Contractors to welcome 2nd class of students in apprenticeship program

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 4:34 PM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont labor officials say the aging population of workers in the trades -- many close to retirement -- is at the core of the state’s ongoing workforce crisis. Now, a group of construction companies across the state is banding together to find solutions to encourage young people to learn the trades.

“Once I got involved with the hands-on work, I don’t know, it just really gave me purpose,” said Trenten Mead.

The 18-year-old enrolled in the ABC Vermont Commercial Craft Apprenticeship program when it launched last year. He says the work has piqued his interest and he plans to stay in the industry. “From the beginning, we learn about safety -- procedures operating. From there, we learn about foundation and framing. We are onto finishing doors. It’s everything in between -- all the small details that you might need to know,” he said.

Six different contractors send their newer front-line workers to weekly classes with the goal of enhancing their skills. The contractors say Vermont is battling a critical shortage of educated trade construction workers and that after a year into the program, they are seeing results.

“This Friday we start the second class. It is an evolution of what we learned from the first class and we have changed the curriculum to make it what they feel is important for their employees to bring back to their companies. We all have the same challenge -- is finding and keeping good employees, keeping them engaged,” said Jeff Schake, the program’s manager.

This year the program will include 19 students who will be placed at six companies, including DEW Construction, PC Construction Company, ReArch Company, HP Cummings, Kingsbury, and Bread Loaf.

The Vermont Department of Labor’s Jay Ramsey says the program is something that Governor Phil Scott has pushed for. “Of course, he came from the construction industry, so he wanted to make sure that there weren’t a lot of fees associated with this program, either for the apprentices or the companies that are participating in it. He was appraised of the program when it was in the early stages of development,” he said.

As the program keeps growing, more and more contractors are interested in partnering. ABC anticipates each year to have at least 20 to 50 students pushed into Vermont’s workforce.

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