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Working Wise: Apprenticeship

Dear Working Wise,

I'm thinking about getting into the trades, but I'm not sure how to do that? How do I find a job as an apprentice? 
Signed Ready to Trade Jobs

August 10, 2017

Dear Ready:

The trades are an excellent career option for many reasons.

First, you will spend about 80 per cent of your time earning a wage while you learn on the job. First-year apprentices earn about half of a journeyman's wage.

You spend the rest of your time learning at a technical training school. Training is usually six to eight weeks per year. Apprenticeship programs can last anywhere from one to four years, depending on the trade. As you take more training and get more experience, your pay increases.

Second, the trades are rewarding. Tradespeople tend to earn good wages plus they have the opportunity to move up into management roles. Many tradespeople also go on to teach apprentices or open their own businesses.

Third, tradespeople can be eligible for thousands of dollars in grants, including:

  • $750 First Period Apprentice Award
  • $1,000 Apprenticeship Incentive Grant
  • $2,000 Apprenticeship Completion Grant

Apprentices and tradespeople may be eligible for a $500 tax deduction to help with the cost of their tools. Apprentices and occupational trainees can also apply for scholarships through the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board. Check out Tradesecrets for more information.

Fourth, there are so many career options within the trades that you are bound to find something you really like. The trades are not limited to plumbers and electricians. In Alberta, there are more than 50 different designated trades and occupations that you can apprentice in, from appliance service technician to cook to well-testing services supervisor. For a complete list, visit Tradesecrets.

How to get started:

  1. Pick your trade. Get as much information as you can about your choices from alis, Tradesecrets, school career counsellors, tradespeople you know, or your nearest Apprenticeship and Industry Training Office.
  2. Find an employer who will hire you as an apprentice. Getting a job as an apprentice is no different than finding any other job.
  3. Apply. Once you have a job, you and your employer need to complete an Apprenticeship Training Application.

Tips for finding a job as an apprentice:

  • Prepare a professional-looking resumé and cover letter that explains your career goal.
  • Dress your best when you go out to meet employers.
  • Be courteous and grateful for any help or advice employers provide.
  • Search job postings and job boards like the Canada-Alberta Job Bank using the keyword “apprentice.”
  • Check with the local union about employment opportunities.
  • Attend job fairs and talk to employers who hire tradespeople. You can find out about upcoming job fairs.

The Trade Winds to Success and the Aboriginal Initiatives Program are available to help Indigenous Albertans choose and enter an apprenticeship program.

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages

Working Wise is a syndicated newspaper column prepared by the Government of Alberta to answer work-related questions from Albertans. Do you have a work-related question? You can send it to Charles Strachey (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca), a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services.

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