- The Illinois Economic Policy Institute, in conjunction with the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign's Project for Middle Class Renewal, released the results of a study that found that those enrolled in joint labor-management registered apprenticeships experience comparable training hours, graduation rates and pay as those who attend a four-year university in Illinois.
- Using 2018 data, the study authors found that by midcareer, those who completed a union construction apprenticeship were making an average hourly wage of $40.40, while those who obtained a bachelor's degree were making $35.28 per hour. Both first-year union ($19.15 per hour) and nonunion ($16.54) workers had a higher hourly wage than those with high school diplomas or their equivalents. The average training hours of both union and nonunion programs, 7,306 hours and 6,267 hours respectively, were more than the hours completed in public two- and four-year programs.
- Despite the potential for periods of unemployment due to the cyclical nature of the construction industry and accounting for the gaps between when a job is over and the next one starts, a union journey worker ($2.4 million) can expect to make about as much as someone with a bachelor's degree ($2.5 million after student debt) during the life of their career. While the total earnings figure factors in student loans, those who "earn while they learn" through apprenticeships don't have the burden of student debt.
It should be noted that Illinois is a union-heavy state, so geographic areas without a major union presence might not have access to the same labor-management joint programs and the wages in nonunion areas are often lower.
Other findings contained in the report include:
- Joint construction programs have had a 54% completion rate since 2000, comparable to a public, four-year university's rate of 61%.
- The racial makeup of graduates from joint construction programs is similar to that of public universities in Illinois.
Sometimes, apprenticeships in specific trades in Illinois can result in even higher wages. After completing a five-year apprenticeship through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers-NECA (National Electrical Contractors Association) Institute a journeyman wireman in Illinois makes more than $49 per hour.
This report, although it focuses on the benefits of a union apprenticeship, reveals that a traditional four-year college degree is not the only way to the middle class. However, other employer groups like the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Associated General Contractors of America are still reporting — and have been for years — that there are not enough skilled workers to go around and that the industry needs to step up recruitment in order to meet the demand. Whether their and other’s efforts will ultimately result in more skilled workers remains to be seen.
An August survey sponsored by Autodesk and the AGC found that 80% of contractors were having a difficult time finding enough workers with the requisite skills. When asked about the next 12 months, almost 40% of contractors expected the labor market to tighten up even more.