Published in the January issue of Next Step Magazine
Preparing for an exciting career does not have to burn a hole in your pocket.As an apprentice, you can earn a paycheck while learning valuable skills from experienced professionals in a wide variety of trades.
Apprenticeships are as diverse as the careers that offer them, including carpentry, electrical work, firefighting, health services and more.
“The more training you have, the more likely you are to find employment,” says Randy Ambuehl, training director of the Electrical Industry Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) in Washington state.
In addition to on-the-job training, apprentices receive classroom instruction, usually at a community or technical college. Most courses are offered at night and on the weekends.
At the end of the training program, which can last from two to five years, an apprentice receives a Certificate of Completion.
Someone who earns this nationally recognized credential is called a journey level worker or journeyman.
Who can be an apprentice?
Although some trades require apprentices to be at least 18 years old, others take on apprentices as young as 16. Still others, called youth apprenticeships, are specifically designed for teens.
Wisconsin’s statewide Youth Apprenticeship Program allows students to do paid work in fields ranging from health care to information technology, while taking related courses and possibly receiving college credit.
What’s required in an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeship programs vary greatly in their requirements. Applicants may be asked to provide a high school diploma or scores from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB), administered by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Services.
Depending on the occupation, apprentices may also be required to complete certain math courses or electives, such as algebra, mechanical drawing or shop classes.
“As in any occupation, you’re going to have to be dependable,” says Ambuehl. “Construction is a team sport, so you need to be relatively physically fit—and interpersonal skills are good to have also.”
How much will I make?
One of the great things about apprenticeships is that they provide a chance to receive free training. Your sponsor—the company you work for, a trade association, or an educational trust—will typically cover the cost of your apprenticeship program. At most, you may be asked to pay for books, tools, or other necessary
Apprentices are generally full-time employees, earning wages that begin at approximately 40 percent of what a journeyman makes. As their training progresses, so does their pay, often equaling 90 percent of a journeyman’s wages toward the end of the program.
In many occupations, they are also eligible for benefits such as health care and vacation pay.
Wages for apprentices and journeymen depend greatly on the trade, region, and whether the apprenticeship is with a union or non-union employer.
How do I get an apprenticeship?
You can find an apprenticeship directly through a company, a labor organization, a trade association, or your local labor department.
As long as you are willing to put in the time and work, an apprenticeship can be a great opportunity to learn new skills and get to know a trade while earning money.