Even in a pandemic, the construction industry is still looking to hire skilled workers. One way to gain the skills for those good-paying jobs is to enter an apprenticeship.

An apprenticeship is an opportunity to learn a skilled profession in a specific field while earning a wage. Apprenticeships can take anywhere from one to six years to achieve mastery of a skill through on-the-job training and classroom instruction. Participating in an apprenticeship demonstrates that you have the knowledge and skills as a professional in a field and graduates of these programs tend to advance more quickly in their careers.

As you think about this option, here are a few things you should consider before you apply:

Don’t base your decision on wages alone.

As a skilled professional, you can earn a good living with great benefits, including a pension and health insurance. You also will earn while you are learning, though often at about half the rate of a skilled journeyman.

Those who are most successful, however, like what they do each day. Choose a path you’re most excited about long-term, even if it requires additional steps to apply or takes longer to complete. Apprenticeships are meant to be an entry point into a career that can grow as you are promoted to foreman or supervisor. Do not look at this route as just getting another job.

Consider your options. 

There are hundreds of apprentice occupations. Building trades have more than 16 options for trade apprenticeships alone. Explore areas you’re interested in and then contact a coordinator to learn more about an apprenticeship in that area.

Each program has different requirements to participate, but many require that you be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or a high school equivalency degree, and have a valid driver’s license.

Different programs can help you navigate your options and support you in your application. Helmets to Hardhats is a program for veterans and Building New Careers supports those who are having a hard time landing a good job, such as the formerly incarcerated individuals without a high school diploma, and those working minimum wage.

Understand what the apprenticeship offers.

Each apprenticeship is a little different. Some provide tools to do the job and others expect you to provide your own. Apprenticeship programs for plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and sheet metal workers provide college credit at DMACC that is just shy of an associate’s degree.

Consider what the schedule will be like and how many hours you’ll need to spend on the job and in school. Also think about what knowledge and skills you’ll need to do the job, such as geometry and algebra. Don’t worry if you don’t know those subjects well just yet; those are things that you’ll learn as a part of the program. But it’s good to be aware of what will be expected of you so you are prepared to make the commitment to the program.

Apply now, even if you must wait. 

With COVID-19 restrictions, some programs are not taking new apprentices or hiring is limited. But you can still complete an application, so you are ready when there are openings.

Review the application process. Some programs may require you to take a test and most will have you interview for the position.

A pre-apprenticeship program could be a good way to get your foot in the door, gain some experience, and connect with leaders in the field who can support you. While not required, taking courses in areas, such as math, computer science, and communications can also help.

Find support

For support in navigating the apprenticeship process, connect with Bob Brown, program manager with Building New Careers.

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TAGS: Thriving Workforce

Bob Brown

About The Author: Bob Brown

Bob Brown is the former Labor Liaison for United Way of Central Iowa.