INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis has become one of the nation's fastest growing markets for nonresidential construction. The FMI Corp. report, "Indiana Construction Roundtable Central Indiana Craft Labor Study Update," Sept. 2004, predicts that in 2005, Indianapolis market growth will ramp to a value of $8 billion for construction put in place - a substantial increase from $7.5 billion in 2004. This increased demand in construction is predicted to create a skilled craft labor shortage - 637 workers for 2005. And that figure looks to escalate to 6,185 by 2008.

"The construction industry's current skilled labor shortage is a nationwide concern," said John Rayburn, executive vice president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Indiana (MCAI). "Union labor in Indiana addresses that concern by providing the most effective education programs available, to help more skilled workers successfully complete apprenticeships and join the workforce."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the average construction worker's age is 47, and more retire with each passing year. This growing shortage necessitates a greater awareness of Indiana's apprenticeship programs. Programs such as these deliver craft-based skill training, and a successful response to Indiana's construction outlook hinges upon their effectiveness, since they are a major form of construction workforce development.

Assessing The Apprenticeship Programs

"A lot of construction end-users don't pay close attention to the apprentice training systems, thinking the issue of workforce development will take care of itself. But apprenticeships do need to be analyzed to check their effectiveness. We want to have a workforce that is ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow," said Jeff Vincent, research director at the Indiana University Institute for the Study of Labor in Society.

"In Indiana, there is a tremendous investment in union apprenticeship programs," Vincent said. "If you invest in the future workforce, keeping up-to-date with new and emerging skills, contractors will be poised to meet future demands, which will be a key concern in Indiana in years to come."

Vincent said that many apprentices get their associate degrees in applied technology after their apprenticeships and on-the-job training. "That degree gives them better chances for advancement in their careers," he added. "It is an investment in culture capital, a concept you have to take into consideration if you want to look at productivity in a holistic sort of way. Each worker is becoming more adept at making decisions, which makes them able to work faster and with greater skill."

State-of-the-Art Training For A Better Future

The Mechanical Contractors Association of Indiana actively supports union apprenticeship training. Union training for employees of MCAI-affiliated contractors takes place at United Association (UA) training centers throughout the state. The UA, a building trades union whose members work in the plumbing and pipe fitting industry, provides state-of-the-art training programs, including a five-year apprenticeship program, extensive journeyman training, organized instructor training, and certification programs.

These union apprentices receive 1,700 to 2,000 hours of on-the-job education and a minimum of 216 hours of classroom instruction each year - and those many hours of training are well worth the investment of time and effort. "More people enroll in the union apprenticeships because they create more highly skilled workers," Vincent said. "In the open shops, the training philosophy is paying less money for less skilled workers. But if you've got two people doing what one person could do through union training, that individual union worker is more productive."

Established in 1953, the Mechanical Contractors Association of Indiana is a statewide trade association established to represent and service its members in the mechanical industry. It acts as the industry's voice in dealing with the public, state and local government, other construction industry groups, and labor. For more information, visit

Publication date: 01/31/2005