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Looking forward at the new generation of workers, it’s easy to see that a college degree isn’t the only determining factor of success in today’s workforce. Now more than ever, the world is seeing the essential nature of the skilled trades. And apprenticeships, especially union electrical apprenticeships, are on the rise in America. For The Powering America Team, we demand a skilled labor force, and for most of our members, the skills and values that were instilled to create their success on the job were developed through an immersive union apprenticeship experience that continues to evolve and improve.

The Illinois Economic Policy Institute researched the value of union apprenticeships, and their findings revealed little surprise. Partnering with professors from universities across the country their collected data found that while college enrollment is on the decline, apprenticeship enrollment is up. In the past decade, the amount of registered apprentices has more than doubled as the demand of skilled tradesmen continues to grow. 

Even further, the ILEPI’s research focused on the electrical industry – comparing union versus non-union training. The research finds that union apprenticeship programs, like those created by the IBEW and NECA, are better funded, allowing better wages and benefits for workers, more robust training regimens, more diversity within the program, which lead us back to higher completion rates and better benefits for employers looking to utilize these workers. 

Today we know that there are multiple pathways to financial success, but beyond that we’re able to see that more classroom hours and on the job training is required in an apprenticeship program (over a typical bachelor’s degree), thus proving that construction is not the low skilled work it’s been stereotyped as in the past. As the research continued, it became clear that a privately funded institution like union apprenticeship training centers provide a larger return on investment without costing the taxpayer a cent.

Our nation is going to be investing over $1 trillion in infrastructure over the next decade. As we do that, we need to understand what programs develop the skilled, safe, and productive workers that are going to most efficiently build that infrastructure. ILEPI’s research proving that vocational training or trade school, especially union based apprenticeship programs, are the best pathway for continuing to build and maintain our nation is acknowledgement that has been long overdue.