The construction industry in the United States is undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime transformation with the passage of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. It will create more than 700,000 new jobs of which 175,000 will be in the construction business, according to the Biden administration.
This is an exceptional moment of growth and opportunity in the construction industry. But underpinning this exciting prospect is the Carpenters Union’s unwavering commitment to recruiting and training a new generation of apprentices to meet this anticipated demand.
And this is precisely why we have risen to the occasion in this era of industry expansion. The Carpenter Contractor Trust (CCT), in collective partnership with the Carpenters Union, and union contractor associations, have been leading the industry in attracting applicants. As a result, these new apprentices receive trade and soft skills training they will take with them throughout their careers.
Recognizing past inequities and understanding the importance of hiring a workforce that represents local communities are of paramount importance. This is why our recruitment activities focus on attracting talent from our respective communities, encouraging people of color and women to join our ranks. The goal is clear: Our partnership expects the workforce to ultimately reflect the makeup of our country. Therefore, our commitment is to ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion are foundational standards embedded in our union values and organizational memberships.
We have shown our commitment to these values by building the following programs:
- CARP. Few programs expose aspiring carpenters to the reality of the skills and temperament it takes to succeed. This was our goal when creating the Carpenter Apprenticeship Readiness Program. It is a three-month course held on Saturdays that teaches basic math and carpentry skills. After graduation, participants are ready to take the apprenticeship entrance exam. If selected, they begin a four-year apprenticeship and start their rewarding union career.
- Encouraging Entrepreneurship. For carpenters who have an entrepreneurial spirit, our partnership has created seminars to guide them along the path from carpenter to union contractor. Our team of industry experts has outlined the approach and challenges covering topics ranging from legal and accounting to labor, compliance, and bidding. While skilled carpenters are vital to the construction industry, securing exceptional union contractors to oversee these future projects is essential. Our vision for meeting these anticipated construction needs is to have diverse, highly skilled union carpenters supported by well-trained professional contractors to meet future workforce demands.
- Sisters in the Brotherhood. Our partnership focuses on creating an inclusive workforce that allows everyone’s skills to shine. On the job site, women from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds are part of the workforce. The Sisters show that a career in construction has no gendered barrier but is a field that anyone can thrive in. Once women enroll in our apprenticeship program, the Sisters in the Brotherhood serves as a pillar of support and a network with other women working in the Carpenters Union
- Sharing Union Values. The Carpenters Union, our signatory contractors and the CCT recognize the dignity all workers deserve. We have taken steps to ensure that throughout our membership, from the apprenticeship level to the senior ranks, new members are instilled with the idea of acceptance, support and fairness. For example, our partnership recently sponsored a day-long seminar, Leadership Surge, which establishes the concepts that diversity, equity, and inclusion are not only catchphrases but foundations of our values.
- Start-up Business Grants. Small Business Start-up Grants were specifically designed for members interested in starting a new contracting business that creates union jobs for carpenters. This innovative approach will encourage the next generation of small, minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses. The grant program offers a foundation of support for new entrepreneurs while simultaneously offsetting labor costs.
The direction of the construction industry for the foreseeable future will rest upon a workforce that is consistent, forward facing, and realistic about our changes. That is why the Carpenters Union, signatory contractors and the CCT are moving forward with vision and diligence to embrace these changes as we educate and provide the most inclusive, best-trained construction workforce in our industry.
Cyndie Williams is the Executive Director of the Carpenter Contractor Trust.