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Registered apprenticeship training in the US construction industry

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Purpose - This paper aims to compare the performance of building trades apprenticeship programs in the USA, sponsored jointly by employers and unions, with those sponsored unilaterally by employers. It reviews enrolment and graduation rates, including participation of women and minorities. The article also looks behind the numbers to examine the operation of apprenticeship. It reviews the evolution of joint programs, including institutional arrangements and recent innovations to cope with the challenging characteristics of construction labor markets. Design/methodology/approach - Statistical comparisons by type of program sponsor are carried out using individual-level data on registered apprenticeship for the period 1996-2003. Evolution of apprenticeship programs is discussed in a historical perspective. Findings - Joint programs (with union participation) were found to have much higher enrolments and greater participation of women and ethnic/racial minorities. Joint programs also exhibit markedly better performance for all groups on rates of attrition and completion. Joint programs have developed various innovations, including college credit for training and scholarship loans to expand apprenticeship and improve quality and retention, although there are no quantitative evaluations of the effectiveness of many of these specific measures. Research limitations/implications - Statistical information includes about 65 percent of all registered apprentices in the USA. Practical implications - The paper shows that alternative forms of training sponsorship have substantially different effects on enrolment and graduation. Identification of the practices, that improve enrolment and retention, and their widespread adoption would enhance the effectiveness of training programs. Originality/value - The dataset used in this paper has not yet been used in any publications. The findings regarding joint programs are notable, in view of the skilled labor shortages facing the construction industry in the USA.
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Keywords: Apprenticeships; Construction Industry; Trade Unions; United States of America

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-04-01

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