Skip To Content

As we prepare for the holiday season and reflect on what we are thankful for, being thankful for the opportunities provided by craft apprenticeship programs is at the top of my list. Few opportunities, or any for that matter, can do more to elevate people from poverty, change the socio-economic condition for families, or revitalize communities than expanding apprenticeship opportunities in California. Teaching a worker a marketable skill that transcends a single project, or even a single employer, creates long-lasting value for the worker and the community she or he lives in. At the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (‘State Building Trades’), there is nothing we are prouder of.

The State Building Trades is admittedly a powerful force in California politics. Our reach is long, and our influence is unquestioned, but at the most basic level we are a coalition of working people striving for one common goal: a better life for the workers that we represent, and for those that will follow behind us someday. It is for this reason that we treat training and apprenticeship with such reverence. We invest hundreds of millions of dollars of our own money, negotiated through collective bargaining, each year to provide world-class training to the next generation of laborers, bricklayers, operating engineers, painters, plumbers, sheet metal workers, cement masons, roofers, boilermakers, elevator constructors, iron workers, teamsters, glazers, and electricians.

I myself am a product of a union apprenticeship program. Well before becoming the President of the State Building Trades, I started my career as an apprentice electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Sacramento. The ability to attend and graduate from that apprenticeship program changed my life. My wife and I were able to buy our first home, raise three beautiful children and provide a better life for them than the ones we had because of that opportunity. As the head of the State Building Trades, I want that same experience for a whole new generation of California workers.

Last week was National Apprenticeship Week, a weeklong celebration of both the National Apprenticeship Act and also the apprentices and programs that exist across the nation because of it. At the State Building Trades, we celebrated the occasion by embarking on a ‘Tour of California’ from Redding to San Diego, visiting training centers and jobsites all week to highlight the work being done statewide to train and elevate the seventy thousand plus apprentices we represent. What we saw wasn’t surprising, of course, because we know the hard work that our individual unions dedicate to training workers. It was inspiring, though, to be at the ground level and see lives being changed, communities being uplifted, and diversity and inclusivity transforming our ranks.

During the tour we had countless elected and appointed officials join us on one or multiple stops, from members of school boards and city councils to California legislators and more, including Secretary of Labor Natalie Palugyai. It was wonderful to see these dignitaries from every level of government take the time to see what we do, as it should not go unnoticed. The investment of time and resources that our programs dedicate to training is one that creates a better trained, more productive, and rightfully diverse workforce that local communities, and even California as a whole, reap the benefits from.

As we reflect on National Apprenticeship Week, we should also reflect on the steps we’ve taken as a state to grow opportunities like these. Through legislation like SB 54, which brought training requirements into refineries, we have more than doubled the number of construction apprenticeships in California over the last decade. Legislation that mandates use of the graduates of state-approved apprenticeship programs on everything from housing to transportation projects has done the same, driving demand for even more apprentices. As California deploys new renewable energy projects, or streamlines the development of more affordable housing, we should demand the same language to incentivize apprenticeship opportunities.

Utilizing the levers of government to create more apprenticeship opportunities is one of the best ways for policymakers to improve the socio-economic conditions in communities around the state. Growing apprenticeship opportunities isn’t just a union issue, nor should it be considered partisan; apprenticeship slots go to conservative and progressive applicants alike, without prejudice. In fact, it’s probably the policy issue that should most easily bring together folks from every political camp. Progressives can appreciate the ability to elevate people to the middle-class, while conservatives can appreciate that apprentices are guaranteed nothing more than the opportunity to be successful if they work hard enough.

As we get set to begin another legislative session in Sacramento with many new faces, let’s hope the political winds keep blowing in a direction that brings more and more Californians into apprenticeship programs. Let’s hope the plight of these apprentices is never forgotten, nor are the investments of the California Building Trades unions into training. We stand ready to continue expanding California’s workforce with the skilled and trained workers of tomorrow, if political leaders give us the chance. For California’s sake, let’s hope they do.

Previous Next