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Need Skilled Workers? Let Unions Train Them

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A recent Washington Post article detailed the ongoing decline in union training programs and the less-effective programs, some sponsored by private-sector companies (employers) and community colleges, that have taken their place.

When unions first became a prominent force in the American economy, they were welcomed because they provided highly-skilled workers to the labor pipeline. However, they soon became large forces with the reputation of using their size to their advantage when negotiating wages and benefits. Higher education also surged, allowing more people to educate themselves with their own funds and lessening unions’ influence. 

To combat this, unions entered into cooperative partnerships with employers, creating training programs that led directly to employment. This model was effective in creating a consistent workforce in which employers were not afraid to invest in training for fear that trainees would defect to another company. But it also created workers who demanded better pay and benefits, prompting many employers to move their facilities to “right-to-work states” and further eroding union membership.

Presently, vocational programs through community colleges and other non-union organizations are experiencing a resurgence as providers of quality education leading to careers as an alternative to four-year degrees. However, these programs often lack on-the-job training, the biggest benefit of union apprenticeship programs.

The bottom line is that while technical schools can work for some, the traditional union model offers a far superior brand of training for good-paying, career-path jobs.

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