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Construction Skills: Resources for Apprentices

What is a Construction Apprentice?

Flickr - Official U.S. Navy Imagery - Seabees work on school in Djibouti.

A construction apprentice is a novice construction worker who is learning the trade. He takes a number of courses to learn the skills required while also working under the supervision of a master construction worker to gain practical experience. Apprentices are usually young—most start directly out of high school at age 18, although some may be older. Most apprentice programs require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED certificate. A worker is usually an apprentice for three to five years, depending on their skill and education.

Apprentices learn a number of different skills, including proper tool use, construction methods, and safety. In the classroom, they study different types of construction and learn the theory behind the different methods. Most apprentice programs offer employment opportunity assistance, and many apprentices are hired full-time by the company they did their training under.

Construction Schools

Portland Building Blueprints

Those who are interested in becoming a construction apprentice will need to find a trade school that offers a program in construction and building. These programs will provide apprentices with a solid foundation in the theory and methods of construction. While the coursework generally doesn’t include practical skills (those are gained through the on-the-job training portion of an apprenticeship), students do learn things such as the math behind construction, how to read and create blueprints, and what it takes to be a construction manager or independent contractor.

Many construction schools require students to take at least one course that focuses solely on safety on the construction site. This is an extremely important part of an apprentice’s training since safety is of the utmost importance.

Machinery Schools

Docker on forklift

In addition to construction schools, most construction apprentices will need to go to machinery school. In fact, they may need to attend several different certification programs to gain all of the skills and certifications they need. Many machinery programs do include many of these skills and offer various certifications, however, especially those offered by trade schools and colleges.

Machinery schools will teach apprentices all of the basics needed for operating and maintaining equipment such as forklifts and flatbed trucks. Some may touch on how to make minor repairs to equipment, too. Like construction programs, machinery education also stresses safety. Courses such as forklift operation and safety guarantee that apprentices learn how to operate vehicles and machinery in such a way as to not injure themselves or others.

Resources for Employers Looking for Apprentices

Chemrec 5 - small

Many employers like to hire apprentices for several reasons. First, it provides them with fairly cheap labor. Apprentices do get paid for their practical apprenticeships (if an apprenticeship is not offered paid, he or she should be very leery about taking the job), but they don’t get paid as much as a licensed worker who has several certifications. Taking on apprenticeships allows the employer to form a working relationship with trade schools. This often results in the trade school sending the employer a number of apprentices on a regular basis. The trade school then has a reliable construction company with which to place their apprentices, while the employer can rely on having a number of apprentices to put to work. Everyone benefits.

In addition to reaching out to trade schools, employers can find apprentices through several different methods. Some advertise in their city newspapers or online. Others put the word out that they’re looking to hire new apprentices. Often, word of mouth works surprisingly well. However, it can be unreliable, so many employers turn to resources such as the following.