Training Apprentices to Give Back

At the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), training the workforce doesn’t just mean classroom learning and on-the-job instruction—it means diving into the community to teach apprentices the importance of giving back.

The chapter is involved with a few nonprofit organizations in their local area, but primarily supports a local women’s shelter, Shepherd’s Gate, in need of construction assistance. Throughout the year, the chapter works with Shepherd’s Gate to assess the work it needs done and then correlate those projects with the hands-on portion of the apprenticeship training so the students can perform the work.

“It is important for the apprentices to see firsthand why it is always important to give back,” says ABC Northern California Chapter Training Director Roy Horton. “If you have not left the world a better place than you found it, you are not doing enough.”



In the past five years, apprentices from four of the five trades being taught at the chapter have assisted with new construction of Shepherd’s Gate’s facility.

Carpentry apprentices have reframed interior walls and built soffit and chase walls for a housing unit that was left unfinished by a previous contractor—plus built a patio and BBQ area; installed cabinets, doors, hardware and new interior trim; and repaired water-damaged drywall.

Laborers poured concrete for new curbs, sidewalks and pathways, jackhammered the floor in the building and rerouted sewer lines. Electrical students installed outlets and lights in a new building and retrofitted lights on  existing buildings. In addition, painting apprentices repainted the interior and exterior of a majority of Shepherd’s Gate’s buildings to keep them looking fresh.

“There is a level of professionalism and sense of giving back that is difficult to teach in the classroom,” Horton says. “It’s important for the apprentices to realize that they have been given an opportunity that should be reciprocated in the world.”
In addition, the work the students complete counts toward their school-related supplemental instruction hours. The projects also allow the students to work on certain aspects of the trade that they might not encounter very often in the field, providing expanded learning opportunities outside of their designated training course. 

“Incorporating this community service has absolutely improved our training program,” Horton says. “Any opportunity we can utilize to help break up the training with something different aids our efforts tremendously.”