How To Choose An Apprenticeship Program

What should you know before you choose an apprenticeship program?

Why should a person consider an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships provide hands-on experience and can provide you with very concrete skills. It is a free education. You earn money while you are apprenticing. In fact, according to federal law, apprentices must earn at least the minimum wage. This can be a good deal, when you consider that many people pay exorbitant amounts of money to learn. With many apprenticeships, you earn to learn and learn to earn at the same time.

How do I know if the apprenticeship is a good one?

Look for a formal apprenticeship that is registered with the Department of Labor. There are more than 850 fields that are recognized, so chances are, finding one in your area of interest should not be too difficult. A formal apprenticeship provides protection in that it must meet standards of fairness and safety. When you register for a formal apprenticeship, after you have completed it, you will receive a certificate of completion from the appropriate agency. This certificate is recognized much as a degree would be by employers. You will want to only accept an apprenticeship where both you and your apprenticeship sponsor sign letters of agreement. This way, your sponsor will know what to expect from you, while you will clearly understand what your responsibilities are, how long the apprenticeship will last and what you will be taught. You don't want to sign on to apprentice to become a pastry chef and spend the entire time doing the dishes, although that may be a part of the job.

Find out if the field you are looking into requires accreditation or a journeyman's certificate. You will want to make sure that your apprenticeship offers this. The last thing you want to do is spend time doing an apprenticeship and then discover that you did not earn the appropriate accreditation for your field.

How do I decide which area to do my apprenticeship in?

Take an honest look at your aptitudes, likes and dislikes. For example, if you are considering going into carpentry, you will need to use quite a bit of math; proportions, fractions and measurements, for example. You will also need strong spatial skills and an ability to follow complex instructions. On the other hand, if you are considering becoming a jewelry maker, a good skill to have is the ability to pay close attention to detail. It also helps if you have excellent fine motor skills and have a creative personality. If you hate extreme heat and cold, construction work may not be for you, unless you live in an especially temperate climate. If you cannot bear to sit still for long periods of time, you will most likely not want to choose computer programming.

How do I find out what my strengths are?

Go to a career counselor, either one from the private sector, or an individual at a local university, and arrange to take a career aptitude test. By asking a battery of questions, these tests can determine what your primary strengths are, as well as your interests. After all, if you enjoy the calm atmosphere of computer programming, you are probably not going to enjoy working in a childcare center. Your interests are as important as your strengths, since after putting time into an apprenticeship program, you will not want to find that you are bored and have ultimately wasted your time after learning the new skill.

Which apprenticeships lead to the jobs with the highest earnings?

For many, money is the bottom line. If you want to make sure that your earning will be top-notch, consider learning how to become a power distributor and dispatcher, an electrician, an elevator installer, a petroleum pump operator, a ship engineer or a power plant operator. This is another way that a career counselor can be helpful. He or she can point you in the right direction. Who knows, perhaps an elevator installer would be the perfect job for you. It's not a profession that pops to the forefront of many people's minds, but since it pays an average of $50,000 a year, the money isn't shabby.



Which apprenticeships lead to jobs that will continue to experience job growth in our economy?

Other good apprenticeships to consider are mechanic, cook, carpenter, general maintenance, welding and plumbing apprenticeships. Hundreds of thousands of new jobs are expected to open up in these fields over the next several years.

How do I know for sure if an apprenticeship is right for me?

While there will be no absolute certainty, ask for a tour of the job site and observe what people are doing, as well as the general ambience. Does the work seem to be hot and sweaty? Is this something that you are comfortable with? Does the work appear to be physically manageable for you? Does it look interesting?

Make sure that the expenses are affordable. For example, if you are going to work in construction, you will need tools. You may also need to pay for textbooks and other training materials.

Also check to make sure that you meet the requirements for the apprenticeship. Many apprenticeships require that you be at least 18 years old, and have completed high school. Some look at high school records to see if the applicant has an aptitude for math, science or whatever skill is especially important for that profession. Some sponsors will only take on apprentices who have completed volunteer work in the area that they are applying for.

How should I get started?

If you are interested in an apprenticeship, now is the time to begin looking into the different opportunities available. Find out what is offered in your area, or look into relocating. Get a career aptitude test if you feel that you would benefit from one. You may have to do some additional preparation, such as obtain your GED, take a few classes in the field, volunteer or save money for tools or other supplies. Some apprenticeships can be competitive, and you want to be prepared. The best thing, however, is to not be daunted by any obstacles. Remember, it is a free education, and it is worth the footwork that it may take you to receive it.

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