For on-the-job training, most people think about internships. While internships and apprenticeships have some similarities (i.e., on-the-job training), internships typically only apply to office, white-collar jobs.
But for those that prefer to work with their hands, mastering a blue-collar trade can lead to a profitable career free of college debt. Apprenticeships are available for high schoolers and 50-year-old aspiring tradesmen/women alike.
Most blue-collar trade jobs are physical, and as such, apprenticeships usually involve manual labor and tool training.
How Does an Apprenticeship Program Work?
The goal in any apprenticeship is to help you collect the number of work hours you’ll need to demonstrate experience in your industry. They can even fulfill requirements for technical college and/or licensure.
Depending upon how many hours your industry requires for you to be deemed qualified, an apprenticeship can last a few weeks, months, or years.
Some apprenticeships are formal, while others require that you only ask a local tradesman/woman or contractor if you can assist them. When it comes to a paycheck, some states allow employers to pay below minimum wage for an apprenticeship/internship.
Still, learning on the job at low pay is a better deal than financing a four-year degree before you even start your job search.
Regardless of where and how you choose an apprenticeship program, the important thing is that you feel empowered to learn from a trades expert while getting hands-on experience.
What are the Different Types of Apprenticeship Programs?
Most blue-collar industries offer and encourage apprenticeships.
In the field of construction, there are several different types of trade apprenticeships, including:
For individuals interested in mechanics and repair, they can find apprenticeships in the following areas:
- Automotive maintenance and repair
- Aircraft maintenance and repair
- Robotics maintenance and repair
Further, there are apprenticeship programs for roles in telecommunications, transportation/logistics, manufacturing, environmental protection, and engineering.
For those blue-collar jobs that require a degree, mentees can gain substantial industry experience to find out whether or not they are a good fit before investing in course work.
What Does an Apprenticeship Program Usually Include?
Identifying apprenticeship objectives is usually a task for the sponsor. The sponsor is the person or organization responsible for your on-the-job training.
For most programs, you should plan to work full-time hours for a set number of months. While some programs may include classes and testing, others only involve training in the field with regular performance reviews.
If you are using an apprenticeship in partial fulfillment of an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, your sponsor must abide by the school’s guidelines for a qualifying apprenticeship program.
It may be that some apprenticeship programs include certification training. Obtaining these certifications will enhance your expertise and make you more qualified in your field.
How Do You Find the Right Apprenticeship Program?
If you’ve decided that an apprenticeship program is right for you, there are a few ways to find one. Here are four common ways to find programs available in your area.
Indeed is a popular online job board for employers and job seekers.
Once you arrive on the website, you can search “apprenticeship programs,” “[job title] on the job training,” or “paid apprenticeships.”
Under the search tool, you can filter your search by pay, a specific job, location, and more.
As you peruse the job titles, you should click on a few to get a sense of what the programs demand and how to apply (see screenshots from Indeed.com below).
Because an apprenticeship is also a mentorship process, pay attention to an employer’s rating. To gain a broader perspective, search for the employer on Glassdoor, as well.
Of all the job seeker and trades websites, Apprenticeship.com is one of the best resources for those looking for an apprenticeship program. In addition to giving you the option to search for programs in your area, you have access to prep materials and content to help you find the perfect program for your industry.
You can use the apprenticeship finder by scrolling down on the home page. Next, you can type in the job description or industry and your location.
Just under the search bar on the right, you can click to add filters, as shown below.
Next to the filter button, you can click on “Map” and switch to a map view.
If you find a program that catches your attention, click on the job, review the job description, and apply through Apprenticeship.gov.
If you’ve not used Glassdoor before, the website will ask you to create a free account. Once you login to your new account, navigate to the “Jobs” page.
Make sure to leave “Job Title, Keywords, or Company” blank, and then select your location.
Underneath the search bar, change “All Job Types” to “Apprentice/Trainee” (see below).
Adding a job title changes search results automatically to include all jobs, so leave that field blank.
As you scroll through the results, click on the job to view the description and apply.
Ask a Local Expert
If you know an experienced blue-collar professional, you might consider approaching them about an apprenticeship.
While you may not be able to shoulder the primary responsibilities of the job until you are licensed/certified, you can assist your mentor and glean invaluable experience.
Even if a local expert isn’t able to offer you training, they may know how to help you find a suitable local apprenticeship.
What’s the Difference Between a Union or Non-union Apprenticeship
If you seek a union-sponsored apprenticeship, you will get better pay and local chapter support during your job training. That said, it can be challenging to obtain a program through a union, since competition is high.
Non-union programs might pay less, but they are easier to get. Also, many non-union apprenticeships provide just as good training as union-sponsored apprenticeships.
Blue-collar employees and tradesmen/women are currently in high demand. Devoting the next few months and years to becoming an expert in a blue-collar field can quickly turn into a high-paying job that the average college grad will envy.