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Study Chronicles Almost Two Decades of Skilled Trades Apprenticeship Trends in Michigan

Study Chronicles Almost Two Decades of Skilled Trades Apprenticeship Trends in Michigan

Data shows rebound in skilled union workforce, failures from Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan

MICHIGAN — A study released by economics professor Cihan Bilginsoy of the University of Utah in October 2017 detailed trends in Michigan’s skilled apprenticeship workforce from 2000-2016.

The study is based on data published by the Office of Apprenticeship through the U.S. Department of Labor. The rollout of this new study is joined by a website and digital ad campaign paid for by the Michigan Laborers’ District Council, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights and Operating Engineers 324.

Registered apprenticeship programs approved through the US Department of Labor are sponsored and ran jointly by unions and employers or unilaterally by an employer or groups of employers. Most unilateral programs are organized by trade associations, like the Michigan Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC Michigan). ABC Michigan is a statewide trade association of for-profit companies opposed to collective bargaining.

The study focuses on the enrollment of new apprentices, occupational distribution, retention rates, wages, and demographic characteristics across all training program sponsor types.

Among the most notable revelations:

  • From 2000 – 2016, 40,000 people enrolled in a registered apprenticeship program. A large majority of these apprentices (79%) were enrolled in a joint union-management program. Only 4 percent of these were registered in an ABC-affiliated program.
  • Electrical Apprentices from a joint union-management program average $27.79/hr upon graduation. In contrast, graduates of single employer programs average $16.15/hr and graduates of an ABC-affiliated program average $14.49/hr. People of color represent 21% of new apprentices in the joint union-management programs and 9% of new apprentices in the ABC Michigan programs.
  • Women remain under-represented in all apprenticeship training programs in construction. In joint union-management programs, women represent only 4% of new apprentices and only 1% of ABC Michigan apprentices.
  • Since 2000, ABC Michigan has only graduated 4 Latino, 3 African American and 2 women apprentices.

“This study reinforces what we have been saying for years. Joint union-management training programs are top-notch, cost nothing to the taxpayer, and help build up communities and families through good wages, and quality benefits,” said Geno Allessandrini, Business Manager of the Michigan Laborers District Council. “Programs like ours train almost 80% of new apprentices in Michigan. The answer to Michigan’s skilled worker shortage will not come from ABC Michigan or employer-sponsored programs.”

According to a national report, 60 percent of contractors had trouble finding skilled workers in 2017. Construction will continue to be a top job provider in the state of Michigan through 2019, the University of Michigan’s RSQE forecast predicted in October.

“The numbers in this report are staggering. ABC Michigan claims to represent the skilled trades, but the data tells a different story. Their rate of success is offensive, and they’ve duped people into signing up for expensive and ineffective programs,” said Douglas W. Stockwell, Operating Engineers 324 Business Manager and General Vice-President. “It’s time to call out ABC Michigan for what they are – a group damaging to the workers and citizens of this state. For those who have been victim to ABC’s predatory training programs, I’ve got a message for you: There’s a home for you in the joint trade programs.”

The report was featured on a new website,, where the public can see for themselves just how bad ABC Michigan’s training programs really are. In addition to the report and website, a series of ads are rolling out to educate hardworking Michiganders to steer clear of ABC Michigan’s training programs and to support prevailing wage. The first of those ads can be viewed here.

“The training provided by the joint partnership of contractors and unions is unrivaled in Michigan. This study proves that,” said Mike Jackson, executive-secretary treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights. “Our programs are putting Michigan residents to work with the skills they need for great careers in the skilled trades. This website and ad campaign asks ABC to explain why a failed training program would be focused on promoting failed policies.”