Jobs with Justice Brings an Equity Focus to Apprenticeship

Organization Summary:

In 2017, Jobs with Justice (JWJ) celebrated 30 years of organizing and advocacy for American workers. Their advocacy focuses primarily on expanding opportunities for working people to come together to improve their workplaces, communities and their lives. Towards that end, JWJ engages in policy conversations around a variety of issues in workforce development and workers’ rights, including immigration reform and racial equity. Headquartered in Washington, DC, Jobs with Justice includes a national office of organizers and communications, policy, and research staff advancing an agenda of workers’ rights and economic equity, and a grassroots network of 36 local JWJ coalitions in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

Overview of Apprenticeship Efforts:

In 2016, the Jobs with Justice Education Fund published “Building Career Opportunities for Women and People of Color: Breakthroughs in Construction,” which highlighted the role apprenticeship can play in increasing equity of access to careers in the building trades. The report includes case studies on how stakeholders in large-scale construction projects—the Minnesota Vikings stadium and sites at the University of Massachusetts-Boston—successfully recruited, trained, and supported a diverse workforce. Pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities were central to efforts to prepare workers to succeed on these work sites and achieve continued success in their careers, especially those traditionally underrepresented in the building trades.

Jobs with Justice’s work on apprenticeship has thus far focused on leveraging the model to increase equity and opportunity in the building trades, but the organization is branching out into other fields as well, with plans to highlight the role of apprenticeship in providing access for underrepresented populations to advanced manufacturing careers in a forthcoming report with the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute, another Collaborative member. JWJ hopes that its awareness efforts will encourage more employers to leverage apprenticeship as a means of bringing new talent into the field.

Local Partners:

Jobs with Justice is currently working to promote inclusion of more women and people of color in apprenticeship in construction careers. The two main hubs for their national work are Denver and Orlando, where Colorado Jobs With Justice and Central Florida Jobs With Justice each employ a Construction Careers Coordinator to expand outreach and support.

In Orlando, the Construction Careers Initiative connects with local schools to introduce youth to career opportunities in the building trades, and coordinates a survey of construction workers to understand demographics and working conditions across the industry. In Denver, where transportation projects from light rail to the highway system are getting underway, the Equity and Possibilities in Construction (EPIC) initiative is advocating for leveraging apprenticeship in these projects to bring a diverse cohort of local workers into good jobs in transportation and the building trades. EPIC works to ensure that more women and people of color are recruited and retained in current work on Interstate 70, and organizes meet-ups for tradeswomen in Denver, which helps provide a sense of community for apprentice and journey women who are underrepresented in the industry.

Interesting Themes about Apprenticeship:

Jobs with Justice recognizes the important role that philanthropy plays in shaping discourse around workers’ rights and economic equity. But they also see another role for such organizations that can make an impact on the ground. At a national level, Jobs with Justice is aiming to encourage foundations to take a more active role in their own construction projects, making sure that the work they contract out is creating sustainable construction careers through apprenticeships, fair job standards, and a culture of inclusion for people underrepresented in the building trades. If philanthropic organizations hiring contractors to complete a project demand a diverse workforce, good pay, and apprenticeship opportunities on their office rebuild projects, then the industry will respond.

Interested in learning more about JWJ’s apprenticeship efforts? Contact them at info@jwj.org for additional information.