WorldWide Drilling Resource®

Are Apprenticeship Programs Better than College? Adapted from Information by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute A recent study conducted by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) and the Project for Middle Class Renewal (PMCR) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, indicates the state’s construction apprenticeship programs are doing a good job of preparing students for a career in the construction industry. In some ways, even better than the state’s colleges and universities. The study evaluated several areas, including the number of training hours, graduation rates, the diversity of those in the program, and the lifetime earnings of graduates. “Every year, thousands of Illinois residents enroll in apprenticeship programs as a tuition-free alternative to college,” said study coauthor and ILEPI Policy Director Frank Manzo IV. “Including up to six years of classroom instruction and on-the-job training, these programs play a vital role in producing workers with in-demand skills for today’s economy, and give participants the extraordinary opportunity to earn while they learn.” The programs are particularly important to the construction industry as more than 85% of apprenticeship program enroll- ments are geared toward the construction sector. Actually, the industry’s apprenticeship system is one of the state’s largest privately financed post-secondary institutions. Of those involved with construction-based apprenticeships, 97% are enrolled in programs administered by labor unions and their contractors (joint labor management programs), fully funded by privately negotiated contributions from employers. “Joint labor management apprenticeships are clearly the best-in-class model, and are far outperforming employer-only programs on every available measure,” said study coauthor and PMCR Director Dr. Robert Bruno. “In fact, the data shows that joint construction programs are delivering a more robust training regimen than other post-secondary institutions, and equal or greater lifetime earnings for their graduates.” The total number of active apprentices in the state has increased 34% since 2011. Apprenticeship programs like the ones in Illinois, are providing workers with good middle-class careers and should be encouraged as a viable alternative to college. Journeyworkers graduating from joint labor management construction-based apprenticeship programs earn about $40 per hour, resulting in lifetime incomes comparable to the average of those with bachelor’s degrees. The report also offered suggestions for improving the success of apprenticeship programs, including: k Offering pre-apprenticeship programs at public high schools and community colleges. k Improving the completion rate of apprentices by using registered programs and hiring more diverse instructors. k Expanding access to child care, a significant barrier for female par- ticipants. k Promoting the new apprentice- ship education expense tax credit. Getting rid of the stigma associat- ed with choosing a trade school over college will involve educating students, parents, teachers, and counselors. For many workers, vocational training may be a better path to a stable job than a college degree. Registered apprentice- ship programs are a proven way to lift blue-collar workers into the middle class, regardless of background. 39 WorldWide Drilling Resource ® AUGUST 2020 C&G