Apprenticeships: Get Training and Get Paid at the Same Time!

January 4, 2017

An apprenticeship is training that combines on-the-job experience with classroom instruction. Individuals in apprenticeship programs get direct, relevant experience in their chosen career, and advance in the profession as they learn. Apprentices graduate fully trained in their field – and not as an entry-level worker.

Apprenticeships Vary in Length, Schedule

Apprenticeships typically last between two and four years, depending on the trade. During this period, the apprentice fulfills a certain amount of on-the-job training, along with classroom instruction. A certain number of hours are needed for completion (also dependent on the trade), somewhere in the range of 4,000 to 8,000 hours.

Apprenticeship hours follow the hours of relevant occupations. This means that seasonality is reflected in apprenticeships. If an occupation tends to be a contracted position, then an apprentice’s hours could be plentiful during the contract period, and less so outside of the contract period.

Standard classroom instruction is 144 hours per school year, which can be taken care of in a night or two each week. Various community colleges and schools offer classes as part of the apprenticeship program. This information can be obtained from your local apprenticeship committee.

Benefits!

An apprenticeship is a terrific way to earn a living wage and pursue higher education at the same time! With a registered apprenticeship, you receive:

  • A paycheck: From day one, you will earn a paycheck guaranteed to increase over time as you learn new skills.
  • Hands-on career training: You will receive practical on-the-job training in a wide selection of programs.
  • An education: You’ll receive hands-on training and have the potential to earn college credit, even an associate or bachelor’s degree, in many cases paid for by your employer.
  • A career: Once you complete your apprenticeship, you will be on your way to a successful long-term career with a competitive salary, and little or no educational debt.
  • National industry certification: When you graduate from a career training program, you’ll be certified and can take your certification anywhere in the U.S.

How many jobs are there?

In 2015, roughly 840 apprentices completed their programs. The most popular apprenticeship by far was for electrical work. In the same year, 255 apprenticeships were completed by those expecting to start a career as an electrician. These completers will nicely supply Oregon’s demand for electricians. The Oregon Employment Department expects there to be average annual openings of about 270 for the electrician occupation.

These statistics, which let us look at demand for apprentice-related occupations, are combined using data from Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries, which tracks apprenticeship completion around the state, along with the Oregon Employment Department, which projects employment 10 years into the future. The information provided often combines multiple apprentice trades into one occupation. For example, “plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters” is considered one occupation, but in reality, there could be distinct apprentice programs for each of these areas.

Here’s a look at the top 10 in terms of job openings for the apprentice-related trades tracked by the Employment Department (note we only include jobs that actually had apprentice completers in the 2015 year):

This is a list of just 10 occupations, but there are dozens of occupations in Oregon for which apprenticeship training is available. It is important to understand how diverse apprenticeship programs are in Oregon.

Also keep in mind that these projections are complex, and meant to give us a general feel for demand in apprenticeship fields. An important thing to note is that apprenticeship completers are not the only workers that can be hired for a particular occupation. There is still competition from other schools, trade programs, and migrant workers. In other words, if there is a demand for 100 sheet metal workers on average, we don’t necessarily need 100 apprenticeship completers each year for this occupation.

What You Need to Become an Apprentice

  1. High school diploma or GED
  2. Math & Science Grades: C or Better
  3. Reliable Transportation
  4. Good Attitude & Work Ethic
  5. 18 Years of Age or Older

When you apply for an apprenticeship program, it is important to be prepared! Pre-apprenticeship programs exist to make you a better candidate when you go to apply for an apprenticeship. They can help guide you through the résumé and interview process and give you a heads-up on what to expect as an apprentice and tradesperson. They will also expose you to many different career options. Some pre-apprenticeship programs are free, while others are available at community colleges for a small fee, and they are stretched out over several weeks or months. For more information, visit www.oregon.gov/ BOLI/ATD/pages/a_ag_partners.aspx.

You can also contact your local community college and ask them about their apprenticeship and trade-related programs. If you need to brush up on your algebra, science, or writing skills – or take a placement test – community colleges are a great resource! They also often have information on the different trades and can provide contacts within the apprenticeship programs.

How to Become an Apprentice

  1. Explore available trades and locate an apprentice program. Start your exploration with oregonapprenceship.org’s Trade Locator!  Examples: carpenter, elevator mechanic, pipefitter, renewable energy tech.
  2. Contact program for requirements. Different programs have different minimum requirements. It is also important to know when to submit an application, as not all programs accept applications year-round. Contact your program of interest to get these details.
  3. Do you need help meeting the requirements? One way to test your readiness is through oregonapprenticeship.org’s Apprenticeship Readiness Survey. NO: Skip to # 4 below. YES: First, contact the program for more information. Then, apply for and complete the pre-apprenticeship program.
  4. Once your skills meet the requirements for the program of your choice, it is time to apply for the apprenticeship program. It is a good idea to stay in contact with the program so you meet application deadlines.
  5. Take any required tests and complete application process.
  6. Become an Apprentice!

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