College? Nah. Military service? Uh-uh, not for me. Work in a big box store? No way.
So, what’s next?
How about a career in the building and construction trades?
As more students are reconsidering joining the military or going to college, construction apprenticeships in Minnesota are growing increasingly competitive. A career as an electrician, plumber, pipefitter or heavy-equipment operator offers not only an opportunity to be a problem solver, but an opportunity to work with your hands and build something that you can point to years later, such as a stadium, a wind farm or a highway.
If you’re in high school or recently graduated, here’s how to get started on a path toward a rewarding career in construction — it all starts with a registered apprenticeship where you get paid to learn while on the job.
Here are five practical tips on how to apply for an apprenticeship and kick-start your career in the construction trades:
Research a trade
There are more than 30 different types of careers in the construction trades. Before you can apply for an apprenticeship, you need to learn about what trade most appeals to you and which trade unions support those trades. Besides doing a Google search, a great place to start is the website ConstructionCareers.org. Created by the Construction Careers Foundation (CCF), ConstructionCareers.org provides details about more than 30 different careers in construction with links to construction trade websites.
As you learn about a specific trade, consider watching videos about specific trades on YouTube, follow the LinkedIn or Facebook pages for a specific trade union, and looking for in-person events that allow you to talk with construction trade professionals in person.
Fill out the Apprenticeship Application
Many of Minnesota’s construction registered apprenticeship programs require candidates to submit an online or in-person application. If you are still in high school or recently graduated, you will need to bring or submit a copy of your high school diploma, high school transcript, or GED. On the application, note any relevant coursework to the trade such as construction classes, mechanic and automotive classes, engineering, and math classes. Calling attention to these courses will be noted by the union.
Many construction trade unions in Minnesota make their applications available online. Make sure you completely fill out the application – by not filling in some parts of the application, you may inadvertently disqualify yourself.
After completing the application, you will likely be called in for an interview with the apprenticeship coordinator for the trade union to which you are applying. Your application serves as a starting point for the folks at the construction trade union to get to know you and what you’re capable of.
Don’t rely on just filling out an online application. Send an email or make a phone call to the construction trade union to which you’re interested in applying and ask to speak with the union’s apprenticeship coordinator.
When you connect, be prepare yourself to ask more questions about participating in the trade union’s apprenticeship program, such as:
Taking time to connect with someone involved in the union will show initiative which is a highly valued attribute that apprenticeship coordinators look for.
Before or after submitting an apprenticeship application many unions require candidates to take aptitude tests or assessments. Depending on the trade these usually cover general math, reading and occasional mechanical understanding. Don’t worry; local unions often supply study guides and can give you resources to study before the actual test.
Here’s the key – it’s important to ask and to communicate with people in the trade unions about what else needs to be completed to be accepted into a construction apprenticeship program.
Be open to learn and willing to ask for these resources. If you don’t understand an instruction, ask. If you need something, tell someone. If you know that you have difficulty understanding and/or remembering instructions, repeat them back to your supervisor. This technique, commonly known as Active Listening, not only demonstrates that you are engaged and focused, but also that you care about getting the job done correctly.
Strong communication is essential to be successful on the job, at a construction site, working with other construction pros.
Get the Help of a Construction Careers Navigator
Need a leg up to get started? Sam Ebute serves as the Construction Careers Foundation’s Career Navigator and his specialty is helping young people launch their careers in Minnesota’s construction trades.
Ebute can help you plan and prepare for an apprenticeship – including making a successful application. Because Ebute works with unions and contractors every day, he is familiar with aptitude testing and can help candidates correctly and completely fill out apprenticeship applications. He also has knowledge of pre-apprenticeship training, safety training, construction trades programming and experiences that can help build candidates skillsets’ before they apply for an apprenticeship. Start your conversation with Ebute today. Apprenticeship candidates interested in building a career in construction can connect with Sam Ebute at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck in your apprenticeship search and the application process. Remember to see the process as an opportunity and a chance to learn! Find a career in construction that fits your interests at constructioncareers.org.