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Apprenticeships, although equating to only 3% of total construction industry employment, are key to sustaining the workforce that builds California’s public works projects. They allow aspiring construction workers the opportunity to earn good wages with health insurance and retirement benefits as they learn to build the infrastructure upon which California depends.

Recently, data from the Census and the California Division of Apprenticeship Standards found that apprenticeships, along with Prevailing Wage and public works systems, play an important role in improving the lives of thousands of working Californians. Between 2005 and 2009, an average of 22,000 apprentices was enrolled in programs across the state. Construction industry apprenticeships are formal and structured education and training programs that combine the most common forms of career and occupational learning – classroom instruction with on-the-job training. Students learn and practice all phases of the trade-in real-world applications. The program they take must be registered with the California Division of Apprenticeship Standards, which pays wages to apprentices during the term of their apprenticeship. These wages are a portion of the skilled wage rate that increases throughout the training program in accordance with a predetermined wage scale established by the California Department of Industrial Relations.

California apprentices are also now getting “green” construction training to meet the demand for jobs in specialized green commercial and industrial construction jobs. The “Building Green Skills” training program incorporates trade-specific, green skills training designed to upgrade the skills of workers in various construction trades. The California Labor Federation says the focus on apprenticeship will help the California construction industry recover from the recent economic downturn, as well as focus on the increase in renewable energy construction projects. Since the inception of California’s Employment Training Panel, the program has provided close to $1.25 billion to train approximately 800,000 workers for more than 78,000 California companies. Employers match training funds awarded by ETP to make these projects truly public-private partnerships.

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