A registered apprenticeship is a structured way of learning a skilled occupation, craft, or trade. It combines on-the-job training and classroom instruction.
While most apprenticeships are in construction, there are opportunities in other occupations too, including carpenters, graphic artists, electricians, firefighters, and machinists.
Graduates Are Well Trained and Well Paid
A construction trade study showed that apprentices get broader training than people who learn the trade informally. And after completing your apprenticeship, your wages should reflect your skill level. As your skills increase, your wages will, too.
Graduates Have Marketable Skills
Once you finish your apprenticeship, you'll receive a Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship and a Journeyworker Card from the state of Minnesota (Department of Labor and Industry, Apprenticeship Unit). With these credentials, you qualify to earn journeyworker wages anywhere you are employed throughout the United States and Canada.
How Apprenticeships Work
Program length: Programs range from one to six calendar years; four is the average.
Pay: Apprentice pay usually starts at about half the rate for journey-level workers. ("Journey-level worker" is someone who has completed their apprenticeship and all other requirements to enter the trade.) After six months, your pay begins to increase, and eventually it reaches the journey level. Apprentice wages are never less than the federal minimum wage.
Course work: For every year of on-the-job training, you are required to have 144 hours of classroom instruction. That means most apprentices spend one evening each week taking a three-hour class. Classes are usually taught by a journey-level worker. Classes are often held at night at community colleges, technical schools, or online.
Sponsors: Apprenticeship programs are often sponsored by labor unions and employers. Sponsors plan, administer, and pay for the program. As an apprentice, you are a full-time, paid employee of the company where you work.
Credit for past experience: If you have previous related experience, you may be granted advanced placement in an apprenticeship program. Your pay could also be higher because of your experience.
Credit toward an associate degree: Some two-year schools offer college credit — "credit for experience" — in apprentice occupations. For more information, contact your local technical college, community college, or university.
Certificate of completion: When you finish your training, you receive a Certificate of Completion and a Journeyworker Card from the Department of Labor and Industry, Apprenticeship Unit. With these credentials, you qualify to earn journeyworker wages anywhere you are employed throughout the United States and Canada.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): Registered apprenticeship programs with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry are WIOA certified. If you are eligible for WIOA funding, this will make you more attractive to potential apprenticeship employers. Companies receive financial support when they hire apprentices who are eligible for WIOA funding.
Find an Apprenticeship
Use the apprenticeship search tool and the list of contacts below to identify possible apprenticeship programs:
- Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, Apprenticeship Unit
Lists occupations with current apprenticeship programs and provides detailed information about apprenticeships in Minnesota.
Search for and view apprenticeship openings. (Note: You must be registered on MinnesotaWorks and be logged in to view apprenticeship openings.)
- National information on apprenticeships
Find national information at CareerOneStop, including the links to apprenticeship information and contacts in all U.S. states and territories and the District of Columbia.
Learn More About an Apprenticeship
Contact the sponsor directly. Consider asking these questions:
- Are you planning to accept applications for new apprentices? If so, when?
- Where will the work take place? Where will the instruction take place?
- What occupation will the apprenticeship prepare me to become?
- Will the apprenticeship program train me in all the skills I need to prepare for a job in this occupation?
- How many of your previous apprentices have found jobs in this occupation after completing the program?
Apply For an Apprenticeship
After finding an apprenticeship you want, request an application from the sponsor. You may need to submit your birth certificate, school transcripts, and letters of recommendation with your completed application. Learn more about job applications. You must also:
- Have a high school diploma or be actively pursuing a GED
- Be physically able to work in the trade
There may be other requirements, such as an entrance exam, in your chosen field.
Once you submit your application, a committee will look over your materials to review:
- Your desire and persistence (Why do you want to enter the trade? Will you be likely to stick with it?)
- Your knowledge (Do you know about the tools, equipment, or techniques used?)
- Your work experience (Do you have any related work experience? Do you have references that can attest to your work ethic?)
- Your personal experience (Do you have hobbies or interests that are related to the skills needed in this trade, such as fixing or building things?)
Prepare For the Interview
If you are a finalist, then expect to have an interview. Be prepared to answer questions like these:
- Why did you choose this over some other trade?
- What kind of work have you done in the past?
- Construction sites are cold in winter and hot in summer; they can be muddy and wet. What makes you consider working in these conditions?
- Do you have transportation available?
- How do you feel about going to school as part of your apprenticeship?
- Is there anything else that you would like to tell us about yourself? (This general question gives you a chance to mention any skills, interests, goals, or activities you think are important but were not covered in previous questions.)
The industries represented by the associations below tend to have a high number of apprenticeships. Learning about the industries and companies can help you make good decisions about your future.
- Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Minnesota Chapter
- Associated General Contractors of Minnesota (AGC)
- National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA)
- Minnesota Asphalt Pavement Association (MAPA)
- Minnesota Electrical Association (MEA)
- Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association (MMUA)
- Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA)
Apprenticeship is common in skilled trades in which unions are major players. Labor unions sponsor a large number of apprenticeships in constructions trades. Use the contacts below to find more information about union-sponsored apprenticeships programs.