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Trades Employers Must Widen Their Talent Net — Apprenticeship Can Help


From leadership to workers to customers, every person in the trades benefits from robust diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility initiatives and programs.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, skilled trade labor industries like durable goods manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and education and health services have severe labor shortages. The data indicates that even if every unemployed person with experience in the durable goods manufacturing industry were employed, the industry would only fill 65% of its vacant jobs.

Registered Apprenticeship is an approach known for preparing workers for careers in the trades while meeting industry needs for a skilled workforce. A form of work-based learning, apprenticeship is an employer-driven workforce training model that combines paid on-the-job learning and formal classroom or online instruction to help workers master the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed for career success.

However, the promise of apprenticeship is not entirely accessible for everyone: U.S. Department of Labor data for the federal government’s 2021 fiscal year shows that 86% of apprentices across all industries are men, and just 35% identify as non-white. In order to meet their labor needs, trade organizations must widen their nets to attract a more demographically diverse pool of candidates.

Diversifying the industry

One of the primary barriers to increasing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in apprenticeship and other forms of skills-based training is that employers aren’t actively making workers aware of these opportunities, or are not making them accessible to the workers who need them most. Additionally, some employers are offering jobs without clear pathways for career advancement.

For these obstacles to be removed, there must be a paradigm shift in how we build awareness of apprenticeships and skills-based training, and shape attitudes toward these opportunities. We need to change the mentality that college is superior to a skills-based trade and provide concrete examples of how a trade can offer a career pathway that provides stability, high wages, and growth opportunities.

In addition, employers who want to expand and act upon their DEIA values need to assess their organizations’ demographic representation. A company’s leadership must be representative of its employee base, or individuals from the populations that aren’t represented there won’t expect to be well-treated, respected, or understood.

DEIA is more than just a “nice thing to do” — the future viability of many businesses depends on their ability to attract a wider range of talent as America continues to diversify.

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