As the economy improves, the construction industry and other apprenticeship trades are having a difficult time keeping up with the demand for skilled labor.

An exodus of apprentices during the economic downturn created a void that has been difficult to fill. An emphasis on the necessity of college by high school teachers, counselors and parents has created an environment that is less than conducive to a career in the skilled trades. In addition, recruiting women and minorities has also proved difficult for many trades. Could an increased focus on apprenticeships help rebuild the trades?


Getting individuals to see the many advantages of entering an apprenticeship program (little, if any, student loan debt, quicker routes to competitive wages, lifelong careers) requires creativity and persistence.

At the 2014 U.S. Annual Employee Benefits Conference in Boston, focus group participants indicated that recruitment and retention were the top two challenges facing training apprenticeship programs. The challenges associated with recruitment and retention are many, both in the U.S. and Canada.

In the July/August issue of Plans & Trusts, editor Kathy Bergstrom interviews James St. John, Central Ontario Building Trades business manager, about his role as the program director of Hammer Heads, a unique program that trains at-risk youth for apprenticeship career opportunities in the construction industry. Graduates of Hammer Heads help with retention efforts. St. John indicated that bringing in past graduates to mentor and talk with current participants has helped increase buy-in. Mentoring is an important part of any successful apprenticeship program and a key to retention.

[Related: Hear Doug Hawkins speak about an apprenticeship mentoring program on this Benefit Bits video.]

In an effort to provide more comprehensive educational opportunities to those who work with apprenticeship programs, the International Foundation created the Apprenticeship, Training and Education Committee, with members from the U.S. and Canada. This Committee will oversee an increased focus on apprenticeship programs by the International Foundation.

The struggle around recruitment and retention received a lot of attention when the committee met in early June and will be addressed at both the 61st U.S. Annual Employee Benefits Conference in Hawaii and at the 48th Annual Canadian Employee Benefits Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

These ongoing challenges will most certainly be tackled indepth at the 2016 Institute for Apprenticeship, Training and Education Programs in Rancho Mirage, California. For example, our keynote speaker, Nicholas Wyman, author of Job U and an expert on youth employment and apprenticeships, will address them in his session, Closing the Skills Gap Through Innovative Education. As part of the International Foundation’s efforts at more comprehensive education, this institute will feature, for the first time ever, a preconference workshop, Deliberate and Impactful Training Techniques. Check back on these conference web pages for periodic updates and the apprenticeship web pages in the U.S. and Canada for our most up-to-date information on apprenticeship programs.

Bryan Zoran, CEBS
​​Associate Director, Canadian Educational Programs at the International Foundation

Bryan Zoran, CEBS

​​Associate Director, Canadian Educational Programs at the International Foundation 

Favorite Foundation moment (so far):  Keynote General Rick Hillier at 46th Annual Canadian Conference

Benefits topics that interest him most:  Health and wellness, training and apprenticeships, financial awareness

Personal Insight: Bryan previously worked at the Foundation in the research department but left to explore the world and spent some time teaching English in Brooklyn and Prague. While some may not consider benefits education as exotic, Bryan is inspired by the opportunity to impact many lives by helping our members strengthen the benefits they provide.


1 Comment

  1. steve

    As a director of apprenticeship.. I would like more feed back on recruiting… Thank you

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