How does apprenticeship work?

photo of welder and text get your degree in doing Apprenticeship is post-secondary education like a college or university.  But there's a big difference.  Apprentices learn only a portion of their skills in a traditional classroom.  They receive most of their training on-the-job, while working for an employer who pays a good wage. The employment is the primary requirement for an apprenticeship - a job must exist in order for the apprentice to be trained.  The classroom instruction is usually provided through the Wisconsin Technical College system.

Benefits of Apprenticeship

A paycheck

 From day one, you will earn a paycheck guaranteed to increase over time as you learn the skills of your new career.

Hands-on career training

As an apprentice, you could receive practical on-the-job learning in a wide selection of programs, such as health care, construction, technology, manufacturing and service careers.

An education

You'll get hands-on training and can earn college credit, even an associate degree, often paid for by your employer, all while earning a great wage!

A career

Once you complete your apprenticeship, you will be on your way to a successful long-term career with competitive wages, and little or no educational debt. 

National industry certification

Upon completion of your apprenticeship, you'll get a nationally recognized completion certification and can take it anywhere in the U.S.

How do I become an apprentice?

Application procedures vary widely depending on the occupation and geographical location you've selected.  Generally, there are 5 steps to successfully securing an apprenticeship.

Step 1. Get Prepared. 

If you are a student, prepare for apprenticeship while you are still in high school.   Take courses in math (especially algebra and geometry), science and technology.  If you are already out of school, brush up in those subjects.

Step 2. Graduate High School.

Apprenticeship openings can be competitive.  To increase your opportunities for securing one, graduate from high school with the highest grade point possible.  Most apprenticeships have stringent entrance requirements.  If you do not have your high school diploma, you will need to earn your GED or HSED in order to meet basic apprenticeship entrance requirements.

Step 3. Find a Trade That Suits You. 

  • There are many career opportunities in Wisconsin - which one is right for you?  Assessing your skills, interests, aptitude and the kind of lifestyle you want takes time and effort - but it's worth it!  If you're still in school, talk to your career or guidance counselor.   Your local Wisconsin Job Center or the online Job Center of Wisconsin also provide tools and resources to help you explore trades and occupations.
  • Construction Sector
  • If you are interested in the construction trades, your application process begins with a contact to the Local Trade Committee for your selected occupation.  In most cases, you will complete an application form and submit it directly to the Local Trade Committee.  There are more than 100 Local Trade Committees in Wisconsin and each of them use a structured application and selection process.  This process typically requires testing in aptitude, math and science.  Qualified applicants must also pass an interview process.
  • Explore information about construction trades.
  • Industrial, Service and Utility Sectors
  • Apply directly to the employer's personnel or hiring office.  Apprenticeship openings are sometimes listed on JobCenter of Wisconsin, online job search sites, or technical college sites. Often, your best opportunities for apprenticeship are the opportunities you create yourself - by seeking out an employer who is willing to hire you as an apprentice.  Finding an apprenticeship is very similar to a typical job search - the more work you put into it, the more opportunities you will find.  In some cases, you may need to start work at an unskilled position before being considered for an apprenticeship at the same company.  Many large companies have apprentice entrance procedures that limit apprenticeship openings to workers already employed in their current workforce.
  • Explore information about industrial trades, service trades, and utility trades

Step 4. Know the Entrance Process.

Once you've found the trade or trades that suit you, it's time to learn about the entrance process.  Remember that the entrance procedures and requirements vary by trade, occupation or geographic area.  Explore the trade and contact information for construction trades, industrial and manufacturing trades, or service sector trades to learn more.   

Step 5. Start Your Career

After completing the entrance requirements and passing the required exam for your chosen trade or occupation, you are ready!  Apprenticeship opportunities are at a premium, even in times of full employment.  Unlike college, a definite start date is rarely given at the time you make your application.  Even if your application is accepted, there may be a wait before your training can actually begin.  So, what do you do in the meantime?  Many individuals secure related unskilled employment in the industry, such as working in the shop for a mechanical contractor.  You may also consider taking related classes at a local Wisconsin Technical College.


Do you provide apprenticeship sponsor listings?

Some featured sponsors choose to be listed or post openings on Wisconsin Job Center.

Is there a waiting period before I can enter apprenticeship?

The waiting period to begin the program varies from trade to trade and depends on whether employers have jobs available. Once eligible for the program, applicants may wait several weeks or months, depending on economic conditions and employment opportunities.  

What happens when I become a registered apprentice?

You will sign a legal document called an Apprentice Contract. The parties to the Contract are you, your apprenticeship sponsor and the State of Wisconsin.  This identifies responsibilities and obligations of each party to the Apprentice Contract.  

What is my cost for apprenticeship training?

Normal costs are tuition and books required for the course of instruction. The method used varies and costs are typically minimal compared to other educational programs.  

Can my current employer participate in apprenticeship training?

Yes, providing the occupation and your employer meet all eligibility requirements.  

Who do I contact for information in my area?

Once you've found a trade or trades that suit you, your best source for apprenticeship information for your area is your local Apprenticeship Training Representative (ATR).  

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