Apprentices in demand for TN construction careers
Published 9:24 am Wednesday, December 13, 2023
The apprenticeship “learn-while-you-earn” model has emerged as a game-changer for Tennessee employers who want to cultivate a skilled and dedicated workforce.
There are more than 8,500 apprentices in more than 380 registered apprenticeship programs in the state.
April Thomas, executive director of the Southeast Laborers Training Fund, said the programs
equip people with the skills needed to become journey-level laborers. The program is a combination of almost 300 hours of classroom instruction, along with 4,000 work hours.
“They go through a program, they start off at 80%,” Thomas explained. “And every time they reach 72 classroom hours and 1,000 work hours, they get a 5% raise. They go from 80 to 85, to 90, 95 and 100. So, by the time they’re done with the program, they’re pretty much a well-rounded laborer.”
Thomas noted pay rates for construction trades vary depending on the project and the agreement in place. She added the current journey-level rate, representing the highest pay level for experienced construction workers, can reach up to $24 per hour.
Thomas pointed out apprentices are working with different companies across the state, on projects for the Tennessee Valley Authority, nuclear plants and others. She added more apprentices are needed at the massive automotive manufacturing complex being built in the state, and for U.S. Department of Energy work.
“They’re needed a lot in Knoxville because you have UCOR there, which is a DOE site, and we have a lot of apprentices in Knoxville,” Thomas outlined. “We’re starting to get a lot of apprentices at Blue Oval – because they’re big projects.”
Thomas added apprentices are building the skills they need to handle everything from highway and bridge construction, to working at complex industrial facilities, which is bound to make them valuable to employers in these fields well into the future.