This is the time of year when high school seniors across the region are finishing their final year and preparing to start the next chapter of their lives. For many, going to college is an option that was ingrained into them at an early age.
For others, their calling is the United States military, police or fire services where they will go on to serve the public.
Many will enter the workforce in some capacity. What is unfortunate is that they are unaware of a great pathway to a respectable, good living that will provide for years of stability. What they are overlooking are union apprenticeship programs are not promoted in high schools, largely because schools are rated by college entrance statistics.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that 65.9% of high school graduates will enroll in college which is down from 2009 when 70.1% enrolled. Several factors have contributed to the dramatic decrease.
One of the most prevalent reasons for the decline in college enrollment is the cost of higher education. The average student who graduated in 2016 incurred $37,172 in debt in his/her first year of college. By the end of their collegiate academic career, he/she will have an average monthly payment for 20-30 years of $351.
Statistics further show that over 44 million Americans have student loan debt for a total of 1.26 trillion dollars with a student loan deficiency rate of 11.1%. These staggering statistics are driving individuals away from college and into the labor forces.
We have to make young adults aware of the opportunity that is available to them by joining a union and entering an apprenticeship program. Apprenticeship programs provide individuals with a world-class education at state-of-the-art facilities that many colleges would rival. The training provides members with a lifetime skill set that they can use to enjoy a lifetime career with excellent compensation and secured benefits while contributing to society in an honorable profession.
The greatest part about becoming an apprentice is getting paid to learn a craft, while not going into debt early in life. However, union membership is, in most cases, generational. Those that are not exposed to it by union family members are not aware of the great opportunity that potentially is in front of them.
The time has never been better for graduating high school students to apply for apprenticeship into one of the many unions in the region. In the Philadelphia metropolitan statistical area (MSA), unions are strong, especially in the building trades where the construction outlook for the next five years is at an all time high.
We encourage all eligible men and women to visit union websites, and research and explore a pathway that can be personally rewarding for a lifetime. Unionism is not just a job, it is a brotherhood and sisterhood that is a bond that will carry you and impart service, loyalty and dedication as a way of life.
Below are unions to consider researching:
- United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 322. www.UA322.org
- International Brotherhood Electrical Workers Local 351 www.IBEW.org
- Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 www.smartlu19.org
- International Brotherhood Iron Workers Local 399 www.ironworkers399.org
- International Union Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 4&5 www.bacadnj.com
- International Union of Painters & Allied Trades Local 711 www.dc711.net
- United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1360 www.ufcw1360.info
There are many other options to consider, but these are our current partners. Do your own research and recognize the opportunities all unions afford for an excellent career path.