By Sheri Williams
Governor Jerry Brown gave a boost to union apprenticeship programs in this year’s final budget with nearly $50 million dollars to support the essential training programs.
Among the programs that will see increased funding are Building Trades apprenticeships and the California Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee (Cal-JAC)
The governor had proposed the increases in January, including $17.8 million for K-12 and community college apprenticeship programs, and an additional one-time bump of $30.6 million to backfill shortfalls in payments from prior years.
Union/Joint Labor-Management Apprenticeship programs, according to state statistics, provide the majority of state-approved apprenticeship training. Those programs lead to union membership and living wage, career-focused jobs.
About 92 percent of all construction apprentices, nearly 50,000 women and men, are enrolled in union programs, state statistics show. About 95 percent of apprenticeship graduates are produced by union programs (4,729 out of 5,010 in 2015).
Apprenticeship programs are a key pathway to diversifying the workforce and providing equity opportunities to varied communities. About 68 percent of those in apprenticeship programs are people of color.
Union apprenticeship programs are also an important equalizer for women seeking to enter the trades. About 96 percent of all women in state-approved apprenticeship training are in union programs, amounting to more than 1,200 workers.
Union apprenticeship programs are also vital to ensuring California has trained firefighters to meet its future needs, an especially urgent priority as wildfires across the state continue to grow in scope and intensity. The new funding will bolster Cal-JAC programs.
“For years, the Cal-JAC has maintained that apprenticeship is the best pathway to prepare firefighters for mastering their occupational skills and ultimately achieving success in their fire service careers,” said Dan Terry, chair of the Cal-JAC, in a statement. “The time-tested apprenticeship model also ensures that new firefighters will be trained to standards that allow them to meet the ever-changing challenges that face our state. It is clearly in our state’s best interest to ensure the viability of existing and future apprenticeship program sponsors, which serve as the backbone of apprenticeship training in California.”
The money comes as apprenticeship programs in the state are growing to meet the future demands of California’s workforce.
According to state statistics, the number of apprentices in California has increased by 35 percent to more than 80,000 apprentices in 2017. In 2014, there were about 53,000 apprentices in the state.
“The huge increase in fire service apprentices is evidence that the apprenticeship model works,” said Cal-JAC executive director Yvonne de la Peña in a statement. “It’s refreshing to see the governor’s budget share our priorities when it comes to adequately funding apprentice programs, and we’re hopeful that the legislature will follow suit later this year.”
The budget proposal includes funding to ensure reimbursement for training to 166 Cal-JAC affiliated departments in the state, Cal-JAC said.
In California, there are 230 union-sponsored apprenticeship programs for every type of building and construction trade, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California said. These programs are training apprentices who live and work in California. Unions spend more than $100 million a year for apprenticeship programs in California.
Apprenticeships generally combine paid employment in actual construction with classroom study and homework. With very few exceptions, apprentices are not charged for tuition, books, or room and board, according to the SBCTC.