Workforce Development Programs Tackle Skilled Labor Shortage

Building Better Builders: DPR's programs ensure that team members receive training from experienced DPR builders and graduate with skills that meet high quality and safety standards.
A group of builders wearing DPR vests sit at tables listening to a speaker.

Factors behind the current construction workforce shortage are varied. As high school courses offering hands-on training and job-ready skills have decreased, job openings have increased in the construction industry. The result: a shortage of skilled workers needed to fill industrial trades.

As industry members look for ways to tackle the skilled labor shortage, DPR has taken matters into its own hands to ensure employees have the skills necessary to build for the future. Enter the DPR-run Craft Apprenticeship Program, which is certified by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). This in-house program ensures that team members receive training from experienced DPR builders and graduate with skills that meet high quality and safety standards.

A builder wearing personal protective equipment installs tape to a small drywall practice area while others wearing personal protective equipment look on.

Craft Apprenticeship: Investing in the Future

Aimed primarily at newer craft team members who are less experienced, the Craft Apprenticeship Program lets participants learn journey-level skills through related technical instruction (RTI) coupled with on-the-job training (OJT). Beyond that, apprenticeship allows participants to gain confidence and a better understanding of what’s expected of them in their role.

“Elevating our craft is a big part of how we measure success,” said Will Sheane, a DPR people practices project manager who has been heavily involved in getting the program up and running. “It’s an investment in their future that is provided at zero cost to the employee while being paid their regular wage for training.”

The program begins with core training that covers essentials like construction math, blueprint reading and communication skills. After completing Core, apprentices begin their trade-specific learning path—concrete, drywall or electrical. These paths consist of modules that cover the skills necessary to become a well-rounded journeyman or journeywoman. And since knowledge is only as good as its application, apprentices are given breaks in between levels to apply what they’ve learned on the jobsite. This on-the-job training allows them to see exactly how the rubber meets the road.

Three builders wearing full personal protective equipment kneel around a square made of wood practicing on fresh concrete inside the square.

Course Structure

Assistant Superintendent Ricardo Reyes Aguilar, who began his career at DPR as a foreman in 2017, was asked to serve as a drywall instructor in the program. He appreciates the length and structure of the program, which takes place over 40 hours, followed by 10-12 weeks of two-hour sessions, two days a week. “That way they can digest the information,” said Reyes. “In the classroom, we go over coursework, and we have an area where they can get their hands dirty, use their tools and practice some of what they’ve learned.”

“This program has given me motivation and better vision of what we do daily, with the hope of improving myself within an excellent team and great camaraderie at DPR,” shared an apprentice from Orlando, FL. Students complete their exams online to show they’ve learned the material, then move to hands-on tasks to show that they can apply what they’ve learned, so everyone gets hands-on experience before going back to the jobsite.

After completing the fundamentals, the students stream into their respective trade paths, which range from two-and-a-half to four years in length. The program is taught by instructors who are DPR foremen or superintendents, ensuring that the training is up to date and provided by subject matter experts through an experienced DPR lens.

Two builders wearing full personal protective equipment pose in front of a wall on a jobsite and smile at the camera.

Apprentices are required to pass rigorous tests to demonstrate that they have mastered the knowledge within each module. After passing the test and demonstrating their capability, each module completion is logged on an NCCER wallet card. This offers portable credentials that are recognized in all 50 states and three territories and are easily verified online. As further incentive, apprentices are offered regular wage increases for successful level completions, and upon graduating from the program, they receive a certificate and engraved steel card recognizing their official journey-level status.

“A lot of people are retiring from the trades. There are people coming in who need to learn, and the process takes time. It took me years to learn everything I know, but we’re trying to focus and help accelerate the process so we can get our people to be ready to build sooner—and to work safely,” noted Reyes.

A group of builders wearing personal protective equipment pose together, smiling, in front of a drywall practice area.
Participants felt the program helped them learn better ways to interact in the workplace and gave them more confidence in their work, as well as the ability to share their learning with others. Photo: Ricardo Reyes Aguilar

Apprenticeship Program Graduates

DPR will be celebrating its first graduates of the apprenticeship program in 2024 in both the Central and Southeast Regions. In late March, DPR’s Southeast region will celebrate its first 2024 Apprenticeship Graduates in Orlando and Tampa. Twenty-one of Central Florida’s Drywall Apprentices will have completed close to 290 hours of in-classroom training and hands-on skill assessments, in addition to their on-the-job training. DPR’s Central region plans to celebrate its first 2024 Apprenticeship graduates in Austin in June 2024 with nineteen graduates.

The next group of apprentices began core classes in both the Central and Southeast Regions in Q1 of 2024. Program leaders asked participants in the program about the impact it had on their work. Responses showed they felt it helped them learn better ways to interact in the workplace and gave them more confidence in their work, as well as the ability to share their learning with others.

“What they’re learning is ultimately for them. DPR will benefit if they’re better builders, but the knowledge stays with them,” concluded Reyes.

As industries prepare for the future, investing in and empowering their labor force is a key priority not only for team members, but for overall industry success. DPR aims to get ahead of the curve by elevating its Craft workforce and giving them the tools they need to build great things.

Un miembro del craft sonriente en el elevador de una obra

As one of the nation’s largest self-performing general contractors, the talents and dedication of our craftspeople are the foundation of DPR’s success.

Join the Team

We think you'll like this, too.