Designed to protect workers from the abuses of the time, The National Apprenticeship Act of 1937 marked the beginning of our modern apprenticeship programs. Since then, national apprenticeship programs have grown and expanded in most, if not all, of the trades, including the pipe trades. Many junior colleges now offer educational programs in plumbing, HVACR, welding, fire sprinkler fitting, and pipe fitting. Formal apprenticeship programs that provide on-the-job training continue to be a widely available and respected option for new workers. Without question, apprenticeships offer a positive career path for those who choose not to attend college.
It should be noted that California offers a third and very attractive option. Partnering with local community colleges, The California State Pipe Trades Apprentice Programs provides a valuable “hybrid” program for students featuring on-the-job training, state-of-the-art equipment, and experienced mentors. Under this program, students simultaneously earn a paycheck and an Associate Degree.
In general, workers applying for apprenticeship programs must demonstrate proficiency in basic math and mathematical computations and the ability to comprehend and safely institute the skills of their chosen occupation. Most apprenticeship programs require hands-on supervised training along with varying amounts of classwork and home study. Depending on the trade and designated specialization, an apprenticeship program may last two to five years.
Apprentices are considered Journeymen once their training is completed. Most formal apprenticeship programs require a final exam before promoting the apprentice to Journeyman status.
No matter their chosen apprenticeship path, participants “earn while they learn,” and potential employers stand to gain skilled, well-trained workers. Pipefitters and plumbers bear a heavy responsibility for the safety of our schools, homes, and public buildings.
The good news for those just entering or finally completing an apprenticeship program is that HVACR, the pipe trades, and welding are among the fastest-growing job sectors in the country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings in the trades will continue to be plentiful.
However, as an apprentice, be aware that there will be stiff competition for the choicest career opportunities. Employers and national organizations both agree that professional, third-party certification, such as that provided by NITC, will prove to be a valuable asset in accelerating your career.