Apprenticeship to Journeyperson
Getting Started: What is an Apprentice?
Apprentices have a long history dating back to ancient Greece, when young workers entered a term of service, now called indentureship, to a skilled tradesman to learn the craft. Things are much the same today. Currently, an apprentice is an employee who learns a skilled trade through planned, supervised work on-the-job, while at the same time receiving related technical classroom instruction. Apprentices are required to sign an indenture agreement with their Local Apprenticeship Committee (LAC) that spells out the requirements and expectations of an apprentice.
Apprentices are taught the proper use, care and safe handling of the tools and equipment used in connection with their work and, of course the important skills necessary to become a successful tradesperson.
While working on-the-job and acquiring skills, apprentices become part of the work force, working with contractors and co-workers. Apprentices are also required to attend school and complete the prescribed courses related to the trade in order to complement their on-the-job training. You will receive an evaluation about every 3 months to determine if you are learning the craft. If the on-the-job or school work is not satisfactory, you risk being dropped from the program or sent back to repeat that segment of training. If, however, the work is good, you will receive a pay raise. That’s right – pay raises usually occur every 6 months / 1,000 hours!
What can I expect of an apprenticeship program?
Most apprenticeships last 3 or 4 years depending on the Local Union’s requirements. An ideal schedule provides equal training in structural, reinforcing, ornamental, welding and rigging. The actual length of training for each subject may vary depending on the type of work that is in highest demand in the local area.
Apprentices are required to receive at least 210 hours of classroom and shop instruction during every year of training. The subjects taken in the shop and classroom complement the hands-on training you receive in the field. Subjects include blueprint reading, care and safe use of tools, mathematics, safety procedures and systems, welding and oxy-acetylene flame cutting.
A career in Ironworking or Reinforcing Rodworker provides the opportunity to follow your drive, skills and interests up the ladder of success. As a matter of fact, an apprentice today can become the foreman, superintendent and contractor of tomorrow. Once an apprentice advances to journeyman status, the ambitious tradesperson doesn’t need to stop progressing. As you improve your skills, supervisory positions like foreman or superintendent can become available. And, other opportunities like becoming an apprentice instructor or taking an active role in union leadership are available for those who enjoy working with others.
Of course, advancement depends on the merits of the individual, but there is really no limit for those who are motivated to move up the ladder. A survey showed that 90 percent of the top officials of construction companies who replied – presidents, vice-presidents, owners and partners – began their careers as apprentices.