A well-trained workforce is integral for business growth and economic and community development. In the Southeast, apprenticeship readiness programs are gaining traction, preparing residents for meaningful careers in the building trades.
Southern Company, a leader in regional workforce development, in partnership with North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), recently hosted a virtual Apprenticeship Accelerator meeting to discuss the importance of Apprenticeship Readiness Programs (ARPs), best practices and commitment to their continued success across the country.
The virtual event was attended by local and national union leaders, business and community leaders and government representatives, including Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus staff. Tony Swoope, NABTU consultant and former administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship, provided keynote remarks. Two panels highlighted major ARPs in east Tennessee and at Plant Vogtle in Georgia.
Sponsored by NABTU, ARPs give hands-on training and educational services that introduce union crafts and the construction industry before students select a specific career trade. More than 150 of these programs nationwide develop plumbers, electricians, ironworkers and other skilled professionals, supporting economic growth and providing contract workers for companies across the country.
Recruitment for ARPs is focused on reaching historically underrepresented communities, including people of color, women and transitioning veterans. In recent years, these training programs have increased in the Southeast, especially within the Southern Company service territory.
Founded in 1908, NABTU has both the largest and most comprehensive registered apprenticeship programs and the largest apprenticeship readiness program in the U.S. construction industry. Education and Research Director Tom Kriger attributed the growing success of the program to a unified commitment from trade, industry and community leaders.
“I’m extremely proud of our partnership with the Building Trades to develop career opportunities and high-quality jobs for people in our communities,” said Southern Company External Labor Director Jerry Grissom. “We have common goals and a shared commitment to safety and community development that makes our partnership a success.”
Swoope highlighted the commitment to diversity within the construction industry by outlining three objectives in ARP expansion plans, including increasing the number of candidates across trades; continuing to diversify the programs by recruiting in underrepresented communities; and increasing retention within the industry.
In 2019, Central Alabama Building Trades offered the first Alabama-based ARPs at Jefferson State Community College and Lawson State Community College. Upcoming programs are planned for Birmingham and Mobile beginning first quarter 2021.
Serving as spokesperson for NABTU’s national public relations campaign, Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite is committed to promoting workforce development through ARPs in Alabama communities.
“Skilled labor is essential for industry in our state,” said Crosswhite. “We’re proud to partner with North America’s Building Trades Unions to bring educational resources to local communities, developing the highly skilled workforce we all need.”