How do the building trades compete for quality entry-level workers to enter construction careers? The generation entering the workforce now is 40% smaller by population than in previous generations, and the traditional means of passing a trade ‘father to son’ is no longer working.

Union apprenticeship programs still have no lack of applicants, but there is great concern with the quality of applicants – the ‘skills gap’ in Rhode Island’s workforce.

To address these problems, Building Futures has established significant shifts in access and entry into quality apprenticeship programs through our partnership with the members of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council.


In the past, there has been no central location for motivated young adults to learn of all the exciting career paths in the building trades – especially for non-traditional workers, such as women and minorities. Building Futures creates an information “clearinghouse” regarding building trades apprenticeships, with all of the specifics gathered directly from the various programs.

With presentations to community-based organizations, speaking engagements and targeted outreach for the recruitment of non-traditional workers, Building Futures disseminates comprehensive information in a coordinated manner – becoming a resource for the recruitment of a diverse workforce, while addressing the ‘image problem’ of the excellent careers the building trades offer.

Developing Common Standards

One of our first planning activities when designing our pre-apprenticeship program was interviewing key apprenticeship coordinators, to determine the qualities and skills they sought in their applicants. By doing so, a baseline of common entry standards was established across the building trades, which in turn guided the graduation requirements of our pre-apprenticeship program.

Through this shared development with the union apprenticeship programs, our pre-apprenticeship program has become a valuable resource for them – providing a vetted, prepared and pre-screened entry-level applicant. Now, union apprenticeship programs often ask their ‘applicants off the street’ to go through Building Futures prior to applying for an apprenticeship position.

Entry Into Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship programs generally have a pre-determined application period – the time in which they can accept applications –as set forth in the Department of Labor standards that regulate their programs. Often, these regulations can curtail an apprenticeship program’s efforts to create a diverse workforce.

Building Futures has developed and implemented a “Direct Entry” agreement with the members of the RI. Building and Construction Trades Council in order to address this. This agreement allows for non-traditional applicants from Building Futures to enter apprenticeship programs regardless of the application period being open – as long as they meet entry requirements otherwise.

Crafted in conjunction with the Federal Office of Apprenticeship, the State Apprenticeship Council and the respective members of the RI. Building and Construction Trades Council, this agreement represents a significant shift in practices to benefit minorities and women seeking building trade careers.

In Summary

There are many misconceptions about the building trades’ careers in commercial construction. In order to ensure this vital sector of our Rhode Island’s economy thrives, Building Futures helps to dispel many of the myths around the industry and increase the draw of talent to the workforce by being a resource of information.

We work to increase awareness and access for people of color and women while establishing explicit pathways for entry into formal apprenticeship programs.