|Abstract or Summary
- Community service organizations, community college apprenticeships
and organized labor have been working together to address the barriers to
successful completion of apprenticeships. The barriers have been especially
daunting for women and people of color. The Trades Mentor Network (TMN)
grew out of a need to address this issue and to provide a means to assist at-risk
apprentices to persist in the completion of their building trades apprenticeships.
The purpose of this case study was to describe the TMN and to investigate the
apprentice-mentor relationship to see if, in the perception of the apprentices, it
was a useful retention strategy.
A literature survey identified the worth of mentoring in other arenas,
discussed the fate of women in nontraditional work and the relationship between
community colleges and apprenticeships, and reviewed appropriate research
methodology for studying this phenomenon.
Participant observation, focus groups and interviews in two phases of
data collection were used. Archival data contributed to the descriptions,
conclusions and recommendations.
The TMN and the TMN training were described. The research was limited
to the study of woman apprentices. Their stories revealed their experiences as
apprentices, their mentor relationship and what it was about the relationship that
helped them. In the course of the study, 39 women were invited to be mentored.
The 28 women who participated credited being mentored as a significant factor
in their continuation or successful completion of their apprenticeship. The
retention rates for woman apprentices improved. In 1991, before the TMN
existed, the dropout rate for woman apprentices in Washington community and
technical colleges was 50%, in 1996, the dropout rate was 12%.
The TMN had an effect on the building trades culture. Woman
apprentices were stronger, more confident and more expectant of a more
inclusive and welcoming environment. Part of the significance of this study was
to provide the data to justify the Trades Mentor Network and to convince
organized labor to routinely fund it as a retention strategy for all apprentices at
risk. Apprentice training is expensive and a low cost, essentially volunteer,
program that reduces the risk of losing apprentices is valuable.