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What Is a Pre-Apprenticeship?

By Synthia L. Rose
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A pre-apprenticeship is a preparatory program that grooms people who want to eventually enroll in full-time apprenticeships in certain industries or trades. Construction workers, electricians, painters and drywall finishers often benefit from pre-apprenticeships. People who aspire to become bricklayers, roofers, ironworkers and steam fitters might also take part in pre-apprenticeships; so might diesel and auto mechanics. Pre-apprenticeship programs equip workers with expertise and real-life experience that can help them land a competitive apprenticeship or job.

Unlike many professions, in which aspirants seek four-year bachelor degrees, blue-collar laborers often complete four-year apprenticeship programs that include academic training as well as paid on-the-job experience. People who enroll in a pre-apprenticeship get a jump-start on succeeding as an apprentice by learning prerequisite skills, gaining an overview of daily expectations in their targeted professional field and learning strategies for getting selected into formal apprenticeships. Seen as the first step in a laborer’s career, a preparatory apprenticeship generally pays sub-professional wages. After a pre-apprenticeship, however, a worker can become an apprentice, which pays more, and finally a journeyman, which pays even more.

Due to the focus on job readiness, pre-apprenticeships includes an extensive amount of work-site visits during which participants witness job skills being executed in real life. Often, these visits involve individual job shadowing in which aspiring workers are matched one-on-one with veterans in their desired occupation. When not at construction sites, mills, plants or other sites absorbing experiential knowledge, members of preparatory apprenticeship programs spend time in a classroom or lab with certified instructors learning from both manuals and mock job situations.

There typically are two major types of pre-apprenticeship programs, and they are geared toward different demographics. One type is geared toward teenagers, whether they are in school or have dropped out. Workforce development centers or employers in conjunction with high schools or adult education programs typically create these programs. Someone who enrolls in a pre-apprenticeship of this type must be on track to have either a high school diploma or an equivalent certification by the time the pre-apprenticeship is completed. Many teens go to school and participate in preparatory apprenticeships concurrently, typically becoming a pre-apprentice in their final or next-to-last year of high school.

The other type of preparatory apprenticeship program is for people age 21 or older. These programs typically are set up by trade businesses that are looking to funnel newly skilled workers into their private apprenticeship programs and then into their full-time labor force. Laid-off workers or those looking for a career change are frequently attracted to adult pre-apprenticeships, which tend to be more challenging, more mature in instructional delivery and designed for people who have greater life experience.

To obtain a pre-apprenticeship, a worker must first apply to an employer or recruiter. Labor unions often keep lists of which preparatory programs are taking applications at any given time. If accepted into the program, a participant usually receives a letter of hire, detailing expectations and the length of the program. Pre-apprenticeships typically last two years and can involve more than 1,000 hours of training.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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