Editor’s note: The author of the following guest post is a member of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship.
As more baby boomers retire, many industries − including construction − will experience a massive loss of skill sets built over the years. What’s more, the Great Recession and a cultural stigma about entering the trades, among other factors, have made it difficult to attract many young people and hampered efforts to prepare for and fill a large number of these positions.
This is a challenge, primarily because of the time it will take to replenish our retired workforce with new apprentices, but I also see it as an opportunity for our company, Coleman Spohn Corp., to train and build a more inclusive and diverse workforce − especially from underserved communities. Registered apprenticeship is an important tool that will help us meet this goal.
The new equal employment opportunity in apprenticeship regulations should help the sponsors of Registered Apprenticeship programs like my company by continuing to ensure that our workplaces will be free from discrimination, increase our diverse pool of applicants, and set a standard of guidelines with flexibility built in to make the program less cumbersome for implementation and reporting.
As a business owner and a concerned citizen, having a workforce that mirrors the communities in which we serve is very important to us and our clients. We want an inclusive workforce that has different ideas, different perspectives and different viewpoints and where every voice is heard.
To move our country and industry forward, it is important for all stakeholders and trades to promote apprenticeship as a viable option for those seeking career paths. Apprenticeships can be a great opportunity to build diverse labor pools – women, minorities, people with disabilities, and others – to gain in-demand skills in careers that have a pathway to the middle class and get a college degree.
Having a diverse pool of candidates helps committed businesses strengthen their company’s workforce and bottom line. At the same time, ensuring diversity and inclusion through registered apprenticeship in a variety of industries will have a broader economic benefit in the communities we serve by providing stable careers and family-sustaining wages.
The apprenticeship program for my company is where it starts.
Lonnie Coleman is president of Ohio-based Coleman Spohn Corp. and a former Pipefitters apprentice, 1969-74.