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In Defense of Merit Shop Training Programs

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The April 18 Viewpoint, “Studies Show That Unions Work,” misses the mark. In fact, the hypothesis on which it is based with regard to training and productivity is wrong.

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All successful contractors prioritize training. According to the Construction Industry Institute’s “Research Summary 231 on Craft Training in the United States and Canada,” a trained construction workforce is more productive and has lower turnover, absenteeism, injuries and rework than a less trained or unqualified one. Today’s construction industry demands formal training that incorporates diverse and flexible training methodologies to accommodate how current and future generations of craft professionals learn. Our free-market economy and the freedom to advance on merit is the basis of competency-based education.

Included in the very robust and diverse range of competency-based construction craft training programs offered nationwide are competency-based craft training, task-specific training, journeyman upgrade and continuing education.

And these different training opportunities are delivered through a variety of vehicles from coast to coast— through construction firms, associations, and secondary and post-secondary career and technical education schools as well as other training providers.

According to the National Center for Construction Education and Research, in 2009 its training and certification processes alone helped train or certify more than 400,000 people.

Today, most construction workers (87%) are not affiliated with a labor union and prefer training that is tailored to meet their needs and career goals. The next generation of skilled workers sees a broader opportunity for career advancement, including management training, in flexible and diverse training programs targeting the industry’s current and future needs—programs that help them quickly move up the ranks or even become entrepreneurs who own their own construction firms.

In fact, if the concern is productivity, the antiquated union work rules mandating crew size and jurisdictional constraints should be eliminated.


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