Starting Your Career

Apprenticeships 101: What You Need To Know To Kickstart Your Career Today

Brook Jillings

Posted 06/24/2019

If you've ever spent time with a trade professional or know someone who is looking to start their trade career, you've probably heard a fair amount about apprenticeships. When an individual chooses to build their trade around a career, it's important they receive quality training to master their craft. Working as an apprentice is one of the options available to develop those professional skills. Before committing to an apprenticeship, however, it's important to understand what you should expect to ensure this is the right move for you. 

What is an apprenticeship? 

Apprenticeships provide the opportunity to train under master tradespeople, ensuring the newest generation of professionals have the knowledge and experience to maintain the quality standards of the industry. Apprenticeships are often paid, though the wages usually start at the same level as a general laborer and increase as the apprentice acquires more skill. This lets the apprentice receive direct, on-the-job training from an expert while still earning a living wage. To round out the training, many apprenticeships also require some type of formal classroom training, giving new professionals a deeper understanding of their trade. 

Because an apprenticeship is designed as a long-term training program, with terms of one to four years, completion of the program often results in licensing or certification as a professional in that trade. At this point, the graduate will often work for a set period of time with the company that provided the apprenticeship and can apply to the relevant professional union. "Apprenticeships help you learn a skilled trade by people who are experienced in that trade," says Jeff Trucksa, Co- Owner of K & J Heating and Cooling, Inc. "This is invaluable teaching, and apprenticeships help you obtain the knowledge and certifications you need to have a successful and lucrative career." 

What about trade schools? 

A traditional apprenticeship offers many benefits to the student, but this type of training may not be the best fit for everyone. Those who wish to work in a skilled trade also have the option of attending a trade school. Trade schools, like colleges, provide training in a classroom setting with controlled, hands-on opportunities to learn certain skills. In this case, however, students miss out on the real-world experience and are required to pay for this training. 

"Here is what's crazy about apprenticeships. It's the opposite of how college really works," says Dan Wies, Vice President of Wies Drywall and Construction Corp. "An apprentice gets paid to learn — no student loan debt — and your instructors are professionals at what specific skill they are teaching you." 

Why choose an apprenticeship? 

An apprenticeship offers training in your chosen field along with practical experience in a professional setting. You get the opportunity to learn all the professional skills you will need to produce quality work, and you're also exposed to many soft skills that are difficult to replicate in a classroom, such as those needed to keep clients informed and satisfied. Perhaps the biggest benefit to choosing an apprenticeship is the fact that you start immediately and get paid as you learn. 

According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce, nearly two-thirds of all jobs will require some form of postsecondary education or training by 2020. Yet from January 2017 through January 2019, U.S. employers have hired more than 440,000 apprentices, according to the Department of Labor. Construction comprises more than a third of all apprenticeships in the U.S., according to the National Center for Construction Education (NCCER).

"My grandfather, who founded our company in 1971, started hanging drywall 70 years ago this upcoming August," says Weis. "He has a 9th-grade education. The trades weren't just a way for him to provide for his wife, kids, mom, brothers, and sisters (he had to help them all as his dad died when he was young). They provided him with an instant middle-class life at the age of 22. This is what a person would still get today if they started right out of high school and into a trade." 

If you're considering a trade career and want to know more about apprenticeships, check out the training opportunities offered by our Generation T partners today. And if you're a business looking to train the next generation of tradespeople, you can offer an unregistered apprenticeship here: