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Alumni Success

Award-winning Director of Training and Workforce Development prepares non-college bound students for career success in construction trades

As Director of Training and Workforce Development at the Carpenters’ District Council of Greater St. Louis & Vicinity (CDC), Dr. John Gaal has dedicated his career to championing the role and value of career/technical education and organized labor. “I work to help the public understand that blue collar workers have brains,” says Gaal, “College, at age 18, isn’t for everyone. There is no shame in working with your hands in a skilled trade.”

Gaal oversees 11 federally approved post-secondary apprenticeship and training programs covering three states (Missouri, Illinois, and Kansas). Union membership consists of approximately 22,000 workers. More than 10 percent of the members are apprentices who attend school four weeks per year for approximately four years to learn carpentry, cabinetmaking, millwright, floor laying, or electrical, according to Gaal. “With the support of our joint labor-management board and on behalf of our training programs, I constantly seek to identify and develop cutting edge technologies to enhance the skill sets of our apprentices and journey workers which, in turn, improve their safety and productivity,” he says.

Dr. Gaal and the St. Louis CDC recently received several distinguished awards from the US Department of Labor (DOL) for two unique outreach programs. A DOL Office of Apprenticeship 21st Century Registered Apprenticeship Trailblazer and Innovator award went to a pre-apprenticeship program developed for at-risk high school students. Operated by the Floor Layers Joint Apprenticeship Program, the endeavor prepares students with a C grade average for careers in construction, and connects the experience with community college classes.

A second Trailblazer and Innovator award went to the, Green Construction Corps (GCC), a program sponsored by the St. Louis Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship. GCC offers pre-apprenticeship training in green construction and weatherization to at-risk high school students. “There are 24,000 registered apprenticeship programs in the US. It is a high honor to receive awards for two,” says Dr. Gaal.

In 2011, the Harvard Graduate School of Education released Pathways to Prosperity, a report on meeting the challenges of developing meaningful career training for young people in the 21st century. Dr. Gaal was appointed to a panel working to identify opportunities to implement the findings in Missouri.

Ever dedicated to searching the world for effective apprenticeship programs and implementing best practices in the US, Dr. Gaal has received a Fulbright Scholarship and has delivered lectures and performed research on labor and industrial relations in Japan. For the final two years of the Scholarship, he intends to travel to Australia to study additional unique apprenticeship programs.

Dr. Gaal has been an adjunct professor at Webster University since 1996, and hopes to teach at the school’s new satellite campus opening this fall in Ghana. He received his Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership and an Advanced Professional Graduate Certificate in International Business from Argosy University, Sarasota in 2007 and has gone on to perform post doctorate research in Trade Union Leadership at Harvard University.

He holds associate’s degrees in general education, construction technology and construction management, a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Washington University, a master’s degree in Business & Management and an MBA from Webster University, and an executive master’s degree in International Business from St. Louis University. In addition, Dr. Gaal is a Master Certified Career & Technical Educator.

Dr. Gaal has been honored with a myriad of accolades: Diversity Champion award by the St. Louis Council of Construction Consumers; 10-year service award from SkillsUSA, the Workforce Diversity Advocate award from the NAACP; Horace Mann award from the Missouri National Education Association, the Outstanding Service Award from the Missouri Trade & Technical Association; Applause award from the International Leadership Network.

Dr. Gaal has served a three-year term as President of the Trade & Industrial Education Division of the national Association for Career and Technical Education. In 2010, he completed a seven-year term on the United States Department of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship, and has served as a Labor Representative on the US National Advisory Committee to the Labor Side Agreement to the NAFTA (1995 to 2003). He also serves on the Board of Education at the first charter high school in the USA dedicated to construction in St. Louis, Missouri, and is currently the chair of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Committee on Training & Education. He has published extensively in the areas of trade union leadership, international workforce development, career and technical education and registered apprenticeship.

Argosy University (, with 28 campus locations in 13 states and online, is a private, accredited academic institution dedicated to providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs to students through its seven colleges: Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Business, Education, Health Sciences, Undergraduate Studies, The Art Institute of California and Western State College of Law. With one of the largest communities of graduate students in the nation, Argosy University offers graduate degree programs in Psychology, Business, Counseling and Education. The institution offers undergraduate degree programs in Psychology, Business, Liberal Arts and Criminal Justice and, through The Art Institute of California, serves as an important source of education for design, media arts, fashion and culinary students and professionals. Degree levels and programs offered vary by location. Full and part-time law programs are offered through Western State College of Law. Argosy University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100, Alameda, California, 94501, ( Licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education, License No. 2610, 2630. See for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

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