What Are Union Apprenticeships?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Union apprenticeships provide on-the-job training in skilled trades like carpentry or electrical.
Union apprenticeships provide on-the-job training in skilled trades like carpentry or electrical.

Union apprenticeships provide on the job training in skilled trades under the supervision of experienced journey and master workers. Many labor unions offer apprenticeships to interested members of the public. Apprentices are registered and must comply with the terms of an employment agreement, including completion of a set number of hours of training. At the end of the training, they are certified as journeymen, capable of working independently on job sites, and they can start to work towards master worker status if it is available in a given industry.

People interested in union apprenticeships usually need to be physically fit and at least 18 years of age, with a high school diploma or equivalent. They can file applications directly with a union or through a sponsorship program. The process may include several interviews to confirm that someone is capable of completing an apprenticeship and genuinely interested in learning. Successful applicants are registered and placed under contract.

These workers receive pay and benefits, just like their fully qualified colleagues, and usually work full time or close to it, depending on the industry. Union apprenticeships provide a work environment where people receive mentoring and support as they develop skills. In addition to learning on the job, apprentices may also have some classroom training and reading to take home. The ability to make money while learning a skilled trade can be valuable for some who are working in union apprenticeships.

Different trades have their own training requirements, but generally after at least a year of apprentice experience, people can apply for journeyman status. This can include taking tests to receive a license to perform activities like plumbing and electrical wiring without supervision. Master workers typically have full journeyman qualifications along with several years of experience working in the industry. Union apprentices can take their certifications with them to different job sites, and can also move between branches of their union as they change locations.

Non-union apprenticeships are also available. These may include similar working conditions, except that the workers do not belong to a union. Apprentices in this environment also sign contracts and receive pay for their work, and develop the necessary experience and skills to apply for professional certification. Some trades are almost exclusively occupied by union workers, and graduates of non-union programs may need to apply for union membership to get access to closed shops, where all the workers must be union members.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon220400

Union apprenticeships are typically 3 - 5 years in length and I don't know of any where you can apply for journeyman status after only one year. You can apply for past experience credit at approximately the one year point, which can move you forward in your apprenticeship if the experience is evident in the apprentices capabilities.

Non-union apprentices receive considerably less pay and the working conditions do not mirror the working conditions of a union apprenticeship at all. Union apprentices are shifted to new positions at least every 750 hours so their training is comprehensive for all types of work in their chosen profession.

Non-union apprentices very often spend entire apprenticeships learning only one type of work within the scope of what they actually need to be fully employable.

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    • Union apprenticeships provide on-the-job training in skilled trades like carpentry or electrical.
      By: Andreas Karelias
      Union apprenticeships provide on-the-job training in skilled trades like carpentry or electrical.