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Last Updated on March 5, 2020

What Is an Apprenticeship (And How Does It Benefit Your Career)?

What Is an Apprenticeship (And How Does It Benefit Your Career)?

A few months after graduating high school, my mother decided to entrust me into the services of a well-known hair stylist in my neighborhood. Her reasoning was that I’d fall in love with the art of making others look beautiful and combine it with whatever career I choose to settle in.

It was the perfect dream; a college-educated journalist with a hair styling side-gig. My pathway to this dream was an apprenticeship program.

In this article, I’ll talk about what an apprenticeship really is and how you can benefit your career from it.

What Is an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship is a system that allows you to get paid while you’re trained for the skills needed to succeed in your career.

Call it what you want; skilled-trade, blue-collar jobs, vocational education, or the career path less traveled, apprenticeship can be your ticket to your dream job.

Not only does it allow you to step into the occupation of your dreams, you actually earn a wage while learning on the job, and can decide if it is the right fit for you without investing thousands like you normally would at a traditional college.

Apprenticeships vs Internships

What comes close to apprenticeship is internships but with a difference. While internships are usually set up as a way to practice what you’ve learned in school before you become employed, with apprenticeship, you’re already a worker. You’re getting paid to learn. This means less risk for student loans and other college-related expenses to accumulate only to discover that you have an unclear career path.

Apprenticeships also give you longer term, real on-the-job experiences which are directly tied to what you learn in the classroom. These training are very structured and by the time you are done with your learning, you’re almost guaranteed to be hired on as a full-time worker.

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Internships on the other hand are very short-term and despite the fact that you do walk away with lifelong skills, they do not always lead to job offers.

Some internships are unpaid or might give you a stipend in exchange for you time. Apprenticeships, however, due to their competitive nature, are similar to regular employment. They pay more than internships and some programs attract top candidates with benefit packages including health insurance, paid vacations, paid holidays, and pension plans.

Misconception About Being an Apprentice

It is no secret that apprenticeships are less popular than they used to.

For some occupations, becoming an apprentice was the only way to pass the knowledge and skills down to the next generation as there aren’t many colleges that offer credit courses. Careers in the shipbuilding, carpentry, welding, plumbing, and textile industries all have history dating back to apprenticeship and family traditions.

Today, we are seeing an impressive comeback of these programs and classes but with more sophistication.

Unfortunately there are some barriers to apprenticeship regaining its lost glory as:

It’s a slave-master relationship.

When the word apprentice is uttered, the first image that pops up is that of an unfortunate or reluctant person forced to wash, clean, cook, and run errands just to have his or her master pass on trade skills.

Many apprenticeship programs are registered and monitored to ensure the welfare of apprentices. The fear that you would be taken advantage of is unfounded.

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Labor laws are followed and respected, and like any other workplace, grievances can be filed if your rights have been infringed upon.

Apprentices are uneducated.

There is still a recurring myth that apprentices are sent to “hole in the wall” shops where masters drill all the mechanics of a job into your skull.

Today, apprenticeship programs are legally recognized and have agencies that regulate their operation. Some programs are not only more selective than most Ivy colleges, they are tuition-free and once accepted, graduates can go on to receive associates or bachelors degrees through partnerships with universities.[1]

Apprenticeship programs provide you an alternative pathway to college education and works for most industries. For instance, they prepare you for high-demand occupations in healthcare like being a pharmacy technician, a paramedic, or an emergency medical technician (EMT).

You can’t make a living as a “blue collar” worker.

While it is almost inconceivable that an apprentice would earn the same wage as a physician, most apprentices go on to build financially stable lives.

But the fact that being an apprentice is afterthought in the event of failure is a false stereotype.

Laurent Camera, education reporter for U.S. News writes that:[2]

“According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average wage for an individual who has completed an apprenticeship is $50,000, which over a lifetime can add up to approximately $300,000 more in wages and benefits compared with their peers.”

This is definitely a far cry from the poverty-stricken stories you hear about apprentices.

How Apprenticeship Can Bring Value to Your Career

So, how does apprenticeship benefit your career? Here you will find the value of it:

1. You get very close to what you REALLY want to do in your chosen field.

Unlike certain internships where you’re sometimes relegated to grunt work and would need to seek permission before you could get close to the interesting parts, you’re fully thrust into your field of work from day one.

With this early involvement, you get the sense of fulfillment faster than you would’ve if you waited 4 years to experience what your career entails.

At the same time, you also have the chance to back out from a career if you discover that you’ve quickly fallen out of love with your chosen field.

For example, remember my brief stint as a beauty apprentice? It didn’t work out. After about 6 months of reporting to a hair salon and learning the intricacies of braiding, I quit.

I soon discovered that I didn’t love my job and not only saved myself from exorbitant fees at a 2-year beauty college, I saved my employer some precious time in the process.

So, how do you get REALLY close to apprenticeship opportunities?

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  • Visit community and technical colleges. The best move is to visit your state technical colleges. Most times, these institutions have partnerships with local employers who systematically feed graduates into their workforce through a structured training.
  • Visit your local library. Another equally good move is to visit your local library and ask to speak with a job specialist. Libraries have always been underrated but is a goldmine for opportunities in career development.
  • Search for apprenticeship opportunities online. We’re no longer dealing with “hole in the wall” shops. Most employers have taken their apprenticeship programs online and will publicly provide contact information should you wish to speak with a live person.

2. Employers crave loyalty and dedication. Apprenticeship programs highlight these qualities in you.

Being an apprentice builds character in ways ordinary jobs or internships cannot. It takes anywhere from 2 to 5 years to successfully graduate from a decent apprenticeship program. That’s a lot of time dedicated to honing your craft, gaining highly specialized skills, and building your career from entry-level to middle class income without job-hopping.

While the nature of apprenticeships itself dissuades job-hopping due to the lengthy period, it takes commitment, patience and perseverance to stick with a 4-year apprenticeship program to receive professional certifications.

This allow companies to look inside the organization for top-performing employees who can be trained for leadership and managerial roles or promoted in times of growth and expansion.

3. You can bridge the “skills gap” in the economy.

Most employers bemoan the lack of qualified candidates in the labor market due to factors such as weak educational programs, lackluster internship experiences, and poor job fit.

Other times, it’s due to a shortage of highly-skilled workers and a surplus of low-skilled workers. Upskilling with apprenticeship can solve this problem.

We are already seeing reports of a likely shortage of approximately 40 million high- skilled workers and 45 million medium-skill workers by 2020.[3] By focusing on specific skill-set, employers have exactly what they want at the right time and how they want it.

If you are currently employed and would love to gain additional certifications, ask your employer if there are work-and-learn programs that can help you bridge this gap. Most companies are willing invest in employees’ professional development if there is ambition and commitment displayed from the employee.

The Bottom Line

You are just be one step away from the career of your dreams. There are apprenticeship programs out there looking for enthusiastic workers, and you might be the perfect fit.

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More Tips for Career Success

Featured photo credit: Jonathan Weiss via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Margaret Olatunbosun

Creative coach who teaches high-achievers how to thrive at the intersection of creativity, passion, and profit.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Is Creative Thinking and Why Is It Important?

What Is Creative Thinking and Why Is It Important?

Have you ever wondered why some can come up with amazing ideas while others can’t? The ability to connect the dots and see the larger picture all rest in a certain skill – creative thinking.

Creative thinking is our ability to look at ideas presented or a scenario, and find new alternatives that solve the problem. Best of all this skill isn’t bound to the creative people like designers, musicians, or other artists. A lot of people can benefit from thinking this way from time to time. They can also receive a number of benefits on top of a wide variety of ideas that can spark change.

What Is Creative Thinking?

Defined by the Business Dictionary, creative thinking is:[1]

A way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions (which may look unsettling at first). Creative thinking can be stimulated both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, and by a structured process such as lateral thinking.

Creativity is, therefore, our ability to form something new out of what’s presented. It’s our ability to think differently and provide new angles and perspectives to a solution.

This can translate to a new solution that wasn’t there or even the realization that a problem doesn’t need a solution at the moment or at all.

The Importance of Creative Thinking

True that many people may not care so much about new solutions or angles but that’s the point. Our brains have a natural tendency to fall into certain ‘shortcuts’.

Have you ever been in a situation where you hear or learn one piece of information and you use it all the time?

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I bet you have, since we don’t need to relearn how to use a knife or a fork.

That way of thinking does have its perks in those situations but has some drawbacks in other situations. This is especially true with problem-solving.

Creative thinking and creative thinkers are needed in those situations because it pushes out of that linear way of thinking. It encourages us to look at other perspectives and even open up to the idea of new solutions.

Creative thinking is also important for other reasons:

Thinking creatively provides immense freedom.

When we create, we have the opportunity to engage with the world without judging ourselves. It’s similar to what we felt when we were a child. Back then we didn’t care what people thought of us.

Creative thinking provides self-awareness.

We start to think with authenticity as we use our own thoughts, feelings and beliefs. This creates biases in our ideas, but we can learn to set those aside and deeply learn about ourselves.

We become more confident in our ideas.

Maybe right now, you don’t present ideas or your ideas get shut down. By tapping into creative thinking, we can build our confidence in our ideas and start to contribute to the group and our work at large.

What Are the Creative Thinking Skills?

Creative thinking isn’t barred to those who learn in creative fashions. Anyone can pick up creative thinking skills and use them to enrich their lives and those around them.

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Because anyone can learn this, there is no one “right” method or a set of skills you absolutely need. Some of us may need to strengthen one area while others may need to do more. Regardless, here are some skills that can complement creative thinking.

1. Perception & Empathy

Feeling surprised that this is one of the creative thinking skills? Being perceptive and empathetic works hand in hand with creative thinking. Being able to read the mood of a meeting or a discussion you’re having with people can help immensely.

This is key because there are times and places to share ideas. Specifically, you may find the best opportunities to share ideas when:

  • You’re facing a major problem or issue and can’t seem to find a way to proceed and solve it.
  • During times of change, when the future is more obscure than usual and you’re thinking of possibilities.
  • When there is a clear divide between what people think needs to happen. It’s especially needed when no compromises can happen without considerable effort.
  • When something new is needed and hasn’t been tried before.

Empathy also helps with how an idea is presented. Maybe in your workgroup, people aren’t always receptive to your ideas. However, there is that one person who always has a plan and people support.

Empathy is letting that person take “ownership” of that idea and be the voice behind the idea. In these sorts of scenarios, you build up more than empathy. It also builds the belief that your idea will prevail in the hands of someone else.

2. Analytical

Analytical skills help us in understanding many other situations outside of the social environment. Being able to read text or data and have a deeper understanding of what they mean will serve you in a variety of ways.

I find that with creative thinking, the first step is being able to intake information and digest it in various ways. Being able to analyze information is often the first step in the creative thinking process.

3. Open-Mindedness

Once you’ve taken in the information, it’s important that you have an open mind. This means you need to set aside your biases or assumptions and encourage yourself to look at a problem in a new way.

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Biases and assumptions are some of the mental barriers you’ll face. But looking at the other barriers, they often stem from that sort of thinking. A strict and “this is how it should be” way of thinking. Other examples of limitations are that you’re thinking of a problem too logically or that creative thinking is somehow breaking the rules.

These are limiting because we know that to have an open mind is to succeed. Every successful entrepreneur in the world today had to break rules at some point in their lives. Consider Richard Branson or Elon Musk whose work revolutionized or created an entirely new industry. All because they didn’t back down to how things were. You can do the same thing within your own group in some fashion.

4. Organized

The last thing people associate creative thinkers is that they’re organized. While we think of great minds have messy rooms or desks, that’s not the case at all.

Being organized plays a crucial role in creative thinking in that it allows you to better organize our ideas. Not only that, but it also helps to present it as well. When we present ideas, it’s similar to a speech. There ought to be a structure, a vision, and have it easy to follow and understand.

Furthermore, if your idea is given the green light, you’ll need to form an action plan, set goals, and have specific deadlines. Being organized will keep you on your toes and prepared for almost anything.

5. Communication

Communication plays a vital role in all this as well. You can’t sell a group or an individual on an idea if you can’t communicate effectively. This applies to both written and verbal communication skills.

This goes back to empathy a bit in that you need to understand the situation you’re in. This also means you need to be a good listener and being able to ask the right questions.

6. Dissect Ideas

The last skill I’ll offer is a challenging one but can pay off in so many ways. Sometimes creative thinking means taking two ideas and merging them.

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This helps because in most situations ideas in their base form might not be able to satisfy the original goal or problem. That or maybe the idea is outright terrible but, there are some good pieces of information in it.

The ability to look at ideas and be able to break them down and dissect them and merge with other ideas is a great skill to have. This could easily help solve disputes and help to find a middle ground.

Some Examples of Creative Thinking

The list of creative thinking examples is endless. In most situations, these examples will boost your creative thinking as well so I encourage you to try them out yourself:

  • Designing anything from a logo, to a simple webpage layout, to a poster and more
  • Creating a lesson plan for a group training course
  • Writing in a journal, a blog, or any social platforms
  • Creating a test or quiz from scratch just for fun
  • Brainstorming project ideas at work, or decor/renovation ideas at home
  • Finding procedures to improve the quality of a product or service
  • Suggesting solutions to improve a product or service

Bottom Line

The number of examples of creative thinking is endless but they are all challenging. This is a good thing as the world continues to change and grow. This pushes us to learn new skills, to think differently, and to start asking the more important questions. “Why?” and “Why not?”

These are skills and abilities that can change the world and that anyone can adopt. So long as you have the patience to learn and develop yourself, you too can be a creative thinker!

More Tips to Boost Your Creativity

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

[1] Business Dictionary: Creative Thinking

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