This blog is part 1 of our 4-part Business Perspectives on Growing Equity & Diversity Through Apprenticeship series. To learn how Coleman Spohn and others are implementing practices to increase diversity in their apprenticeship programs, read 4 Strategies for Incorporating Equity and Diversity in Your Apprenticeship Program.
By Lonnie Coleman, President, Coleman Spohn Corporation
As a pipefitter apprentice in the late 1960s to early ’70s, I saw firsthand the benefits apprenticeship programs can offer to workers and companies alike. For workers: good wages and pathways into careers. For companies: skilled workers to enhance their operations.
During those years, it was evident to me how difficult it was for African Americans and Hispanic individuals to gain access to apprenticeship opportunities. When I drew on my journey-level pipefitting skills to launch my own construction and facilities management company, it was critical to me to reach back into my community and recruit a diverse group of underrepresented individuals to participate in our apprenticeship programs.
Today, with baby boomers reaching retirement age at a pace of 10,000 a day, businesses and apprenticeship programs across the country are realizing that their traditional ways of recruiting aren’t doing enough to help them fill all available positions. Businesses need to draw in people of all races, genders, and backgrounds in order to stay viable.
At Coleman Spohn Corporation, the national staffing crisis has highlighted the importance of our diversity-focused recruitment efforts. Our jobs cannot be exported—we need people on location to perform the work.
These are good careers. We participate in the Registered Apprenticeship program of the United Association of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, and Service Techs, a nationwide initiative through which apprentices earn $20 an hour to start and make over $100,000 a year upon reaching journey-level status.
Yet the lack of diverse representation across the industry makes it challenging for prospective workers from different backgrounds to envision themselves in the field. To address this, we make a concerted effort in our recruiting booths and materials to show the range of successful workers we have.
As we continue to expand our operations and move into new cities like Columbus, Ohio, we look forward to developing relationships with people in underserved communities and sharing this message: These opportunities are here, and these opportunities are for you.
This work has been funded through the generous support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
- 4 Strategies for Incorporating Equity and Diversity in Your Apprenticeship Program, JFF
- Growing Equity and Diversity Through Apprenticeship: Business Perspectives, JFF
- The Benefits and Costs of Apprenticeships: A Business Perspective, Case Western Reserve University, U.S. Department of Commerce