Apprenticeship at ABC Keystone

By: Cindy DeWire, Director of Apprenticeship, ABC Keystone

As Director of Apprenticeship at Associated Builders & Contractors – Keystone Chapter, I am excited to express my support for National Apprenticeship Week and showcase the role of the Keystone Apprenticeship Program in helping to prepare a highly-skilled workforce to meet the needs of employers in the construction industry. During my years working with the ABC Apprenticeship Program, I have seen so many apprentice graduates advance their careers in the construction industry by becoming estimators, job superintendents, foreman, and even presidents of their own construction companies. Knowing I have had the opportunity to be a small part of those success stories has been an awesome feeling. I truly believe that apprenticeship “earn while you learn” programs need to be promoted within the schools and to the public to make all aware of the vast variety of personal and professional growth opportunities in the industry. For individuals who are dedicated to their chosen trades, the opportunities are endless. Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week, during which all apprenticeship programs are promoted and highlighted, is a great start to making all aware of the benefits of a career in construction.

This fall, the apprenticeship program at ABC Keystone increased in number from 275 students to 335 – our highest number in ten years. Each year, we continue to strive to offer an excellent program that focuses on safety and quality craftsmanship. The ABC Keystone Apprenticeship program began in 1973, and has graduated 2,232 apprentices over the years. There has been growth in numbers, growth in the number of trades offered and even growth in training space following the expansion of the training center in 2015, which tripled the footprint of the facility.

Training and developing a highly-skilled workforce and assisting people to reach their potential have been the goals during the duration of the program. In today’s climate of economic growth and increased construction creating the need for more skilled labor, state and federal leaders are  recognizing the vital role of apprenticeship programs in workforce development efforts. Earlier this year, Governor Wolf created the Department of Labor & Industry’s Apprenticeship and Training Office to “expand registered apprenticeships and increase participation of non-traditional businesses and under-represented Pennsylvanians.” In June, President Trump signed an executive order expanding Apprenticeships in America. As public awareness continues to grow, and as leaders continue to support these programs, there is continued hope that we can move closer to closing the skills gap.

Hear more about the benefits of apprenticeship as the first step on the construction career path from Bill Lastinger, Superintendent at Benchmarck Construction Co., former ABC Keystone apprentice and current Apprenticeship Instructor:

I would like to start by saying thank you to ABC Keystone for what they do for the industry, and I would like to thank everyone that has gone through or has worked for this apprenticeship program to make it what it is today.

I graduated from the ABC Keystone program in 1997, I was an instructor from 2006 – 2016, and from 2007 to present I have been a member of the Apprenticeship Committee. In 2012, I became a member of the National Craft Competition Committee. I started my career with Benchmark Construction in 1997, and worked my way through the ranks resulting in my holding the role of superintendent with them for the last 14 years.

Going through the apprenticeship program has given me a lot of opportunities. In the program, I learned in the classroom along with on-the-job training and discovered everything from the history of apprenticeship to the responsibilities of a lead carpenter. This program is designed to take a young individual with minimal experience and turn him or her into a competent tradesperson that an employer can be proud to have on their team.

Having gone through the apprenticeship program gave me the confidence to do the tasks that we read about in class and then put the theory to the test. Without the theory, hard work and confidence that I received from this program, I would not be the person that I am today.

When I was asked by my company to become an instructor for the ABC Keystone Apprenticeship Program, I was excited. I’m an individual that believes in training, and for the trades to become better, I feel that you need to pay it forward. I have learned a lot from the older guys in the trade, so why not pass it on? I have found great passion for instructing in the trade, and I enjoy seeing young people grow and develop.”

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