Could the apprenticeship model be applied beyond construction trades?

Andrew Cortes, Founder and Executive Director of Rhode Island Building Futures, joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss how the union apprenticeship model could be applied to fields beyond construction.

The Building Futures program strives to meet employer and industry needs for skilled workers through the Registered Apprenticeship system while creating family-sustaining career opportunities for low-income diverse residents.

The Building Futures program started by teaching pre-apprenticeship skills. Participants are then placed into registered apprenticeship programs.

Early childhood educators trained via apprenticeship

Obviously, such a model has been very successful in the construction industry. But Cortes wondered if the model could be applied to fields outside of the trades such as early childhood education. The group partnered with the State of Rhode Island and created an initiative called Apprenticeship Rhode Island, which creates debt-free paths to skilled career advancement through apprenticeships.

So far, 38 occupations now have an apprenticeship pathway, employing over 1,400 people, roughly 54 percent of which are from underserved communities, Cortes said.

Building Futures has partnered with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a union of about 2 million members in healthcare, the public sector and property services, to train childcare providers from lower income neighborhoods.

Apprenticeship helps lift people out of poverty

Such apprenticeship programs are essential for lifting people out of poverty, Cortes said. Recruitment efforts for the Building Futures program are currently 100 percent focused on women, he said. Minority males are already accessing the program, but the numbers for women continue to lag behind.

Demand for apprenticeships remains high, Cortes said. Every time Building Futures runs a training program it has 14 spots to fill, but sees over 100 applicants.


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