Workforce Development Carves Path to Build the Labor Movement

Unions have a rich history of advocacy for greater education and training for workers and their families. Notably, Building Trades unions have a rich history with apprenticeship programs that ensure a union share of the construction market and set the bar for high-quality workforce training and development.  Contractors know that these union apprenticeships produce incredibly skilled craftworkers.  The State Federation supports the expansion of apprenticeship into other industries and formed the Keystone Development Partnership (KDP) in 2005 to work with unions and their employers to develop labor-management training programs.

Union investment in workforce development and skill upgrading programs contributes to the retention of current jobs at the worksite and growth in employment. As union jobs are maintained, and work expands inside unionized companies, union membership grows and the labor movement broadens its reach.

Since 2016, the PA AFL-CIO and KDP have supported a strategic effort to register non-traditional programs within healthcare, manufacturing, Information Technology (IT), and child daycare industries.  The Pennsylvania Apprenticeship and Training Office (PA ATO), the PA AFL-CIO and KDP provide technical assistance to address the changing demographics of today’s workforce.

The PA AFL-CIO encourages unions to use collective bargaining, alliances with community organizations, and government workforce agencies including Local Workforce Boards. Unions provide the workers’ voice that enables skill training to be responsive to the needs and career plans of workers. Active labor engagement in skill formation in the workplace builds the strength of unions as robust, innovative organizations.

In a Right to Work environment, unions need to engage actively in internal organizing and educate their members on the value of belonging to a union. Members need to have a clear idea about the advantages of union membership. Through their involvement in workforce development and skill formation programs, unions bring opportunities to their members to get the education and training necessary to retain their jobs and advance in their careers. Engagement in workforce development programs gives members another reason to be loyal to their union. It provides non-members with a reason to join a union at the workplace. Union-involved workforce programs build membership.

Unions represent many workers in highly skilled professions, including journalism, teaching, nursing, computer programming, broadcast engineering, airline and commercial piloting, and firefighting, among others. Many of these professions require their expert practitioners to engage in continuous, lifelong learning to keep abreast of changing technology and work processes. Union involvement in such training makes union membership more attractive and relevant to these professionals.

Young adults in the workplace value the chance to learn and grow on the job. Surveys and opinion polls have found that opportunities for education, training and career development are important to young workers, especially those in the Millennial generation. Business surveys have advised managers that they are more likely to retain young adult workers if they provide interesting work, the opportunity to learn new skills, tuition reimbursement, and in-house training programs.   Young workers will find union membership more appealing when labor is engaged in workforce programs that help them gain greater skills on the job and advance in their careers.