Building Trades Apprenticeship Programs – The Pathway to a Better Life

In America, we encourage and celebrate a college education. College may be an option for those with the desire and family resources a university degree requires. But a new national study finds that union apprenticeship programs in the construction trades result in a quality of life equal to that of a college graduate.

The Illinois Economic Policy Institute found that graduates of joint labor-management apprenticeship programs in the construction industry end up earning wages and benefits equal to other types of workers with four-year college degrees.

“The data unequivocally shows that attending college is not the only pathway into the American middle class,” says the director of the study, Frank Manzo IV.

However, the key is finding and encouraging construction work in the “unionized side of the industry,” he said. That’s because building trade unions and unionized construction companies support apprentice training programs. These programs provide tuition-free training for young people. Compare that to the cost of college. And apprentices earn while they learn. No other educational vehicle offers a more direct link to good-paying jobs.

The study found that non-union construction workers earned an average of $18,300 less per year than their unionized counterparts. And they were far less likely to have access to health insurance or a retirement plan at work and twice as likely to be living in poverty.

Further, data confirmed that union apprenticeship programs lead to rewarding jobs for trained workers and strengthen local economies.

The bottom line is that joint labor-management apprenticeship programs in the construction trades ultimately provide those who complete such programs with a career income equal to that of a college graduate. “That’s great news for workers looking for alternatives to college and an instructive framework for policymakers looking for ways to grow America’s middle class,” says Manzo.

These findings underline why it is vital that our citizens urge their state legislators to support the prevailing wage movement in West Virginia. Prevailing wage is key to continuing and growing construction apprentice training programs in the mountain state. These programs create opportunities for our young people and help support our local communities.

Simply put, prevailing wage is the minimum hourly wage that contractors working on government-funded infrastructure projects must pay local workers. Prevailing wage ensures local workers are paid fairly – based on a regional survey of rates for their particular level of skill and experience.

Union contractors pay workers the prevailing wage and support apprentice training programs – non-union contractors do not. Prevailing wage delivers the best value for our tax dollars. It creates private sector jobs and ensures the health of apprentice training programs that provide a rewarding alternative to an expensive college degree. Prevailing wage truly is the pathway to opportunity for our young people and a key to a better life for all Mountaineers.

You can support the prevailing wage movement by signing the petition. Sign your name, share with your friends, and help provide more opportunities for West Virginians.

Find your West Virginia representatives here and reach out to them to let them know you would like them to support Prevailing Wage.