When you’re starting out in your career, it can be tough going. You don’t yet have connections. Your skills are still developing. No one wants to hire you because you don’t have experience.
Fortunately, if you’re trying to start in the trades, you’ll find the long and established tradition of apprenticeships. They provide the chance to hone your skills and gain experience in a practical setting. But how do you go about finding one and being accepted as an apprentice?
A (Very) Brief History of Apprenticeships
The idea of teaching a craft or skill to a new generation is nothing new. In fact, it was included in one of the earliest written systems of law we know of, the Code of Hammurabi. That dates back around 3800 years! It required artisans to share their skills with the next generation.
By the Middle Ages, guilds formed to protect the interests of craftsmen (we’ll use the masculine here because the membership was limited to males). These same guilds controlled the trades entirely – sometimes for better and other times for worse. They also became the gatekeepers for the training and practice of the crafts. That is, they decided who could train for and work in a trade.
The Industrial Revolution rolled around several hundred years later. This made training became even more important. Workers were needed who could handle the new machinery. Unions helped organize workers while also providing training to protect the quality of work.
Today, unions continue to play a huge role in apprenticeships. Private employers also help provide training. Government bodies help to regulate these as well to make sure apprentices are properly prepared to begin their careers.
Finding An Apprenticeship
When you’re looking for an apprenticeship, there are many avenues you can use. Bear in mind that some fields may require you to have some trade school classes taken first. Others allow you to go directly to work and learn everything on the job.
Here are a few ideas of where to look for an apprenticeship.
If you’re attending a trade school, the school itself is usually the best route for finding an apprenticeship. They will already have contacts in your industry. Often, your teachers will be members of unions. They also have still know people from places they’ve worked and have other contacts in the industry.
Also, many businesses will turn to trade schools if they are looking to hire an apprentice. They may talk to counselors or teachers. Sometimes, they post recruitment ads around the school or on its website. They might even make presentations in your classes.
The local branch of the trade union is another top source for finding apprenticeships. In some cases, they may have almost total control of apprenticeships in their respective trade.
Unions play a strong role in developing apprenticeship programs and making sure you’ll gain the experience you need. They have a strong interest in keeping a good reputation for the quality of work done by tradespeople. That helps guarantee that they’ll develop thorough training and help you get placed in a position where you’ll learn.
Sometimes, the best answer is to go right to the heart of the matter. Some businesses will advertise that they are looking to take on an apprentice. Even if they don’t advertise it, though, you can contact them and ask. They might have never thought of it but be willing to accept you.
They know that training an apprentice can also benefit the business. Even though you’re still learning, you’ll be an extra hand at work that comes at a lower cost than an experienced tradesperson.
In many places, the government also provides resources to help you find apprenticeships. They collaborate with unions and businesses to compile listings of available positions. Nowadays, this is often done through websites.
If you’re in the United States, the main service from the federal government is Apprenticeship.gov. In Canada, you can search for apprenticeships on JobBank. These are both national sites. You may find even more opportunities if you look at local government sites such as those for your city, state, or province.
It seems like almost everyone is on social media today. It’s not only for fun and cat videos – it’s a great place to network. It’s also where many businesses, unions, and trade school will advertise their available positions.
You can search for professional groups related to your trade; there are likely many. You’ll likely also find “reviews” and opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of different programs.
LinkedIn and Facebook both have extensive jobs sections as well as groups. Of course, social networks are also good places to post and ask your friends for ideas, too.
Tips To Secure Your Apprenticeship
Of course, once you find where apprenticeships are available, you still need to apply. It can be a competitive market! You’re probably not the only one interested in the position. So what can you do to give yourself a leg up on the competition?
Submit Your Complete Application
You’ll need to fill out an application to get started in the process. Be sure to complete it thoroughly and accurately. Pay attention to the details and the deadlines!
Some important tips for filling out the application include:
- Pay attention to the requirements – if you don’t yet meet them, don’t apply until you do
- Be sure to include a current email address and phone number. Also, use an email address that’s direct and simple – no embarrassing nicknames or weird expressions! Create a new account if necessary
- Write neatly or type carefully
- Follow all instructions about how and when to submit it
- Include any supporting documentation
Be Attentive To Replies
We mentioned above the importance of using a working email address and phone number. It’s just as important to be alert to checking messages. Reply promptly and formally – remember that this isn’t a chat with a buddy!
When answering calls, be sure to do so with a proper greeting. Be careful about background noise, too. Don’t call back while you’re in the middle of a party or an intense Fortnite battle. You don’t want to make a bad impression because of what’s going on among your family, friends, or what you’re watching on TV.
Reply as soon as possible to missed calls or messages. If you don’t get an immediate response to your follow-up, try again. If they bothered to reach out to you, they’re showing interest. Your first reply might have gotten lost in the shuffle, but remember they did reach out so it’s worth making a few efforts to reconnect.
Since you’re going for an apprenticeship, you and the company where you’re applying both know you have a lot to learn. But you also have skills, talents, experiences, and personality traits that will make you a good candidate. Emphasize them in your application and interview. You have to show that you’re the best candidate for the position even while you show that you’re there to learn.
Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket
Remember, there are many others in your situation. Don’t count on any one position. Apply for several where you think you can learn and grow.
And don’t think that because you get turned down at one place, the same will happen at all. Sometimes you may not be the right fit or another candidate made a better impression. But your opportunity will come!
An apprenticeship is a great opportunity – and sometimes it’s even required by law. You’ll learn a lot and improve your skills. There are many paths to finding a position to get your career in the trades started. With careful preparation and searching, you’ll find one ideal for you!