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ABC apprenticeship training gives job seekers, contractors the winning edge

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The construction industry has been among the hardest hit by the economic downturn over the past few years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag23.htm the unemployment rate runs far above the national and state average at 17 percent.

With this in mind, it seems odd to worry about a shortage of skilled workers. But contractors may soon find themselves again facing the dilemma of a shortfall in skilled craftworkers. A slow economy means there are not enough new people in the training pipeline to replace those who will leave.

It is anticipated that many of the older skilled workers who are currently dealing with unemployment may not return to the industry, opting instead for early retirement. This will make the skilled craftworker shortage much worse when the construction market rebounds. It takes years to train and advance from apprentice to skilled worker status.

The Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego offers award-winning apprenticeship and craft training programs, providing excellent career opportunities through developing a well-trained, well-rounded workforce. ABC San Diego’s program is committed to graduating students with the latest knowledge and technological skills needed to perform at their best, in a fiercely competitive and ever-changing industry.

“The construction industry has grown more and more complex,” said ABC Apprenticeship Training Trust Chairman Matt Harbin. “Change comes quickly and our training programs must stay current to meet the demand for a more skilled work force. We’re proud of our students and their accomplishments.”

Until the late 1970s, mechanical and electrical contractors were forced to join a union if they wanted to train their employees in a skilled trades apprenticeship program. A small but dedicated group of merit shop contractors founded ABC San Diego in 1976. The chapter’s first apprenticeship program standards were submitted to the state’s Department of Industrial Relations/Division of Apprenticeship Standards for approval several years later and ABC began training apprentice electricians. Plumbing and pipefitting programs were added, followed by the chapter’s sheet metal program. In 2005, the first class of Electronic Systems Technicians graduated. Since then, thousands of individuals have graduated from the ABC Apprenticeship and Craft Training Programs.

In 1970, 30 percent of the nation's construction was performed merit shop and six of the top 400 construction firms were ABC members. Today, merit shops accounts for more than 80 percent of all construction across the country, and ABC's membership has grown to include more than half of the top 400 construction companies in the United States.

Thanks to a unique partnership between ABC and the San Diego Community College District, all of the graduates also earned significant credit toward an Associate of Science degree through supplemental classroom instruction specific to their hands-on training programs in the various construction trades. Completion of remaining general education courses plus electives allows apprentices to graduate with their Associate’s degree at the same time they earn their apprenticeship certificates.

“A rigorous training program, state of the art training facility and a group of ABC contractors who are committed to training a skilled work force all contribute to the success and quality of the program. We are proud that our graduates are able to achieve their career goals at ABC,” said Apprenticeship Training Trust Executive Director Sherry Yarbrough.

ABC San Diego’s program has been awarded Accredited Training Sponsor Status from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), assuring all its members of nationally recognized training for their craft professionals. NCCER is a nonprofit education foundation created to develop standardized construction, maintenance, and pipeline curricula with portable credentials and help address the critical skilled workforce shortage. NCCER is affiliated with the University of Florida's M.E. Rinker, Sr. School of Building Construction.

For more information, call Associated Builders and Contractors in San Diego at (858) 513-4700, or visit our website, www.abcsd.org.

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