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Published on October 4, 2018

What Is an Apprenticeship and What Value Can It Bring to Your Career?

What Is an Apprenticeship and What Value Can It Bring to 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.

The differences between apprenticeships and 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

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?

  • 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.

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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.

Featured photo credit: Jonathan Weiss via unsplash.com

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Reference

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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 April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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