What is an apprenticeship?
When most think of an advanced post-high school education, they think of attendance at an academic college or vocational school. What many don’t realize is there is another form of education that has been relied on for thousands of years. Apprenticeships have been providing relationships between the master and his student since the beginning of time.
Now a formalized process, often registered with the U.S. Department of Labor for the sake of credentials and legitimacy, an apprenticeship is composed of two distinct educational components:
- On-the-job training (OJT)
- On-the job learning (OJL) and
- Related technical instruction (RTI)
With a set number of hours required for apprentices to fulfill in each area of study, it can take as long as five years to complete an apprenticeship and obtain a journey-level certification.
According to the Department of Labor, there are over 21,000 registered apprenticeships in the United States, with just over 500,000 apprentices participating in those programs These programs range in fields from aerospace to wireless technologies, but are most common in more traditional labor careers like construction, power delivery, plumbing, etc. Apprenticing in skilled labor can prove to be the education a young person entering the workforce needs for a long, lucrative, and rewarding career.
Why is apprenticeship important?
Skilled trades find themselves facing the great dilemma of a labor shortage. Simply put, there aren’t enough skilled laborers ready to back fill for the aging workforce that is retiring. With demand on the rise for construction, infrastructure replacement and repair, increasing development of green energy technologies, among other emerging trade markets, the labor market is growing in trades. However, companies are now struggling just to replace retiring workers, let alone trying to grow their workforce.
With no lack of work to complete and deadlines to meet, it can be a difficult balance for employers to provide their employees the time and availability needed to attend their classroom training as well as fulfill their OJT requirements. When the work needs to get done, who has time for training?
Arguably the most important component of apprenticeship is learning the proper skills and behaviors of working safely. Studying OSHA codes and practices, learning about the importance of personal protective gear, developing muscle memory in safe and healthy repetitive motions on-the-job—all of these areas provide a comprehensive and necessary education in on-the-job safety.
More than that, apprentices learning and practicing the correct ways and methods for safely working empowers them to speak up on the job site and look out for their crew members. If they recognize when something isn’t right, and they have the confidence and knowledge gained from a properly executed apprenticeship, they are more likely to address the crew leader or foreman and bring their attention to it.
How Can Apprenticeship Help You?
For those preparing to enter the workforce, an apprenticeship could be the path to a rewarding and lucrative career. Unlike a traditional academic college education, often the cost of an apprenticeship is shared if not covered by the sponsoring company. In addition, an apprentice’s time on-the-job is paid time. So not only is the apprentice avoiding the disadvantage of going into great amounts of debt to get an education for a solid career, they’re also earning a good wage while they learn.
Apprenticeship is a win/win for both trade employers and employees. Putting the time and money into a thorough education benefits the employees by providing them the knowledge, skills, and behaviors needed to thrive in their chosen career, as well as provides the company with a higher standard of work, committed employees resulting in lower turn-over, and increased safety on-the-job.