The Capital Area Labor-Management Council (CALM) of Central Pennsylvania recently released a study about the effectiveness of joint union-management apprenticeships over non-union training programs as part of a project to inform school students and guidance counselors about the careers and opportunities available in the industry. The study found joint programs graduated six times as many skilled crafts as non-union, and 12 times as many women and male minorities.

Using official U.S. Department of Labor data, the report found that in 2001 joint programs accounted for 1,431 construction apprentice graduates in Pennsylvania compared to 241 graduates from non-union programs. In the same year, union programs accounted for 12 out of every 13 male minorities and women completing Pennsylvania construction apprenticeships.

In 1997, Pennsylvania unions responded to skill gaps in the construction industry by re-evaluating its apprenticeship programs.They worked to increase the number graduates by 607 (about 75 percent). In the same period, non-union programs increased their graduation numbers by 39.

Authorities cite the ability of unions to share training costs as its means of increasing its graduate numbers, as well as its ability to keep pace with technology. To keep costs as low as possible, many non-union contractors only build skills necessary for the immediate tasks.

The CALM report also included data on workforce age. Pennsylvania Construction workers over 40 climbed to nearly half since the late 1980s. The aging workforce solidifies a need to maintain and expand apprenticeship programs.