It’s a common misconception that apprenticeships are only for the construction industry or union jobs.
In fact, the US Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship website states that, “Registered Apprenticeship is highly active in traditional industries such as construction and manufacturing, but it is also instrumental in the training and development of emerging industries such as healthcare, energy and homeland security.”
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Apprenticeships for Veterans
There are also general apprenticeship opportunities, such as in the industry that I work in: firearms and emergency response training. There, general apprenticeships are alive and well, often required to really get your foot in the door.
For most employers looking for employees, the market is saturated with people who are in need of gainful employment, but many of those may not be qualified to do the job or understand the exact responsibilities of the job. Some states, such as my home state of Arizona, have apprenticeship programs that can assist both employers and employees. While apprenticeships may start you out at a lower wage, often minimum wage or slightly higher, it can give you the opportunity to learn about the job and what exactly it entails before committing for the long haul.
For every job out there you will need the appropriate experience, and a major advantage of an apprenticeship is that you’ll get on-the-job training. As a veteran, you can also use part of your GI Bill to pay for apprenticeship housing costs when working as a registered apprentice. Learn more about employers who have veteran apprenticeship programs and want your valuable experience.
Apprenticeships can be a great way to get into a career field if you’re looking at a job that offers registered apprenticeship programs, such as the construction trades or health care. But what about those that don’t offer registered programs? Apprenticeships may still be available! As an employer, when I am looking to hire someone, I have a lot to gain and just as much to lose.
Going through an interview process, reading the résumés and checking out their background is a good way to start, but what will their attitude be in six months or a year? They think they want to work in this career field—or for my company—but what will they think after they’ve actually spent some time on the job? If I lose them down the road, I’ve lost a certain amount of the investment that I had in them with training, as well as time and money. That’s why I hire most of my team members through general apprenticeships, and there are more and more business owners who I talk with who are doing the same. Sometimes I hire apprentices without a full- or part-time position available to move them into, just to see how well they work out and if we can possibly create something new for them at the company. Here’s how I’ve typically seen it work out…
- A person comes to me with a need for a job or wants to move to a new career but I don’t have any openings, so away they go, still on the hunt. However, if that same person comes to me and is willing to spend some time on their available days or days off from a current job learning how we do business and what our day-to-day entails, then I’m more likely to bring them on. Keep in mind this isn’t just a part-time job, as it will be at a lower rate of pay than I would normally pay. But now I have the chance to train a willing individual how to best do the job, as well as truly see what their character traits are.
- This apprentice now gets to work in their desired field, without a ton of commitment from either party, to test the waters and make sure it’s truly what they want to do. They’re making enough money to justify spending time working, and they see the potential for more advancement. The apprentice also starts to understand more about “lifelong learning.”
- An apprentice may leave during this time, with no hard feelings. They tried it out, it didn’t work for them, and now I don’t have to try to fill an empty position or worry about what I lost on hiring them.
- An apprentice may choose to stay and continue learning, and as they get better at the job and more committed to staying involved, the pay and benefits increase. I’ve now had the chance to train someone to do the job effectively and efficiently, and the pay increase is well worth it. This is how I’ve acquired most of the professional team members that I have now.
If a registered apprenticeship isn’t available in the career field you want, ask about general apprenticeships. If the employer doesn’t understand, tell them what you’re after: you want to work for lower-than-normal pay to properly learn the job, what it entails and how to do it best. You want to be trained from the ground up so that you can be an asset instead of a liability. My guess is that you’ll be surprised at how positively employers react.