Starting Your Career

The 4-Step Guide To Getting Your First Apprenticeship

Erin Wallace
Sr. Writer

Posted 07/10/2019

The first thing you should know about getting your first apprenticeship is that you should be prepared to bust your behind and work hard.

There is so much opportunity out there, it's unbelievable. Every employer in the trades, whether it's with construction companies, plumbers, electricians, HVAC pros or painters, employs apprentices at one time or another. Employers know that if things go well, they can grow you to be a great worker and contributor to the company. And from there, the sky's the limit: you could even end up owning your own company down the road.

What's an Apprenticeship Anyway?

An apprenticeship in the trades is a system of training a new generation of practitioners, whether they want to be painters, electricians, framers, HVAC repair people or something else.

The specifics of each apprenticeship vary depending on the business. It might involve on-the-job training from experienced tradespeople combined with some accompanying study, like school, where you complete classwork and do reading and research on your own.

Other apprenticeships might involve working under someone for a set period of time, such as during summer, and shadowing them to learn more about what they do each day.

Why Do I Need an Apprenticeship?

If you want to succeed in the trades, an apprenticeship is a great way to get your foot in the door. It provides you with valuable on-the-job training — often paid — so you can grow your skills within the industry and learn to succeed on your own. It teaches you things you can't learn in a classroom.

4 Steps To Getting an Apprenticeship

Your search for an apprenticeship may vary depending on which type of career you're interested in, but all of the steps listed below are good places to begin your search. It's important to treat the process like a job interview, you want to make sure to put your best foot forward. And you'll also want to be persistent and know that you might not find the perfect opportunity in the first phone call. If you feel you're not making progress, don't give up!

Below is a quick list of four easy steps you can take to help jump-start your career:

Step 1: Decide Which Trade to Target

The specific area of the trades you target, whether it's welding, framing, painting, HVAC, electrical or plumbing, is going to depend on your personal interest. There's no one else other than you who can answer the question, "which trade do I want to learn?"

Do you like working outdoors? Maybe you'd like to be a framer. Are you fascinated by electricity and how it's run through houses? Maybe you're interested in more modern applications, such as solar? Consider an electrical apprenticeship. When the plumber comes to your parents' house, do you watch him from a distance, wondering how he's fixing a leaky faucet or replacing a T-trap? If that's the case, maybe plumbing is for you.

Remember: only you know which trade you'd like to specialize in.

Step 2: Ask Around

Everyone knows someone in the trades, whether there's two or three degrees of separation. Maybe it's your neighbor, someone your aunt knows or a friend of your grandfather.

Whoever it might be, seek them out. Show them you're motivated and want to learn. Ask them about how they got started in their career. Many people love to talk about themselves, and asking them questions about their jobs can help you discover whether it's something you'd want to do as well. And who knows — they may know someone who can help you get started.

Step 3: Be Proactive — Beat Down Those Doors

Getting your first apprenticeship in the trades is about having a take-charge, dynamic attitude. You need to be proactive about it. That means doing what might feel challenging — cold calling local businesses and asking people you know in the trades about any apprenticeships they may have available or know about.

And it's not as scary as it might sound. Generation T did an interview recently with influencers Matt Risinger and Jordan Smith, and they indicated that many trades businesses are in need of hardworking, problem-solving people, so the businesses you contact are likely to be thrilled to hear from you.

Also, research any available apprenticeship programs and trade schools in your local area. You may be able to find something you can enroll in that offers a combination of on-the-job training and classroom work.

Step 4: Show Up

Once you've successfully secured an apprenticeship (congrats!), the last step is to show up ready to work. Arriving on time, feeling motivated and showing an eagerness to learn can go a long way when it comes to succeeding in your apprenticeship role.

Generation T's partners offer job and training programs to help young people like you get your career off the ground — explore our resources to learn more about the awesome things we're doing to get young people excited about the trades.