, as well as community-based organizations, to open the doors of opportunity through apprenticeship readiness programs that target historically undeserved populations - primarily, minorities, women and military veterans. The Building Trades are building such pathways of opportunity with the help of groups like the National Urban League, Youth Build and Job Corps, in New York City, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Rochester, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, Augusta and many, many other urban areas.

Similarly, our "Helmets to Hardhats" program has become a model for helping military veterans transition back into civilian life with a structured path that will ensure a stable and secure life in the middle class. Since its inception in 2003, the program has helped place over 20,000 veterans in skilled craft apprenticeship programs.

Skilled craft apprenticeship programs o?er the necessary capacities, resources and ?exibility needed to help low-income, minority and female workers achieve and retain construction careers in the great American middle class, while simultaneously assisting local construction employers obtain the skilled workforce they need to help drive growth in their local labor markets.