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Apprenticeships: Earning While Learning

One way to earn money while learning an important skill is through an apprenticeship program. In California alone, there are 1,400 programs serving 73,000 apprentices. There are 800 recognized apprenticeship occupations in the service, manufacturing, construction, public administration, retail trade, transportation, and utilities industries. Examples of these occupations include barbers, correctional officers, vocational nurses, electricians, firefighters, machinists, automotive technicians, and those in the construction trades.

Typically, an apprenticeship program can take from three to six years of classroom and on-the-job training while working beside an experienced journeyperson. During this time, apprentices are typically paid at 40-50% of a skilled worker’s wage with regular raises. Upon completion of the program, apprentices can earn $35 or more per hour depending upon the particular trade.

Generally, to apply for an apprenticeship, an applicant must:

  • Be 18 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or the equivalent
  • Possess the aptitude, interest, and physical ability to succeed
  • Be willing to work in the environment of the craft or trade
  • Have good math skills

In addition, reading, writing, and speaking skills are also important in many of the trades. Pre-apprenticeships are available in some California high schools. High school classes containing the components of computer graphics, mechanical drawing, blueprint reading, drafting, electricity, welding, chemistry, and higher math are valuable.

If you are interested in an apprenticeship program, you should contact an employer in the trade, the appropriate union, or the Division of Apprenticeship Standards in the California Department of Industrial Relations 

The California Apprenticeship Coordinators Association maintains a website with a wealth of information about apprenticeships. 

Search for apprenticeship opportunities on the United States Department of Labor and Find Opportunities pages.