What Does a Building Apprentice Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 29 March 2020
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A building apprentice develops professional skills on the job, under supervision from experienced builders. This is a highly traditional approach to learning building trades that has been practiced for hundreds of years in many nations. While at work, the building apprentice has an opportunity to watch other people, complete tasks under supervision, and gradually take on more responsibility. Apprentices may also have homework, including reading on building codes and safety practices, that they complete in their off hours.

Numerous building trades accept apprentices, including roofing, sheet metal, general contracting, and boilermaking. A building apprentice must meet the requirements for entry into a specific trade, which usually involve being physically fit and having a high school diploma. Supervisors may conduct a series of interviews to make sure the candidate is likely to succeed. Apprentices may also be required to sign a contract or commitment, as employers take a risk when they accept trainees, and want to reduce the chances of having someone drop out partway through the program.


At work, a building apprentice learns about the tools of the trade and how to properly maintain equipment and job sites. As tasks come up on the job, apprentices can watch, and later attempt the job under supervision. Experienced apprentices may mentor colleagues who are just starting, as teaching a skill can help reinforce it in someone who is still learning. Personnel on site can also call on apprentices for assistance with various activities, ranging from organizing schedules to installing complex or heavy equipment.

Apprentices may also complete safety training on the job. They learn how to use harnesses, lines, and other equipment to stay safe in high and dangerous environments. Homework can include reading information on job related topics such as formulas used to calculate clearances and specific techniques for installing equipment or components. The building apprentice may be asked to answer questions about the reading to demonstrate familiarity and knowledge.

After completing a set number of hours of training, a building apprentice may be eligible to apply for professional certification. This can require documenting hours and skills with the assistance of supervisors as well as passing a written examination. The precise requirements can depend on the trade and the nation. There may be several tiers of qualification, reserved for people who have just finished apprenticeship versus people with several years of experience in independent practice.



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