Apprentices make connections on Campus Renewal
Kathy Bretsch
/ Categories: Campus Renewal Refresh
May 2024

Apprentices make connections on Campus Renewal

May 2024 - BJC’s Campus Renewal Project is providing opportunities for apprentices in numerous trades to hone their crafts on a complex project. Guided by journeyman trades men and women, 250+ apprentices, representing everything from plumbing and machine operating to carpentry and electrical work, have contributed to a state-of-the-art patient care tower that will serve the region for generations.

So, how do contractors retain these apprentices when the odds are stacked against them? Statistics reported by the United States Department of Labor paint a bleak picture – overall apprenticeship completion rates were below 35 percent in 2021.

McCarthy Building Companies has developed a program that aims to retain apprentices through professional and personal development, relationship building, education and mentorship. Each month, more than 60 apprentices on Campus Renewal meet over lunch in a casual setting intended to facilitate conversations and help them navigate unfamiliar situations.

“BJC welcomes this opportunity on our project,” says Christopher Dean, BJC executive director of Campus Renewal. “We want to support and encourage apprentices in their training and development any way we can.”

According to Ralph Powell, McCarthy’s director of diversity, the program focuses on the growth and development of apprentices so they can succeed in the construction industry.

“Apprentices tend to leave the industry when they aren’t feeling valued and feel they don’t have anyone they can turn to with questions,” says Powell. “Bringing together the 60+ apprentices monthly will facilitate relationships with people they may not otherwise have the opportunity to meet.

“BJC and McCarthy are committed to attracting, recruiting, retaining, and developing the next generation of builders,” says Powell. “This program was created to empower apprentices to take control of their development and careers with the help of their peers.”

Powell adds The McCarthy team encourages the apprentices to ask questions, and guest speakers talk about their own journeys through apprenticeships.

“Construction presents a career path, not a job, that doesn’t require a college degree and financial burden that can come with that,” Powell adds. “A young man or woman right out of high school can enter the trades as an apprentice. After four to five years, they will be a journey-level worker making good middle class wages with benefits that enables them to support their families and create generational wealth.”

“We also acknowledge and emphasize how critical their growth and development are to the success of the Barnes-Jewish Hospital patient care tower – a place where patients from around the world will come for decades to receive care from some of the greatest caregivers,” Powell adds.  

“I hope each and every person feels valued and empowered, and they know they have a support system behind them to help them through their journey.”

Photos - Steve Masuch (standing at front), McCarthy senior project manager, tells the group about his journey from mechanical apprentice to senior project manager – a journey that didn’t include going to college or a college degree. He emphasized that with hard work, dedication and mentors, the apprentices can achieve what they set their minds to.

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