Another Voice: Apprenticeships build ladders to middle class

By Sean McGarvey
The Buffalo News
Debt-free degrees are a “pipe” dream – but not the kind you’re thinking of.

Each year, 170,000 Americans enroll in apprenticeship programs to learn trades – like pipefitting, bricklaying and plumbing – that will catapult them to the middle class. These tradesmen-in-training not only avoid crippling student debt, they actually “earn while they learn.”

And because apprenticeships are privately funded, they do so without costing taxpayers a dime.

The dissonance between American employer demands and actual American workforce talent is large and growing. According to a survey of about 850 small business owners and corporate executives, one-third of businesses have holes in their company rosters because they can’t find the right candidates. That percentage is up from a couple of years ago.

This skills gap could grow to economically disastrous proportions.

Apprenticeships can avoid this economic doomsday scenario by equipping trainees with portable, nationally recognized credentials. For the average young person, an apprenticeship with a firm is a much more cost-effective way of acquiring job skills than a traditional college degree.

Rather than acquire debt that will plague their early professional years, apprentices earn wages that amount to 50 to 60 percent of a certified tradesman.

Once apprentices graduate from their programs, they often land starting salaries of $50,000 a year, according to the Department of Labor.

The personal payoff only gets better with time. An average apprenticeship program graduate is one-quarter of a million dollars richer, in lifetime wages, than a comparable worker without such training.

Meanwhile, newly minted college grads face a crushing $30,000 average loan burden. That lump sum has gotten 25 percent heftier since 2008.

But apprenticeships don’t have to replace the college experience. In fact, an apprentice who wants to head back to college already has a head start.

In the building trades, apprenticeship programs are assessed for college credit – so apprentices can apply their training toward a traditional associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

My organization, North America’s Building Trades Unions, funds and operates over 1,600 training centers across the United States. These centers are privately funded by our members and our contractor partners through collectively bargained contributions in excess of $1 billion per year.

It’s high time our leaders embrace and expand access to the “other four-year degree” – the kind that promises the American dream in exchange for a lot of heart and a little bit of elbow grease.

Original article here

Meltdown of construction sector continues

Meltdown of construction sector continues

The Santa Fe New Mexican – The coming expansion project at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center might bring something we haven’t seen in Santa Fe in a long time — construction cranes.
The absence of large-scale projects have taken its toll on New Mexico construction workers and both Santa Fe and Las Cruces are almost last among all other metropolitan areas for construction job growth from Sept. 2014 to Sept. 2015.
According to new numbers from the Associated General Contractors of America, Las Cruces was tied for last among the 356 metro areas tracked by the group. The construction sector in Las Cruces lost 600 jobs over the 12 months, and declined a whopping 17 percent.
In Santa Fe the picture was not much better as the summer construction season largely fizzled. The metro area of Santa Fe, which includes the city and county, lost another 400 jobs and declined 14 percent over the 12 months. That put Santa Fe 354th among the metro areas in the United States — fifth from last.
Santa Fe has now lost construction jobs for 14 straight months.

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Sanchez attended labor summit at White House

Sanchez attended labor summit at White House

NM Political Report – Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez was far away from his home in Valencia County or even the Roundhouse in Santa Fe on Wednesday.

The Democrat from Belen took part in the “Summit on Worker Voice” at the White House. The New York Times described the gathering as “an effort to give unions, organizers and some businesses a platform to discuss wages and other issues.”

President Barack Obama spoke at the summit and said that when unions are attacked, the middle class is attacked.

He also spoke about income inequality.

“America works when we are building a broad-based middle class and there are ladders of opportunity that everybody can reach,” Obama said according to a White House transcript. “And historically, it doesn’t work and not only does our economy but our politics also turn in a bad direction when you start seeing huge separations between how folks at the top are doing and everybody else is doing.”

Sanchez spoke at the summit about New Mexico, including the state Senate defeating efforts to pass right-to-work legislation, an effort vigorously opposed by labor unions.

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