Document Detail

Title: RR231-11 - Construction Industry Craft Training in the United States and Canada
Publication Date: 11/1/2007
Product Type: Research Report
Status: Reference
Pages: 217
Goodrum, Wang, Univ. of Kentucky; Haas, Vaziri, Univ. of Waterloo; Glover, The Univ. of Texas at Austin
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Enhanced craft training is where safety training was 15 years ago. There was great scope for safety improvements then, and there is great scope for improving the skills of our work force now. Improving safety resulted in large payoffs, and it continues to be the right thing to do. Evidence exists that craft training pays off just as well. In fact, RT231 examined many aspects of construction craft training using various methodologies, and has concluded that on a single capital construction project, each dollar invested in craft training can yield $1.30 to $3.00 in benefits. The benefits accrue to the project in the form of increased productivity and reductions in turnover, absenteeism and rework, as well as in other areas. When groups of owners and employers cooperate, the benefit/cost ratios are even greater.

Our industry has predicted craft shortages since the early 1980s. Since then, the average age of craftworkers has continued to climb. And now, in 2007, real wages are rising rapidly. These higher wages will attract new entrants, but new entrants may stay only briefly. Craft training will be one major way to retain these new entrants in the construction profession and make them fully productive.

To substantiate these conclusions, this document first summarizes current efforts in the construction industry in craft training. There is increased emphasis on the merit shop side of training mainly due to this sector’s growing share of craftwork. The union sector has supported craft training through mandatory dollar contributions to union training, while the funding in the merit shop sector has fallen short in many geographic regions. One area thus requiring focus is funding for craft training. Our research team found a strong argument for funding based on a positive benefit/cost ratio.

Our research also revealed that most owners and/or constructors often lack the means to measure the effectiveness of craft training. Yet we identified some metrics that are appropriate. We have also examined various types of training, how they can best be applied, what training programs are available, and what makes these programs most effective.

So, when is training a good deal? A large body of evidence shows that construction craft training can be effective in a broad range of circumstances. It is good for single capital projects, and the business case for craft training improves the longer craftworkers are engaged in training. The team has examined the business case for craft training from the perspective of the owner, the constructor, and the craftworker. Those business cases are summarized later in this document.

Some owners have begun requiring craft training and certification (passing both written and proficiency tests) for all craftworkers. Current shortages of certified workers are driving up wages, which will attract new craftworkers to enter the profession. These new workers are largely helpers and need training in construction basics (safety, hand and power tools, blueprint reading, etc.). They also will benefit greatly from mentoring and formal on-the-job (OJT) training programs. When new craftworkers recognize that efforts on their part to obtain training pays off in higher wages, they will make the sacrifices necessary to move ahead.